October 22, 2008
Don't expect things to Heat up anytime soon in Miami.
Last year, the Heat were a woeful 15-67. Two seasons prior and Miami was NBA champion. In short, 2007-08 was a good, old-fashioned tanking by the Heat. For a Pat Riley-led team, it was a surprise and quite frankly, disappointing. His teams never used to quit in the past but that all changed last season.
They had some injuries, but all teams do so that's no excuse. Miami got thrown a lifeline just before the All-Star game too when Phoenix Suns rookie GM Steve Kerr bailed them out of Shaquille O'Neal's monstrous $40-million contract. In return, the Heat got the springy Shawn Marion with only a year remaining on his contract.
Riley must have had some incriminating photos of Kerr.
As active and energetic as Marion is, his contract was what Miami was after. The Matrix makes the most of his talents. Considering he can't create his own shot, he's averaged a tidy 18 points per game for his career. Most of his baskets come from hustle on the offensive glass through tip-ins, alley-oops and fast-breaks, with a few wide-open three-pointers thrown in. It was certainly good for his career playing alongside Steve Nash.
However, trade rumors are already swirling around Marion and there is a good chance he won't finish the season with Miami.
Miami's biggest need is for someone to take the er, heat off Dwyane Wade at the offensive end. Miami tried to get that help via the draft.
The Heat took Kansas St big man Michael Beasley second overall last June. Riley wasn't sold on Beasley, but he knew that he couldn't pass him up either. Beasley should be solid this year offensively, but in his rookie season he can't be expected to instantly become a consistent scoring threat. He'll have his good nights but like all rookies, he'll have games where he just can't get it right.
The Heat also grabbed point guard Mario Chalmers. Again, he should produce solid numbers in a few years time, but this year he'll also struggle with consistency.
Miami added journeyman center Jamaal Magloire. Magloire's career has strangely come to a halt. Despite being an All-Star in 2004, Magloire was a free agent this summer and really, he was just hoping any team signed him. He got his wish with the Heat. He'll have no significant impact this year or ever again in the NBA.
Miami recently added Shaun Livingston. It's great to see Livingston on the court again after suffering an horrific knee injury two seasons ago, but it remains to be seen if he can have an impact right away. Perhaps in a couple of seasons time Livingston will live-up to the potential that saw him drafted fourth overall in 2004 once his confidence is back, but that will take time.
What will make things tougher for the Heat is that Pat Riley handed over the coaching reigns to former assistant coach Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra is highly regarded within the organization but regardless, he has zero head coaching experience to this point, so this will be a season of learning for him too.
A lot of talk is about the 2010 year of free agency when LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Wade are all eligible to sign elsewhere. Riley has no doubt got his eye on trying to grab James or Bosh, but he might be forgetting that Wade might have had enough of losing by then and decide to bolt somewhere else himself.
Whatever happens in two years time, the Heat are going to struggle this year. Wade showed during the Olympics that he looks healthy, but we know that his body is fragile and it won't last long if he has to carry Miami all season.
Wade does get an easy ride from the refs, but he'll need his teammates to help him if Miami is to get back to the playoffs, but it's unlikely to happen this season.
As sexy a city as Miami is, losing still sucks and the Heat is going to do plenty of that this year.
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