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Signs point to Bibby not being instant fix for Heat

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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MIAMI -- Mike Bibby's debut with the Heat was supposed to be something to celebrate. Instead, the newest addition to a potential championship contender walked off the court with his head down.

The Heat blew a 24-point third-quarter lead in a 99-96 loss to the Magic on Thursday. Bibby and the crowd at American Airlines Arena were expecting a party. Instead they witnessed one of the Heat's worst losses of the season.

And now the Heat head into their toughest stretch of the season -- including matchups against playoff contenders in San Antonio, Chicago, the Lakers and Oklahoma City -- with plenty of questions. One of them is if Bibby is really a difference-maker on a team full of stars.

"It was tough," Bibby said of the loss. "We had the game won. We had it in the bag."

Bibby thought this was going to be a magical night, especially when he first entered the game. With just over a minute left in the first quarter, Bibby stood up from the bench and took off his warmup suit. The crowd stood along with Bibby to give him a rousing ovation as he walked on the court.

Bibby joined Miami on Wednesday after accepting a buyout from Washington. He forfeited more than $6 million to play with the Heat, because he wanted to be part of a playoff team and not a rebuilding project.

He started the season in Atlanta but was traded to the Wizards for Kirk Hinrich in a surprise move. When Bibby got his freedom, he knew Miami was the place he wanted to be.

"It's always tough to give up money," Bibby said. "At this time, this part of my career, I want to be happy. And I thought this would be the best place for me as far as winning."

The move makes sense for both parties involved. The Heat needed stability at point guard with Carlos Arroyo, who was released when Bibby signed, and Mario Chalmers struggling for most of the season. Bibby gets to play with his brother-in-law, Eddie House, and has a legitimate chance at winning a championship in his 13th season.

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He also gives the Heat something that wasn't on this All-Star roster when it was assembled last summer -- playoff experience. Bibby has started 80 games in the playoffs -- most coming as a member of the Sacramento Kings -- which is more than any other Heat player and 17th most among active players in the NBA.

But is Bibby the savior for the Heat? Is he the difference between a title and an early playoff exit? Far from it, and you have to hope the fans in Miami realize that when they gave him the standing ovation. He could be a vital cog if he fills a role, but he's not the one who will be carrying this team.

The heavy lifting for the Heat will still be done by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and that was on display early against the Magic. James had 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Wade had 28 points, five assists and four rebounds. The duo combined for 47 points in the first half before struggling in the end.

Orlando trailed 80-71 entering the fourth quarter, but the Magic won on the strength of 16 3-pointers while the Heat went cold from the field. Bosh, who had 13 points and five rebounds, missed a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of the game, and LeBron missed the second chance that followed.

"Obviously there is a trend with us where we do the same things over and over," Bosh said. "We've blown a lot of games where we're in full control, and we have to do something. I don't know what it is. We have to stop talking about it. Sometimes you can get caught up in talking too much. We just have to focus on what we have to do. We'll know when it's all said and done, but we have to stop doing this."

Bibby was just trying to play a role Thursday. He said it will take time to get his legs back, but he's not worried. He finished with three points, one assist and three rebounds in 19 minutes. His only basket in his debut came late in the first half when he hit a 3-pointer in the left corner.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said the Heat's move to add Bibby makes sense because "he certainly gives them one more very good player on their roster," but Van Gundy wasn't exactly impressed. He said Chalmers is a better defender than Bibby, and House is a better shooter. Those are the two players who will lose minutes with Bibby now on the roster. House didn't play Thursday.

"I don't know how much of an upside there really is anyhow," Van Gundy said. "I don't know how much better he makes them. People see Mike Bibby and go, 'Wow, he's going to make them a lot better.' He's good, but I just don't know."

Bibby will be put to the test in the playoffs because the Heat are going to see some elite point guards. Potential opponents include Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups. Even Jameer Nelson, who had 16 points and seven assists Thursday, is the type of quick point guard that has given the Heat problems all season.

Bibby, at least offensively, should give the Heat an upgrade at point guard. He should provide experience and leadership. But he's not the reason the Heat will win or lose this season. And after one game, his record with the Heat are 0-1. This wasn't the debut he was expecting.

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