Tag: Miami Heat Superteam

NBA Season Preview: The Miami Heat


Thumbnail image for Heat_huddle.jpgLast season: 47-35, fifth seed in the East. Their reward for that? The Boston Celtics in the first round. Ouch.

Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra, who is one of the best young minds in the game and a Pat Riley protégé. Which means Riley is not going to go Stan Van Gundy on him this season (if he does the backlash will be insane).

Key Departures: Former No. 2 pick Michael Beasley (now in the basketball Siberia of Minnesota), Jermaine O’Neal (who could come back to haunt the Heat as part of the Celtics), Quentin Richardson (who could come back to haunt the Heat as part of the Magic, plus some other minor parts.

Key Additions: Don’t know if you heard, but LeBron James chose Miami. Hate the man if you want, he remains as good a basketball player as there is walking the face of the earth.

The Heat re-signed Dwyane Wade. They brought in Chris Bosh from Toronto, now people will see just how good Bosh really is (I’m not sure the general public gets it).

They brought in Mike Miller to be the sharp-shooting, floor-spreading guy they need with all those penetrators on the roster. They re-signed Udonis Haslem. They signed Zydrunas Ilgauskas to provide depth up front. The re-singed Joel Anthony to be the rim protector they need. The re-signed Carlos Arroyo. They brought in Juwan Howard and Jamaal Magloire to be the old guys on the bench.

Whew. That about covers it, we think.

Best case scenario: An NBA championship. Anything less and next summer be filled with “what’s wrong with the Heat?” stories. It won’t be the championship the Lakers/Celtics won, but the one the Heat lost somehow.

For that to happen: The Heat have to defend. They do not need to be the 2004 Pistons in defense, but they need to be good.

Look, they are going to score. The concerns about Wade/LeBron/Bosh being able to play together are overblown — these are not the crazy-high usage guys who never pass. All three are good teammates, guys who give up the ball (remember, when you climbed all over LeBron for passing to the open man with the game on the line?). This team is going to be an offensive force.

And all three are good defenders. The pressure that James and Wade can put on opposing wing players will be intense — the Heat are going to get turnovers and easy (occasionally spectacular) transition baskets.

But in today’s NBA, with no handchecking on the perimeter, Dwyane Wade can’t guard Dwyane Wade. The league’s best penetrating wing players are going to get to the rim, other teams will do it with crisp ball movement (see Jazz, Utah). In today’s NBA you need a big man to protect the rim and own the paint (and glass). You need Kendrick Perkins or Dwight Howard or (a healthy) Andrew Bynum to anchor that defense.

Joel Anthony is a shot blocker. He works hard and gets as much out of his game as anyone. He is still 6’9″ and other teams are going to try to exploit that. Not many can. The Heat have the talent to go stretches with Bosh at the center spot, to use Big Z, to get by just fine most nights. But there will be nights when the run into a roster like Orlando where they have a center and other big men to spread the floor making help defense much harder.

The Heat have a season to fine-tune the defense, to see what matchups and lineups work best. Because come the playoffs they will see teams that have the talent to go at their weaknesses and if the Heat have not figured it out they will pay.

More likely the Heat will: Be right in the mix for a title. Can they win it? The Magic 8 Ball says “ask later.” We don’t know. The legendary Lakers with Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain did not — this is no sure thing for the Heat. The Lakers, Magic and Celtics have the talent to hang.

But if the Heat can defend, if they get solid play out of Anthony and Chalmers and Miller, if they can stay healthy, yes they can get a ring. Both this year and several more in the next five years.

Prediction: 64-18, and the top seed in the East. (Forget the 72-win thing, you have to really commit to that and the Heat will commit to rest for the playoffs instead.) From there, it’s all about matchups and how far the Heat defense has come along.

Crazy LeBron, trying to keep expectations within reason


Thumbnail image for lebron_james_miami_heat.jpgHey LeBron James, not only do you have to lead your just thrown-together team to an NBA title, can you average a triple-double for the season while doing it?

I mean, Oscar Robertson averaged that in 1962, and today’s game is pretty much exactly like that, right? You can totally do it. Hey, but no pressure (via the Miami Herald).

“I look up to Big O so much to be able to do that. Unbelievable feat. I don’t believe it will ever be matched. It’s very intriguing. You would love to make history, but it’s not a goal of mine. My goal is to be a triple threat, not to average a triple-double. I know I can do that.”

It’s not about the points, James averaged 29.7 last season and while that will come down some it will not be down to less than 10. Last season he averaged 8.6 assists and that could go up with these teammates around him. The 7.3 rebounds per game he averaged last season might be what trips up these plans (only nine players in the league averaged 10 rebounds or more per game last season).

Except they are not really plans. Take LeBron at his word with this — he wants to win first, and will sacrifice whatever stats it takes to get there. He gets that his legacy is on the line now and that anything short of titles will be viewed as a failure.

If James wanted to, if he focused on the personal, he could tie Robertson’s record. But that was not what Robertson was about. It’s not what James is about either. Whether he can get what he wants remains to be seen.

Winderman: Heat not hosting your ordinary training camp


Heat_huddle.jpgSo how do you get to the Heat’s secluded training camp in the Florida Panhandle?

Well, from most places, you get there by connecting through Atlanta.

And then, from the airport, you get there by driving past one Waffle House, then another, and then another.

But that actually doesn’t get you anywhere, at least not onto Hurlburt Field, the Air Force installation the Heat is calling home this week.

No, instead, if you’re with the media, you pull across the street to a dirt road by the paintball field and await a school bus that takes you inside the gate.

Inside, the massive complex has the feel of a college campus, albeit one with vintage jets and helicopters featured along the front gate.

But this is no ordinary campus.

So from the school bus you are ushered into a waiting room.

From there, there is one bathroom break. Women line up first, then the men.

Even though the rest room is mere steps away.

You never lose sight of where you are.

And don’t even think about misplacing your security badge, the one received only after your secret, personal code is entered.

From there, the courteous staff escorts the media into the gym, where it waits until it is eventually escorted back out.

No this is not Palm Beach Community College or Florida International University or the University of Miami, places where the Heat previously has held training camp.

And it’s certainly not the Jewish Community Center just north of Miami, where the senior citizens would walk on the track above as then-coach Ron Rothstein would attempt to conduct practice below.

But it is a unique and refreshing change of pace from what typically is experienced at this time of year.

And invigorating.

Because even with this talented a cast, training camp still is training camp, where the Patrick Beverleys, Kenny Hasbroucks and Shavlik Randolphs take rotations with the regulars.

To see how much hosting the Heat meant to those on the base was to experience what sports were intended to be all along.

A welcomed relief.

In a unique season, the Heat has offered a unique way to start.

And the waffles aren’t half bad, either.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.