Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Phil being Phil

With the Miami Heat struggling, Phil Jackson didn't hesitate to chime in Tuesday, saying the Heat's big trio will eventually ask for Pat Riley to take over if this doesn't change soon.

Philjackson "The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited — Bosh and James — by Pat Riley and Micky Arison, the owner, are going to come in and say, ‘We feel you can do a better job coaching the team," Jackson told a Chicago-based radio station. "We came here on the hopes that this would work,’ and whatever, I don’t know. That’s kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don’t straighten out here soon, it could be the Van Gundy thing all over again."

On the Heat's performance in general, Jackson added:  "That record, I think, says a lot about coming together with some real talented guys, and not having a base. And then some things happened to them, Wade getting hurt. They’re still kind of searching out how they’re going to find a role and work their roles together."

While there are plenty of Heat fans who feel the same way, particularly about the coaching scenario, it just doesn't seem like what these players will want.

If it takes Riley to come in and "save" the season, the three of them will look like failures from the very first season together. And it's not as if Riley, who probably doesn't even want to coach, will be around for the remainder of their time together in Miami.

The other part about that is, how different is Riley from Spoelstra? Can he reel in LeBron and Wade maybe a little better? Possibly, if that's necessary. Would he force the ball inside to Bosh a little more? Also possible. But time will eventually allow Spoelstra to figure this out as well. He's not Riley yet, obviously, but we saw what happened when Stan left. He has been great for the Magic since leaving Miami. And pushing Spoelstra out now would be premature. I think these players recognize that. Pretty sure they don't even believe they need much coaching anyway.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Semi-ridiculous loss

OK, let's get a couple of disclaimers out of the way first.

One, Paul Millsap hitting threes, or just about every other shot he took, is pretty uncommon, and the fact that it took that for the Heat to lose says something.

Two, if the Heat makes a couple more free throws, this is a non-issue and this game is called a positive learning experience.

Even with those out of the way, it's getting to the point where a few issues need to be addressed. Granted, it's only game eight of the season, but how long do you have to wait before something is done about it.

Once again, an elite point guard destroys the Heat. Deron Wiliams went for 21 and 14 and didn't even play in overtime. That three-pointer that Williams hit to make the score 99-96 with 21 seconds left was a result of Carlos Arroyo giving Williams a tad too much space. I understand that LeBron and Wade both covered Williams at times, and he had his moments against them. But the difference would be, if Arroyo was not in the game, it would force Williams to actually defend on the other end. Arroyo, if you take away those five free throws he hit in the final minute, had five points in 29 minutes. That doesn't exactly make life difficult for Williams on that end of the floor. Same for Rondo, same for Chris Paul, etc. How much longer do we have to see this before the Heat at least explore other options? At this point, even experimenting with Mario Chalmers would be OK. Maybe he plays better with better players around him (or maybe not).

The other part, again, is the size issue. Granted, Millsap had a career night because he hit a handful of jumpers that he might not usually make, but 46 points on 28 shots is just a red flag. Any active, talented big man probably wants to play the Heat, at this point, knowing that at least he'll look good even if his team loses. He had the biggest night overall against Miami -- we all remember Dwight Howard falling apart in the second half -- but it's clearly problematic. I heard Pat Riley say he was "a little bit" concerned about the lack of size during a radio interview this week. And maybe there's a reason no one is signing Erick Dampier, but it might be something the team takes another look at.

Lastly, getting Bosh involved is one thing. He looked good at the start of Tuesday's game. But keeping Bosh involved is the next trick. He was a relative non-factor in the second half (relative to his level of talent, that is), and there's no way Millsap should outplay him that badly. I still believe he can have a huge impact in games, especially if he forces the issue without the ball and plays with Millsap-like energy. But it has to start happening soon.

One more thing... Was anyone else yelling "give Dwyane the ball!" on those two possessions where LeBron missed a layup and found Haslem for a jumper that missed? Not only was Wade rolling, but he's just better at penetrating and finishing in those situations. The problem there, I suppose, is Wade is also better at finding open spots when he's playing off the ball. But in those critical moments, especially when he's got it going, the team is better off with Wade making those plays. I mean, LeBron was 5-for-18. Just play the percentages at that point.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

5 Heat Scrimmage Reflections

The Heat pulled the curtain back on their training camp preparations Friday for a scrimmage that gave Wade-LeBron players their first chance to play basketball under normal game standards.

We were there for a rare start-to-finish view of the Heat's first dress rehearsal for the Tuesday preseason opener against Detroit. We present five reflections from Friday's scrimmage.

1. Big 3 Chemistry - There are still plenty of kinks to work out between Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But they certainly will enjoy luxuries they've never experienced before now that they're playing for the same team. After spending the first half split apart, Bosh, James and Wade were in the red team's starting lineup for the second half of Friday's scrimmage. That red team either scored or got to the free-throw line on at least 60 percent of its possessions when Wade, James and Bosh were on the floor. That's huge. When Wade wasn't driving to the line and drawing fouls, Bosh was stroking his baseline, turnaround jumper. At one point, he scored on that move four times in five possessions. James was allowed to play free safety on defense, and seemed to be guarding three guys at a time.

2. LeBron bests Wade again - James got the upper hand on Wade when they anchored different squads in the first half of the scrimmage. James' white team built an early double-digit lead in the first half and was up by about 20 at one point before closing out with a 49-34 victory. James' squad has been getting the best of Wade's teams for most of the week. LeBron's playmaking ability is as good as advertised. His passing might be his best skillset, and that's saying a lot considering all he can do on both ends of the court. But it was Wade who made the play of the night when he banked in a lefty hook from halfcourt after James fouled him by grabbing his right arm. The play didn't count because a time-out was called moments earlier. But it was still the play of the week.

3. Starting 5 set - That might not be the case just yet. But the red team that opened the second half consisted of Pat Beverley at point guard, Wade at shooting guard, James at small forward, Bosh at power forward and Joel Anthony at center. It's pretty safe to assume that four of those five will be in the starting lineup when the preseason opens on Tuesday. Obviously, Beverley, who has been stellar on the defensive end in workouts, won't be the Heat's starting point guard. He was in that role Friday because Mario Chalmers was held out of the second half of the scrimmage, perhaps as a precaution to prevent more wear and tear as he works his way back from that high ankle sprain.

4. Bench Boost - The fact that the Big Red team couldn't exactly pull completely away from the white team of reserves says one of two things. Either Bosh, James and Wade are still weeks away from working out some of the chemistry kinks. Or, the bench might be even better than many people believe. James Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Carlos Arroyo, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller started for the white team. Miller eventually was traded midway through the second half to the red team. That allowed Haslem to be a lot more aggressive offensively than normal. James Jones also looked really good and knocked down shots to keep the game competitive. James took advantage of his opportunities with Eddie House sidelined with shoulder soreness.

5. Riddle in the Middle - The Heat still does not have a legitimate low-post, offensive threat at center. There's size, rebounding and shot-blocking. But not necessarily all at the same time. Big Z certainly was a crowd favorite among the military fan base. He also knocked down a few shots, and drew loud cheers and chants after every positive move he made. Joel Anthony was active and altering shots at the rim. And Jamaal Magloire was an enforcer in the middle. Just don't ask him to shoot free throws. The Heat might prove to be dynamic enough at the other four spots to overcome some shortcomings at center. Rookie Dexter Pittman might be the best back-to-the-basket option at the position, but will he get an opportunity for meaningful minutes as the fourth center in the rotation? Not likely.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Required Reading? Riley's 'No Plan B'

It was difficult to know if Pat Riley was telling the truth or not. Pat Riley1

But there he sat Thursday, behind the microphone and in front of the print, radio and TV media in the family room at AmericanAirlines Arena for his official preseason press conference.

And the subject shifted to his deepest thoughts on those anxious nights after the July 1 start of free agency. Riley was specifically asked about his mindset the night he sat in his Chicago hotel room - hours after his visit with LeBron James in Cleveland and before he checked in again with Dwyane Wade.

At the time, Riley had heard reports that LeBron's camp had requested follow-up information from the New York Knicks. There were also rumors that James would be having dinner with close friend and Nets co-owner Jay Z and wife, Beyonce.

This was after the Heat had done its full-court press on James, complete with messages from Riley, owner Micky Arison, son Nick Arison, coach Erik Spoelstra, legend Alonzo Mourning and salary-cap guru Andy Elisburg. Riley talked Thursday about how empty of a feeling everyone had in their stomachs that moment.

LeBron, it appeared, had other plans. Dwyane, in reality, was headed into a second meeting with the Bulls, the team he grew up rooting for as a son of the Windy City.

The feelings Riley had at that moment would seem perfect for a made-for-TV drama. Instead, it might end up in the latest book he authors.

"I am going to write another book. I am," Riley said. "It's called 'No Plan B.' And when you have no Plan B during those moments, all of a sudden, your stomach starts to churn a little bit more and your mind begins to think in a different manner. But from July 1 until we got those guys to sign the contracts, I was waiting for some trap door and land mine to explode. But it didn't. Yeah, it was a lot of anxiety. I don't think there was any in-between."

Of course, we know how this drama plays out. At a moment when Riley was starting to fear losing everything he's built with this franchise, he came through with the jackpot.

As the following week played out, Chris Bosh told Dwyane Wade he wanted to come to Miami. Wade told Bosh he was willing to stay. And then the two closed the deal and convinced LeBron to follow his gut and take his "talents to South Beach." That's their stories, and they're sticking to it.

It sure beats the alternative for Riley, who otherwise would have been stuck with a boat-load of cap space to store in one of Arison's cruise ships. There would have been a massive rebuilding job neither Arison nor Riley would have really had the patience to endure at this stage of the game.

It's a good thing that book, 'When All Else Fails,' never had to be written by Riley. Instead, he gets to write a happy ending to his summer journey. Of course, it would only be a best seller if the Heat adds a championship epilogue.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/WallaceNBAHeat. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Decision on Dampier?

Two meetings with two teams in two conferences over the span of three days. Dampier

That, apparently, has been free agent center Erick Dampier's itinerary this week as the 6-11 veteran big man plots the course to his next destination, with training camps opening league-wide next week.

Dampier, 35, has exited meetings with both the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat this week without signing a contract as of Wednesday evening. Although there were indications out of Houston that Dampier was expected to make a decision by Thursday, a source said Wednesday night that nothing was imminent.

The Heat and Rockets are believed to be frontrunners among a group of teams that, at one point or another, had included Atlanta, Denver and Phoenix. Houston reportedly offered Dampier a two-year deal worth about $4 million. The best the Heat can counter with is the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million a year.

That means the equation is pretty much simple for Dampier. He's faced with a $600,000 question, assuming the Heat made a firm offer. Miami, obviously, appears much closer to a championship team than Houston. Add in the fact that Dampier is 35, and it's easy to see that time might not be on his side when it comes to how many potential title runs he has ahead of him.

Houston clearly has a defined role for Dampier, with Yao Ming returning from a foot injury and limited to about 24 minutes a game this season. So, in other words, Dampier would seem to be more needed in Houston, yet more of a luxury in Miami.

The Heat seems sold on Joel Anthony after investing a five-year, $18 million contract in his services. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire will be counted on to be one-year stop-gap type options at the position. And Pat Riley has gone out of his way to praise the merits of Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh and Juwan Howard as fill-in options at center if needed.

From all indications I've received, Dampier has been favoring Miami since he realized his days in Charlotte were numbered. But this could all be decided by which team wants him more.

Perhaps Heat team president Pat Riley will address the situation when he meets with the media Thursday at noon. The team, however, was certain to mention in its press release that Riley was not expected to announce any trade or player signing.

Perhaps that changes overnight. Or, the Heat heads into next week's camp convinced it's set at center.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/WallaceNBAHeat. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Final 5 Questions Facing Heat (Part. 2)

After a brief detour to cover Udonis Haslem's exoneration from that felony drug charge and the Heat's player media availability after Thursday's workouts, we resume the countdown of the top 10 questions facing Miami entering the Sept. 28 start of training camp.

5. How much will the Heat hate motivate? Some members of the national media, NBA analysts and Stan Van Gundy various coaches and players around the league have made this easy for the Heat. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Pat Riley don't have to come up with their own invisible villains now. All they have to do is look at the next game on the schedule, 'Google' that team and search for "criticism of the Heat." And the transcript of motivational potshots will flow. What we know is that even without the naysayers being so public in their so-called hate of the Heat, this team wouldn't have had too much of a problem creating that "Us against the world" mindset. But how much general hate is really out there aimed at the Heat? I'd say much less than the media would like you to believe. This team has plenty of fans in cities outside of Boston, Orlando, Los Angeles and Cleveland. People who support this team outside of Miami just don't tend to make news.

4. Can Miami overcome weaknesses at PG and Center? Yes and No. What we know is that point guard won't be a problem. As a matter of fact, it's safe to assume that the traditional 'point guard' position probably won't exist in the Heat's vocabulary. It will be replaced by 'playmaker' - and the Heat has plenty of them. Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo and Eddie House will specifically be asked to do three things: Limit turnovers, defend their position and knock down open shots. Wade, James and Mike Miller will handle the basketball. They will make the plays. They will handle the decisions. Expect the three of them to combine for around 20 assists a game. By comparison, the Heat averaged 18.9 assists as a team last season. One thing Wade, James and Miller shouldn't have to do is chase a smaller, quicker opposing point guard around the court an entire game. The center spot is another issue. The versatility and flexibility of Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh and Juwan Howard should help fill any voids at center, where Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire are the natural candidates. The Heat should hold up relatively well there most of the season. But it's the combined dozen regular-season games - plus the playoffs - against the Lakers, Magic, Celtics and Spurs when Miami's power rotation will be severely tested.

3. How long might chemistry be a concern or issue with the Big 3? If Wade, Bosh and LeBron aren't Bosh-Wade-James-USA already on the same page psychologically and physically by the end of this upcoming boot camp of a preseason stretch on those military bases in the Panhandle, then there might be a problem. But I don't suspect that will be the case. What we know is that these guys have wanted this opportunity to play together for years and are committed to proving to the world that this Super Big 3 concept will work. Considering the fact that Wade has already won a championship here and has that credibility, there is no debating who is the leader of this outfit. Bosh will easily flow into whatever system and expectations are set for him. Because Wade and James are essentially the same player (despite their difference in size), it will take some time for them to work through some potential on-court kinks. An up-tempo offense would help alleviate times when one has the ball and the other is setting up somewhere waiting to get it. In some ways, you can say Wade and James are selfishly unselfish players. That means they both are willing passers, playmakers and facilitators. But they also must have the ball in their hands and be in the middle of the action to be at their best. So that will make this chemistry exhibit interesting.

2. How long is coach Erik Spoelstra's leash? I was completely stumped by a question from a reader in our last Heat Q&A live chat. The person asked something to the extent of how bad of a start must the Heat have this season for Spoelstra's job to be in jeopardy. My initial reaction, somewhat sarcastically, was 0-3. That would mean losses to open the season at Boston and Philadelphia, followed by another setback in the home opener against the fri-enemy Orlando Magic. The Heat would be slaughtered in the national media, and Spoelstra would be under more scrutiny than he's ever faced in his brief coaching career. But what we know is that Spo has the full backing of Riley, owner Micky Arison and, perhaps most important, Dwyane Wade. What we also know is that Riley isn't the type to publicly panic at the first sign of adversity or a losing streak. Yes, history reveals Stan Van Gundy was forced out five years ago when Riley's last collection of championship material sputtered out of the gate before winning a title. But that escape hatch was opened for Van Gundy's departure in large part because of the simmering feuds in the locker room and a lack of trust between Van Gundy, Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning. This current Heat team has the talent to overcome a short losing streak under Spoelstra. But not even all the support from the front-office could help him if, for instance, Wade were to be neutralized and find himself torn between supporting Spoelstra and remaining loyal to an uncomfortable or privately disgruntled LeBron James.

1. Will the Heat win a championship this season? This is the way I see it: If this Heat team gets to the Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals, I believe they win it. Count me among the smaller group of folks who think that, on paper, the Heat would have a harder time against a healthy and hungry Boston team this year than it would against the Lakers or anyone that comes out of the Western Conference. The Lakers are the two-time defending champs and a phenomenal team. But I don't think the Heat is intimidated by an inconsistent Andrew Bynum, an aging Derek Fisher and the solid-but-unspectacular additions of Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Theo Ratliff. Boston's Big 3 - Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett - could be more problematic for Miami's counterparts in Wade, James and Bosh. And what we know is that Boston is far superior at the traditional point guard and center positions. There is no debating that Boston has had its way against Wade's Heat, James' Cavs and Bosh's Raptors in the recent past. But now they're a formidable trio, with dynastic expectations and are setting out on a championship-or-bust mission in Miami. My take? The Heat shouldn't be considered a bust if it doesn't win a title this season. It does, however, need to at least get to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. By Year 2, this team must have jewelry to show for its 2010 free agency heist.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/WallaceNBAHeat. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

10 Questions Facing Heat (Pt. 1, Updated)

With training camp set to open in less than two weeks, the Miami Heat seems to be generating more WadeJamesBosh questions than the team is answering these days.

So as the countdown to the Sept. 27 start of camp continues, now might be as good a time as ever to reveal our top 10 questions facing the Heat. We'll examine these questions in descending order - tackling Nos. 10 through 6 today, and, barring any major developments, Nos. 5 through 1 on Thursday.

10. Where will Miami hold training camp? The team was as tight-lipped about this subject as it's ever been about any trade or surprising personnel move in the works. That was until it announced Wednesday night that camp will be held from Sept. 28-Oct. 3 at Eglin Air Force Base in Ft. Walton Beach. What we know is that the Heat has sent a few staffers out to stake out sites that would serve the purpose of limiting distractions, getting the players out of any comfort zone and accommodating mounting media demands. Mission accomplished. It's a noble move by the Heat. If the Lakers and Warriors can train in Hawaii, the Heat could easily have made reservations in the Bahamas. Guess we all better get ready for basketball's version of boot camp.

9. Is one more veteran on the way? With a handful of once-prominent veterans still looking for NBA work - and some angling for a spot with the Heat - Pat Riley is deciding whether to enter camp with the 18 players, including 11 newcomers, he has under partial or fully-guaranteed contracts or determining whether to add another player to the mix. What we know is that center Erik Dampier is available and intrigued by the Heat. But he also knows it's a business and, after losing $13 million overnight upon his release from Charlotte, Dampier might first seek a bigger payday than the $1.3 million Miami can offer at the vet's min. Allen Iverson, Flip Murray, Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes and Earl Watson are still out there, too.

8. What tempo best fits this team? It would be hard to find three better athletes at their positions in the Showtime Lakers league than Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The best way to keep them all involved is to play an up-tempo style, one far more similar to Pat Riley's 1980s Lakers than his 1990s half-court, slug-it-out Knicks. What we know is that opposing teams want to neutralize the Heat with a zone and force Miami's stars to settle for jumpers. The worst thing for this team would be for Dwyane to sit on the wing waiting to see what LeBron is going to do in a halfcourt set - or vice versa. Let these guys loose.

7.Will legal issues facing Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade impact camp? Unless Haslem pleads to a reduced charge, his felony drug possession case will hang over this team entering camp in a major way. A plea could also land Haslem a league suspension of some sort. What we know is that Miami is accustomed to dealing with distractions. But a player facing a felony is above and beyond anything else it has been hit with in recent years. Wade's custody battle for his two young sons in Chicago could play out for another week - or another month. What we know is that Riley is confident both players will be on the court when camp practices start on Sept. 28.

6. Will Pat Riley get the itch to return to the bench? Barring an unforeseen health problem - or a surprising Riley marriage, the birth of some children and a desire to spend more time with that new family - Erik Spoelstra will coach the Heat. And that means Pat Riley will remain in his role solely as team president and patriarch of the franchise. What we know is that Riley wants no part of coaching a Tuesday night game at Milwaukee in February. Or the 3 a.m. return from road trips. He's put in 30-plus years of that stuff. The man still has one of the best minds in the game. And the strategy sessions, motivational methods and actual game-night coaching would be a breeze for him at age 65. But he's assembled a group of players who should be able to coach themselves to at least the conference Finals. Besides, Pat seems quite comfortable from his perch, doing his Rick Ross thing - absorbing the envy of the league and selectively bashing back at those who took shots at Miami.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/WallaceNBAHeat. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Heat Awaits D-day for Dampier

If you listen to the latest sales job by Heat president Pat Riley, his pitch is that Miami will be just fine this Act_erick_dampier season at what arguably is the team's weakest position.

Riley sees a potential oasis where most folks see a pivotal position as stable as quicksand.

Sure, the Heat has about 28 feet of bodies committed to the center spot in the likes of 7-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 6-9 Joel Anthony, 6-11 Jamaal Magloire and 6-10 Dexter Pittman. Each has either unique size or gifts. None is close to being the complete package that would make him the clear-cut anchor at the position.

And that's why Monday is the start of an intriguing period for the Heat. With training camp looming in a matter of days, there could soon be one big man on the market who has enough intangibles to garner a high level of Heat interest. Monday essentially opens the official bidding for the services of Erick Dampier.

Today marks the end of the 60-day period from which Dampier was dealt by Dallas to Charlotte, which can now trade the veteran center and his gold-mine of a $13 million, non-guaranteed contract. Dampier is highly likely to be released by any team that trades for him, meaning he'd end up a free-agent available at a drastically reduced price.

Here's where the Heat comes in, depending on how drastic a reduction Dampier is willing to accept.

Despite four bodies at center, the Heat still has questions at the position. Unfortunately, Riley only has the veteran's minimum of $1.3 million to offer - and Dampier already reportedly has turned down more than that in some preliminary discussions on a new deal with Charlotte.

But this is Miami. And there's known to be mutual interest. In fact, Dampier has already told at least one long-time associate in his Jackson, Miss. hometown that Miami would be at the top of his list if he's released. Dampier's camp also indicated that to the Bobcats, who are convinced he's likely headed for Miami if Charlotte can't find a trade partner.

But the Heat is not in position to trade for him, with only Mario Chalmers and rookies available to send.

Even at this advanced stage of his career, Dampier, 34, is still a productive rebounder and shot-blocker. And he's far from a liability on offense. That combination, alone, would - or should - put him ahead in the pecking order the Heat has right now. Otherwise, the Heat would have to explore the alternative options at center. The ones Riley laid out during his recent conference call previewing the Heat's training camp.

"I can't wait for all of this to sort of work out," Riley said, before lauding Anthony's athleticism and shot-blocking, Big Z's shooting and size and Magloire's rugged defense. "But when people look at the center position, they probably look at those three guys and say, 'It's not good enough.' "

Riley believes Chris Bosh, Juwan Howard and Udonis Haslem - all natural power forwards - have shown enough over their careers to step in and fill some voids at center. Especially from an offensive standpoint. None would - or should - be asked to man the center spot for extended stretches.

"So, I think we probably have more versatility at the center position than, I think, anybody in the league, to manage that position with versatility, with savvy, different kind of players," Riley insisted, before mentioning the Lakers, Celtics and Magic as teams that have a clear edge on Miami in the middle. "But we feel we have enough up front to match up with any of these guys."

At the time of those statements, it was difficult to tell whether Riley was working harder to convince himself or his audience of the Heat's optimism at center - as is. Dampier's arrival - via free agency by way of a trade from Charlotte and/or his subsequent release - would render Riley's reasoning a bit more of a reality.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/WallaceNBAHeat. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)


Friday, September 10, 2010

Riley Fires Back at Heat Critics

The start of the Miami Heat's 2010-11 training camp is still a couple of weeks away. PatRiley

But team president Pat Riley was in intense playoff mode Friday while finally firing back at those who took painful shots at his team's free agency coup to lure LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade.

Speaking to select local beat writers during a 42-minute conference call, Riley addressed several issues facing the team entering the Sept. 27 start of training camp at AmericanAirlines Arena. But none of the subjects he addressed revealed more of his true feelings than his response to TNT's Charles Barkley, Orlando GM Otis Smith and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.

All three had plenty to say about the Heat and some of its players after James and Bosh shook up the NBA's landscape and joined forces with Wade in Miami. Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and several current and former players also launched shots at how this version of the Heat came together.

Big 3 Hype  "I think all these people should get a life. I really do." Riley said of the general, league-wide backlash aimed at the Heat. "Most of it has been silly, absolutely silly. But I understand. We live in a different world now. I can't even relate to it. I take a little bit of umbrage to some of the things that came from people in our game that all of a sudden have become the moral conscious or moral authority on the decision every team or some individual might make."

And that set the stage for some pretty direct points from Riley.

He was a bit offended by Smith, the Orlando GM, who raised questions about LeBron's competitiveness for deciding to leave a solid title contender in Cleveland to latch on with Wade and Bosh in Miami.

"When Otis Smith made a point about LeBron's competitiveness because he didn't stay in Cleveland, I thought it was an absolutely stupid remark," Riley said Friday. "He never made any kind of comment like  that when he signed (forward) Rashard Lewis, and brought him down from Seattle to a $128 million Pat and Stan contract."

And then there were the comments from Van Gundy, a former Heat head coach and Riley understudy before his controversial departure from Miami in 2005. It was Stan Van Gundy who was quoted in referring to Bosh as a "lapdog" to Wade in Miami.

"I don't know what happened to some of these guys along the way," Riley said.

But the best came when Riley turned his attention to Barkley, who referred to James' treatment of Cleveland and the decision to go to Miami as "punk moves." Barkley also didn't like the way the Heat celebrated the signings by putting on a fireworks show and rock concert-type performance at the arena in July.

"Charles Barkley, to me, went way over the top. Way, way, way over the top," Riley said. "For some reason (the media) and the network he works for has given this guy literary license to say whatever he  wants to say whenever he wants to say it. I think Charles is the only guy in the league who can get away Barkley with what he gets away with ... and we all let him get away with it again. I can guarantee a couple of guys don't like that, being called that. LeBron isn't that. Dwyane is surely not that, and neither is Chris."

So now, it's really on.

"There have been a number of things written all summer long about the three guys we signed," Riley said. "But in the end, they're the ones, all three of them, that showed a world-class personality. They took the hit, and now, they're ready to compete. They've been mentally tough with all these kind of things."

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/WallaceNBAHeat. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

How The Heat's East Shakes Out

With less than three weeks remaining before the start of Heat training camp, one of the focuses today was Bulls Heat Main on where Miami will finish in a much stronger Eastern Conference mix.

I've got the Heat finishing atop the standings when all 82 are played. I'm not sure that 72 victories are in store for this team, though. The Heat will have quite a fight on its hands to challenge the Bulls record set during the 1996 season. That Tuesday night game in Milwaukee in February is no longer the gimme it might have been. That Friday tilt in Charlotte, as we've seen in the past, is much tougher than it used to be.

The bottom-feeders in the East are no longer chump-change. New Jersey won't be flirting with disaster this time around. And even the depleted Cleveland and Toronto squads will be highly motivated, albeit far less talented, when the Heat rolls into town.

Having said all of that, I was asked during today's live Heat chat how I saw the East breaking down. Honestly, I haven't yet given it much thought. When the Heat was a middle-of-the-pack team the past two seasons, it was sort of necessary to see where it might fall in the conference pecking order well in advance of the start of the season.

But with this team expected to be no lower than second in the conference, it doesn't matter as much what takes place below the top three or four teams in the East race. But for the record, I've got Miami ending up first with somewhere between 64 and 68 victories. From there, it's Boston, Orlando and Chicago.

Beyond that, it's anyone's guess. Here's the best of the best of today's Heat chat.

Most Recently Answered Questions

Questions 1 - 15 of 1331 (Page 1 of 45)

Q: We all know Anderson Varejao thrived in Cleveland playing alongside Lebron, getting a rich contract along the way. Who among those currently in the roster do you think/see would mesh well with Lebron in the same manner this season? Who fits that "high-energy" bench player mold?

Answered 09/09/10 14:07:22 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: It would have to be a guy like Udonis Haslem. The Heat has several bodies at the power forward and center spot, but there's not a lot of youth, energy and athleticism at those spots. So the choices are limited. But this type of roster and these type of double-team-commanding players would seem to benefit a step-out-shooting, rebound-hauling presence like Haslem the most among those in the mix.

Q: We can go back and forth on this but the reality is that the heat are presently hurting in the point guard/center position. While am not taking away d heat arsenal on other position, I will like to advise the miami front office to still take a second look on A.I and patiently await d Erick Dampiers waiver from the bobcat. Am even surprise that d heat is not signing one of their own "SILER" he was more of an enforcer and defensive oriented than PITTMAN.

Answered 09/09/10 14:03:34 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: I think the Heat is fairly confident in manning the point guard and center spots by committee. You'd like to be able to morph Eddie, Mario and Carlos into one guy. The same can be said of Jamaal, Joel and Big Z. But that's not a luxury the Heat has. When you load up with stars the way Miami has, you have to sacrifice elsewhere. But you need some supporting cast guys to rise to the challenge and play better than expected.

Q: Hey micheal what is your opinion on tattoos in the NBA and do u have one.Also Lebron has a tradition of getting a new tattoo before the post season every year I think he should get a crown on the back of his neck on top of his name James so that would make the king James even cooler

Answered 09/09/10 14:00:47 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: No, I don't have any tattoos. Never really seriously considered getting one. They don't tend to show up too well on us chocolate-ly-blessed guys:)My only concern what these guys are going to feel like when they turn 60 or 70 and are still inked up like that.

Q: Hi Mike, In Kobe's recent interview, he said that he would never do what Lebron did, leaving his team to go play with another superstar (although his trade request a few years ago seems to contradict that). My question is, do you think that Kobe would have swallowed his ego enough to do what Wade did, sacrificing salary, spotlight, stats and credit for winning, by recruiting talents the caliber of Lebron and Bosh? My gut says no, especially with what happened when he played with Shaq. What do you think?

Answered 09/09/10 13:57:44 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: I think the Kobe we see now is a bit different from the Kobe that fell into that ego war with Shaq. Of course, it took Kobe a few years to answer his critics in terms of being able to win one without Shap. I didn't see Kobe's interview you're talking about. But if that is indeed the context of his statements, then it is a bit hypocritical. I would give Kobe a slight pass, though, because I don't think he would have demanded a trade if the Lakers posted the best record in the league and got as far as Cleveland did the last two years. In that event, I believe Kobe would demand that the Lakers do something to bring in more help.

Q: Hey Mike, i know the Heat are missing a big piece at center. But we do have big Z, along with joel anthony who i think is one of the best shot blocking center's in the league. But i wouldn't sleep on dexter pittman either. Do you think the Heat even with the big 3 and a solid supporting cast, couldn't win a title within the next 2 years?

Answered 09/09/10 13:54:48 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: If they don't, it would be considered by many, including this team, as a failure. I'm not among those who say the Heat has to win it all in Year 1. But I think they have to have some hardware to show for all of this hype, hoopla and expectations by Year 2.

Q: What is the spill over effect when a team like this is put together? Specifically, what change or effect does it have on local writers covering the Heat, or even guys like Eric Reid and Tony F? Because I have notice that people tend to remember not just players on multiple championship teams, but also writers and commentators.

Answered 09/09/10 13:53:34 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: Great question. Those of us who are around the team daily, both home and on the road, will have a chance to chronicle the type of stories that might only come around once or twice in a career. With more attention paid to this team, it also increases the exposure a lot of us can receive beyond the local level. In many ways, we'll simply find ourselves holding on for the ride.

Q: Hey Mike, can I have your HONEST opinion? 2011 NBA playoffs Seeds 1 - 8. (I Have: 1. Miami 2. Boston 3. Orlando 4. Milwaukee 5. Chicago 6. Atlanta 7. Charlotte 8. Washington)

Answered 09/09/10 13:51:21 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: I think the top three are locks. I'd move Chicago up to fourth, Atlanta to fifth, Milwaukee to sixth, Charlotte to seventh and I can see New York, New Jersey, Detroit, Indiana and Cleveland fighting for that final spot. I feel like I'm forgetting someone. But that's how I see it.

Q: do you see the heat signing any other players before the start of the season?

Answered 09/09/10 13:49:06 by Miami Heat Beat Reporter

A: Riley might be inclined eventually to invite a veteran or two such as an Iverson, Stackhouse, Larry Hughes or Flip Murray if there is a shortage of guards because of lingering injuries. But I don't see Pat rushing to do anything like that at this point unless it becomes necessary.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/qna/forum/heat_chat/index.html#ixzz0z3bkLqIN

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/WallaceNBAHeat. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

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