Author: Matt Moore

Miami Heat player LeBron James hoists the championship trophy as team mate Dwyane Wade looks on stage at a rally in Miami, Florida

NBA Season Preview: Miami Heat


Last season: It was not flawless, but it was superb. It was not easy, but it was rewarding. And it was not what they thought it would be, but it was spectacular.

The Miami Heat accomplished all of their goals in the 2012 season, that being the only goal they had: win the title. They vanquished Boston after going down 3-2, they overcame injuries to Dwane Wade and Chris Bosh, and maybe most notably, LeBron James silenced every critic of his game with arguably the best seven games of his career.

So yeah, it was a pretty good year.

Miami still had to make adjustments along the way. They discovered that instead of a steady diet of the Big 3, LeBron James needed the ball to start every possession. They found that smallball was their best attack, because it emphasized their speed. And they found that their defense was at its best when it was forcing turnovers. They had moments where they looked overwhelmed, a shell of what they were supposed to be, particularly Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

But they rose, again and again, on the back of James who went to the post and played point-forward-center, controlling the offense, scoring for himself and creating. There was nothing anyone could do when he got into that mode.

The Heat are a long way from the “not six, not seven…” standard they set for themselves. But it was validation of all the criticism they suffered, and a certification of their team concept. Now they just have to go out and do it again.

And again. And again…

Key Departures: No one. The core of the team is intact. James-Wade-Bosh-Battier-Chalmers-Haslem-Anthony-Cole-Miller-Jones are all back. Ronny Turiaf departed but by the end, the Heat had largely abandoned the concept of a center anyway.

Key Additions: Oh, you know, only arguably the best three-point shooter in history, Ray Allen. That guy.

They also added Rashard Lewis as another veteran perimeter threat.

Three keys to the Heat season:
1) Can age sustain the velocity? Erik Spoelstra went to Pat Riley last year and advocated for an approach to use speed and athleticism to push the Heat to a new level. It worked out brilliantly, despite Riley’s hesitance towards going away from traditional big men.

This year, the Heat have pledged to be faster than ever, and Chris Bosh says he’s accepted his role at center. Dwyane Wade is recovering from surgery, Ray Allen’s admitted that his ankle isn’t 100 percent, and much of the roster is getting up there in years. Is a fast way to play going to be conducive to keeping them healthy? Even with a move away from physicality and grinding and more into a wide-open style, there’s still the essential problem of contact and impact at high velocity.

It remains to be seen if the Heat’s best approach can be sustained by a roster that doesn’t feature many spring chickens.

2) LeBron keeping his edge. He’s reached the top of Olympus, took King Arthur’s sword and took control of the Matrix. Will James have the same edge he did at the last year, playing desperately?

Bear in mind that there’s often a slide-back after you win a title because you recognize that you’re playing for June now. The regular season become less important due to the comfort that you know how to accomplish your goal. Will James want to pursue that bruising inside game for even half the season? And if he abandons the post for his perimeter game to save is body, will he be able to slide right back into it?

Most important is if James stays hungry. He’s accomplished it all. He’s on top of the NBA globe right now, only his road to a repeat is that much harder with the Lakers and an ever-developing Thunder. Will be be able to keep his mind focused on getting better and staying on top or will he coast on his laurels. We’ve seen that the Heat go as LeBron does.

So how will LeBron go?

3) Can the shooters stay hot? Shane Battier has never been a great three-point shooter, and yet he absolutely killed both Boston and Oklahoma City in the playoffs, enough for fans to grumble a bit about flukes. Mike Miller has been falling apart for years, physically, and yet nailed enough threes to destroy OKC.

Their four primary shooters, Battier, Miller, Allen, and Rashard Lewis are all well over 30. Allen and Miller have injury issues. Lewis hasn’t been effective since 2009. And Battier’s never been reliable from deep. Do they have enough balance? Mario Chalmers is likely to keep improving, but when those shots don’t fall and the defense packs the paint to deter James and Wade’s driving, the offense stalls.

For the Heat to be in the elite offensive category, they need those guys to keep shooting well. And that’s a tall order when you look at their age, despite their career accomplishments.

What Heat fans should fear: Injury, injury, injury.

Dwyane Wade still isn’t 100 percent and may never be… again, ever. Chris Bosh is recovering. Mike Miller feels good enough to play, because he didn’t get back surgery that he needed. Ray Allen says his ankle is an ongoing problem. The list goes on and on. The Heat are always one major injury from falling way behind, and just because they managed to survive last year on the back of LeBron doesn’t mean it’ll be enough this year with a tougher slate than ever.

Every team worries about injuries, but the Heat worry about them a little bit more.

How it likely works out: The Heat have not gotten the top overall seed in the Triad era. This may be their best chance with the Bulls without Derrick Rose. They don’t need it, though, and will be more likely to coast for long stretches and rest players. But for all the questions of their longevity and sustainability, this is still the established team in the league, the defending champions with the best player in the league.

There is no reason to think the Heat will not win the Eastern Conference for the third year in a row. What happens after that is an entirely more complicated question, and one we’ll need to address throughout the year as it evolves.

Prediction: 60-22: The Heat finally crack the 60-mark in the Triad era, but don’t do anything outlandish. A great team, but one still with flaws whose stars miss too many games to win it all. Their offense still stagnates and their bench never gives them enough of a boost to overcome a bad night from the starters. But a small step forward for the best team in the East behind a kinder schedule and the addition of Allen.

Quote of the Day: Darko will “kill someone on the court” if he has to. Yikes.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Sacramento Kings

Darko Milicic has formualated, either on his own or with his agent, the line to use when talking about his disappointment as a former No.2 pick. He talks about how he’s not going to get dragged into discussions about not living up to expectations. He just wants to help his team, be a part of the team, team, team, blah, blah, blah nothing interesting… wait, what? From CSN New England:

Milicic added: “I’ll do whatever it takes, whatever I need to do to help this team. So now, if I have to go kill someone on the court, I’ll kill someone on the court.”

via Milicic to do ‘whatever it takes’ to help Celts . . . and rehab his reputation.


That’s what Rasheed Wallace once called Milicic. And Milicic kind of has a past history of anger management. After a Serbian national game, he went on a tirade (link, extremely very not safe for work) in which he threatened to, er… well there’s sexual activity involving the wives and daughters of the officials. Yeah. Awkward. Milicic was fined for the comments.

He also went all Hulk Smash on his jersey back with the Grizzlies. He’s an older, more mature player now, but still had his clashes with Rick Adelman in Minnesota, who gets along with just about everybody. Well, at least he’s fired up. KG should like that part. We’ll see how this works out with the Celtics, but yikes.


Really quietly, Ray Allen’s ankle’s not totally OK

Miami Heat Introduce Ray Allen

For some reason, this just skated on through media day on Friday, and no one really picked up on it. From our own Ira Winderman at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Ray Allen said ankle issue likely will be ongoing throughout the season, something he will have to manage.

He said he never wanted to let on publicly how serious it was last season in Boston.

via Ira Winderman’s post on Miami Heat | Latest updates on Sulia.

Wait, hold on there. The idea was that after surgery to repair the bone spurs in his ankle after the Celtics’ loss to the Heat in the Conference Finals, he’d be totally fine, and that he’d be healthy. This does change things a bit.

Allen’s problem last year, and why he wound up sliding out of the starting spot, was his inability to really keep pace on the floor. He physically couldn’t move as fast and at times it was downright painful to watch. That ankle is kind of necessary for running and pivoting and turning and any lingering issue is going to affect not only his ability to stay within the defensive system, but his ability to make those cuts and turns that free him up for the corner three.

This is not a minor thing, this is a huge addition to Miami who fills a major gap for them admitting that he’s going to keep having problems with a very painful injury that held him out of games in the playoffs and limited his effectiveness. It may not be a major problem, he’s not acting like he’s still limping around. But it is something to keep an eye out for as we wait to see this upgraded version of the Death Star.

George Karl has a really good reason for not starting JaVale McGee

JaVale McGee

Word started to surface on Friday that the Nuggets might actually not start JaVale McGee, even after his tremendous playoff performance against the Lakers, and despite what many are calling an unbelievable offseason of workouts. Is Kosta Koufos or Timofey Mozgov really better than McGee at this point? In an interview with the Denver Post, Karl talked about the situation and actually gave a really illuminating answer.

Q: You’ll likely start Ty Lawson at point guard, Iguodala at shooting guard, Gallinari at small forward and Kenneth Faried at power forward. What about center?

A: Training camp is going to tell me who plays. My idea right now is Mozgov would start with Faried and JaVale would stay with (reserve point guard) Andre Miller. But again, I don’t (care) about starting lineups, and you guys are already stirring the pot. It’s all about how many minutes you play, who you play with, how well you play and how we play (when you’re on the court). Kosta Koufos is in the mix, too. Let’s make sure you understand that. In the last 15-20 games of the season, when Timo got hurt, Kosta not only played well but good enough to get us to the playoffs.

Q: Why do Miller and McGee connect so well?

A: I think Andre has such a distinctive ability to see a play before it happens. And JaVale has such a large, athletic space to get the ball to, above the defense. So the lobs and spins and all that stuff, Andre has the courage to throw the ball — and he throws it very well.

via Denver Nuggets coach George Karl discusses JaVale McGee and others – The Denver Post.

It’s actually a really good idea. The Nuggets use a lot of the dual point-guard lineup with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, so minutes aren’t a problem. Meanwhile, Karl can pair the best lob player with the best lob maker.

It’s not a super-complicated idea but it’s a subtle adjustment. The issue is that by all accounts, no one has worked harder in the offseason than JaVale McGee. How will he react to staying on the bench after all that work? It’s a tricky situation for the Nuggets to deal with, and part of the problem with their abundant depth.

Interesting note, Miller and McGee were -4.6 last year in 270 minutes together, thanks mostly to a 110 points allowed per 100 possessions mark. The defense has to be much better overall this year for the Nuggets, but in particular for that combination.

Quote of the Day: Paul Pierce expects Rondo to take the shot

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo shot 45 percent from the floor last year. reports that Rondo shot 39 percent from 16-24 feet. He was better, but inconsistent. This is a major challenge to his game and another indication that this year could have a huge impact on how Rondo’s career is viewed going forward, and what the reflection of his championship-contention years showed. So, you know, no pressure.