Posted on: May 1, 2009 6:52 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2009 7:20 pm
Game 6 of the Heat-Hawks first-round series Friday night comes down to exactly what we thought it would: Is Dwyane Wade enough of a one-man wrecking crew to contend with the deeper, more athletic Hawks?
Conventional wisdom -- including mine -- has been that you don't pick against the Heat as long as D-Wade is showing up. Despite a sore back that has affected him in this series, Wade will show up Friday night and presumably will do what Wade does: Put his team on his back and help the Heat stave off elimination and force a seventh game Sunday in Atlanta.
Injuries that will keep Al Horford and Marvin Williams out of Game 6 further bolster this argument. But not so fast. How have Wade and the Heat performed when facing playoff elimination during his six-year career? Not so good.
The Heat have faced elimination four times during Wade's career, and they're 1-3 in those games. Wade has shot .395 from the field (30-for-76) and averaged 20 points -- well below his career playoff average of 25.4 ppg.
So what gives? Wade is going to need some help. With no Horford around to protect the basket, it's going to have to come from Michael Beasley, who is shooting a miserable 31 percent in the series. Jermaine O'Neal has been solid, but he's not the prolific scorer he once was before all the knee injuries. Someone is going to have to draw some of the defensive attention away from Wade, and the best candidate is Beasley. In my mind, he's the key to whether Miami can force this series back to Atlanta for a seventh game.
One more thing: What is the over-under on the time in the game when Josh Smith really starts to regret that dunk-contest stunt in Game 5? I have seven minutes into the first quarter.
Posted on: March 22, 2009 6:28 pm
I see Dwyane Wade was himself at the Palace of Auburn Hills Sunday, with 39 points and two key blocks in the Heat's 101-96 victory over the Pistons. That wasn't the same Wade who looked rusty and tentative Friday night in a 96-88 loss to the Nets.
So I'll stand by my opinion that if Wade has run out of gas -- with his nagging hip flexor and the pressure of having to carry the Heat on his back all season -- then Miami's chances of going deep into the playoffs are somewhere between slim and none.
Based on Sunday's performance, though, it appears that D-Wade has a little something left in the tank. Just wanted to point that out. Carry on.
Posted on: March 20, 2009 11:28 pm
Not the real one, anway.
Wade, returning after missing his first game of the season Wednesday night in Boston to rest his ailing hip, filled up the box score as usual with 27 points, eight rebounds, and six assists in 39:11. But he didn't attack the basket as fearlessly as usual and didn't have his typical explosion.
"Nah, not usual," Wade said. "But at this time of the year, what’s usual? I felt all right. I got to the basket some. I had some lift on my jump shot."
Now the Heat need a lift, and fast. It was their third straight loss, and they're 1-6 on the road since the All-Star break with eight of their final 14 games guess where? On the road. If Wade is out of gas, the Heat are done.
"It’s not scary," Wade said. "It’s a part of the game. We’re a young team. We’ve got to find a way to win games. It’s no secret. It’s going to be tough. We’re in the fifth spot right now, but in a week’s time, if you don’t get it together, you could be in the eighth or out of the playoffs."
Miami is tied with Philadelphia in the loss column for the fifth seed, with the Pistons -- Sunday's opponent at the Palace of Auburn Hills -- only two games back.
"We understand what position we’re in, but guys gotta play with a little more sense of urgency right now," Wade said. "This is not the beginning of the year. Hopefully we can light the fire under guys to understand where we’re at right now."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was concerned after the game, and he should've been. Miami's plan to steal four days of rest and treatment for Wade's hip by giving him Wednesday night off in Boston was supposed to have rejuvenated him. Instead, Wade came back tentative and lacking the acceleration and lift that has vaulted him into the MVP discussion despite playing on such a middling team.
"This is totally disappointing to me," Spoelstra said. "We played about a quarter-and-a-half of real competitive, good basketball."
If ever the Heat needed Wade to carry them -- and he's carried them since Shaq left -- the time is now. The problem is, all the basketball he played in the summer and the wear and tear of lugging his team on his back may have caught up to him. Wade looked tired Friday night ... after four days off. And there's no more time for rest. Miami has four games in the next five nights, three of them on the road -- and two of those against teams (Indiana and Chicago) desperate to fight their way into the playoffs.
Does Wade have anything left? If not, neither do the Heat.
Posted on: March 5, 2009 11:43 am
Shaq isn't going quietly.
Good for him.
Better for us.
You must understand something. I've been doing this sports writing thing for some time now, and rants like this come around once in a lifetime.
This is what we call an all-timer.
I stand in awe of Shaq's eternal gifts. This must be recorded for posterity, which is why I will set it up and give you the full transcript (minus the expletives), courtesy of the Arizona Republic, a fine news organization which also recognized the historic nature of Shaq's performance. This was Paul Bunyan picking up and ax and cutting down every tree in sight. With one mighty swing, Shaq chopped down Stan Van Gundy, his brother Jeff, Dwight Howard, AND Patrick Ewing.
I'm not worthy.
Here we go: After O'Neal fell down in an attempt to draw a charge from Howard Tuesday night, Stan Van Gundy pulled a wrinkled Coaching 101 handbook from his back pocket and said: “I was shocked, seriously, shocked. And very disappointed, because he knows what it’s like. Let's stand up and play like men, and I think our guy did that tonight.”
Nice try, Stan.
Before the Suns played the Heat in Miami Wednesday night -- Shaq's first return since he was traded to the desert 13 months ago -- he was asked if he had any reaction to Van Gundy's comments. Never has a soft ball been tossed so perfectly.
Shaq's response, as reported by Paul Coro of the Republic:
"(Howard) came with the same old, stale Patrick Ewing move, so I tried to stand there and take the charge. The new rules say if you come through, you fall. But as I fell, I realized that it was a flop and it reminded me of Coach Van Gundy’s whole coaching career. The one thing I despise is a frontrunner. First of all, none of his players like him. When it gets tough, he will become the master of panic like he did before and he will quit like he did before. The one thing I despise is frontrunners. Yeah, he’s got a young team playing good, but don’t be a frontrunner. Him and his brother and even the legend on the bench ain’t done what I’ve done in my whole career. So flopping would be the wrong choice of words.
"I just tried to take a charge. The ___ rules say you can’t stand there and get hit. You’ve got to fall. The ____ got the same old stinking move that Patrick Ewing has been doing his whole career. I went down, got up and didn’t complain. I see him and Stan complaining the whole game because they’ve got to. Remember, I’ve done more than him, his brother, and Patrick Ewing.
"Stan Van Gundy reminds me of a broke navigational system. He knows everything about everything but ain’t never been nowhere. Think about that. If I’m right here and I type in the address of where you’re going, I know where it’s at but I’m not going there.
"When a bum says some ___ about it and I respond, you can ___ cancel that because I know how he is in real life. We’ll see when the playoffs start and he ___ panics and quits like he did when he was here (in Miami). And you ___ print it just like that. Do I look soft to you like you can say something and I’m not going to say something?
"Notice they didn’t play me straight up. We’ll see how far they go because I know Stan. I said this a long time ago, but I was actually talking about him: 'When the general panics, the troops will panic.' Like in business, when the head panics and takes out all his stock, what happens?
"All the players hate him. The players don’t even like him. I hate frontrunners. I really do. I don’t like any frontrunners. There’s a pecking order involved. I’ve been there six times.
"I ain’t going to let no bum like him rip me and not say anything back. You can cancel that ___ all the way. Usually, I let ___ go. Not that. Not him. Hell no.
"The rules say when a guy goes through your chest you’ve got to fall to get the call. It was a flop. You’ve watched me play for 17 years. I don’t play like that.
"I’m not going to sit around and let nobodies take a shot at me and he is a nobody to me. And if he thinks he can get in a little press conference and take shots at me like I’m not going to (say) something back, he’s got another thing coming."
Ladies and gentlemen, Shaquille O'Neal. Enjoy him while he's still here.
The Shaq farewell tour has kicked it up a notch. When the Suns visited the Knicks in January, I asked Shaq if Howard was the closest thing he's seen to the Next Shaq. "No," he said ."He's a good player, but everything he's done, I've invented. So I'm not impressed."
Then came the clowning around at All-Star weekend, the pre-game dance ritual, the reflective comments -- Shaq soaking it all in, recognizing this was probably his final All-Star Game.
Since the All-Star break, he's averaging 22.1 points and 8.4 rebounds in a single-handed attempt to raise the Suns from the dead. He might just do it. After Shaq led the Suns to a victory over Kobe Bryant's Lakers on Sunday with 33 points and seven rebounds, he said, "It's what I do. I've been doing this since 1992. If you don't believe it, Google me."
Shaq turns 37 Friday. Happy birthday, big fella. Glad you're still here.
Posted on: March 4, 2009 9:31 am
Veteran Joe Smith has agreed to return to Cleveland for the rest of the season, hoping to help LeBron James win a title. Smith's inside presence was sorely needed once Ben Wallace went down with a broken leg last week -- especially considering Boston's addition of Mikki Moore and Orlando's deadline trade for Rafer Alston.
If anyone cares to rank these contenders' trade deadline/waiver deadline moves, have at it. You'd have to start with Alston and go from there, but it's an interesting debate as to which team after Orlando has helped itself the most.
Another interesting debate: Breakin Down the Game makes a reasonable argument for why a rookie should win the most improved player award this season. Look at Russell Westbrook's month-to-month numbers:
* November: 12.2 points; 4.1 assists; 3.3 rebounds
* December: 15.5 points; 5.1 assists; 5.1 rebounds
* January: 16.5 points; 5.5 assists; 4.9 rebounds
* February: 20.4 points 5.9 assists; 6.1 rebounds
Not bad. I'll buy it, D-Miz.
Posted on: March 2, 2009 1:01 pm
The NBA has notified the Miami Heat that Dwyane Wade is not permitted to wear customized bandages bearing names or slogans beneath his previously injured left eye. But I guess if D-Wade had one particular slogan he felt strongly enough about, he could have it permanently tattooed under his eye and that would be OK.
This is one of those head-scratchers that makes you wonder who spends time making these rules. Sports Business Daily brought this pressing matter to my attention, as first reported by Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Commissioner David Stern's dress code has been a success, resulting in NBA players dressing professionally during team business and separating the league from the public perception that hip-hop culture was more important than dressing like a pro. Conformity also is required when it comes to game attire. For example, the full-length tights that Wade used to wear also were banned, unless a specific medical reason is cited.
Metro Signs Inc., the Florida company that makes the customized bandages -- known as "Band-Wades" -- can't be too happy. In this economy, it's hard to justify cracking down on an entrepreneur trying to make a little dough. Especially when the NBA Board of Governors recently relaxed the league ban on courtside advertising for hard liquor products. The ban had been in place since 1991.
During the All-Star Game in Phoenix, I was an unwitting victim of the NBA's logo police. With the supply of bottled water having been exhausted in the media work room on game day, I entered the league's communications office and asked for change so I could purchase a libation from an arena vending machine. A well-meaning league employee handed me a bottle of Dasani, which I brought to my courtside seat. Before I even had a chance to open it, someone sat down next to me and started peeling the label off. Dasani, a Coca-Cola product, evidently didn't pass the logo test. I should've asked for a label-less bottle of Aquafina -- a Pepsi product -- and offered to perform taste test.
Posted on: February 13, 2009 8:06 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2009 10:53 pm
PHOENIX -- Dwyane Wade views the trade Friday that sent Jermaine O'Neal to Miami as a move that could propel the Miami Heat to a long playoff run. Chris Bosh sees it as what it is: maneuvering for the future.
Whether Bosh will be a part of that future remains to be seen.
"I have mixed emotions," Bosh said Friday. "I like J.O. He’s a great person and a great player. But I guess things weren’t working out the way he wanted them to. I hate to see him go, but it’s a business move that was made and we have to accept it and move on. G.M.s have to think about the future. There’s so many different scenarios you have to consider. It’s just all about making the correct moves for the future right now. It’s tricky. Hopefully it’ll help you right now, and it’ll give you flexibility later on."
Later on will be here sooner than Bosh thinks. By unloading O'Neal's $23 million contract for next season, Raptors G.M. Bryan Colangelo has some flexibility to go free-agent shopping this summer. He also maintains cap flexibility in the summer of 2010, when Bosh can become a free agent by declining his player option for the 2010-11 season.
So can Wade, and Miami will have as much cap room as any team in the NBA in '10. In the meantime, Wade thinks the addition of O'Neal and Jamario Moon will help.
"I think it gives us an opportunity right now to really compete in the Eastern Conference," Wade said. "In the first part of the season, it was throw the ball up and let’s see what happens with the team we have. But now you look at it and say, 'OK, we’re in fifth place right now, and if we mesh the right way with Jermaine and with Jamario, then we could do something."
UPDATE: This is important, Heat fans. Before you rip this trade, you should know that Miami received a $4 million trade exception as part of the deal. That's because Marion-for-O'Neal straight up satisfied the 125 percent rule for salaries matching up in trades. Toronto used a minimum-player exception to send Moon to Miami, and the Heat get a $4 million trade exception for the difference between Marcus Banks' salary and Moon's. The exception expires in one year.
Posted on: February 11, 2009 10:54 pm
Half the NBA is going West for All-Star weekend. The Suns are looking East when it comes to trading Amare Stoudemire.
Talks between the Suns and Portland Trail Blazers about Stoudemire have unraveled, CBSSports.com has learned. Phoenix is now focused on Eastern Conference teams -- and not just Chicago.
The Bulls remain a serious contender due to Drew Gooden's expiring contract and Larry Hughes' expiring deal next season, plus the largest expiring trade exception in the league ($5.2 million). But Miami is the latest team to emerge as a serious landing spot for Stoudemire, a person with direct knowledge of the talks said Wednesday night.
The Heat's involvement is sure to set off speculation about the possibility of Phoenix taking back Shawn Marion, who was traded to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal last February -- ground zero in the demolition of the Suns' 58-win-a-year success story over the past four seasons. But it is not believed that Suns managing partner Robert Sarver wants to go there. And Sarver's heavy hand in the process has become one of the key obstacles to Phoenix securing the best deal, according to two league executives -- one of whom described the situation as "dissension." Teams are getting mixed signals from Phoenix as far as what the Suns are looking to take back for Stoudemire, another executive said -- one version from Sarver and another from president Steve Kerr.
That isn't uncommon in NBA trade talks, especially on a deal as massive as this one. But it's just another impediment in Kerr's way as he tries to leverage an already difficult position. Some team executives have concerns about Stoudemire as a max player, given that anyone who acquires him would have to be prepared to re-sign him if he declines his player option after the 2009-10 season. Stoudemire's defensive deficiencies have been well documented, and he's a difficult player to commit to long-term given that he underwent microfracture knee surgery in 2005.
The deal Portland was discussing with Phoenix involved LaMarcus Aldridge, Jerryd Bayless, and Raef LaFrentz's $12.7 million expiring contract. "That deal is dead," the person familiar with the talks said. One reason could be that Portland is really looking to acquire an elite point guard, according to an NBA team executive. That begs the question of whether Portland G.M. Kevin Pritchard was asking for Steve Nash. But according to another rival executive, the Suns have made it clear that Nash, Grant Hill, and Leandro Barbosa are "untouchable."