Another Injury Looming For The Miami Heat?

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The 2014-2015 season has been, for lack of a better term, a hot mess for the Miami Heat. Obviously LeBron James set the pace when he announced he was headed back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but since then the team has been plagued with seemingly never ending injuries. Fortunately only one so far has been serious, with Chris Bosh’s season being cut short due to blood clots in his lung, and he is thankfully expected to make a full recovery. But even so, the Heat just cannot seem to catch a break. Miami’s newest addition himself, Goran Dragic, who was only acquired by the team right before the NBA trade deadline, has already suffered from back spasms.

Last week, blossoming superstar Hassan Whiteside cut his hand on the rim, and it is being said that it will take at least two weeks for his gash to fully heal. While I do not suspect that he will be out for that entire time, he will certainly miss a couple of games. And even when he does decide to come back, will not be able to reach his full potential for a while.

But of course, the story does not end there. Hassan’s backup, Chris Andersen, is also out with a bruised calf. And while some thought that perhaps the Heat would pick up an additional player (like JaVale McGee), it seems as though they are sticking with their original squad. So it may be up to Michael Beasley to hold things down for a while.

And there is more. Recently, Dwyane Wade spoke out about the potential need to get fluid from his knee drained; something that during a normal season may not be a big deal, but currently would set Miami even further back than they already are.

Wade played 22 minutes on Friday night, in a loss against the Atlanta Hawks, and was not able to accomplish much. There is talk of head coach Erik Spoelstra sitting the guard in this afternoon’s matchup against the Detroit Pistons, in hopes of having him available and in better shape, for longer down the line.

Whether or not Wade will get his knee drained is still up in the air, but regardless, his physical condition at the present time is certainly bad news for the Heat. As of Sunday, Miami stands at the seventh seed, with the Boston Celtics close behind them. For the boys in South Beach, the playoff push is real.

When will the injuries end? I wish I could tell you. But I can only hope the answer to that is very soon.

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Birdman: Still Spreading His Wings in Miami

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Shortly after news of Mario Chalmers returning to the Miami Heat surfaced, according to several reports it seems as though teammate Chris Andersen (otherwise known as “Birdman”) is following in his footsteps.

Details beyond Andersen re-signing on a multiyear deal have yet to be released, but the important thing is that it appears as though the gang is back in action.

So far Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, Justin Hamilton, Chalmers and Andersen all have Heat contracts, or are expected to shortly.

LeBron James or not, South Beach is still looking pretty good to me.

Miami Heat: By The Numbers

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With their season having ended this past Sunday night, the Miami Heat cannot relax just yet. Between the NBA draft happening June 26 and free agent negotiations starting on July 1, the Heat have a lot to consider moving into this next year.

There has been a lot of speculation regarding what the team will look like a few months from now, based on everything from mere logic to reading between the lines of what players themselves have stated. However, right now, all that we can be sure of are the numbers. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh all currently have early termination clauses on their contracts. With this said, if James and Bosh were to opt in, they will make $20.16 million next year and $22.1 million during the follow one. Similarly, Wade would rake in $20.16 million this upcoming season and $21.7 million during the next.

As for Udonis Haslem, he is projected to make $4.62 million next year but also has an opt-out clause. Chris Andersen has a player option set for $1.45 million, but is expected to bypass this in order to become a free agent. Assuming this is the case, joining him in free agency are Mario Chalmers, Toney Douglas, James Jones, Michael Beasley and Greg Oden. Rashard Lewis is currently also on the market however, along with Ray Allen, he is not sure he will take his NBA career any further. And of course, there is Shane Battier, who has already announced his retirement.

On the other hand though, Norris Cole is sticking around for slightly over $2 million and Justin Hamilton has a non-guaranteed deal of roughly $816, 482. As it is hopefully becoming clearer now, there are a lot of things up in the air currently concerning the state of this organization. The NBA’s salary cap for the 2014-2015 season is said to be set at $63.2 million, with a tax level of $77 million. The Heat have paid tax for three out of the last four seasons. Let us pretend that each of the members of the Big Three opt in. This will once again bring Miami above the cap, to an approximate value of $3.3 million in terms of a taxpayer mid-level exception; therefore limiting their veteran minimum to $1.4 million.

In this case, they can probably forget about bringing in coveted free agents such as Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, or  Kyle Lowry. However, if the Big Three opt out of their current contracts, Wade would be earning about $87.2 million over four years and James and Bosh are likely to gain $115.1 million over five years; all of which are obviously outrageous figures, especially regarding Wade and Bosh. Therefore, the team’s best bet would be for Wade, James and Bosh to opt out and return for less money, the same going for Haslem. Of course, there is also the possibility that one of the Big Three will decide to leave, in which case the Heat would probably extend their cap to the minimum. Although personally I see the three of them continuing to work towards at least another championship together, there is no denying that something about this season felt different, if not off.

“I don’t think anybody really enjoyed this season like in years past,” Bosh told The Associated Press. “There was no, like, genuine joy all the time. It seemed like work. It was a job the whole year.”

Heat president Pat Riley and the rest of the front office have a lot to figure out over the next couple of months, starting with making sure their star players are happy. It seems as though not just free agents but also certain Miami players will have to be wooed all over again, to make sure next season’s team is up to par.

Eastern Conference Finals Game 4: Halftime Notes

The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are back in action right now for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami currently leads the series 2-1, and if things continue the way they have started tonight, it will soon be 3-1.

Things to Note:

*Chris Andersen is out due to a thigh contusion he sustained late in Game 3.

*Rashard Lewis started in place of Udonis Haslem.

*Chris Bosh finally found his rhythm, starting the game with eight straight points.

*The Heat had zero turnovers in the first quarter.

*This is the first time Miami has led in the first quarter.

*The Big Three have combined for 38 in the first half.

*At the end of two, the Heat are ahead 49-44, despite shooting 47 percent as compared to the Pacers’ 51 percent.

*Roy Hibbert is scoreless after two quarters.

Players to Watch:

*This is certainly Bosh’s game. After a combined 27 points in the first three games, he came out with 17 in the first half of this one. His energy is back, his shot selection is smart, and he is clearly confident; to say it is about time, would be an understatement.

*I am expecting Dwyane Wade to come out stronger during the second half, as right now he has six points, one rebound, and one assist. He has been playing killer basketball lately so it would make sense for him to be fatigued, but I still see some impressive plays (especially with LeBron James) coming our way.

Keys to Success:

*Turnovers need to be kept at a minimum. This will not only help by obviously allowing them to keep the ball, but will also let the Heat control the pace of the game, resulting in less forced shots.

*Bosh needs to keep doing what he is doing. I am not sure even he himself understands how much of a contribution he can make once he gets going, but Miami has certainly missed him.

*Tighten up the defense. Right now the half is once again low scoring but the second quarter was not as strong for the Heat as the first was. Making sure defense is always a priority is something that head coach Erik Spoelstra needs to drill into his players’ heads, regardless of how offensively solid they have been tonight.

Second half starts now.

The Journey Continues: Game 4 Eastern Conference Finals Preview

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After a shaky first half, the Miami Heat were able to come back and win Game 3,  99-87 over the Indiana Pacers. This puts the Heat up 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and one step closer to their ultimate goal: a three-peat.

In fact, although the Heat have not made it out of this series yet, president Pat Riley has recently trademarked the term, as it will undoubtedly make its way onto Miami’s championship rings, and other such apparel; obviously, the entire organization only has one thing on it’s mind. And as far as motivation goes, it is as good, if not better, than any.

Unfortunately, in order for their dream to become a reality, the Heat will have to stop making slow starts a habit. Although they are known for their clutch shooting and ability to stay calm under pressure, consistent play is what they should be aiming for.

In order for the Heat to take Game 4, two things need to happen.

First, Miami must start off strong. The energy has to be right, egos must be put aside, plays must be calculated, and the tone must be set. As head coach Erik Spoelstra told his squad before Game 3, the Heat need to “impose [their] identity.” Great under duress or not, there is only so much that can be done if a team falls too far behind.

Second, a third power player needs to be identified. Chris Bosh has been stuck on only scoring nine points for all three games and his defensive contributions have not been much to brag about either. Miami fans already know that they can count on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but so far “third best” has been up for grabs, game by game. Norris Cole has been of great help so far in this series in general, and Chris Andersen impressed during Game 2; but it was Ray Allen who really made a difference in Game 3.

Down by 7, Miami had a terrible first quarter, only making their first basket with 10:22 on the clock. After some taunting from Lance Stephenson (who at that point had nine rebounds to match Miami’s 11 total), James finally got going, and teammates Wade and Cole followed suit: they combined for 23 and brought the game back within four at half time.

“…we had no choice but try to re-gather,” said Spoelstra about the matter, Saturday night.

And re-gather they did. By the third quarter, the Heat got their heads in the game. Both James and Wade made crucial three-pointers. Allen stepped up and scored 12 from beyond the arc. Cole and Rashard Lewis (a rare sight these days) held up the defensive end. And by the end of the half, the Pacers scored 45 points while James, Wade and Allen combined for 47.

The so-called “Miami Heat Basketball” played during the first and second half of Game 3 were as different as night and day. And although in this case it happened to be a positive thing, inconsistency is known for getting teams into trouble.

“We looked like we were stuck in the mud in the first quarter,” stated Spoelstra. “That is a big credit to how they dictated the game. We can’t play this series on their terms.”

Although James and Wade finished with impressive numbers, in the first half, turnovers became a problem, forced shots were missed, and the pace was totally out of their control.

Indiana is due for a win, and after collapsing halfway through Game 3, they are sure to come out guns blazing. If Miami does not start off on the right foot, there could be danger ahead. In order to secure a victory, a game must be fluid, start to finish. However, the Heat do deserve credit for not panicking, and a win is a win regardless.

Game 4 is tonight at 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.

The Grades Are In

With the Eastern Conference Finals well on their way, I thought it might be fun to switch things up a bit.  There have been standouts, letdowns and the in-betweens so far this series, so let us see how each Miami Heat player ranks.

LeBron James: James has not been perfect thus far, mainly due to slow starts, but I would still give him an A-. He has been putting up consistent numbers, being aggressive and motivating his teammates. Besides starting off on a stronger foot, what I personally would like to see from him is more urgency. Yes, he is currently the best in the league. And yes, the Heat stand a pretty good chance at a three-peat. But in this league you really never know, so being complacent is not an option. Plus, with James being James, I expect the world from him and more. He is doing great without a doubt, but being as gifted as he is, there is always room for improvement.

Dwyane Wade: Although I will admit that James is my favorite player, Wade has impressed me tremendously as of late. He was the lead scorer in Game 1 and Game 2, has been moving the ball well and gives no sign of being plagued with knee injuries. At this point, I give him an and hope he keeps up the good work.

Chris Bosh: I have probably said this ad nauseam already but Bosh has been a major disappointment thus far against the Indiana Pacers. He has scored nine points in each matchup, and was only really effective defensively in Game 2; because of this, I have to hit him with a C+. Whether Bosh is tired, overwhelmed or frightened, I cannot say, but at this point I am sick of complaining about him.

Udonis Haslem: Truthfully, Haslem has not gotten enough of a chance during the Eastern Conference Finals for me to fairly judge him. He has only played an average of 15.4 minutes but based off of what he has brought to the table defensively, and the energy he has displayed, I think he deserves a B-. As a starter for the last two games, I did expect a little more out of him, but he more or less held his own.

Mario Chalmers: Strangely enough, Chalmers (like Bosh) also scored the same number of points (six to be exact) each game. Although scoring has not been his strong suit in this series, he has been creating opportunities for other players. It is also clear to me how bad he wants to advance, which for the most part is a positive thing; however, at times he has let his emotions get the best of him. I think right now, a C+ would be appropriate.

Norris Cole: I have been riding with Cole since before he even got signed by the Heat so I may be a little bias, but I am giving Cole an A. Cole has pretty much done it all so far for Miami, and I only expect his stellar performance to continue. He is great under pressure. He both shoots lights out and creates open looks for his teammates; he is even effective defensively. What more could you want?

Chris Andersen: Andersen is another fellow I have been fond of for a while, but is now competing at an entirely different level. Whether it is the number of years under his belt, the fact that he has been given a second chance, or simply being around superstar talent, Andersen has been quite a pleasure to watch recently. He was a huge help offensively in Game 1, and then conversely defensively in Game 2, when he played more minutes than everyone except James and Wade. All in all, Andersen receives an A from me.

Ray Allen: Allen is playing better at his age than a lot of young athletes currently in the league are. Some nights he is stronger offensively, and others his talent comes out through defense, but regardless he is a solid second-string choice for the Heat. His late Game 3 performance was incredible, and I am amazed at the level of intensity he possesses. The veteran certainly gets an A in my book.

Shane Battier: Just like Bosh and Chalmers, Battier had identical statistics in terms of points in all three games. Battier only scored three points each time and was not strong on the other end of the court either. I could not imagine him not wanting to retire with another ring but as of now, I just do not see the necessary effort: B-.

James Jones: Jones has been a non-factor during this series but I blame that on head coach Erik Spoelstra. Obviously Jones is not a starting lineup type of player, nor does he deserve to play more than someone like Cole, but I do think he is underestimated. When he gets going, Jones has the ability to drain some quick shots, so on his potential performance, I will award him a B.

Rashard Lewis: I know that most people laugh at the fact that Lewis is on the Heat, but not me. I was a fan of his during his time with the Orlando Magic, and for good reason. He has defensive chops, and used to put up big numbers between 2000-2011. He has a beautiful stroke and in terms of this series, helped close out Game 3. Like Jones, I think given the opportunity, he could bring a little something extra to the squad, so I leave him with a B.

Greg Oden: NA.

Toney Douglas: As long as I am laying all my cards out on the table, I did not even know that Douglas was in for even a second, let alone almost a minute in Game 1 and Game 3. Therefore, I would say grading him would be unfair. He too will be placed in the NA category.

Michael Beasley: NA.

Justin Hamilton: NA.

And there you have it. How do you feel about my grades? And what do you think they will look like when all is said and done in the Eastern Conference Finals?

Welcome to Miami: A Quick Look at the Eastern Conference Finals Game 3

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The Miami Heat are heading back to their tried and true stomping grounds, after tying the Eastern Conference Finals series 1-1. And while the Indiana Pacers have shown promise so far against Miami, no other team feeds off of a home crowd quite like the Heat.

Game 3 taking place in Miami should definitely give the Heat an advantage right from the get-go. They are also coming off of a win, which should be motivation in and of itself. Thanks to a fourth-quarter surge from LeBron James (who scored 12 of his 22 during that quarter) and Dwyane Wade (who scored 10, combining for 22), the Heat were able to pull ahead of the Pacers and finish off strong.

Things to Note:

After taking an accidental knee to the head from Dwyane Wade in Game 2, Paul George was diagnosed with a concussion late Tuesday night. However, it seems he will be ready to go Saturday night. George stated he “feels good, feels great” after a few days off to rest; but of course, whether this means he will play as many minutes and/or be as effective is another story.

Another player who is eager for some time on the hardwood is Greg Oden. Oden has played in only one game out of the last 22 for the Heat, due to pain from a reoccurring back injury. And according to Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra, Game 3 just may be Oden’s ticket back into the mix.

Players to Watch:

As has been the trend in the first two games, James and Wade are expected to lead their squad offensively. So far, they have combined for 52 and 45 points, respectively, and have especially come through at crucial parts of each matchup.

Hopefully Norris Cole will also once again find his rhythm, as he was a key contributor in Game 2. By now Spoelstra should trust his abilities enough to grant him ample minutes, not just as a replacement for a fatigued or frustrated Mario Chalmers. Cole can spread the floor, shoot consistently and stay calm under pressure.

Unfortunately Chris Bosh has not been much of a factor in the Eastern Conference Finals, something that the Heat better pray changes in Game 3 and onward. He has only scored 18 points total so far this series, and although he grabbed six rebounds on Tuesday night, this was an improvement from the two during Game 1.

Keys to Success:

In order for the Heat to make this series 2-1, three things must happen.

First, they cannot underestimate their opponent. Arguably, Miami wants to advance more, as they have a three-peat riding on the line. However, with that said, the Pacers were deemed the team to watch when the postseason first started. They want to prove that they were first in the East this season for a reason. And what better way to do that than to beat the reigning two-time champions?

Second, their defense must tighten and stay tight. Offensively, the Heat have been holding their own pretty well. The team is stacked with talented shooters, and it has been showing. But on the flip side, defensively they have been inconsistent. Whether Spoelstra sticks to having his players blitz Indiana, or he gives Chris Andersen more of a roll, is up to him. But one thing is for sure, a weak defensive strategy could lead to trouble.

Lastly, more players have to be involved. As I just said, Miami’s roster is filled with skill, but problems arise when only a few players show up when it is game time. James, Wade, Andersen and Cole have been great leaders in this series, but a team needs all it’s pieces to survive. Guys like Chalmers and Haslem have to start being more efficient, and not just regarding their individual play; making sure your team is cohesive as a group is also an integral part of being effective.

Game 3 tips off shortly on ESPN.