Last year, the Heat had a total of seven—yes, seven—different centers.
Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilguaksas, Udonis Haslem, Dexter Pittman and Chris Bosh all played at center at one time or another.
None of them worked. Not one of those seven players was reliable or capable enough of starting at center for the Miami Heat and holding it down on a consistent basis. Dampier, Magloire and Ilgauskas can't run; Howard can't jump; Haslem, Bosh and Anthony were too small and Pittman was too raw and uncoordinated.
It was so bad that the 6'9" Joel Anthony became the starter for the postseason.
Anthony averaged two points per game last year. I didn't think it was possible, but an actual NBA starter who played 20 minutes per night was recording one basket per game. Due to the fact that his hands are the equivalent to shovels lathered in butter, Anthony couldn't catch and finish and he couldn't create a shot on his own either.
So basically, the Heat played five-on-four basketball on offense to start off every game.
In fact, they continue to do so, but it actually appears that Anthony has improved his catching and finishing abilities. He's also been sporting a decent hook shot. He's currently averaging four points on 63 percent shooting. It's not much, but it's more than you can expect from Joel Anthony.
Anthony has been starting at center, but the Heat have been finishing with either Haslem or Bosh at center. It's worked out thus far as few centers have given the Heat fits. Haslem's defensive prowess and Bosh's added bulk have contributed to the Heat playing much better when it comes to one-on-one defense against an opposing center.
However, it seems that all three of those players may be seeing their minutes at center drop considerably. Making his regular-season debut last night and playing in his first game since December of 2009, Eddy Curry was the star of the 98-87 Heat victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Going against a frontcourt consisting of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Curry only needed six minutes to score six points and record three rebounds. He got the six points by way of a beautiful layup, a tip-dunk and two free throws.
It was an unbelievable sight to see Curry playing the way he played last night, let alone being in the NBA again.
Based on his work ethic, we assumed that Curry's career was over. In his final years with the New York Knicks, Curry was gaining more and more weight on the end of the bench. Injuries began to pile up along with the weight gain and before we knew it, Curry had only played in 10 combined games in two seasons.
His lack of commitment to the Knicks organization and his overall disdain for keeping his body in check were brought into question numerous times. It was a disappointing and sad sight to see a player with so much promise basically just give up on his career by eating his way out of the NBA.
He had averaged double-digit points for six consecutive seasons and didn't deal with too many injury problems before he fell off the face of the earth.
In the 2006-07 season, Curry saw the best year of his career occur. Playing and starting in 81 games, Curry averaged nearly 20 points per game on 58 percent shooting to go along with seven boards. Curry was an exceptional scorer for his time as he could play with his back to the basket, as well as hit close-range jump shots.
After that year, however, it all began to go downhill. Injuries limited him to only 59 games the next year and he'd then play 10 combined games in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 season. He would get traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Carmelo Anthony trade, but would be immediately waived.
Curry spent the entire 2010-11 season out of the NBA and out of work.
When the Heat were searching for a center last year, Pat Riley gave Curry a call and gave him a workout. He showed up weighing somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds, but Riley was convinced that he had something special on his hands. Riley let it be known that if Curry lost the weight, then they could begin talking about a contract.
Since that first workout in March of 2011, Curry went to work with legendary trainer Tim Grover and is reported to have lost as much as 100 pounds. The Heat gave him the veteran's minimum and he's now back to work as the Heat's backup center. The chances are that he already moved ahead of Dexter Pittman in the rotation after his impressive showing against the Lakers.
What entices me most about Curry is the commitment he has shown to get back into the NBA. This isn't a guy trying to earn a paycheck, because what's $1 million to an NBA player?
Curry is back in the NBA because he wants to prove to his doubters and to himself that he is capable of being a legitimate and reliable player at basketball's highest level.
If he wasn't committed, than he wouldn't have spent the past year losing 100 pounds and then going through the arduous Heat training camp, which is notorious for being extremely tough. If Curry wasn't committed, he'd still be at his house, eating his life away and wasting the money that he made once upon a time when he was still relevant.
This is a different player. The last Curry took things for granted. He recognized he was big and had some sort of skill around the basket and he abused that luxury and the privilege of being in the NBA.
Since being out of the NBA for so long, Curry's back and ready to make a statement of what type of person he clearly is.
There's no possible way this could blow up in the Heat's face. Even if Curry doesn't pan out, it's a wasted roster spot and $1 million down the drain that couldn't have been spent on any other big man. The best part about Curry signing for that little is because of the overall consensus of NBA big men to demand large contracts because of their size and how rare it is to have an actual seven-footer.
As long as he can get back into basketball shape and show off a commitment to defense, Curry will be starting within a few weeks. It's up to him and no one else whether he wants to start, because the center position is basically vacant.
The Heat don't want to start a 6'9" forward at center anymore, they want an actual center.
Curry can be that center. It just matters if he wants to be that center again.
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