Posts Tagged ‘Greg Oden’

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 17


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Woodson takes blame for Knicks’ loss | Oden’s status remains a mystery | Brown impressed with Trail Blazers | Johnson is Nets’ unsung ironman

No. 1: Woodson botches final seconds, shoulders burden for loss – A public vote of confidence from Carmelo Anthony won’t make things any easier on Knicks coach Mike Woodson today. As if things could get any crazier for Woodson and his beaten down team, Monday night’s Manhattan Meltdown against the Wizards left Woodson on the hook for a late-game mistake. ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley delivers the goods on Melo defending his coach after the curious late-game tailspin that might ultimately cost Woodson his job:

Some will be calling for Mike Woodson’s job in the wake of the New York Knicks’ disastrous one-point loss to the Washington Wizards on Monday.

But Knicks star Carmelo Anthony believes his coach is safe.

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s secure right now. I haven’t heard anything,” Anthony said Monday night after initially declining to answer a question about Woodson’s status. “There’s nothing to discuss. He’s our coach, and we’re rolling with him.”

Woodson’s job security has come into question in recent weeks with the Knicks (7-17) playing well below expectations. Woodson and the Knicks’ late-game errors Monday will only put more heat on the coach.

New York had a one-point lead against the Wizards with 24 seconds to play and a foul to give.

Instead of using the foul, the Knicks allowed Bradley Beal to drive for an uncontested layup with 6.9 seconds to play.

Then, Woodson and his players did not call timeout to set up a final play. Instead, Anthony dribbled the ball across half court and took a 25-foot off-balance shot that fell short as time expired. The Knicks had three timeouts to use.

“I probably should have taken a timeout there at the end, but you know, Beno [Udrih] grabbed it [to inbound] and the ball is in Melo’s hands before I could even react, and I should have reacted a lot sooner once the ball went through the bucket. So, that’s on me,” Woodson said. ” …. I didn’t call the timeout so I’ve got to take the heat for that.”

There is plenty of blame to go around in New York, more than enough for Anthony, Woodson, Spike Lee and anyone else to get in on the action. But Woodson’s seat is the hottest.


VIDEO: The Game Time crew breaks down the Knicks’ Manhattan Meltdown

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No. 2: Oden’s status remains a mystery for Heat-Pacers and beyond – Greg Oden had to watch the first chapter of the Heat-Pacers drama in street clothes last week. His status for Round 2 Wednesday remains one of  South Florida’s biggest mysteries. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t tipping his hand. And Pacers big man Roy Hibbert probably doesn’t care, even after his woeful performance in the Pacers’ first home loss of the season to Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons Monday night. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald does his best to uncover the secretes surrounding Oden’s status:

The Heat plays the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in the biggest home game of the first two months of the season, and the topic of Oden and his playing status (or lack thereof) will once again be a point of discussion.

Last week, Oden watched from the bench in Indianapolis as Pacers center Roy Hibbert dominated the paint both offensively and defensively. After the game, Hibbert said he was looking forward to Oden joining the rivalry.

But exactly when Oden will begin playing games for the Heat remains a mystery. He made an appearance in the preseason but hasn’t suited up for a regular-season game. Oden, who was in street clothes against the Jazz, has been inactive for the first 24 games of the season.

As a follow up to a question about his rotations, Spoelstra was asked about how to efficiently incorporate Oden into the Heat’s system once he is ready to play.

“We’ll get to that when we get to that,” Spoelstra said. “It will be no different than when we had to incorporate Michael [ Beasley], when we’ve had to incorporate Shane [ Battier]. We incorporated Norris [Cole]. When we get to that point, we’ll deal with it the way we always do.”

Spoelstra was then asked whether he thought adding Oden midstream would be the biggest challenge of the season.

“You can’t ever pinpoint what the biggest challenge will be in an NBA season, really,” Spoelstra said. “They come daily, they come weekly because of the schedule, but they will arrive on your doorstep.”

Oden hasn’t played in regular-season game in more than four years.


VIDEO:
Did the Pacers get caught looking ahead to Wednesday’s showdown with the Heat?

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No. 3: Brown sees much to like (maybe even love) about the Trail Blazers – Don’t judge Cleveland coach Mike Brown for being envious of Terry Stotts and the machine he’s presiding over in Portland these days. All coaches wish they could get off to the early season start the Blazers have. So while Brown has the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week (Kyrie Irving) at his disposal, he’d love to have the NBA’s team of the first two months (arguably, the Pacers want in on that as well) to work with, as Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer explains (oh, and that point guard matchup tonight between Irving and Damian Lillard should be as good as any we’ve seen thus far):

Ask Cavaliers coach Mike Brown what makes the Portland Trail Blazers so good and his long, long list of compliments starts with coach Terry Stotts and goes through LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews all the way to Mo Williams.

It’s no wonder, either, since the Trail Blazers come into The Q on Tuesday with a shiny 21-4 record, best in the Western Conference. After an overtime victory at Detroit on Sunday, they’re even better on the road — 11-2 — than at home.

“Terry is a good coach first of all, but if you look at their roster, they have veteran guys on that team or guys in their prime,” Brown said after the Cavs practice on Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “They have very few young guys they’re asking to run or lead the ship. They’ve got a lot of veteran players on their team who know how to play the game the right way on the floor. A lot of those guys have had success. Maybe not last year, but LaMarcus has won before, Batum has won before, Matthews has won before there and even in Utah.

“I thought the Lopez kid was the right fit. They needed a big body that doesn’t need to score or anything like that who will do the dirty work because they have enough scorers when you look at the guys they rotate in and out of the game. Then on top of that you’ve got a veteran like Mo Williams who can shoot the 3, who can come off pindowns,  who can play pick and roll. He’s fast with the ball, can play in transition, can make plays for himself and his teammates.

“That’s a nice mix of players they have who know how to score the basketball. Because they have size and because in my opinion they added a guy like Lopez, that makes them bigger. Lopez has great feet, so that makes them even better defensively than what they might have been in the past. Then you have Batum and Wes Matthews, too, on the perimeter. Those are two big guards who know how to defend.”

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No. 4: Low-key Johnson serves as Nets’ unsung ironman – His record-tying shooting night thrust Joe Johnson into the national headlines. But he’s been the Nets’ unsung ironman all season, writes Filip Bondy of The New York Daily News. Through all of the trials and tribulations this team has faced this season, Johnson has been the one constant. And whether Nets fans and others realize it or not, that could very well be the one factor that saves their season:

Of all the remarkable season stats for Joe Johnson, the most impressive one right now rests directly below the “G.”

There, you will find the number 24, which means that Johnson is one of only four Nets, and the only one who really matters, not to have missed a single game this year due to injury. It is a wonder how he has remained in one piece, while all around him his teammates have been felled like Christmas trees in early December. “I love to come out and play,” Johnson said after he had done something remarkable on Monday night. “I just try to be here for the guys.”

Johnson wasn’t merely there for the guys at Barclays Center, he was ablaze. Johnson went on a record-tying 3-point streak that suddenly made a lopsided game worth watching, at least for a period. In that third quarter, he scored 29 points and buried eight of 10 threes, including an impossible bomb from the left corner with defender James Anderson draped all over him — while drawing a foul.

“I got a good look, got separation,” Johnson insisted. “I just let it go. I was in the right spot a lot of times, at the right times, catching the ball with the seams every time in the right place.”

It was all more than enough to bury the Sixers, 130-94, and to demonstrate again how Johnson has become the rock on a team largely comprised of delicate sand pebbles. “Got to keep giving him the ball, keep giving it to him,” Andray Blatche said.

Johnson finished with 37 points and 10 3-pointers, and all around him his teammates were shouting, “Just keep shooting.” But Johnson had been battling a bug these last couple of days, skipping practice, and so he took a seat on the bench while watching the fourth quarter of this laugher. He had earned the rest, averaging 34 minutes per game while shooting .433 from 3-point range. “He’s been the one horse, been consistent for us,” Jason Kidd said. “A guy who never complains.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Heat’s Dwyane Wade insists the average fan just doesn’t understand the anatomy and physiology of an NBA star … Joe Johnson wasn’t the only former Hawks star to have a good night. Josh Smith is working on back-to-back monster nights for the Pistons … Contrasting styles were on display in the Clippers-Spurs game last night, Gregg Popovich’s way vs. the unique approach that Doc Rivers employs … Derrick Rose is worried about the Bulls’ future? (while most everyone else is worried about his!)

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: Forget about the Bulls’ struggles for a minute and just enjoy Taj Gibson‘s finishing touch on this pick and roll  …


VIDEO: Nik Vucevic is a HT fave, but he’s on the wrong end of this dunk by Taj Gibson

Hibbert’s Edge Over Miami At Both Ends Begs For Oden Response


VIDEO: Roy Hibbert joins NBA TV after beating Heat

INDIANAPOLISPaul George is having a breakout season, a Most Improved trophy winner improving his game all over again to barge into discussions for the next level of superstar hardware.

But George wasn’t the pivotal player for the Indiana Pacers in their 90-84 victory over the Miami Heat Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Roy Hibbert was. And it figures to stay that way through three more regular season meetings and however many times the teams hook up in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Keeping things parallel, then, if not literal, Miami’s most pivotal player as this slugfest for East supremacy plays out might not end up being LeBron James, its MVP in residence. The guy sitting behind the Heat bench Tuesday night in the blue jacket – Greg Oden – might wind up rating that status.

It’s a big might or if or maybe or whatever conditional set-up you choose to use, because Oden hasn’t played an NBA game in more than four years, dating back to Dec. 5, 2009. His knee zippers have zippers, and surgeons set up an honor bar in one of them, anticipating their next visit. The 7-footer from Ohio State and Lawrence North High in Indianapolis, one of the league’s most unfortunate and frustrating stories in recent memory, has logged a total of 82 games since he went No. 1 in the 2007 Draft. He has missed five times that number.

But as Hibbert kept throwing in buckets over the top of the Miami defense (24 points on 10-for-15 shooting) and altering not just shots but the Heat’s strategy and identity at the other end, Oden – project player and two-year, $2.2 million gamble – became conspicuous in his seat for his possible late-season involvement.

After The Game That Wasn’t A Statement, James flashed a hopeful look as he contemplated the possibility of Oden as a Hibbert counter. Not next week when they meet again in south Florida but in March. Or April. Or best of all, May.

“We’re not the team that we want to be in April right now, and that’s OK,” James said, after Miami asserted itself in the first half against Indiana, then got a little casual when things unraveled on it in the second. “That’s exactly what we want. We want to continue to get better.”

Might Oden figure into that plan?

“We hope so,” James said. “We hope so.”

And guess what? Hibbert hopes so too. At the moment, he is literally and figuratively the biggest X-factor in the matchups between these teams.

Offensively, he works old-school from the low post like few current NBA centers, a cockeyed change of attack point and style as disconcerting for opponents as Seattle’s pesky old switch-everything defense under George Karl, especially when encountered randomly during a long season. Miami deals with all manner of open-court and wing players like George. It showed in the first half it can swarm and choke him off the way it has other dynamos like Chicago’s Derrick Rose or Jeremy Lin at the height of Linsanity. Hibbert’s size, though, makes him a rarity.

Defensively, he long has been planted not just in the Heat players’ peripheral vision but in their heads, especially now that NBA officiating crews seem to grant him “verticality” calls the way Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant used to own rip-throughs. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a member of the privileged class like James or Dwyane Wade banging into him 10 feet above the court .

Still, for all that advantage, the Pacers’ big man sounded eager to face whatever XXXL card the two-time champions have stashed up their sleeves (sleeves, for the record, is legit phraseology now in this alternative-jersey world).

“I’m gonna just keep asserting myself whenever I play against them,” Hibbert said. “But I’m really looking forward to matching up against Greg when he does play. He’s such a big impact, a big impressive presence. When he gets healthy, we can battle a little bit.”

Oden, Miami insiders say, continues to work out pain-free, participating partially in Heat practices with an eye on game involvement at some point in the season’s second half. He was signed largely for a possible playoff matchup with Hibbert, who expects to see him later if not sooner, assuming Oden a) gets on the court and stays on the court, and b) plays like some reasonable facsimile of his former self.

“At some point this year,” Hibbert said late Tuesday. “I’m not saying ‘Hey, I’m gonna go kick somebody’s ass.’ I always say I can play against the best. Joakim Noah brings the best out of me. Playing against LaMarcus Aldridge. And y’know, Greg is such a dynamic image … I’ll see.”


VIDEO: Paul George and the Pacers discuss their win over the Heat

Huge NBA Opening Week; And You Wanted To Wait Till Christmas?

VIDEO: The top plays from the NBA’s opening week

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Six nights. That’s all it took to remind yet again why we play the games, all 82, and why any claim of less being more is pure folly.

Why not November? I say.

As the 2011 lockout ushered in a reduced schedule of 66 games starting on Christmas Day and firing off a fan-pleasing crush of games nightly, a spark ignited into a full-blown media/Internet forest fire: Why not start every NBA season on Dec. 25?

Heck, no one’s paying attention in November, let alone a pre-Halloween slate. With the NFL and college football beast roaring, who’s got the attention span to cram in hoops, too?

So congratulations to the NBA for a wholly unpredictable and fascinating opening week that featured scintillating individual performances and take-that victories by teams who’ve been told they stink. And so the games are played. Yes, even in November.

There isn’t a more outrageous narrative than Philly’s 3-0 start that includes takedowns of the Heat and Bulls led by The Kid, Michael Carter-Williams. Our own John Schuhmann couldn’t help but unprecedentedly vault the Sixers from 29th to No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings.

While all will likely right itself before too long, one week in and we’ve got upside-down standings. The trifecta tankers — Philly, Phoenix and Orlando — are 7-2. Miami, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York are 5-8.

Along with some fascinating upsets and  fast starts, we’ve seen a bevy of fantastic individual scoring and rebounding frenzies.

Here’s a quick look at some of the opening week’s wildly unpredictable highlights:

*  Carter-Williams has to sweep the Player of the Week honors for rookies and everybody else. In his season debut against Miami, he nearly notched a quadruple-double with 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals. A fluke? A few nights later against the Bulls and the comeback kid Derrick  Rose, he dropped 26 points and 10 assists. Golden State, in Philly tonight (7 p.m. ET, League Pass), has been warned.

* You can probably name more traded Suns than current Suns, but they’re 2-1 and on Sunday pushed Oklahoma City to the brink in their home opener even with Russell Westbrook supercharging the evening with his unexpected return. By the way, he looked super-fast.

* Let’s not forget the Magic’s supposed bid for massive ping-pong-ball accumulation. Rookie Victor Oladipo has other plans. The Magic aren’t disappearing after two rousing victories over the improved Pelicans and (title-contending?) Nets by a combined 41 points to even their record at 2-2.

* The no-name Lakers bench crushed the star-studded Clippers’ starters in the fourth quarter in both teams’ opener.

* Chris Paul has stat lines of 42 points and 15 assists and 26 points and 10 assists.

* Kevin Love is all the way back, averaging 29.7 ppg, 14.7 rpg and 3.7 apg to help Minnesota start 3-0. He already has games of 31 and 17, and 34 and 15.

* The 2-1 Pistons’ front line is living up to expectations. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are walking double-doubles. Monroe has a 24 and 16 game under his belt and Drummond already has 15-and-12 and 12-and-16 games.

* Second-year Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson went off for 38 points on 15-for-19 shooting in 31 minutes.

*Kings center DeMarcus Cousins notched 31 points and 14 rebounds against the Nuggets.

* In the same game, Knicks center Tyson Chandler pulled down 19 rebounds and Bulls center Joakim Noah grabbed 15.

* In a battle of point guards, Steph Curry and CP3 combined for 80 points, 11 3-pointers, 24 assists and 17 turnovers.

* Also in the same game, Mavs forward Shawn Marion and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph posted matching stat lines of 21 points and 14 boards.

* Greg Oden dunked on his first offensive possession since Dec. 5, 2009.

* Dwight Howard is averaging 15.0 ppg and 17.0 rpg in three games. His 51 rebounds nearly double his free 26 throw attempts, of which he’s made half.

* Pelicans second-year center/forward Anthony Davis is taking this breakthrough stuff seriously, averaging 23.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg and 4.0 bpg. He has games of 25 points and six blocks, 26 points and 17 rebounds and 20 points and 12 boards.

There are even more big games to get to from Kevin Durant to Paul George to Monta Ellis to Nicolas Batum‘s apologetic triple-double, but in the interest of fair time, we must also get to the surprising (or in some instances the not-so-surprising, but still noteworthy) developments at the other end of the spectrum:

* The Nuggets, 0-2, and center JaVale McGee are not off to inspiring starts. This is supposed to be McGee’s big moment, but the 7-footer has averaged just 11.5 mpg and 5.0 ppg and 2.0 rpg despite starting both games.

* Raptors forward Rudy Gay again has a nice-looking scoring average (17.0 ppg), but just think what it might be if not for shooting 32.7 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc.

* Rookie Nets head coach Jason Kidd served a two-game suspension stemming from his DUI situation and then got hammered by 21 points in his debut at Orlando.

* Memphis is in transition after the promotion of Dave Joerger following Lionel Hollins being shown the door. Joerger is credited as the architect of the Grizzlies’ stifling defense, yet even with a virtually unchanged roster, the defense is being picked apart, allowing more than 106 ppg.

* Detroit’s active big guys, Monroe and Drummond, are pushing high-dollar free-agent signee Josh Smith out to the perimeter. Smith likes to shoot the long ball, but averaging 7.3 attempts from back there is a bit much, especially when he’s making just 27.0 percent.

And you wanted to wait until Christmas? Bah!

Oden Returns, Dunks On First Touch


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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Greg Oden is not ready to step into the Miami Heat’s rotation. But he was ready to step on the floor for his first NBA action in 1,418 days. And there he was in New Orleans on Wednesday night, checking in with 5:15 to go in the second quarter.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra ran a play for Oden right away. The big man set a screen for Chris Bosh and dragged Bosh’s man Al-Farouq Aminu into the paint with him. Bosh hit Oden with an entry pass and the big man pivoted and threw down a strong, two-handed dunk, eliciting an emotional reaction from the Miami bench.

A few possessions later, Oden made an impact defensively, stopping consecutive shots by Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis at the rim (though he didn’t get credit for either block). He played 3:59 and, most importantly, walked off the floor feeling fine.

“A mark of success for me,” Oden said back on media day, “is walking on to a court and walking off healthy. Being able to play in a game and just walk off the court healthy, no matter if it was one minute or two minutes. My dream is being able to play basketball, and if I can go out there and do it, run up and down and come off the court again healthy, that’s goal one. Goal two is going to my second game, going on the court and walking off.”

Just a week ago, Oden experienced swelling in his knee after a five-on-five scrimmage, so to see him playing Wednesday — even if it was preseason — was somewhat of a surprise. To see him dunk the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009 was rather remarkable.

As a team, the Heat are healthy, with Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen up front. Dwyane Wade looks to be in great shape, Bosh has played well all preseason, and LeBron James is LeBron James. So, while it’s tempting to think about what he could add to a team that’s won two straight championships, there’s absolutely no need for Oden to be ready to start the season on Tuesday.

“We’re thinking big picture with this,” Spoelstra said about Oden’s progress last week. “We’re going to move very patiently.”

If we see Oden play meaningful minutes for the Heat, it probably won’t happen for a while. But this was a big step in his journey back to the NBA.

“I got a long ways to go,” Oden told FOX Sports’ Jason Jackson after the game, “but I’m just happy to be out there.”

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Clips making Jordan a focus | Prep coach reflects on Rose | Oden rarely rests| Kidd adjusting to new gig

No. 1: Clippers making efforts on, off court to pump up JordanCenter DeAndre Jordan is one of the key targets of Chris Paul‘s alley oops in what was formerly known as “Lob City” and was also known for being pulled late in games due to his offensive deficiencies and poor free throw shooting. While the Clippers are still going to go as far as Paul and fellow All-Star Blake Griffin can take them, the Clips want to integrate Jordan into the mix as one of their key players as well. Off the court, they’re featuring him on the cover of this season’s media guide and on it, coach Doc Rivers wants Jordan in the game when it matters most in what are calculated moves by the coach, writes Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times:

Two rare or unprecedented sights to look for during the Clippers’ upcoming season:

DeAndre Jordan’s image on the cover of the team’s media guide with franchise players and acknowledged leaders Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, a statement about what will be expected of the 25-year-old center in his sixth season.

DeAndre Jordan, in person, on the court during the fourth quarter of tight games.

New Coach Doc Rivers’ imprint is on both moves. On the first point, Rivers made it known he wants to promote a “big three” concept rather than focusing on All-Stars Griffin and Paul. On the second point, he believes Jordan is capable of playing during crunch time, even though Jordan was mostly a spectator during that stage last season.

Jordan, who was inconsistent defensively and hit only 38.6% of his free throws last season to rank last among full-time NBA starters, played in all 82 regular-season games but got into the fourth quarter of only 30 of them. He played in two of six fourth quarters in the Clippers’ first-round playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

To Rivers, who replaced Vinny Del Negro this summer, that’s ancient history, not a guideline to future success.

“I wasn’t here last year,” Rivers said Thursday when asked about Jordan’s limited late minutes last season.

Can Jordan be trusted in the fourth quarter?

“Yeah,” Rivers said before the team practiced for its first Staples Center exhibition, on Friday against Portland.

Jordan likes Rivers’ philosophy about not prejudging what he can — or can’t — do.

“Doc is a great coach, and he expects a lot out of me, and I’m definitely going to embrace that challenge,” Jordan said. “He believes in me and that only helps me be more confident and believe in myself.

“It’s a new year, a new start for everybody, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

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No. 2: Derrick Rose’s prep coach provides insight on NBA starBulls fans everywhere are delighted that Derrick Rose is back on the court and looking pretty much like his old self after missing all of last season while recovering from his torn ACL. Jason Jordan of USA Today catches up with Rose’s high school coach, Robert Smith of Simeon High School, who has great insight into what drove Rose during his rehab work:

JJ: Is it me or does he look faster in these preseason games coming off the ACL tear?
RS: He really does, right! You hit that right on the head. People text me all during his games asking me the same question and I have to agree. That’s hard to believe, but it certainly looks that way. I knew he would come back even better.

JJ: What convinced you that he would come back better?
RS: Because he took his time and he doesn’t like to disappoint people. I think that was the main reason why he didn’t come back early. He just doesn’t like to disappoint anyone. That drives him. His competitive nature would never let him not come back as good or better than he was before. When he opted to stay out I said to myself, “When he gets back it’s gonna be rough on some people.”

JJ: What’s something that people would be shocked to know about Derrick?
RS: Probably that he’s really superstitious. His routine is always the same, he doesn’t change anything. Just things like always being the last one to come out of the locker room and always being the last one to come to the huddle. Different things like that. But he’s serious about that stuff.

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No. 3: Day off of practice doesn’t mean rest for OdenGreg Oden was held out of two days of Heat practice this week due to swelling on his left knee, but that doesn’t mean he’s just hanging around the practice facility doing nothing. The goal for Oden and the team is to keep the big man on a consistent workout plan and keep his spirits up as well, writes Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“I don’t really take a day off,” Oden said. “For me, it’s maintenance to this knee and maintenance to my body, because some days I’m not able to do the up-and-down stuff that they are able to do. I’ve got to be in the weight room, riding the bike, lifting and doing all the things I can.”

Oden began experiencing the swelling on his left knee after completing his first 5-on-5 workout in more than three years. The Heat decided to hold him out of practice rather than risk further injury. The minor setback for Oden caused little concern considering what he’s been through.

He hasn’t played since Dec. 5, 2000 after suffering a series of career-threatening knee injuries.

“I’m fine,” Oden said. “It’s been 3 1/2 years for me so a little bit of swelling … as long as there’s no surgery, I’m OK. It’s going to be a long season so I’m going to get there. It’s just one day.”

“It’s not really a set formula for that right now,” said Oden when asked when he will take days off. “It just kind of goes how the legs feel. I will see how it reacts after hard days and then we’ll figure it out from there. The more days I can get going hard and the more days we can figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”

Perhaps most impressive is Oden’s ability to remain positive during the process. He is still a few months away from the possibility of playing.

“I’m all right. I’m just icing it down,” Oden said. “It’s a process. I’ve got to figure out the ups and downs, what all I can do, how long I can do it … It wasn’t the first time [the knee swelled]. I was hoping it didn’t but it did. What can I do about it? Now, the next thing to do is get it back down. I’ve definitely got bigger goals. The best thing for me is to take it day by day.”

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No. 4: Kidd adjusting to new gig, responsibilities – Last night in Brooklyn was all about Jason Kidd as the former Nets star (and current coach of the team) had his No. 5 jersey lifted to the rafters of the Barclays Center. Before that sentimental moment, Kidd talked with our own David Aldridge about the challenges of his new job — such as learning how to draw up a play quickly — and more in a solid Q&A interview:

ALDRIDGE: When you talked to those guys this summer, did they immediately talk to you as a coach, or did you still think there was a coach-player vibe there?

KIDD: No. I think all the coaches that I ran into this summer have all been great from Doc [Rivers] to Pat Riley, you know, listening to them talk about their story of when they got started It sounded very familiar to mine, and so just listening to them and also asking them questions after the fact of what worked, what didn’t work, and the biggest thing that comes back is be yourself, trust that you know basketball, but trust your gut and always be honest and just communicate, and you’ll be fine.

ALDRIDGE: I’m sure you have a favorite play. I’m sure you’ve got something that over the years you say, “Yeah. I really like that one.”

KIDD: Yeah. There’s some plays that I’m comfortable with drawing, but in the preseason, this is all about being able to give new things to guys and see how they execute, so we can always go during the season to my favorite go-tos, but this is also for us to get better. The train’s moving, so I got to be able to feed guys new stuff and see how they accept it on the fly. Can they execute what we draw up, or can they execute what we talk about? And those are things — as a player, yes, you can do it, but now as a coach, can they — it’s out of your hands, and did you communicate it to them right, or did you leave something out? So those are the things that I’m going through.

ALDRIDGE: How will you critique yourself as a coach?

KIDD: You know, I think trusting myself, being able to take in the information and being able to deliver it. That’s the one thing I will always give myself a grade at the end of the night. There’s a lot of information being thrown my way. How did I process it, and how did I deliver it to the guys?

ALDRIDGE: Yeah. Who do you — I don’t know if “confide in” is the right word — but who will you kind of bounce ideas off of?

KIDD: Everyone. I’ve come with kind of the approach of there’s an open table. You know, come to the table with it, bring it to the board, and let’s discuss it, and then I’ll make a decision do we go with it or not? Maybe we keep it on the board because maybe it’s not the right time for that, but I love more information. The better off I’ll be, but also the team.

ALDRIDGE: Have you actually spent any time with Mikhail Prokhorov yet?

KIDD: Just at the press conference. We spent a little time together. When you talk about an owner who wants to win, well, he’s definitely shown that by putting this team together.

ALDRIDGE: Is that in any way odd to you that haven’t spent much time at all with the person who hired you?

KIDD: He’s always watching, and he’ll give a call once in a while just to check in and see how things are going.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: High-flying Nuggets big man Kenneth Faried has a strained hammy … Thunder rookie big man Steven Adams impresses in OKC’s win against New Orleans … Great story looking at the love-hate relationship Carlos Boozer has with most Bulls fans

ICYMI Of The Night: The Knicks’ Iman Shumpert had one of the best put-back dunks of 2012-13 and is getting an early start on his highlight reel for 2013-14  …

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 17

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Jordan dismisses Pera’s challenge | Oden misses practice (knee) | Monroe won’t get extension …  yet | Howard hopes his jersey is retired by Magic

No. 1: Jordan calls Pera’s challenge ‘comical’Just two days ago, Grizzlies owner Michael Pera took to Twitter to challenge Hall of Famer and Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan to a game of one-on-one. In an interview with the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell, Jordan had a quick reaction to Pera’s challenge:

Hours removed from the owner of the Memphis Grizzlies challenging Michael Jordan to a charity one-on-one game, MJ had a response:

“Comical.”

That’s the word the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats (and Hall of Fame player) used in a brief interview with the Observer Wednesday. If new Grizzlies owner Robert Pera wants to play one-on-one for $1 million to charity (as he said on Twitter), Jordan won’t be his opponent.

“I think that’s comical,’’ Jordan said. “It didn’t make any sense. Why would I play one-on-one? It’s a no-win situation for me no matter what.”

***

No. 2: Oden sits out practice with knee swellingTwo days after participating in his first full practice as a member of the Heat, center Greg Oden suffered a small setback on Wednesday. The big man was held out of Miami’s practice, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, due to swelling in his left knee:

Oden’s return to contact work had spurred some optimism that he could play in a preseason game. Those hopes have been dimmed now as he’s had to ease off his workload.

The Heat and Oden have been very careful to avoid setting a timetable for the center’s return in part because they’re preparing for setbacks such as this.

“This has been three years for me, as long as it’s no surgery, it’s OK,” said Oden, who last played in an NBA game in 2009. “This is going to be a long season, I’m going to get there.”

The Heat training staff measures Oden’s troublesome knees before and after every workout to monitor any swelling. The team has moved cautiously but had slowly been increasing his workload as he responded well to the first weeks of training camp and the preseason. Getting back to doing full-court work was an anticipated step.

“I was hoping it didn’t (swell up) but it did, but what can I do about it?” Oden said. “Next thing to do is get (the swelling) back down and get out there and figure out what I can do to not let it swell again.”

***

No. 3: Pistons’ Monroe will have to wait for extension — Pistons fans shouldn’t read too much into the news that Detroit is unlikely to offer center Greg Monroe a contract extension before the NBA’s Halloween deadline to do so. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press says much of the reasoning behind the Pistons holding off on the move is not because they don’t want to offer Monroe an extension, but more due to them wanting to monitor the development of fellow big man Andre Drummond:

At this point the Pistons still consider Monroe a huge part of their rebuilding effort, but the circumstances suggest the team would be better off letting the season play out.

The Pistons probably could get a signature on a five-year, maximum contract offer. There wouldn’t be much point in the offer being declined. But the collective bargaining agreement dictates that teams can have only one five-year, designated player. That spot likely is reserved for second-year center Andre Drummond in the off-season before 2015-16.

So the season plays out and Monroe builds on his promising first three seasons, couldn’t he just walk? Nope. The most another team could offer is four years. The Pistons match it and still retain the five-year designation for Drummond.

The situation works for Monroe because things can change. What if Drummond is hurt or Monroe outplays Drummond this year? Circumstances could change where the Pistons would be open to offering Monroe five years. Or Monroe could be linked to trade rumors if the grouping with Drummond and Josh Smith isn’t working.

***

No. 4: Howard hopes Magic retire his number one day – Yesterday, Dwight Howard spoke with Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel and said he had ‘no regrets’ over how the end of his tenure played out in The City Beautiful. Before Howard’s Rockets topped the Magic in Houston last night, Howard said he hopes he and the Magic can one day mend fences enough to consider retiring his No. 12 jersey (which is today worn by Magic player Tobias Harris):

This morning, after Howard’s Houston Rockets completed their shootaround, I asked him whether he can envision the Magic retiring his number one day in the distant future.

“No doubt,” he answered.“Despite how things ended, we had eight or seven great years. We went to The Finals. A lot of those banners that are in the arena happened when I was there. I was a major part of that. A lot of the records that are there, I put them there.

“I hate talking about myself, but I feel like I’ve done a lot, not just for the team but the city and the arena itself and the businesses that were around. There’s a lot of things that happened that didn’t happen before I got there. Our team, we did an excellent job at putting all that stuff together, especially in the community. I was deeply embedded in the community and I feel like one day it should [be retired].

“But with all that happened, I can’t control that. All I’ve got to do is win. And, hopefully, when I’m done playing here, I’ll have my jersey retired here.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Spurs still seeking a capable backup for budding star Kawhi Leonard … Cavs coach Mike Brown wants a better defensive effort from Dion Waiters Caron Butler of the Bucks has trimmed down a little this season

ICYMI Of The Night: Derrick Rose‘s regular-season debut is in 12 days, but if you asked the Pistons after this move on Peyton Siva, they’d say he’s in mid-season form already …

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Oden participates in full practice | Sixers’ Turner says he’s no ‘loser’ | ‘Sheed helps Drummond at FT line | Wall taking playoff push seriously

No. 1: Oden participates in full practiceSwatting the MVP, LeBron James, in practice had to feel somewhat nice for Heat reserve big man Greg Oden. But even better for Oden might be the fact he made it through his first full practice with Miami, which means Oden has cleared a significant hurdle in his recovery process that may lead to him playing in games for the Heat this season. Michael Wallace of ESPN.com has more on Oden, his practice and the long-term implications for the Heat:

Greg Oden went through his first full practice with the Miami Heat on Monday, clearing a significant hurdle in the former No. 1 overall pick’s quest to play in an NBA game for the first time in four years.Oden participated in some scrimmage stages of the Heat’s workout at AmericanAirlines Arena as the team prepared for Tuesday’s preseason road game against the Washington Wizards. Among the highlights of Oden’s day was blocking a shot by LeBron James.

It marked the most extensive on-court work Oden has done with the team since he signed with Miami in July after multiple knee surgeries forced him out of the game.

“It felt good to get out there and get some up-and-down,” Oden said after Monday’s practice. “You can see I’m frustrated because I’m not as back as I want to be. But it’s little steps, and today was another step, getting out there and doing some five on five.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s been encouraged by Oden’s progress over the past two months to get his weight down and improve his conditioning.

Teammates have been impressed during the limited doses Oden has been able to practice in the first two weeks of training camp. Oden was cleared last week to participate in some four-on-four scrimmage sessions that included physical contact. He advanced through that stage without any setbacks with his knees and progressed to more work this week.

James said he didn’t hesitate to drive right at Oden in Monday’s practice.

“He fouled me twice today, and I scored on him, too,” James said. “For him to be able to stick with it and be here — we went five on five — it’s a testament to him keeping his composure, him believing in himself, his family believing in him. He’s back where he belongs, and that’s in the NBA.”

***

No. 2: Sixers’ Turner: ‘I’m not a loser’Few NBA analysts are expecting the Philadelphia 76ers to have much success this year and many are projecting them to be among the worst teams in the league. Don’t tell that to Sixers swingman Evan Turner, though. He was outright defiant about the projections of a letdown season in Philly and told USA Today‘s Jason Wolf he will do all he can to keep the Sixers from falling to the depths most are projecting for them:

“I don’t think we’re going down,” Turner said when asked how he’ll cope with all the losing this season, as the Sixers take a run at the top overall pick in next summer’s draft. “I never woke up and thought I was going to be unsuccessful in my life. Pretty much, my teammates and I are going to go out and play every single game and play hard and take it from there.

“There’s different type of successes, in general, personal and team-wise. We’ve got to keep getting better,” he said. “But I’m not going to sit here and be a loser. … I’m not a loser. Period. Point blank. So I’m not going to sit there and dwell on it. Period.”

***

No. 3: Drummond gets top-secret FT tips from ‘Sheed — With a new coach (Maurice Cheeks), a new point guard (Brandon Jennings) and a new frontcourt mate (Josh Smith) in tow, Pistons center Andre Drummond looks poised for a breakout season. Drummond more than struggled at the free throw line last season, though, shooting just 39 percent. However, the addition of Rasheed Wallace to the Pistons coaching staff is paying dividends for Drummond, writes Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Having Rasheed Wallace’s voice in your head while taking free throws doesn’t seem like the type of anecdote that yields positive results, but Andre Drummond’s improvement can be traced to Wallace’s “three points” of emphasis.

Drummond is guarding those tips given by the Pistons’ new assistant coach as a precious commodity.

“It’s a little thing me and him came up with to help me focus when I get to the line,” Drummond said. “I can’t tell you that. That’s between he and I.”

Whatever it is, it’s working, considering the player who shot 39 percent during his rookie year is shooting 75 percent through three preseason games.

“It shows I’ve been in here day in and day out, working hard on different mechanics, taking time on my shot and getting it over the rim,” said Drummond, who’s averaging 17.6 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Considering his free-throw attempts often went wide left or wide right last season, “getting it over the rim” is probably his biggest focus. Instead of swishing it, it usually nicks the front rim and bounces in softly, showing the amount of touch a 280-pound center possesses.

“I think Rasheed has done a great job of working with him of taking his time and shooting the ball,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. “It’s central that he gets better at shooting foul shots. You probably just jinxed him but so far he’s been pretty good.”

***

No. 4: Wall making game-night note of playoff push – Talk around Washington, D.C., in terms of its NBA franchise, is that the Wizards may finally have the pieces in place to make a true playoff run this season. Point guard John Wall, who signed a multi-year extension in the offseason, is expected to spearhead that charge and is taking it seriously, writes Howard Beck of BleacherReport.com:

When the Washington Wizards open the season Oct. 30 in Detroit, Wall will take the court with the word “playoffs” scribbled on his shoes. He will repeat the exercise every day, through 82 games, lest he or anyone else lose sight of the goal.

“You will see it on all my shoes,” Wall said last week. “Every game pair is going to have `playoffs’ on it. That’s my main determination.”

“I should be in the playoffs,” Wall said.

The question is whether Wall, the Wizards’ blazing-fast, turnover-prone, jump shot-challenged point guard, is ready to lead them there.

There are doubts. Wall knows this. He has seen the critiques and the positional rankings. He carries them on his phone, as photographic motivation.

“I got snappings of all type of rankings,” Wall said. “I like it.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Odd story out of Orlando, where ex-Magic guard Chris Duhon was intentionally hit by a car … Timberwolves, Jazz among those interested in Bulls reserve Marquis Teague … Blazers looking forward to getting Dorell Wright into the lineup

ICYMI Of The Night: We can’t decide what we like more about this play — the hustle by Kevin Garnett, his dish to Brook Lopez for the and-one layup or KG’s reaction after the basket falls …

The 2013-14 Hang Time Redeem Team





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No one needs reminding of the importance of the 2013-14 NBA season for superstars like Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and others who are battling their way back from injuries that sidelined them for all or part of last season.

We watch their every move anyway, so when those stars do return, it’ll be an all-eyes-on-them proposition for certain. But for others, guys who have languished in the shadows the past couple of seasons for one reason or another, this season presents an opportunity for redemption as well.

Opportunity abounds for another group of players who comprise Hang Time’s Redeem Team this season, guys who need to leave a mark on 2013-14 in the worst way. Now is the time for these veterans to reclaim their positions in the league, to either resurrect or flat-out save their careers:

Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans

Now that he’s been cleared to crank up his conditioning and do whatever it takes to get into game shape, Gordon is potentially on the road back to the budding young star we saw during his third season in the league with the Los Angeles Clippers (when Gordon averaged 22.2 points and 4.4 assists in 56 games). The injury issues will follow him until he puts together a couple of seasons where he plays as close to 82 regular-season games as possible. But the game moves on without once promising young stars all the time. And Gordon is in the danger zone at this stage of his career. He’s on a team loaded with young talent (All-Star Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers) at the same position. He’s in a now-or-probably-not-here predicament, given his salary and the circumstances.

Greg Oden, Miami Heat

The fact that Oden has come this far in his comeback bid is a victory of sorts for the former No. 1 pick, whose arrival in the league had fans in Portland dreaming of contending for championships one day with a player who promised to be one of the best big men of his generation. Oden has the luxury of not having to rush back for a Heat team that has managed just fine without him the past three seasons. His is more of a personal pilgrimage from being completely out of the league to having a chance to contribute on a team aiming for a three-peat. “My main goal is to be back on the court playing,” Oden told the Sun Sentinel. “But every little thing is just a little step closer to what I want to do. In my head, I’m smiling. I’m back in the routine I’m back out here working out in front of fans.” Whatever the Heat squeeze out of Oden, who is one one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, is a bonus for all involved.

Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers

No player on this list has more to gain from a big 2013-14 season than Bynum, who just a couple of seasons ago served the other big man in the argument about who would serve as the challenger to Dwight Howard as the best in the business. Bynum’s stock fell so hard and so fast last season in Philadelphia, when he watched a disastrous season unfold from the sidelines after the Sixers scrapped a playoff team to acquire him and build around him for the future. The Cavs have other issues, obviously, mainly finding out what they have in the No. 1 pick in the June Draft, Anthony Bennett, who has shown some positive flashes in the preseason. Perhaps the greatest motivation for Bynum this seasons will come from another No. 1 pick, Kyrie Irving, who has designs on rising up the ranks this season himself.

Al Harrington, Washington Wizards

Maybe you’ve forgotten just how valuable a piece Harrington has been to playoff outfits throughout his career. He did it in Indiana, Golden State and Denver and the Wizards are hoping he can use some of the lessons he’s learned the past 15 seasons to help John  Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of an up and coming crew move into the playoff mix. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has mentioned Harrington repeatedly as not only a player who will counted on to provide veteran leadership but also a symbolic figure, a vet with an eye toward reclaiming his career and doing it in a place (Washington) that others view as a team and franchise on the rise. With a fleet of young bigs working hard to get better and injury issues (namely Emeka Okafor), having a stretch-4 with Harrington’s versatility and history will be crucial for the Wizards early on this season.

Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks

The marriage between this former No. 1 pick (the third player of such ilk on this list) and the city of Toronto broke down early on and was beyond repair by the time the Knicks traded for him over the summer. This second honeymoon in New York won’t obviously won’t last seven years. The Knicks need Bargnani to find his niche now and be a factor on a team with playoff expectations he never experienced with the Raptors. Bargnani’s teammates recognize his skill set and Knicks coach Mike Woodson knows that he has to find ways to exploit Bargnani’s strengths and hide his weaknesses. With his shot and size, and the constantly increasing value for floor spacers in today’s game, Bargnani will surely get several more shots if things don’t work out with the Knicks. But if he’s ready to stop being a punch line, he needs to pounce on the opportunity staring him in the face right now.


No Expectations For Beasley, Oden

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MIAMI – New additions Michael Beasley and Greg Oden add a little intrigue to what would otherwise have been a very steady-and-settled training camp for the Miami Heat. Beasley was brought in on a non-guaranteed deal after being waived by the Phoenix Suns just one year into a three-year contract. Oden is trying to return from a nearly four-year absence and multiple knee injuries.

With the Heat returning the top nine players in their championship rotation, there’s no real need for either Beasley or Oden to contribute right away, or at all, really. Mike Miller is gone, which is a true loss, but Miller was only needed for spot duty last season. That role could be filled by James Jones or Rashard Lewis.

Both newcomers arrive with more doubt than promise, Oden because he hasn’t played since December of 2009 and Beasley because he seems to be a terrible fit for the Heat’s efficient and LeBron James-focused system.

As was the case with Eddy Curry two seasons ago, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t have either guy penciled in for any particular role.

“No expectations,” Spoelstra said of both guys. For Oden, the next several months are about getting healthy and in basketball shape.

“He’s inspired by the opportunity to help us,” Spoelstra said. “But more than anything, we just want to see him get back out there, have a smile on his face, and be able to do what he loves. He’s had some setbacks, but that does not define his whole career. This, we feel, is a perfect fit for him.

“I’m going into it with a open mind. No expectations. There’s certainly no timetable. He’s in here five hours a day. He’s doing more and more. The biggest test with us is can we add to the workload and see how he feels the next day, and without the timetable of having to perform and have those expectations.”

Oden said it’s going to “take some time” for him to get back to feeling comfortable on the court. And though his knees “slow me down just a little bit,” he’s happy to be where he is in the process.

“I haven’t be doing anything but just rehabbing for the past three [years],” he said. “Right now, I’ve been on the court. I’ve been running up and down a little bit. And that’s more than I can say I’ve done in three years.”

Earning a spot in the rotation isn’t on his mind right now, which is an expectation well aligned with his new team.

“A mark of success for me is walking on to a court and walking off healthy,” he said. “Being able to play in a game and just walk off the court healthy, no matter if it was one minute or two minutes. My dream is being able to play basketball, and if I can go out there and do it, run up and down and come off the court again healthy, that’s goal one. Goal two is going to my second game, going on the court and walking off.”

For Beasley, this is about seeing if he can fit in with what the Heat have built since they sent him packing three years ago. He certainly has the talent to help this team, but his inefficient and erratic style of play, not to mention his lack of focus, would seemingly be a detriment to what is a disciplined and well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor.

“I’m happy he’s back,” Dwyane Wade said of Beasley. “I think he’s a spark plug that this team needed from a talent standpoint. But as I always say, Michael’s greatness is on Michael. How great he wants to be will be predicated on him.”

Ultimately, the move could benefit Beasley more than it does the Heat … if they keep him around for more than a couple of weeks.

“We’re excited about just bringing him back into our organization and everything that comes with it, the culture, the discipline, the structure,” Spoelstra said. “We were glad we were able to have that opportunity for him and I think he’s very happy to be able to get back with us.”

“I’m coming here knowing that this team doesn’t need me,” Beasley said. “I’m grateful that they still even care.”

Including Oden, the Heat have 13 guys on guaranteed contracts. So there is space for Beasley if he can keep from being a distraction and somehow find a role. It seems like a long shot.

But this isn’t just a challenge for Beasley and Oden. Making what they can of these two reclamation projects is also a new project for the two-time champs. James feels a responsibility to integrate both into the Heat locker room.

“We can’t change the past,” he said. “We can only focus on the present and the future. Me as a leader, I’m excited to have them here and to help them get back to a point where they feel like they mean something, not only to this team, but prove to themselves that they can play this game and play it at a high level.”

Healthy Wade Key To Heat’s Three-Peat





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The NBA calendar waits for no man, not even one of the game’s all-time greats.

You are either ready for the grind when the curtain comes up on the 2013-14 NBA season or you are not. The 82-game gauntlet that awaits has no mercy.

That’s why it should be comforting news to Miami Heat fans that Dwyane Wade made his way back to the gym this weekend after a two-month layoff to rest the sore knees that have come to define this stage of his stellar career. Wade hasn’t been on the floor since the Heat’s Game 7 win over the San Antonio Spurs in The Finals.

Wade opted for OssaTron Shock treatments for the tendinitis in both knees rather than undergo major surgery, a move that Wade and the Heat have to believe was the best move for a player nearing his 32nd birthday and with a decade’s worth of wear and tear on his body. As important as LeBron James is to the Heat’s bottom line and as invaluable as Chris Bosh might be to what goes on in Miami, a healthy Wade is the key to the Heat’s three-peat hopes.

They won last season with Wade turning in a career-low 15.9 points per game in the postseason. He came alive when the Heat needed him most during the The Finals. But for long stretches throughout the postseason, starting in the first round against Milwaukee, he just didn’t look like himself. The burst and above-the-rim ability that had become his trademark vanished as he battled bone bruises in both knees.

He missed just one game in the postseason, but he was missing in action during plenty of others. Wade isn’t the first superstar to hit his 30s and find his body playing tricks on him. Kobe Bryant has had to deal with his fair share of knee issues, a problem he handled by opting for a blood-spinning procedure in Germany that saw other stars in the NBA and other sports follow after seeing Bryant’s physical resurgence post-procedure.

Wade made a public promise at his fantasy camp Friday to be ready to go when the Heat start training camp.

“I’ll be coming in prepared and ready, but I won’t be ready for opening night,” Wade told reporters. “I’ll be ready for opening night when opening night gets here. I have a good amount of time.”

Time is of the essence for the Heat. Their championship clock is far from over, but it’s ticking towards what could be a crossroads of sorts in the free-agent summer of 2014. Say Wade doesn’t make it through the 2013-14 campaign healthy and the Heat are unable to complete that Three-Peat, things could change dramatically with James, Bosh, the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and several other high-profile starts all swimming in those free-agent waters.

But if Wade’s shock treatments work and he has the good fortune of avoiding all of the bumps and bruises that have slowed him down recently, the Heat will no doubt ride through the regular season as the favorites to win it all again. And a third straight title and fourth straight Finals appearance will make it tough for anyone to walk away from.

“The challengers are lining up,” said an Eastern Conference executive from a team outside of that group of contenders. “We all know how hard it is to get back on that horse and ride it to The Finals for  third straight year. Everybody understands what kind of toll that takes on the guys who are the true superstars in those situations. If DWade is right and healthy, it’s hard to see anyone knocking them off the top of that mountain. It’s not impossible by any stretch, because Indiana was right there last season. But it is a tall order and nearly impossible with LeBron and healthy Wade doing what they do.”

Wade acknowledged the clear and present danger teams like the Pacers, Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets present to the Heat’s three-peat plans. It doesn’t take a pair of BluBlockers to see that the rest of the East is working tirelessly to catch up to the Heat. And that doesn’t even bring the Western Conference challengers into the equation, as he pointed out to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com’s Heat Index:

“The East obviously has gotten stronger,” Wade said. “Brooklyn has done something unprecedented — to put five All-Star players on the floor at one time. Not that many people have pulled it off, especially with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. When you think of them, you think of Boston. To be able to take them from there and bring them to their team and bring something to their team that they were missing, in the sense of winning and that toughness.”

Wade said that on paper this might be the most competition he’s ever faced in the Eastern Conference.

“This is going to be a tough year for us,” Wade said about the Heat’s pursuit of a three-peat. “We’re walking into uncharted waters. Right now, we’re the standard team because we’ve been the champions the last two years, so other teams are putting teams together to stop that.”

Wade is right, it’s going to be an extremely difficult task trying to three-peat, even if they get all of the injury breaks they didn’t get last season.

The Heat’s mix has changed a bit, too. Mike Miller is gone. Greg Oden has joined them. Ray Allen and Chris “Birdman” Andersen came back. Bosh will no doubt come back with something to prove after taking his share of lumps on the court and from those of us who observe and report on these things.

What hasn’t changed is the formula the Heat need to achieve their goals. The dynamic duo of LeBron and Wade, when healthy, remains the most powerful force in basketball.

And nothing, not even the NBA calendar, can change that!