Friday, November 16, 2007

Give Shaq a Break, Guys

Over the last couple days it's become trendy for South Florida sports columnists to call for Riley to bench Shaq.

The big guy's performance has taken a dive this year, no doubt. Still, I'm trying to figure out what these writers think will be accomplished by benching him.

The fact is that Shaq, even in his diminished state, has been one of the most effective players on the team over the last 6 games.

Shaq struggled in his first two games this year, but he turned things around in the 5 games leading up to the Seattle game. He averaged 18 PPG and shot 50% from the floor during that time. He also played 30+ minutes in 4 out of those 5 games.

The Heat has been losing due to it's 27th ranked 3 point shooting percentage, it's inability to defend the three, and the complete lack of players who can get into the paint with any regularity (aside from Wade).

J-Will is shooting 39% from the floor. Ricky Davis, the guy who was supposed to keep us afloat with relatively efficient scoring, is shooting 40%. Dorell Wright still doesn't have a clue. Smush Parker has been a bust of epic proportions, shooting 28%.

Yet, for some reason, people are ignoring the barrage of missed jump shots being fired by the aforementioned players and are focusing almost exclusively on Shaq's terrible game against the Sonics.

There are some players on the team who have played like they're worthy of being benched, but Shaq isn't one of them. The only thing Riley would be doing by benching Shaq is ensuring that the team ends up in the lottery.

In my opinion, Riley needs to stick with the current starting line up and give this team a chance to get it together now that Wade is back.

Wade looked excellent against Seattle for a guy who hasn't played much basketball in six months. As soon as he came on the floor you could see the team become more aggressive both on offense and defense. Ricky Davis attacked the rim more last night than he has in any other game this year. Wade found open shooters all over the floor. The offense looked threatening for the first time all year.

If the team is still struggling two weeks from now, then we can start talking about shaking things up. I say be patient for now, though.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Detroit 91, Miami 80

The Heat opened up the season in disappointing fashion, losing to the Pistons.

One aspect of Detroit's game plan became very clear during the opening possession. They were going to test Dorell Wright, instantly doubling off him whenever Shaq touched the ball in the first half.

He responded surprisingly well early on, stepping into (and hitting) his first couple jumpers. As the game wore on, though, his shakiness from the outside returned. He also tried to do too much at times, passing when he should have been finishing on a couple drives.

He wasn't terrible, but Riley only let him play 24 minutes. He has no chance of remaining a starter once Wade returns unless he hits that outside shot and makes better decisions with the ball.

The Pistons withstood the Heat's early fast start and turned things around mid way through the 1st quarter. They took full advantage of the favorable match ups Billups and Prince had throughout the game. Prince in particular torched us, scoring 34 points (a career high) and grabbing 12 boards (tying a career high).

The Heat played through Shaq in the 3rd quarter and were able to tie the game, coming back from an 8 point deficit.

Unfortunately, things fell apart early in the 4th quarter. We took quick shots in transition and turned the ball over. One turnover came when Smush Parker made a spectacularly bad attempt at a behind the back pass in transition while surrounded by three Pistons. Lakers fans everywhere chuckled.

It's disappointing to open the season with a loss, but I'm also encouraged that we were able to hang with a good Pistons team for most of the game. However, it's obvious that remaining around .500 is the best this team can hope for until Wade comes back.

The key to this team staying afloat is going to be how quickly they improve at playing off of Shaq.

After half-time everyone finally started doing a better job of cutting and moving when Shaq had the ball. Riley also made a minor tweak, moving Dorell to the corner opposite of where Shaq was posted up (making it more difficult to double off him).

There was a 5 minute stretch in the 3rd quarter where everything clicked. Shaq was finding open shooters, and they were knocking down shots. The Pistons finally had to lay off a bit, and Shaq scored three straight baskets at one point.

There are a lot of new guys on the team who have to get used to playing with Shaq. I expect both Shaq and everyone else to get off to faster starts in future games as everyone becomes more comfortable when Shaq has the ball.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NOW the blogging begins.

I launched Heat Blog this summer just after the NBA draft. I'd never written a blog before, so I planned to gain some experience blogging and get myself comfortable with it. I wanted to be ready to roll by the time the NBA season arrived.

It was a nice idea, but the problem was that I found it somewhat boring at times to simply regurgitate what all the local beat writers reported whenever a story broke. I don't have direct access to this team, so, like anyone else, I'm forced to base most of my opinions on what they tell me.

Those days end tonight now that we'll finally be able to watch this team and start forming some original opinions. Basketball is back, and so is this blog.

You can't start any sports season without making predictions. It's hard to predict how this team will do, but I'll give it a shot - The Heat will win 48 games.

Not too many people are high on the Heat this year, and that's understandable when you look at how the team finished last season. However, during the brief time that this team was fully healthy last year, they looked like a top team in the Eastern Conference.

If Shaq can play 60 games and Wade doesn't get hurt again, I think they'll easily make the playoffs and be a threat to get out of the East. I'll take the trio of Wade, Shaq, and Davis over every other top three in the east except Boston's big three.

They just have to find a way to stay healthy (and survive the first 2-3 weeks of the season until Wade comes back).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Riley Rips Walker's Conditioning

Before tonight's preseason home opener against the Hawks, Pat Riley blasted Antoine Walker for coming into camp out of shape. Toine, who's listed in the team's media guide as weighing 245 pounds, reported to camp at 262 and 15 percent body fat.

In the time I've been a Heat fan, I've never seen Riley publicly rip into a player like this. I guess he thinks embarrassing Toine will send a message to the whole team about what the conditioning standards are?

We all knew Antoine came into camp out of shape this year. However, I assumed he was at least CLOSE to meeting his conditioning goal after hearing that he had only been suspended from camp for one day as punishment. It's disappointing to hear that he's so far off.

Riley says Walker is in shape to play 15-20 minutes a game right now, so I'd say this episode closes the door on the possibility of him being a starter on opening night.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Detroit 108, Miami 86

The Heat lost their preseason opener Tuesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Detroit trotted out almost their entire starting five from last year, with Antonio McDyess starting in place of the unsigned Chris Webber. Miami came out with a youthful lineup that included Michael Doleac at center, Marcus Slaughter at power forward, Dorrell Wright at small forward, Jeremy Richardson at shooting guard, and Jason Williams at point guard. Obviously we were overmatched.

Ira Winderman has all the details over at his blog.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Training Camp : Week 1

The Heat opened training camp on Tuesday with the regular season a little less than a month away.

The theme at media day was that last year's apathetic attitude toward the regular season is no more. Players and coaches all spoke of having a new attitude heading into this season. Riley claims almost the whole roster has come to camp meeting their conditioning standards (compared to only half the players last year). Michael Wallace wrote that most players actually showed up to camp a week early to play pickup ball and work out (most of the time, players stay away from "Camp Riley" for as long as possible).

Some notes about the first week of training camp -

- Shaq isn't joining UFC. But he HAS spent part of his summer learning mixed martial arts, among other things. Supposedly, he passed his conditioning tests with flying colors.

With Wade out for the start of the season, it's more important than ever for Shaq to get out to a fast start and carry this thin roster.

- Dorell Wright got a chance to start at small forward last year, and at times he showed great potential with his freakish athleticism. However, he was eventually benched "because he was immature.", according to Riley. It's also been revealed that he failed to meet the team's conditioning standards during the season.

It seems that the path has been cleared for him to get another chance this year.
With Posey, Kapono, and Jones now gone, Dorell appears to be the best option to start at small forward.

Riley even tried to put a happy face on the team's failure to add new wing players, claiming that the team avoided adding "specialists" at the SF position to give Dorell every opportunity to earn regular playing time.

The kid has been a four year project. Is he finally ready to become a legit player? Antoine, Penny, and untested Jeremy Richardson are the only other options at SF..... so for our sake, he'd better be ready.

- Riley made a statement by banning Antoine, Smush, and Earl Barron from practice for one day for failing to meet conditioning standards.

- The team held a public scrimmage on Friday night. Ira Winderman blogs that Penny Hardaway didn't have a very good showing. Udonis Haslem looked great, though.

- The Heat opens the pre-season tomorrow night in Detroit. Shaq, Wade, Zo, and Penny didn't make the trip.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bucks Match Miami's Offer, Retain Bell

And we strike out again.

Add Charlie Bell to the list of players the Heat have tried and failed to bring in this offseason. The Bucks elected to match the Heat's offer to restricted free agent Charlie Bell, meaning Bell will remain a Buck.

That's a pity. I'd read mostly positive things about Bell's game. Most seemed to think this would have been a good signing.