30 Teams, 30 Days
Miami Heat Season Preview.
We continue previewing the Southeast Division with the Miami Heat. You can read past previews here.
by Cliff Terhune aka Eboy
July 1, 2010: This is an alert of the Emergency Broadcast Network… This is not a test.
A Category 5 hurricane has slowly been meandering in the Atlantic, just east of the Florida straits……. It has the potential for catastrophic damage and irreparable repair…. This storm has been forming for two years and is finally near its point of impact….. South Florida stands in its wake….. The storm has been named…….. Dwyane.
Could this be the plot of some Roland Emmerich-type disaster movie that rivals The Day after Tomorrow or 2012? Or could it be the real-world story of a basketball franchise and its next decade’s worth of unwritten history? Hopefully for fans of the Miami Heat, this will only turn out to be a test.
While the story of Michael Beasley and his troubled existence have been the major headlines from a franchise looking to be future-forward this offseason, Hurricane Dwyane’s potential impact is the one story that every God fearing (or not) Heat fan is watching ever so closely with each day.
Last season there was rebuilding toward respectability. This season, it’s hard to tell what plan of action the team is going for. The talk of “aiming for 2010″ and totally leaving this season’s roster in a lurch is really poor planning on Pat Riley’s part and definitely not the way to entice the head lion back into the pride. Heat fans may be aware of the fact that the team will have the best chance at landing a high-profile guy to play alongside Dwyane, but they have to somehow appease Dwyane. And I don’t know if another season of “I’m Doing Everything, Where’s My Help?” is going to be enough to sway him to stay.
Several times this offseason, the Heat were talked about as players in major roster moves that could have made this season its most competitive since the ‘06 title year. Names like Carlos Boozer, Allen Iverson and a long, drawn-out courtship of Lamar Odom, kept Heat fans glued, but in the end, none of these guys got a locker in the AAA Arena.
So where do they stand?
After making the Playoffs last season after a dismal 2007 and with only one current starter over the age of 30, the Heat’s future would seem to be bright. The problem is… it’s two biggest pieces are both huge question marks.
First, Dwyane. No question about his game or his character as a teammate. Dude is officially a top-3 talent now, and without him the Heat will have a LONGGGG way to go to replace what he has meant to the city and the franchise. Sure, Pat Riley tried to pressure him to sign an extension early, and sure, Dwyane played cat and mouse in the press, but in the end, it will all hinge on the competitive future of the franchise and not on the extra $30 million that he could bank buy staying in Miami. Dwyane’s a winner. He’s tired of the losing, and he deserves a shot with a competitive roster. I’m not sure if what the Heat are fielding this season can be considered that. Dwyane proved himself in a spectacular way last season and there’s no reason to think that he won’t equal or even top that performance this season. Otherwise the Heat will be on par with the Clippers and the Kings of the League. They’re not that far removed from those doldrums.
And this is where the dilemma with Michael Beasley comes in. The talk is resign Dwyane and use the massive cap space to get a top-tier player (or two or three second-tier stars) and pair them with the established guy in Dwyane and the should-be-ready-for-prime-time-Beas in 2010. The problem is… well, we all know the problems. And they won’t go away overnight. Beasley’s gifted as a ballplayer, but has a long way to go to change the perceptions of his personality traits and maturity. This is a hurdle that won’t be overcome easily. While he’s supposed to be ready for training camp, the question remains: Will he be ready for training camp? If not, the Heat’s only other legitimate scoring option becomes an albatross instead of a phoenix, as some would say — needing to be reborn. Michael has the potential to be a 20 and 8 guy without batting an eye, but until he regularly does, he’s an enigma. And when you have a steady (yet unspectacular) guy like Udonis Haslem in your ranks, you have to take that job from him, not just hope for it to be yours on potential.
Unless the Heat’s in-house DJ adds Ronnie, Bobby, Rickey and Mike to the every game song rotation, there’s nothing new to report. Well, unless you count Quentin Richardson’s headbands. Q is like James Jones… only traded more. Two guys who can shoot lights out one night, but need to be turned off on others. Their second round pick, Patrick Beverley, went to play in Greece because he couldn’t be assured a roster spot, and with a point guard backcourt of Mario Chalmers and Chris “Hornswaggle” Quinn, the Heat are one injury away from the Lottery again.
The other roster moves? Um, the other roster moves? Yeah, they were looking at Shavlik Randolph and Rashad McCants as camp invites. Let’s not play ourselves. This is a pretty vanilla roster.
Right now, I can only think of one. It’s the presence of Alonzo Mourning. No, he’s not suiting up. And, no, he’s not the beacon of tenderness and happiness that may be needed, but part of his new role with the team is to be a mentor to Beasley. This could be a blessing or a curse. I’m thinking it will work out in the Heat’s favor, and by mid-season, a new, dedicated Beasley will be playing. I’m not expecting Beasley to have the fire that burned in Alonzo’s soul, but a bit of an ember from it could start something that would be beneficial to the player and the person. We’ll see. If Beas wants to have a long, prosperous career in the League, falling in-line with what Zo preaches from a player’s standpoint may make him the Beast so many thought was possible.
WHAT TO EXPECT
More singular greatness from Dwyane. Some scrappy wins against teams they have no business beating. 7,569 stories about Dwyane’s impending signing/leaving. A microscope on Beasley’s behavior. And a season that, in the long run, just may be the undoing of the franchise.
I’m trying to reason the Heat being part of the playoff chase again, but unless Dwyane has a season like Michael Jordan’s in 1987, I can’t see the Heat being part of that fun. There’s the lead dogs — Boston, Orlando and Cleveland — who should run away with their divisions, and then the second-tier teams like the scrappy and somewhat scary Bulls, the improved Wiz, the should-be-better Hawks, and the one year older Sixers. Even the retooled Pistons and the talented but maligned Raptors should pose more of a threat.
Can the Heat sneak in? If guys like Jermaine O’Neal and James Jones have seasons that rank with their career bests and the sophmore jinx doesn’t crush the spirits of Beasley and Chalmers, then they might be able to. But I don’t know… 40 wins would be pushing it. HOWEVA! If the Heat are in position at the end of the season to fight for a spot, I like Dwyane’s chances of willing his squad to the Playoffs more than those of Ben Gordon, Chris Bosh or Andre Iquodala. Just saying.
In the end, so many missed roster upgrades may be too much to overcome in the courtship of DWade. And unless the young guns find their targets way more often than not and give him a feeling that they can compete with just another piece or two added to the mix, that hurricane may just put the Heat below sea level a year from now. Savor these last days, Heat fans. The end times may be near.