Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Heat First Trimester Grades

The date Dec. 29 could only mean one thing. Beasley-action

Yes, it's four days after Christmas and three days before the New Year. But it's also been exactly two months (and one day) since the Heat opened its season with that Oct. 28 victory against the New York Knicks. In other words, I should have filed this yesterday. But the methodical drive from New York to Miami hit an extra overnight snag right around Gainesville and required a pit stop.

Still, this officially (or otherwise) brings us to the first trimester of the season. Two months down in the regular season. Four to go. So as the Heat wrapped up practice today in advance of its two-game road trip to New Orleans and San Antonio, Prof. M-Dub couldn't find a better time than now to hand out first trimester grades for the Heat.

In many ways, at 16-12, the Heat is right where it should be, under the circumstances. There isn't quite enough depth and talent on the roster to consistently trade blows with the Big Four in the East (Orlando, Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta). On the other hand, with a healthy Dwyane Wade, there's still enough here to avoid falling too deep into the conference wastelands that exist in the bottom half of the East.

In an effort to provide a truly fair evaluation, these grades are based on how each Heat player has done through the first two months in terms of reaching general expectations and potential. That means Carlos Arroyo's grade might be higher than, say, Jermaine O'Neal's.

But that doesn't mean Arroyo has outperformed O'Neal from an overall team perspective. It simply means, Arroyo has come closer to meeting, or surpassing, what was generally expected of him in this evaluator's humble opinion. So feel free to evaluate the evaluator - or simply chime in with your own studious observations and grades.

Joel Anthony (B+): There have already been a handful of times when Joel - or ZO-el, as we call him on press row, dominated a game on the defensive end. His blocks-per-minutes-played stat makes him one of the most productive shot-blockers in the league. He's even sprinkled in a hook shot, pick-and-roll finish and dunks on lob passes. But the operative word is "sprinkled." Anthony's hands of stone still prevent him from providing heapings of anything on offense. But defensively, he's gone from project to impact player.

Carlos Arroyo (C+): There was a reason Arroyo was available as a free agent well into training camp. He's no longer the flashy, streaky, take-over-a-game point guard. But he's been a productive, steady, veteran option for this team. He doesn't make mistakes and gets the team smoothly into offense. Arroyo still has a great feel for the game and his teammates. Considering he's now starting just two months after the Heat signed him off the Miami playgrounds to a non-guaranteed contract, he's already done more than expected.  

Michael Beasley (B): There are some out there who will give Beas an "A" no matter what he does. But the truth his, the kid is coming around nicely this season after showing flashes last season. Beas still has a few more levels to go before he reaches the peak of his game. That's not a knock on him. That speaks to how much of a star he could be in this league if he continues to develop (and be allowed  to develop). But he is on course to be that "20-10 guy even on a bad night" D. Wade believes he soon will become.

Mario Chalmers (C-): Really, about the only thing Chalmers has shown that's different from his rookie campaign is the ability to lose his starting job. You have to wonder at times why Pat Riley made such a firm public commitment to the kid instead of upgrading the position last summer. Money was a factor. But still. The good news is that Mario can still be a long-term starter. But he's seeing you can't walk into the league and pick up point guard skills on the fly.

Cook Shooting Daequan Cook (D-): The shoulder problems have lingered, the shot isn't falling and he's dropped out of the primary rotation again. Hopefully, he'll come around in the next few weeks to justify defending that Three-Point Shootout championship at All-Star Weekend. This could become another second-guess situation from a previous draft, when Miami took Dorell Wright while Jameer Nelson was on the board. Cook was acquired three drafts ago when a fella by the name of Aaron Brooks was still there to be had.

Yakhouba Diawara (C-): You won't find a nicer, more intelligent, funnier guy in the Heat locker room than Frenchie. But he's not making almost $1 million to be those things. He was brought in to be a three-point shooting, defensive stopper. For whatever reason, he hasn't had done either of those things consistently.

Udonis Haslem (B-): You know what you're going to get from UD year in and year out. Somewhere around 10 points and close to 10 rebounds. That’s both good and bad. You would like to see Haslem follow through on his wish to expand his game, since he always talks about how much he’s had to sacrifice to accept his role with the Heat. He watched Michael Beasley take over the starting power forward role in a move that seems to be paying off for both, even though the staff hasn’t consistently found a way to keep both in the mix at the end of games.

James Jones (D): He was brought in to be the stretch-the-floor, three-point specialist at near mid-level money to complement Dwyane Wade. So either James Jones hasn't truly gotten his chance or the Heat is getting an absurdly low return on its $4.2 million a year investment. Jones hasn't been a factor with this team, despite all of the high praise from coach Erik Spoelstra coming into the season.

Jamaal Magloire (C): When Big Cat plays, he punishes people. He pounds in the paint, and he's a productive rebounder. But the minutes have been sparse for the Heat's resident enforcer. Magloire's biggest accomplishment this season was getting suspended for those two regular-season games for his role in that preseason skirmish with the Pistons.

Jermaine O'Neal (C+): When the offense runs through J.O., good things tend to happen. But the question lingers. Were those 22-point, 12-rebound performances in the first two games just a tease, or a true testament of what should be expected from O'Neal game in and game out? Nagging injuries have rendered his production sporadic. But just when you count him down or out, he bounces back with a big game.

Chris Quinn - I (incomplete): He hasn't played and might not get a chance to do so this season if the Heat decides to keep Arroyo on board beyond the Jan. 6 guarantee date for contracts. Still, a permanent spot on the inactive list is not a bad way to earn a cool million bucks for Quinn.

Quentin Richardson (A): If I've said it once, I've blogged it a dozen times. What essentially was a throw-away trade for the Heat in dumping Mark Blount turned out to be a treasured situation for Q-Rich. He has gone from being buried on the Knicks bench to being traded four times last summer to becoming the Heat's X-factor this season. Q-Rich's shooting, defense and swagger have been huge in support of Wade. Now, all he has to do is stay healthy.

Dwyane Wade (B-): Because greatness is graded on a steep curve, D. Wade's low B would be aJazz Heat wade high A for 90 percent of the league. But his shooting woes, conditioning flap and turnovers have left the door open for a bit of criticism. The expectation is that Wade will shut that door during the second Trimester and get back to being one of the top-3 dominant players in the league. It's not like he's slipped far off that mark - even with his relative dip in production so far.

Dorell Wright (C+): The re-emergence of Dorell Wright has been a bit overstated in recent weeks. But the reality is that Dorell is still young enough at age 24, athletic enough, long enough and skilled enough to make a fool of a front office if it gives up on him too soon. The key to Wright's recent improved play has been the stability in his surgically repaired knee. If he sustains this, his grade will certainly rise.

Coach Erik Spoelstra (C): Although he has been a huge target of criticism among a section of fans, Spoelstra still hasn't really done anything to distinguish himself as a game-day coach. We know he prepares like heck. He knows how to run a practice. He can relate to his players. But the fact is Dwyane helps to hide what may be a few blemishes. The rotation is still his issue. But it's SPO-Coach too soon to say he's a perfect fit or not a fit at all for this team.

President Pat Riley (B-): The natural instinct was to offer a lower grade. But I do give Riley credit for avoiding the sort of desperate moves he's made the past couple of seasons. You know the ones. Smush. Penny. Ricky D. Instead, Riley announced what he was going to do and stuck with it. The plan is 2010. Fate sort of forced his hand on the point guard situation, and he brought in Arroyo. And his biggest accomplishment this season has been his ability to convince the league that he's got a better-than-good chance at bringing LeBron down to Miami to pair with D. Wade. There's hype. And the Heat is winning.

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

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blount Out, Q-Rich In. What Now?

So what does Thursday night's trade mean for the Miami Heat? Quentin Richardson

That Heat president Pat Riley is still operating on West Coast time, for one thing. The Heat announced at 11 p.m. Thursday that it had dealt seldom-used center Mark Blount back to Minnesota in exchange for veteran swingman Quentin Richardson.

The deal also means plenty of other things for the Heat. Let us count the ways.

1. Pat Riley finally made an offseason move that could improve the team a bit next season. The Heat had been one of only two teams in the league to stand pat with regards to making a new veteran addition to its roster this offseason.

2. The move brings better balance to Miami's roster. Blount was one of four centers on a roster that was all too thin on the perimeter, particularly at point guard.

3. Richardson could challenge for the starting small forwardspot or provide a nice boost off the bench. He is a career 11.5 ppg. scorer who added five boards a game over the course of his nine-year career.

4. This has to make Wade at least a wee bit happy. Not that Q-Rich makes the Heat a title contender next season (he doesn't). But he is good friends with Wade and can ease some of Wade's frustrations and questions about the roster heading into free agency.

Richardson-Wade 5. The Heat does move a couple million more into luxury taxterritory. Blount and Richardson both have contracts that expire next summer, but by sending out Blount's $7.9 million and taking back Richardson's $9.3 million (as a team already in the tax), the Heat moves from about $2 million to about $5 million deeper into the tax based on Riley's recent estimates.

6. This move has no affect on the Heat's priorities to maintain significant cap space for 2010, when it hopes to resign Wade to a six-year, $120 million contract and also add another top-tier free agent from a class that could be highlighted by LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

7. There still is a need at point guard, unless Wade is committed to playing a lot of minutes at that position again. In that case, the Heat could go with a big backcourt with Wade and Richardson in moments when Mario Chalmers is on the bench. Otherwise, there is still a need for point guard help. Chalmers and Chris Quinn are all that's there on the roster at that position.

8. Considering the slightly higher luxury-tax bill, this could be the unofficial end to any interest the Heat had in acquiring Allen Iverson. There already were concerns about potentially getting everyone enough shots before Richardson came aboard. Iverson, a pure scorer, won't be needed as much. But Jamaal Tinsley and Flip Murray (or anyone capable of being a pure point guard) could still be added for the NBA-funded veteran's minimum.

9. Now that Richardson is a member of the Heat, the Southeast Division now boasts the most-traveled player (Richardson, four teams in one summer) and coach (Larry Brown, coached nine different teams).

10. Those minutes at small forward that were supposed to go Michael Beasley's way might be a bit less availableif he's unable to improve his perimeter defensive skills. On top of that, James Jones, Daequan Cook and Dorell Wright may have just fallen farther back in line in the rotation pecking order.

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

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nucleus Intact (For Now)

If Heat president Pat Riley has a major trade in mind, it probably won't come until after the start of training camp.

Patriley Speaking with reporters for the first time since days after the June draft, Riley said Thursday he expects to enter training camp with the team's nucleus intact. To be certain he heard my question correctly, Riley not only repeated, but placed an emphasis on the phrase "training camp."

What that likely means is a Heat roster than includes Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley would get at least a test run to see how well that core might mesh. Otherwise, that blockbuster deal many of us in the media - and you in blognation - have been expecting might take shape.

"Anything can happen," Riley said after unveiling an Olympic banner in honor of gold-medal winning Heat guard Dwyane Wade at AmericanAirlines Arena. "But I think this nucleus probably will go into training camp."

The Heat opens camp on Sept. 27 and will travel to Europe to play two of its seven preseason games. Training camp trades aren't new for Riley. Last October, the Heat dealt Antoine Walker, Wayne Simien, Michael Doleac and a first-round pick to Minnesota for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount two weeks into training camp.

Riley also addressed a few other Heat matters Thursday.

Summing up summer free agency, a time when the Heat acquired James Jones and Yakhouba Diawara, parted with Ricky Davis, Jason Williams and Earl Barron and re-upped with Dorell Wright:

"The only player that we didn't get that we wanted was Roger Mason (who left the Wizards to sign with the Spurs after visiting the Heat). Everybody else we wanted, we got."

On finding help at center, where the Heat has worked out Lorenzen Wright, Jamaal Magloire and D.J. Mbenga in recent days but has yet to settle on anyone:

"Now, we're just trying to fortify with pieces. We still need help in the post."

Riley also said the team continues to negotiate with restricted free agent point guard Chris Quinn, who was extended a 1-year, $1 million qualifying offer earlier this summer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where Do They Go From Here?

Now that Ricky is officially the first of the Heat's free agents to move on, we checked for updates on the status of Miami's others soon to be cast off. Or Not.

Rickydavis Ricky Davis: No problem here with the Heat putting him on the backburner to flirt with others - which ultimately netted James Jones. But count me in the small crowd that didn't really see Ricky as the main villain on last season's team. Ricky only did what he always does. He's just not an impact player. So in essence, that trade ultimately came down to the Heat sending a first-round pick and Antoine Walker to Minnesota for Mark Blount. Ouch.

Jason Williams: There's chatter out there that J-Will either has interest in, or is being courted by, an Israeli team. Checked with his agent today, who would neither confirm nor deny the interest overseas. But was also warned not to rule out a possible reunion Jwill with Miami. Like Davis, J-Will was placed on the backburner by Heat president Pat Riley at the start of free agency. But unlike Davis, J-Will plays a position of desperate need for the Heat. And with not much else out there enticing outside of a trade, it might not be out of the question to bring J-Will back at or near the vet's minimum ($1.3 - 2 mill) on a one-year deal to eventually hand the reigns over to rookie Mario Chalmers.

Chris Quinn: That J-Will scenario, of course, would mean Quinn wouldn't be brought back. Which essentially would make this a Quinn-or-JWill proposition for Quinn the Heat, which will almost certainly carry a third PG into the season in addition to Chalmers and Marcus Banks. Quinn is receiving interest from teams as a third point guard prospect, with New Jersey and Orlando among the teams that have a need.

Dorell Wright: Oklahoma City reportedly has interest as part of a contingency plan. But there's a big difference between interest and action. And, as we've seen, not many teams are quick to tie up salary-cap money to extend an offer on even a promising player coming off a knee injury. The expectation - make that hope - is that the Heat will eventually open Dorell negotiations for a deal a bit sweeter than the one-year, $2.4 million qualifying offer it made to Wright earlier this summer. But it's far more likely the Heat will wait, Wright will sign the qualifying offer and enter next summer an unrestricted free agent.

Barron Earl Barron: Not much happening here, as expected. The Earl experiment hasn't produced much beyond summer league dominance. And even that was two years ago. Although the Heat is desperate for length and big bodies, it's likely to pass on another dance with the 7-foot Barron.

So what's left out there at center and point guard for the Heat, which is within $5 million of the luxury tax and has about $900,000 left of its mid-level but the full $1.9 million of its vet's exception?

Brian Skinner, Francisco Elson, Melvin Ely and Theo Ratliff are among those who might fit the vet's exception and would be the defensive stiffs needed to clog the paint. The options are even more scarce at the point. Which means any real upgrades must come via trade. And the action always picks up the closer teams get to training camp.   

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bye-bye Ricky

Heat free agent Ricky Davis signed a multi-year deal with the L.A. Clippers Monday, officially ending his second stint with Miami. The veteran swingman became expendable following the Heat's free agent signing of former University of Miami standout James Jones earlier this month.

Davis, 28, averaged 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season, and was the only Heat player to appear in all 82 games.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What Beasley, Riley Must Do Now

Sights and sounds from Orlando in the aftermath of the Heat's 94-70 victory over the Bulls in the summer debuts of top pick Derrick Rose and second pick Michael Beasley.

Beasley was about as silly after the game as he was effective during it, closing with 28 points, 9 rebounds, two assists and one block in 23 minutes.

Yes, it was summer league. But don't discount the significance of his first NBA test. He dominated Beasleynoah Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah most of the night. And both are long and athletic frontline players who are regulars in the Bulls' regular-season rotation.

Beasley had three And-1s, and could have finished with as many as five if he hit a couple more free throws. But he was solid from the line, too, going 9 of 12 to offset a not-too-shabby 9 of 21 clip from the field. Still, Beasley was his own worst critic afterward, grading himself a "C" and suggesting he's simply trying to make the team.

Keith Askins, who is coaching the summer league squad, had plenty of good things to say about Beasley and second-round pick Marion Chalmers. But he also offered some constructive criticism, things Beasley will be asked to work on as the five-games-in-five-days-stretch continues Tuesday afternoon. He moves on from Thomas and Noah to face rookie lottery pick Brook Lopez, who was the top center in the draft.

"I'd like to see him finish stronger," Askins said. "He has a tendency to go in with the finger roll. I'd like to see him finish over the top (dunking). Once he starts playing, he'll see guys are bigger and they're quick and they jump in this league - play above the rim. He'll get there."


Heat president Pat Riley was fashionably late to Monday's game after flying in from Los Angeles. He arrived in just enough time to miss Beasley's slow start but catch every second of his strong finish.

We caught up with Riley at halftime, who is preoccupied these days with finding a few more pieces to place around Beasley and star guard Dwyane Wade through free agency and trades. And Riley was Riley, smoothly speaking in circles at times but offering some insight on the Heat's direction.

That's if you believe what he's saying.

With free agents clear to sign new deals first thing Wednesday, Riley suggested the Heat would make its first round of offers on the eve before the league's moratorium is lifted and the new salary cap and exceptions are announced.

The plan, Riley said, is to start building the Heat's bench, which, based on one translation, means that any offers the Heat makes might be to lower-key options at point guard and center.

"We'll go slowly," Riley said. "Little by little. Find players who fit. See what's out there."

Doolingheat If free agency is the route, there are at least names out there that remain intriguing to the Heat. At point guard: Keyon Dooling and Jannero Pargo. At center: Kwame Brown  and Kurt Thomas. Shooters/defenders: James Jones and Mickael Pietrus.

Riley spent almost the second half Monday sitting beside Magic coach and former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy, who figures to be competing with the Heat, among others, to retain Dooling's services. Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe not.

As it stands, Riley said career backup Marcus Banks would enter training camp as the Heat's starter, with Chalmers running second on the depth chart. The Heat has extended a minimum qualifying offer to third-year guard Chris Quinn, who finished the season playing the bulk of the PG minutes.

Riley then back-peddled  backpedaled some on his previous stance of being dead-set against making a major move or taking on any long-term deals before the summer of 2010, when Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire could become free agents.

"We've said that because that's when our guy (comes) up," Riley said, referring to Wade's opt-out clause. "But I don't care if its (2009) or (2010). We could make a move today, and say forget that."

But for such a move to take place, it would almost certainly have to involve parting with Shawn Marion and his $17.8 million expiring contract.

As far as the Heat's own free agents are concerned, Riley said he's had conversations with the agents for guard Jason Williams and swingman Ricky Davis, but that the two would be kept in a holding pattern for now until the Heat explores other options.

Heat restricted free agent forward Dorell Wright showed up in Orlando for Monday's games. He said he still hopes to remain with the Heat, which extended him a $2.4 million qualifying offer. But Wright, coming off season-ending knee surgery, also said he's aware of interest from some other teams.


Lasmesummer_2 These kind of games are tailor made for do-it-all journeymen such as Stephane Lasme. He was the most impressive Heat player on Monday not named Beasley or Chalmers. Lasme came off the bench and stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, five rebounds, four blocks, three steals and one assist.

One glaring void is at center, where David Padgett was the lone natural big man to play. With Marcus Campbell injured and Anthony King not yet acclimated to the Heat's system, there are few other options at center. That was one of the reasons Beasley spent significant time at center, with Lasme or Josh Duncan playing at power forward. Padgett had four points, four rebounds and five fouls in 14 minutes of action in his debut. He'll need to do far more.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Free Agency: The Frugal Approach

Heat president Pat Riley will enter the summer free agency period at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday with at least one comforting feeling: His team won't do any worse than it did during last season's free agency.

That would be almost impossible, wouldn't it?

It was this time a year ago when the Heat watched Jason Kapono bolt to Toronto faster than Shaq's honorary security badges got stripped last week. Certainly, there was no shame in the Heat's refusing to cough up $24 million to Kapono the way the Raptors did.

Nice fella. Great shooter. But just not worth that much money in the Heat's grand scheme.

But it had to be painful to watch Posey walk to Boston - after a long, drawn-out, we-really-don't-like-one-another-but-lets-pretend-like-we're-negotiating-in-good-faith process - and become arguably the fourth most critical player in the Celtics run to a title.

So how does the Heat make up for those moves? It signs Smush Parker and takes a shot at Penny Hardaway. Then, it trades for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. If anyone cares to find what detonated the disastrous 15-67 season that soon followed, just look back to what transpired between July 1 and Oct. 24 of 2007. The Heat is here because it dared to go there.

But even amid that mess, Riley still managed to productively unload the bloated contracts of Antoine Walker and Shaquille O'Neal. So a total loss it was not.

Riley has a different plan this free agency period. He's recruiting with a reluctance to offer anything more than a two-year contract as the Heat looks to save up for the sweepstakes of 2010, when D. Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and LeBron James could be on the open market.

Taking such a frugal approach into free agency could lead to another long summer as the Heat waits for the market to set itself and the trickle-down process to take affect. Would Chris Duhon be willing to take a two-year, $12 million deal from the Heat when New York or Phoenix might double that offer?

Would DeSagana Diop? Would Beno Udrih? Or might the Heat be left to pick from the less desirables, which is how they ended up Smushed in the first place.

There's something to be said for taking the short view on a long-term approach for 2010. But there are still games to win and rebuilding to be done right now. Indeed, this is a roster that needs to be tweaked. Not torched. If the Heat is healthy, with a few adjustments, it's a playoff team again.

But if Miami is reluctant to pay the price to win now - even at a muted mid-level rate - it might prove to be too costly of a gamble later. The Heat squandered last offseason, in part, by being stubborn.

It can't afford to make the same mistake this time around by being too cheap.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ten Things Heat Fans Have To Wonder

Ten things you might sit back and wonder as you look back at the NBA pre-draft camp, look ahead to the June 26 draft and look forward to the start of Celtics-Lakers Finals that kick off Thursday.

Posey 1. You wonder what Heat president Pat Riley is thinking as he watches James Posey deliver daggers and defensive gems for the Celtics while earning relative peanuts this season. Meanwhile, after the Heat allowed Posey to walk after a drawn-out process in free agency last summer, it shuffled through the likes of Jeremy Richardson, Dorell Wright, Penny Hardaway, Luke Jackson, Bobby Jones, Shawn Marion, Ricky Davis and (taking a fresh breath) ultimately Kasib Powell at small forward.

2. You have to wonder how so-called professional reporters and journalists can show up for work with a straight face the next day after throwing out crazy, manufactured trade rumors this time of year. Probably because it comes with the demands of some jobs in this field.

3. And while we're on the subject, you have to wonder why Riley chose to quickly put out a rumor Waderumors_2fire last summer, when he released a statement denying that Shaquille O'Neal was on the trading block (at the time), but chose to publicly remain quiet this week when another dose of rumors out of Chicago this time targeted Dwyane Wade's future.

4. And since we're still on the subject, you wonder why Wade finds himself caught up in so many rumors. We hear he's still a basketball player, but we can' be sure. Did youBarack_3  hear the one about him supposedly teaming up with his Chi-town homey to form one of the most lethal 1-2 tandems in the game? No, not Wade-Rose. I'm talking Obama-Wade, Demo ticket.

5. You wonder if Kobe can win a title without Shaq the way Shaq did without Kobe in 2006 with the Heat

6. And now that you think about it, you wonder how many titles the two of them would have now if they both could have managed to fit their egos in the same building.

7. You wonder just why the NBA insists on measuring prospects without shoes. NFL placekickers might work barefoot occasionally, but certainly not NBA power forwards.

Beasleypredraft_2 8. Having said that, you wonder how much Michael Beasley's disappointing 6-7 measurement (w/0 shoes, 6-8 1/4 with them) is a potential turnoff to Chicago and Miami. Is 6-7 or 6-8 more important than 26.2 and 12.4? Shouldn't be.

9. Staying on Beasley for a moment, you wonder why Beasley just didn't borrow the Huggy_bear_2  same kicks that increased Kevin Love's height by nearly two inches when he was measured. I thought the platforms went out with Huggy Bear 30 years ago. Who knew Hugs came back with a signature hoops shoe?

10. And you wonder just how many more second-tier prospects the Heat will roll into town before deciding it will trade the pick or render it useless like it's done in recent years. The Heat on Tuesday worked out NBDL player Mike Taylor, Davidson's Jason Richards, Houston's Dion Dowell and Nevada's Marcelus Kemp. Richards ranked among the nation's leaders in assists as the Davidson PG who kept setting up Stephen Curry for all of those open looks. And Kemp, a 6-5 SG, ranked among the nation's top scorers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mayo Matters (Another O.J. from USC in Miami?)

It's been three days since the Draft Lottery results arrived in rainy Secaucus. And the downpour of stories, rumors, misdirection and flat-out guesswork from so-called experts, GMs, team presidents and inside sources seem to only get more far-fetched by the news cycle.

Beasley_m First, we hear throughout the past several weeks that Derrick Rose and Michael   Beasley are clearly the cream of the crop atop the draft pool - with a deep drop-off after the second pick. Then, we hear on lottery night from Pat Riley, who seemed more excited about trade scenarios than the transition either Rose or Beasley can help the Heat make after a dreadful 15-67 season.

After that, we hear the Bulls, whose GM wasn't even watching the lottery when it delivered the No. 1 Rose_derrick_2pick despite a 1.7 percent chance to land it, already have hatched up an agreement to take Beasley and leave the Heat with Rose. So I guess somewhere between blowing off the lottery and blowing up his shot at a once-in-a-generation point guard, John Paxson hatched this contingency plan over, eh, breakfast?

Usc_mayo_basketball_la103 And now, there's the ESPN report that links the Heat's No. 2 pick to O.J. Mayo, with Riley suddenly so enamored with the controversial guard from Southern Cal that he's willing to bypass Beasley if both were on the board when the Heat makes its selection.

The good news: This all makes for great debate and entertainment as the days go by.

The bad news: This stuff is going to keep coming over the next 35 or so days.

Not saying that any of the above mentioned either hasn't or won't happen. But it won't hurt to be careful and cautious with what you choose to believe as you read/listen/click into all of the draft talk over the next month. It simply makes you wonder.

You wonder if any of this Mayo-Heat talk is driven by the fact that Mayo is in Chicago working out in Dwyane Wade's hometown, with Dwyane Wade's recently-hired trainer, Tim Grover.

Wade made it no secret he prefers Rose as his backcourt mate. Even after the lottery results, Wade Waderiley still maintained the Heat's biggest need was for a play-making guard. If Rose blossoms in the Windy City, Mayo would be as good a Plan B in the draft as there is at guard. Mayo's personality can be as engaging and convincing as his game. If they can develop a chemistry working out under Grover's guidance, Wade, who can opt out of his contract in two years, might just convince Riley to get Mayo.

I just can't see Miami taking him at No. 2 and calling it a night. Such a move would only make sense if the Heat found a trade partner before the draft and had an agreement in place to swap players after the draft. We reported on Wednesday, from on-the-record interviews, that no fewer than five teams in the lottery are interested in dealing with the Heat for the chance to snag Beasley with the second pick.

Since scenarios are being thrown out there in Floyd Mayweather-like flurries, how about this one.

Mike_miller_2 Let's say things went according to our mock draft from picks 2-5, with the Heat drafting Beasley, Minnesota taking center Brook Lopez, Seattle grabbing Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless and Memphis picking Mayo. It wouldn't be out of the question to see the Heat and Grizzlies, led by former Heat exec Chris Wallace, strike a deal to swap picks, with the Griz throwing recent Heat trade target Mike Miller and second-year PG Kyle Lowry in the mix. Miami would have to send another body or two to match salaries (the official deal also could be delayed a few days to include sign-and-trade options, which would bring Kwame Brown and Ricky Davis in play).

See how easy it is to throw out a rumor/proposed deal, even a rather reasonable, believable one? They're like spam. They can pop up anytime, anywhere these days. And there are going to be quite a few viruses out there disguised as exclusive insight over the next few weeks. Which is why it just might be wise to be careful what you click into-read-hear and believe until you see it on June 26.

Until then, this remains a two-horse draft. And I see Riley and the Heat jockeying - and riding for the long haul - whichever stallion the Bulls don't saddle: Rose or Beasley.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Exit Interview: Ricky Davis

With an important offseason ahead of the Heat, Mike and I will be analyzing each player from the Heat's 2007-08 roster. Just like Pat Riley met with each player after the season ended, we will be doing our own "exit interviews" that you'll find posted here during the next couple of weeks.  Let's start with one of the biggest question marks for next season:

Ricky Davis, 6-7, F/G

Rickydavis_2 2007-08 stats: 13.8 ppg, 4.3 reb, 3.4 assists in 36.1 minutes a game

Career averages: 14.3 ppg, 3.7 reb, 3.5 assists in 31.1 minutes a game

Status: Free agent

Looking back: Davis was the Heat's most durable player, after arriving days before the season started from Minnesota as part of the package in the Timberwolves' trade for Antoine Walker. Davis was the only Heat player to play in all 82 games, proving to be a reliable scorer whether he started or came off the bench. In his second go-around with the Heat, he showed his ability as a solid three-point shooter (40.5 percent) but seemed to miss clutch shots down the stretch that could have led to at least a few victories. His accuracy beyond the arc--25th in the league--was better than J.R. Smith, Chauncey Billups, NBA Sixth Man of the Year Manu Ginobili, Hedo Turkoglu and Ray Allen. Davis' defense is iffy at times and it seemed like coach Pat Riley constantly yelled at Davis to position himself better on that end of the court.

Looking ahead: The Heat has very limited cap space, so Davis is probably a good option to help fill out the rotation. On a healthy Heat team with a top draft pick, Davis is a bench player and perhaps worthy of being a sixth man. He has his weaknesses, but for a guy who has averaged double digits over a nine-year career, Davis should be on the team's wish list. One knock on Davis is that he has been on losing teams throughout his career. Sure, he isn't a one-man show that can singlehandedly carry a losing team,  but remember there is a difference between a guy being a role player on a losing teRickdavis2_2am and being a loser. Davis played through injuries instead of finding a way to sit out during the Heat's miserable season. It's reflective of his personality and it would be hard to conceive the idea of Davis being a hindrance to a playoff team. He is not a bad-attitude guy.Davis, who has had a nomadic career, repeatedly said he would love to re-sign with the Heat. Davis turns 29 before next season. The Heat can exceed the salary cap to re-sign Davis. He said he'd be willing to take a short-term (two years?) or long-term deal for the right fit.

Best bet: Outside of trying to sign free agents Mickael Pietrus (whom the Heat had interest in last summer) or Bonzi Wells, the free-agent options for this position are slim given the Heat's lack of cap space. Davis is a very capable rotation player and letting him go could mean accepting a lesser player.
U-Decide: Re-sign him short-term? Long-term? Let him go? What would you do and why?



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