Posts Tagged ‘Heat Index’

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!



There Is Kryptonite For Everyone

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — One of the best things about this new season in the NBA is how far removed we are from last season, when a three-game losing streak by the Miami Heat signaled doomsday chatter.

Gone are the days when each and every Heat loss was met with an endless cycle of analysis, statistical and otherwise, in a vain attempt to explain the most basic of principles in a league where the difference between the best of the best and the rest is razor-thin.

The Heat’s current three-game skid will serve as the bedrock principle of the 2011-12 season that we’ll keep tucked away in safe place from now until the NBA Finals end, just as a reminder (and I promise, this was scribbled on the back of an old airline boarding pass late last night after the superstar-starved Nuggets upended the Heat in Denver):

“THERE IS KRYPTONITE FOR EVERYONE”

Maybe it’s the abbreviated season that has produced this sensation. Or perhaps it’s the fact that through the first three weeks of this season, no team stands out to us as a head and shoulders prohibitive favorite to sprint through the competition on their way to the Larry O’Brien trophy presentation.

The Heat being exposed the way they have by zone defenses and the ravaging grind injuries can have on any team in a compacted season, Heat star Dwyane Wade turned an ankle against the Nuggets, serves as the latest reminder that what looks one way on opening night or even the first week of the season can shift dramatically the deeper we delve into the season.

Every single team with legitimate championship aspirations has an exploitable weakness that could cost them a shot at their ultimate goal this season, which is not exactly breaking news. But the fact that those weaknesses have been exposed in every single one of those teams less than a month into the season is worth noting.

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A Fresh Start For Oden In … Miami?

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When we spoke in June about wanting to see Greg Oden get a fresh start to this next phase of his career, we were absolutely sincere. We viewed it as a cathartic move for Oden that meant the same for the Portland Trail Blazers and their fans.

Too much has happened to Oden during his time with the Trail Blazers. The injuries and time missed because of them has left a scab that we’d just as soon everyone try to ignore and move on from, if at all possible.

But move on to what?

For Oden, could that next move include relocating to Miami?

Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com’s Heat Index reports that the Heat have interest in the restricted free agent big man, who is expected to be examined later this week to determine when he can return to contact action since his latest knee surgery. Sure, it sounds like a reality TV-dream waiting to happen, Oden teaming up with Miami’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in their second season.

The Heat would certainly provide the fresh start we believe Oden needs. And he couldn’t pick a place more opposite than Portland in so many different ways. How realistic a move this could be will be determined by that examination later this week and by how serious Heat boss Pat Riley is about pursuing a big man with Oden’s injury history, as Windhorst explains:

Oden has a one-year qualifying offer from the Portland Trail Blazers for $8.9 million on his plate at the moment. The most the Heat could offer is the bulk of the $5 million mid-level exception.

For these reasons, it would seem like an easy choice for Oden if he can return to the floor, which could come as early as January. By making the hefty qualifying offer, the Blazers indicated they have not given up hope even though Oden has only played 82 games since being taken with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007.

But Heat president Pat Riley is known for his powers of persuasion and last year convinced free agent after free agent to take less money to sign in Miami. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller all took less money than they were offered elsewhere.

It happened right up until March, when Mike Bibby gave up $6 million guaranteed for this season so he could sign with the Heat for a few months at a portion of the league minimum.

The Blazers maintain matching rights for Oden but sources say Riley still is interested in making the pitch.

It is apparently one of a number of options the team is considering. According to sources, they also have been in contact with free-agent centers NeneSamuel Dalembert and Kwame Brown.

The financial risk seems minimal compared to the potential rewards, provided Oden can resuscitate his career in a fashion that allows him to stay on the floor and use his sheer size to become a factor. And if we learned anything about the Heat during their run to The Finals last season, it’s that they need more of an inside presence than what we saw in the playoffs (no particular offense to Juwan Howard, Eric Dampier and HT fave Joel Anthony.)

At the same time, it seems a bit twisted to take Oden and thrust him into the fish bowl that will be the Heat locker room this year. If he wanted to find his game again, doing it somewhere without as much glare might make more sense.

Still, the voyeur in us can’t help but be intrigued by the idea of the Big 3 adding Oden to their mix …

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Game 3? The Heat Is On!

DALLAS — By now you have seen the statistic regarding the significance of Game 3 of The Finals with a series tied at 1-1.

In the 11 times since the NBA has gone to the 2-3-2 format for The Finals, the team that has won Game 3 has gone on to win the series all 11 times.

In a series where every possession has to be treated like the last, that makes tonight’s crucial Game 3 a nuclear pressure cooker for both the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat.

But for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co. the stakes are even higher.

Think about it for a second. For a team that mandated championships or bust for the entire existence, these next 48 minutes basically define their season.

James said it best Saturday while discussing the Heat’s celebratory practices from Game 2 when said, “I just think everything gets blown out of proportion when the Miami Heat does things.”

Well, you can put tonight’s game high on that list, sir!

Because the Heat is certainly on for the team with the biggest stars, sorry Dirk Nowitzki, and the team with the biggest profile and the biggest stake in the outcome of whatever transpires in this series. And anyone screaming that it’s unfair for the Heat to shoulder more of that load than the Mavericks need only remember that this pressure is self-induced by the crew from South Beach. We’re playing by their rules and the standards they have set for themselves.

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