NBA Season Preview: The Miami Heat

18 Comments

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.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer: ‘We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water’

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
2 Comments

The Lakers and Clippers share an arena in Los Angeles, which – as everyone understands it – means the Clippers play in the Lakers’ arena.

That doesn’t sit well with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. So, he wants to get a new arena built just for the Clippers in Inglewood.

And cost, legal red tape and lawsuits aren’t going to stop him.

Helene Elliot of The Los Angeles Times:

“We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water,” he said of a proposed arena near the site of the stadium being constructed for the Rams and Chargers. “We gotta have a house. So we’re working on a plan to get our own house. We want to get our own house. It turns out the way this works in L.A., which is much beloved to me, that if you start now you might be done in six years.”

Ballmer is probably used to getting what he wants. I doubt he backs down here. It should be noted some of the legal and public relations push back on the plans comes from funding via the Madison Square Garden group (owned by Knicks’ owner James Dolan), which five years ago sank $100 million into the Lakers’ old home the Forum to refurbish it into a major concert venue. The new Clippers building would be just a couple blocks away from the Forum.

This also at least partially explains why the Clippers insist on remaining competitive. Local politicians are less likely to greenlight a new arena for a tanking team.

Juan Carlos Navarro retires

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Leave a comment

It took Juan Carlos Navarro a long time to try the NBA.

It didn’t take him nearly as long to determine the league wasn’t for him.

The No. 40 pick in the 2002 draft, he finally signed with the Grizzlies in 2007. But after only one season as a backup guard in Memphis, he returned to Europe.

Now, his standout career in Spain is ending.

Barcelona release:

The club hereby announces that Juan Carlos Navarro shall be forming part of its basketball structure from the 2018/19 season, as established in the contract signed in September 2017, now that he has retired from active sporting duty.

Most NBA fans will never realize how talented Navarro was. He was a good score-first point guard at a time many teams still wanted a more-traditional point guard. Unhappy on a losing team in a foreign country, he didn’t try to find a workable solution.

Instead, he starred in Spain, out of sight of American fans – except international competitions, where he reminded everyone how good he was.

We should appreciate Navarro’s impressive career. We can also wonder about the “what if?” surrounding him and the NBA.

Report: Former NBA star Tom Chambers charged with assault in restaurant altercation

AP Photo/Jack Smith
6 Comments

Tom Chambers, who starred with the Seattle SuperSonics and Phoenix Suns, has been charged with assault after a confrontation at a Scottsdale, Ariz., restaurant in April.

TMZ:

Witnesses told police the other patron, Alexander Bergelt, began to take verbal jabs at Tom including, “You’re not sh*t,” “You’re tall and scrawny” and “Look at your big head.”

Tom told police the final straw came when Bergelt said, “Your mom should have killed you when you came out of the womb as ugly as you are, your arms are skinny, your chest is this. Your belly is big.”

Tom admits he “absolutely put hands on [Alexander]” but never punched him. Tom says he was trying to get Alexander to “show respect.”

Alexander told police a different story — saying Chambers came at him from across the bar, grabbed him by the throat and threw him backwards.

Bergelt is 22. Chambers is 59.

J.J. Redick says he saw woman hidden in trunk of his chauffeured car

Rob Carr/Getty Images
1 Comment

J.J. Redick, his wife Chelsea and sister-in-law Kylee took a chauffeured car in New York recently.

According to the 76ers guard, Kylee spotted a person in the back. The trio had the driver pull over and exited.

Redick on The J.J. Redick Podcast:

I’m like, “Sir, I think there’s a person in your backseat.” And so he lifts the blanket up, but like towards the window, so that the blanket is facing up, so we couldn’t see, because we were on the sidewalk – perpendicular to the car, not behind the car. And he’s like “No, there’s nothing in here. There’s nothing in here.” And he closes the blanket back. And then he closes the trunk. And as he’s walking around to the front seat, a head pops up.

No, this is not funny. There’s a back of a female’s head. She’s blonde hair. There’s a ponytail. And based on the size of the box or cage that this person is in, it’s either a very small human or a child. And I’m like, “We all saw it, right?” So, he drives off.

She’s like, “No. The reason I said there was a person is because I saw movement in my peripheral, out of my right eye. So I turned around, and the blanket was moving. So when I looked back, half of a human face came out of the blanket.” She said, “I saw a woman’s eyes, woman’s face, woman’s blonde hair.”

That’s pretty scary.

Redick said he called the car agency and the police and that his wife planned to call the FBI.

Hopefully, this wasn’t kidnapping, human trafficking or something like that. But it sure sounds as if it warrants investigation.