Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Fly Wade

Dwyane Wade was back in Miami on Wednesday, but not yet on the Heat practice court.

He was debuting his latest shoe, the Jordan Fly Wade 2, which is actually pretty sleak, if you ask me. It's a lot more simple than some of the more colorful, decorative shoes out there. He compared the design to an Aston Martin, and he chose a matte finish that gives it a modern, stylish look.

After talking about his new product, Wade did get into some basketball talk, and had some interesting tidbits about his teammates and his approach to the season.

With a shortened preseason and a condensed regular season, he said he knows he can't afford an injury early on, like last preseason. So he's hoping for more 5-on-5 basketball work and less conditioning work, which he told his head coach. Wade is already leaner than he was last year, with his body fat dropping below four percent.

He also said he has tried to add a new element to his game, as he does every year, but wasn't specific. He did say he wanted to be a more consistent shooter from distance, and very much wanted to improve his FT shooting.

As for his teammates, Wade said he thinks the team can hit the ground running after a year of getting to know each other...

"After having a year of all of us, I’m sure the Miami Heat is going to come with something different," Wade said. "They’ll understand what the players like, how we play together and how we can be more effective and efficient playing with one another.

"I’m sure they’ve broken down EVERY number and we’re going to come back with something that will help us be better early on."

On his summer communicating with LeBron James, Wade said they've spoken a lot about last season and a new approach to this season...

"We’ve always been tight," Wade said. "But after going through a year together. After going through losing in the Finals together, we had different conversations during the summer.

"We spent some time together. Obviously, he was busy doing his thing and I was busy doing mine. But our families came together, we came together at different times, vacationed together. We were in the same city working and would meet up.

"We had different conversations, and I think looking back, having his conversation (Tuesday) on ESPN, you could tell that some of the things we talked about this summer resonated, and he kind of looked at that, and he’s grown. He’s grown from last year, he’s grown every day."

Wade said he wanted LeBron to play more like the playful, fun-loving guy he naturally is and let Dwyane be the angry one...

"I don’t play like him," Wade said. "I’m always straight faced. I smile every now and again on the court, but I said let me look like the mean one and play the way you play. But we did talk about that.

"We were on vacation and talked about that. We didn’t run away from losing in the Finals. We looked at it and said, ‘Why did we lose? How did we lose? What can we do different? How can we be better as leaders?’

"That was one thing I kind of wanted for LeBron was to get back to being LeBron and not try to be somebody that everybody wanted him to be, in a sense. Let me be the mean mugger"

As for Chris Bosh, Wade said he expects a more vocal Chris and one who's not afraid to get his...

"I think Chris is already more comfortable," Wade said. "He sees things a little differently.

"He’s going to be a different player. He’s going to be more vocal. He’s going to talk to us more and let us know how we can help him out. I think we are going to see a different him in that aspect. Not when it comes to bullying guys in the post – that’s not Chris. But in the games I think you’re going to see a different Chris, a little more vocal, a little more comfortable and confident.

"I thought he did great (in last season's playoffs). I don’t think he got enough credit for it. Chris played very consistent. In each round, I think he got better.

"I think he was the most consistent out of all of us, if you want to say it. I had a terrible Chicago series. LeBron didn’t have a so-hot Dallas series. I think he’s going to be play better this season."


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Leftover Riley

Some nuggets from Pat Riley's press conference Wednesday morning that weren't included in the story for the paper...

Riley said he didn't like hearing that the Heat "gave away" the Finals to Dallas, nor did he agree with the concept that the Mavericks played more like a team than Miami.

"They beat us, they took it, that's what title teams do," Riley said. "Every championship team that I've been involved with, it's fashionable to say that somebody gave something away or somebody lost something, or we coulda, woulda, shoulda. But somebody takes it, that's all there was to it. Dallas played extremely well.

"The one thing that I, as a former coach, get upset with is we were a team. I mean, it's fashionable to say that the other team was more of team than we were. That is B.S. We would have never gotten this far without really sacrificing and playing roles and those veteran players accepting rotation responsibilities up and down. We were the epitome of a team."

As for LeBron James' shortcomings in the Finals, Riley was predictably protective of his biggest star. But he acknowledged LeBron can improve his individual game.

"I think you have to take a hard look at it on film and then have a discussion with him about it and then specifically from a coaching standpoint he says, 'this is what we want you to do,'" Riley said of LeBron's play in the Finals. "But you don't have an easy answer for that right now. That's become sort of the flashpoint of this whole thing and I think it's wrong, it's absolutely wrong to lay it on him and it just started to continually compound itself."

As for improvements the Heat could make, Riley said he doesn't really anticipate his team paying to move up in the draft because, from what he hears, nobody wants those picks in the 20s because they come with salary commitments to players who aren't significantly better than anyone he can get at 31.

Riley said he believes Mario Chalmers is a starting caliber player for this team, and he would put priority on adding interior size.

"We would like to get size," he said. "We would like to get length. Joel Anthony has done an incredible job and he will get better. But we'd like to get size that we can put in there, in the middle. I don't know if you're going to get a back-to-the-basket player, but we'd like to get size and things of that nature inside that might be a little bit more athletic with great length.

"We are good enough, we have enough but we're going to continue to try to make this team better. And move forward with that, that's what our job is this summer."

Riley also said he never "really" considered moving any members of the Big Three, even early in the season when it appeared they struggled to play together, and won't consider moving them.



Monday, May 30, 2011

Dirk stopper?

Before we get to the question of who guards Dirk Nowitzki late in games, let's get to the Heat's new rallying cry in this series: Erase the ink!

Apparently, that tattoo of the Larry O'Brien Trophy on Jason Terry's right bicep will be removed if the Mavericks don't win the championship. Not that the Heat needs anymore motivation, but.... TerryTattoo

As for that "who covers Dirk" thing, the popular opinion is that LeBron James is going to cover Dirk late in ballgames, the same way he essentially shut down Derrick Rose by defending him late in fourth quarters.

Here's the only potential problem with that: The Mavs have a very set lineup to close out games. They go with Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler and Dirk. The Heat's ideal closing lineup would be Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Chris Bosh, Dywane Wade and LeBron.

So let's just match up Kidd and Terry with Wade and Miller. Then assume Bosh sticks to Chandler. That means if LeBron has to defend Dirk, Udonis is responsible for Marion.

Now, Haslem has guarded a handful of small forwards in the past. And his lateral quickness isn't bad. And it's unlikely the Mavericks run anything for Marion anyway, because they only seem to do that when he has a smaller player on his back that he can back down and shoot over.

But it's still a potentially problematic matchup when you consider that Udonis is used to dealing with bigs, and boxing out bigs, and staying in the paint with bigs. Marion could create issues with his athleticism and quickness if matched up with Udonis.

Now, if defending Dirk with LeBron is clearly the best option, it's a challenge I'm sure Udonis will be up to, and he'll very likely hold his own. But if it's a toss-up as to whether LeBron or UD is the better option against Dirk, chances are that Erik Spoelstra will stick with Udonis on Dirk down the stretch and let LeBron help off Marion if he's on the perimeter.

Of course, the Heat could go with an entirely different closing lineup -- and based on Spo's flexibility this season, he's not set on any singular lineup. But it's something to think about if you assume those are these two teams' closing lineups.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Surprise party

Go ahead and choose which one of these elements from Wednesday's game was most surprising, because this game was full of shockers.
--Udonis Haslem's performance: It wasn't so much that UD was able to score 13 points with five UD red rebounds, two assists, a steal and a blocked shot. It was the way he did it, and the timeliness of it. And that he managed to play 23 minutes in two long bursts. 
He single-handedly revived the Heat in the first half, and he helped the Heat maintain a lead while the Chicago crowd was about to explode.
Haslem had a facial dunk over Keith Bogans and another transition dunk on Derrick Rose. But it might have been his two jumpers -- two crucial jumpers -- that were most difficult. He hadn't hit one of those since before the foot injury, and to hit a pair in those spots in the second half was downright gutsy.
--The rest of the rotation: Erik Spoelstra spent the first half trying out players like women try on new shoes. But by the second half, he realized what was working. UD, of course. But also Mike Miller, who played 18 minutes, essentially in place of Mario Chalmers. Miller and Haslem, who weren't fully in the rotation until Wednesday, were the only Heat bench players to play more than five minutes. Meanwhile, Mike Bibby played 35 minutes. That's Mike Bibby, 35 minutes!
--The rebounding numbers: The Heat hadn't outrebounded the Bulls in four tries, and in the last game were embarrassed on the boards. This game, with Joel Anthony only playing 22 minutes and Jamaal Magloire playing five minutes, the Heat outrebounded the Bulls 45-41.
LeBron James had 10, Dwyane Wade nine, Chris Bosh eight and Miller had seven in his 18 minutes. The Bulls still managed 17 offensive rebounds, but that's because they missed 54 shots.
--The Heat defense: The Bulls shot 34 percent from the field and scored all of four points in the final 8:44 of the game. And here's how those four points were scored: Taj Gibson had his shot blocked going up for a dunk, and was hanging on the rim as it bounced off the backboard and back through the rim. So, technically, it shouldn't have counted.
The next two points were also Gibson, and again he had his shot blocked, but this time Anthony accidentally tapped it into the Bulls basket with the side of his hand. So if not for a missed call and an own-goal, the Bulls don't score at all in the final 8:44. What was Charles Barkley saying about the Bulls having the best defense he's ever seen?
This Heat defense is pretty good itself.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Make a good case, please.

You gotta love the passionate discussions going on about the Heat-Bulls series. Down here, it feels like no on is giving the Bulls a chance because Derrick Rose is too much of a one-man show and the Bulls have struggled in games against the Pacers and Hawks. Elsewhere, there are those who believe the Bulls' defense and depth will be too much for the Bulls, and that the regular season record is significant and that Rose can dissect this defense even more thoroughly than his first two playoff opponents because of the holes at point guard and center. Bron-deng

Well, here's the thing about those arguments. No matter how passionately you feel about your position in this debate, the fact is, these are the Eastern Conference Finals. That means that there should be a debate. A very good debate, because these are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. It shouldn't be easy to pick this series. If it is easy, then that would mean one of these two teams is far and away the best in the league. And that's just not true for either team.

So, let's look into some of the reasons people are picking Chicago. First, those siding with the Bulls are suddenly discrediting the Heat's five-games series win over the Celtics. They're looking at the 4-1 result and calling the Celtics old and injured and unworthy of challenging the Heat.

Losing Rajon Rondo was problematic for the Celtics, yes. He's one of their best defenders on and off the ball, and he's the team's engine on fastbreaks. But he was there and completely healthy for two of the Heat's four wins. And for the final four games of the series, Delonte West played terrific defense, particularly on Dwyane Wade, and actually coupled that with shot-making ability. So it's not as if the Celtics were playing with Carlos Arroyo out there. Were these the Celtics of 2007-08? No. But this was still an excellent defensive team with a balanced offense. It was a relatively short, five-game series, but every game was an intense battle, and the Celtics could've easily won two of those four games they lost.

And by the way, the Bulls enthusiasts who are questioning the quality of team the Heat has beaten in these playoffs should look at Chicago's opponents. What, the Hawks beat the Magic and all of a sudden they're better than the Celtics? No way. And it still took the Bulls six games to get past them.

Regardless of that, though, the truth is every series takes on a personality of its own. So the previous series, how it was won or who the opponent was doesn't matter one lick once the next series starts. So those who are predicting Heat-Bulls based on the results of the previous series have little ground to stand on.

Dwyane layup vs bulls When you get to the actual matchups in this series, there are some interesting takes there also. All of a sudden, the duo of Keith Bogans and Luol Deng is supposed to be a good defensive pairing against Wade and LeBron James, respectively.

Let's go back in time, shall we? Wade used to toy with Bogans when he was with the Bobcats and Magic. His face would light up when he saw Bogans in front of him. And Deng? He's a fine defender. He's not Tony Allen. He's not even Shane Battier. He's just fine.

What makes that Bulls defense very good isn't the individual defenders, necessarily. It's the system. If any one player makes that defense especially strong, it's probably Joakim Noah, the same way Kevin Garnett is to Boston, because Noah is long and disruptive but can also move to spots quickly and is instinctive. And he can finish the play with a rebound. The Heat has just seen this Tom Thibodeau defense against Boston, because Thibodeau built that Boston defense as an assistant there. The Bulls have some different strengths based on personnel, of course, but the Heat's big trio should know where there shots are coming from based on the previous series.

The Bulls supporters will also harp on depth as an advantage. Well, the Bulls absolutely have the depth advantage. But here's the thing. They NEED depth to succeed. The Heat has proven time and again that if the large three are on their game, the rest of the rotation doesn't need to score at all. It's not often that the team requires even double-figures from anyone else. Only when one or more of the big three are off does the team require help from a James Jones or a Mario Chalmers in the scoring column. And that's when the Heat's success comes into question. Because no one's ever sure when one of those players will provide the necessary support.

And then there's the power forward angle. Of course, those leaning toward Chicago will remember Chris Bosh's 1-for-18 and Carlos Boozer's strong finale against the Hawks and say that it's at the very least a push in that department. But the truth is this: Boozer has had three good games in 11 tries for the Bulls. And the coach hasn't even trusted him late in games throughout the postseason thus far. Bosh, meanwhile, is averaging significantly better numbers than Boozer in every category except rebounds, where Bosh is only 0.1 rebounds better than Boozer (but still better).

Rose layup Those supporting the Heat have holes in their theories, too. Rose might have had a few high-volume shooting games in these playoffs, but it's not as if the Heat will be able to force him into those types of games every time out. Rose did average 29 points on an OK 45 percent shooting in the three matchups this season. Granted, the Heat's rotation is quite different than it was in those meetings, but not so much better that the defense can say, with certainty, that it can limit Rose.

And those who believe Wade's gonna average 33.5 points in Chicago, the way he did in the regular season, forget that he has struggled more in Chicago than he has succeeded. There's certainly no guarantee he won't revisit those poor performances.

The truth is, there are plenty of arguments to be made for either side.

The ones that include idiotic reasons like "The Heat players celebrated too much after the Celtics so that means they'll take the Bulls lightly," or "the Bulls aren't supposed to reach the Finals because they haven't slain a longtime nemesis," are ridiculous and should, frankly, be ignored.

But ones that contain actual basketball reasoning, those can lean in either direction. As they should, because this is the NBA's final four. Anything less than a heated competition would be a disappointment.

That said, the call here is the popular, safe and boring pick: Heat in six.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fun in a foreign land

Good time for Eddie House to get hot, in the game he knew he'd get huge minutes.

That career-high 35 points might not be enough to convince Erik Spoelstra to get him into games come the playoffs, but it does go to show you that he's a great option to have. No one's sure if Mike Miller or James Jones can stay healthy for the entire playoffs, so House doing that is a good confidence boost heading into the postseason. Jones fist

Jamaal Magloire's 19 rebounds was kinda fun, too, but probably most important is that James Jones  continued his red-hot shooting. After hitting 4 of 6 from three in Toronto, James is now 18 of his last 28 from distance (64.3 percent) over his last eight games. After that extended slump mid-season, this monster recovery has to bode well for Miami

In case you missed it, the Heat's playoff schedule for the first round goes like this:

Game 1, Saturday 3:30pm in Miami

Game 2, Monday 7pm in Miami

Game 3, Thursday TBD in Philadelphia

Game 4, Sunday 1pm in Philadelphia

* Game 5, Wednesday TBD in Miami

* Game 6, Friday TBD in Philadelphia

* Game 7, Sunday, May 1 TBD in Miami

*(if necessary)



Wednesday, March 02, 2011


So how big a deal is this Heat acquisition of Mike Bibby, who you presume would be the team's starting point guard once he's ready?

Well, most people want to call it a minor upgrade over Mario Chalmers.

That's fair. It's not as if Bibby is the same guard he was five years ago, or even the same guy who averaged 16 and five in his first year in Atlanta.

However, the difference between Bibby and Chalmers remains significant enough that it can greatly affect the outcomes of games the Heat plays against the better teams in the league.

If you look at the Heat, the most important things a point guard can do to help is shoot the three well and not turn the ball over.

Well, in both those areas, Bibby is significantly better than Chalmers. Since Chalmers began starting this season, his assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.13 to 1, whereas Bibby's in his time with Atlanta this year is 2.87 to 1. And last season, his ratio was 3.4 to 1, which is very good for 80 starts on a playoff team. Bibby scream

This season with Atlanta, Bibby knocked down threes at a 44 percent clip, career-wise has shot 38 percent from three and last year in the playoffs was 54 percent from distance. Chalmers is at 36 percent for the year, 35 percent for his career, and he's right around that career mark (34.5 percent) since being named a starter.

Why are those differences so important? Well, for starters, the three-point number is a very big difference, and can easily mean the difference between a close game and a comfortable margin.

But overall, those numbers can translate into victories. Consider that the Heat's last six losses, all of them against winning teams, have come by an average of 4.0 points, and none of them have been by more than five points. By avoiding a turnover or two in those games, and making an extra shot or two, you easily could be talking about the Heat losing none of those games, or at least winning a few of them.

And in that case, we're not talking about the sky falling around this team.

Not to mention that, with that trust, the Heat can start a play late in games with Bibby rather than LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, therefore making both of them an option off the ball. That takes pressure off Wade or James to both create and finish when it matters most. That's not even taking into account that Chalmers has been better this year coming off the bench anyway.

As for the defensive side of the ball, yes, Chalmers is theoretically the better defender. But for every good play he makes, he also will commit a senseless foul or gamble for a steal and cost the team overall. Bibby at least knows his limitations. And as long as he understands the Heat's defensive system, he won't be a liability on that end while on the floor.

As for Troy Murphy, yes, that would've also been a big get for Miami, but only if he didn't mind playing some center and banging with bigger guys. Because at the PF spot, Chris Bosh will be taking up 36 to 40 of those minutes. With the Celtics, Murphy can play a tad more minutes at PF, because backup Glen Davis essentially moves to center at times anyway, and was going to be doing that a lot now that Kendrick Perkins is gone. But once Shaquille O'Neal is healthy, the Celtics are going to have to decide whether they want to stay big, meaning O'Neal on the floor heavy minutes, or go to a lineup that includes some combination of Murphy, Davis and Kevin Garnett on the floor. Theoretically, that would favor the Heat come playoff time because Miami can use a smaller lineup itself and still compete inside (that's assuming Udonis Haslem is healthy and can play 20-plus minutes by then). Of course, that would require limiting Davis, who's one of the newest Heat killers in the league.

The point is, Murphy makes the Celtics deeper and gives them a stretch-four, but that team will have to make sacrifices if it wants to make him a big-minute regular. The Heat, on the other hand, fills a need with Bibby without making any significant sacrifices.

As for Carlos Arroyo being cut, it would seem like an unfair/unprecedented act to cut the man who was once the starting point guard. But Arroyo has a history of falling out of favor with teams, whether it's because of his play or for being tough to deal with.

Could the team have cut Jamaal Magloire? Yes, but chances are the Magic would've picked him up for some depth at center. Could the team have cut Juwan Howard? Yes, but he shares an agent with Bibby, and knowing one of his own would get cut could've nudged Bibby in another direction.

Overall, the team had less reasons not to cut Arroyo, so that's where they went with it.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

House with a view

If anybody would understand what it takes to create an NBA superpower around three major players, it’s Eddie House.

He was there in Boston when that team was put together and won a title in 2008.

Which makes what he said Monday so interesting. He said when he was in Boston, about a week after the team was put together, a bunch of players, including him and James Posey, were playing cards at Paul Pierce’s place.

They were listing teams and wondering if any of them could beat Boston in a seven-game series. They went through every good team in the league and decided then that the Celtics would win the championship.

That obviously came true. So, I asked if he and his Heat teammates feel the same way, and it was an interesting, honest and probably very true answer.

House photo“Yeah, but this is going to be a lot tougher than that,” House said. “The regular season was easy for us (in Boston). We had a lot of breaks where we won games at the end. We had a lot of stuff go our way.

“I feel the same way about, ‘Yeah, we’re going to win this (thing),’ but it’s going to be a lot harder. Everybody has to give up. I think everybody is giving up, but we have to give up more. Even myself, I want to be out on the floor more, I feel like I can help the team when I’m out there. But at the same time, it’s Spo’s call, so when he does make a sub I have to be able to control myself a little bit more.”

So it seemed there was a little hesitation in matching this team’s confidence to the Boston team’s confidence. This next part might be the most interesting thing he said, if only because it hasn’t always been the case.

“This team should never take a contested shot,” House said. “I don’t care who it is. We’ve got so much stuff out there, that it should never be, unless it’s an end-of-the-shot-clock desperation shot. We should get a wide open shot every time down the court. I think once we realize that, it’ll be a lot easier.”

So far, the Heat has attempted to move the ball, and for the most part has gotten open looks for its shooters, which is why James Jones is shooting 50 percent from deep and why Zydrunas Ilgauskas has gotten so many open looks.

But a few times, and maybe it’s a few too many times, the members of the Miami’s super trio revert to their old ways of thinking they have to finish a tough shot rather than just go with the flow offensively.

This is where those guys are caught in the transition. The early thought process was, “Be who you are, and we’ll eventually figure this out.” But being who they are includes taking tough shots that they make more often than other players.

So they eventually have to transition out of that. They have to find the balance between creating and finishing, and creating and letting someone else finish. And others need to make themselves available to finish.

It’s a strange place they find themselves in, mostly LeBron and Wade.

Maybe House sees it a little clearer because he’s usually waiting on the perimeter and watches what’s going on from a good view. And maybe it’s about the time for LeBron, Wade and Bosh to both start making that transition.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Recovery game

Easy to say that Tuesday night's loss was the most upsetting loss of the season. Loss in Boston was practically designed to be a disaster. The Hornets loss wasn't that bad because it was a near comeback and because the Hornets have yet to lose. But losing to the Jazz in that fashion was fairly discouraging for this team.

That said, there are a lot of factors that set up for the ultimate recovery game Thursday.

First, the Celtics will be without significant size for the game, and we all know what quality size has done to the Heat so far this season. Jermaine O'Neal is definitely out, and Shaquille O'Neal is very likely out, Doc Rivers said this morning at the AAA.

Second, the Heat is playing the Celtics, which will be considered a "revenge game" and will feel just as satisfying even without the O'Neals because, well, the Big Four will certainly be on the floor.

And third, and this might be the biggest key of them all, you could tell from being at Heat practice Wednesday that this team, for obvious reasons, is taking this loss extremely seriously. The team took the first two losses pretty seriously also, but this is the only one of the three that didn't come with a game the very next night. That meant an extensive film session and time to stew. Couple that with the manner in which they lost, blowing a 22-point lead and giving up a putback to tie the game, and it means the Heat might be as prepared for this game as for any game this season. At least mentally prepared to want to recover.

There are the little signs that certain players will be prepared. Udonis went to Spoelstra's office for a discussion prior to practice. LeBron, after practice, was huddled in the corner of the practice court getting loads of advice from asst coach Bob McAdoo. Dwyane spent extra time with asst. coach David Fizdale working on his free throws and being very specific on his approach, footwork and weight balance at the line. Those are all just little things, but it's heartening to know these players, no matter how great, take losses to heart and want to avoid ever making those same mistakes again.
UD upset

Speaking of mistakes, Udonis (left) strongly implied that Millsap flat shoved him out of bounds to get that last offensive rebound and putback to tie the game. "I didn't fall out of bounds by myself. My shoes weren't untied," he said.

Some would look at that play -- along with many other plays in the second half and overtime -- as examples of the Heat not being tough enough. It's hard to call a team with such good defensive statistics soft, so it's probably not toughness, per se, that's the issue. At least not Tuesday night. It was more of random lapses in focus. For example, yes, Udonis was pushed out of the way by Millsap. But Bosh, who was covering Kirilenko on the perimeter when the initial three-pointer was taken, kind of just floated back toward the paint with no real purpose as the shot was in the air. Had he gone to the boards "like a torpedo" the way Spoelstra described Millsap's effort, then Bosh would've either been able to fight for the rebound or at the very least disrupt the shot Millsap put up.

It's those little lapses that allowed the Jazz to come back, and it's that kind of thing Spoelstra means when he says the Heat can "learn" from that game. It's hard to imagine veterans shouldn't know that already, but sometimes they don't even know they're doing it until it affects them negatively. Tuesday offered the Heat that notice.

And finally, the Heat has now been the victim of flagrant fouls to LeBron against the Nets and James Jones against the Jazz. Asked if the Heat might need to answer back for the chippiness, LeBron said the following:

"We'll see how the game is being played. Maybe we need to do something."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Issues exposed

In actuality, the Heat probably shouldn't even have been within a shot of tying that game against the Hornets in the last possession.

That charge call against Chris Paul in the final minutes was an awful call, as Udonis was clearly moving into position after Paul was in the air (Glen Davis gets that call for the Celtics all the time), and the ensuing technical foul on Paul made that game closer than it should have been.

Regardless, the game itself exposed one of the issues that many are going to say will be the Heat's downfall this season, and that's the lack of size at center.

Emeka Okafor went for 26 points on 12 of 13 shooting an 13 rebounds, with pretty much all of it coming with very little resistance. Granted, it was a lot of Paul's doing because he scrambled the Heat defense and put Emeka in position to either get an easy putback or put up a point-blank shot, but a handful of those could've been a lot more difficult for Emeka if the Heat had more size to contest those shots.

The Heat has faced four formidable centers so far, in Okafor, Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez and Shaq, and all four of them have had significant impacts, two of them in a win and two putting up numbers in a loss. It shouldn't take much longer for the Heat, meaning Erik Spoelstra, to recognize that it might become an issue in the long term. The options currently, though, are to start Ilgauskas and play him heavy minutes (he not only offers more size, but can give you more offense and opens up the paint for Bosh) or to start playing a rookie in Pittman who's probably not close to ready.

That might mean Pat Riley will have to get to work looking for outside help, whether it comes soon or midway through the season when quality names start to get bought out.

It might be jumping the gun, but if this trend continues it's going to be difficult to ignore for much longer.

What New Orleans had that made life so difficult for Miami was both a decent center and a stellar point guard. Paul, like Rajon Rondo, makes the most simple of pick-and-roll plays look absolutely indefensible, hence the 19 assists. It makes you wonder why you can't put Wade and Bosh in a pick-and-roll with LeBron, James Jones and Big Z on the floor and make it look as easy. But some point guards just have a knack, and Paul certainly has it.

On the Heat's side, the issues were as follows. First, Bosh needs to really pick up his game. He's playing far too passively, seems to have lost every instinct and is simply not playing very tough in key moments. Second, those threes that were wide open for four straight games were more contested Friday night, but the Heat took those shots anyway. That's not good enough for this team. Any threes should be wide open, especially when they're coming from Eddie House or James Jones. That includes that last shot, which wasn't a good shot at all. I'd rather Wade take a step-back three there than kick to House, who was 0 of 6 from three at the time.

Finally, the Heat played scattered basketball for way too long in this one. Not even this team, especially at this time of year, can afford to play playground basketball and hope talent elevates them. At least not when you fall into a 10-point hole at the start. The sign of a great team is one that can overcome those types of deficits, and this team only played inspired basketball in the final six minutes or so. That has to start earlier if this is going to be a special season.

Just one loss, but one that will turn a lot of people off to the Heat because it supports all the supposed problems the team has.



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