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The Anatomy of a Spectacular Miami Heat Failure

June 15th, 2014 4 comments
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The Miami Heat’s bid for basketball immortality – four straight NBA Finals appearances and three straight NBA titles, a feat which has only been accomplished once in league history – has fallen spectacularly short. In the wake of this colossal failure, we’re all left wondering how it all went so wrong so quickly – how our team ended up looking so old, so slow, so flawed, so unable to adapt, so unable to defend.

Is it an organizational philosophy that failed us?

“I don’t think you win championships with young, athletic players that don’t have experience. I think we’ve learned over the years that building with young players is very frustrating.”

That was Pat Riley in June 2011, describing his aversion to developing youthful talent.

It is a philosophy that he has expressed many different times in many different ways over the years. It is a philosophy that has permeated his every decision in preparation for and during the Big Three era. It is a philosophy upon which the Stepien-like decisions to surrender a whopping six future first round draft picks in a period of less than five months from February to July 2010 were predicated. It is a philosophy upon which the decision to constantly fill the roster with post-dated bench-warming veterans was predicated.

It was a philosophy which, initially, didn’t bother us. We were all so captivated by the moment. Riley had a plan. He executed upon it with deadly precision. He got the big things so right that it didn’t matter how he handled the little things. In Riley we trusted.

The winning that followed only validated that ideology.

But, quietly, things weren’t as wonderful as they appeared. In the wake of the signings of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the summer of the 2010, the front office lost sight of its need to build for the future. Everything was always only about the moment.

Some of us couldn’t help but wonder. If your mission is to win as many titles as possible while the Big Three are still in their primes, then wouldn’t you like to have some upside around? Some players who will be getting better with time? Some players who can keep the energy level high when the stars need to rest?

Riley has always had a clear affinity for the seasoned veteran versus the inexperienced rookie. He’d rather have the sure thing than the potential next big thing. But as much as these veterans are low risks to make stupid, rookie-type decisions, none will break free off the dribble in crunch time or make that key defensive stop and then sprint up the floor for a breakaway jam – they’re zero risks to become more athletic, to develop new parts of their games, or to be usable as trade bait should the need arise.  Read more…

Miami Heat at the NBA Trade Deadline

January 21st, 2014 No comments
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The Feb. 20 N.B.A. trade deadline is now officially less than a month away.

The Miami Heat started their dealings early this season, shipping Joel Anthony to the Boston Celtics along with a million dollars and two draft picks (one second-rounder and another that was originally Philadelphia’s and will likely become a pair of second-rounders). In return, the Heat got a player from Golden State, but this deal wasn’t about Toney Douglas as much as it was about the benjamins.

Anthony, who lost his role to Chris Andersen last season and had been a reclusive presence on the court ever since, ultimately became a casualty of the Heat’s cash crunch and managing partner Micky Arison’s desire to creep closer to the luxury-tax line. He didn’t get there, not with this deal, but it did save him around $20 million, and it did eliminate one of the obstacles to reshaping the roster after this season, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all opt out of their existing contracts.

Now, it’s conceivable that only Norris Cole ($2.0 million) and Udonis Haslem ($4.6 million option) will be under contract on July 1, as Arison, Pat Riley and the Heat try to retain James, Wade and Bosh, and perhaps Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Michael Beasley and even Greg Oden.

That’s the long-term vision.

The short-term? The trade did nothing to advance the cause. The Heat, championship material as they are currently constructed, nonetheless have various needs that have yet to be addressed.  Read more…

Heat Sign Jerry Stackhouse, Waive Beverley and Butler

October 25th, 2010 10 comments
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A freak injury to the right thumb of Mike Miller is expected to keep one of the NBA’s top three-point shooters sidelined for an extended period of time.

Miller fractured a bone and tore a ligament when the thumb on his shooting hand got tangled in a teammate’s jersey during a post drill at practice last Wednesday. He underwent surgery Friday to repair the damage. He will remain in a cast for four weeks, then move to a brace for several more weeks, then prepare once again for the start of the season. The Heat don’t expect him back on the court before January.

Pat Riley met with Erik Spoelstra and other team officials about options on dealing with the injury. They chose Jerry Stackhouse, on a one-year fully unguaranteed minimum salary contract, for temporary relief. It is the wrong move.

Stackhouse won’t rock the boat, won’t bring drama, and will bring a high caliber of veteran leadership. But let’s be clear — this team does not need more veteran leadership. James, Wade and Bosh provide plenty of that. It needs an injection of youth and athleticism. It needs to develop for the future. It needs to identify players with the type of floor-spacing shooting stroke that it has just lost. It needs to find tough, quick defenders.

Stackhouse is none of those things. He is old (he turns 36 next month). He is working on wonky knees. He is a glaring defensive liability on a team that puts a premium on it. He is a man no longer capable of providing any of the offensive value he once did. And he has never been a good three-point shooter (31% for his career). He provides nothing this team needs.

He is nothing more than a sub-optimal stand-in for Miller. But when Miller gets healthy, he’s gone. Why sign someone who has no chance of being a member of the Heat come playoff time? Why sign someone who has no chance to be a part of the Heat’s future? Why eat up a valuable roster spot on such a player?

With the Stackhouse addition, the Heat roster stood at 17. The team had until 6 p.m. today to get its roster to the regular-season limit of 15 as they prepared for tomorrow’s season opener against Boston. Beverley and Butler were the final two cuts.

Beverley and Butler were both competing for the Stackhouse spot. They had a real shot at being a big part of the Heat’s future. Danny Green was a better option than both of them.

In an alternate universe, all three could have been retained. In an alternate universe, the Heat could have kept Beverley as its potential point guard of the future (by waiving Magloire), Green as its potential shooting guard of the future (by passing on Stackhouse), and Butler as its potential small forward of the future (by waiving Howard). That’s a quality developmental backcourt.  Read more…

Heat Should Pursue Danny Green

October 22nd, 2010 No comments
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With Mike Miller injured, recently waived Danny Green could be the perfect fit.

Mike Miller is injured.

Miller sustained what appears to be a serious thumb injury on his right hand – his shooting hand – during Wednesday’s practice. He was injured when he got his hand snagged in a teammate’s jersey.

The Miami Heat have not yet announced the findings from an evaluation by a hand specialist yesterday, but the team is bracing itself to be without its best shooter for an extended period.

Although LeBron James has said that he is confident that Miller will play a majority of the regular season, this is no doubt a huge blow to the Heat. Having signed a five-year, $29 million contract with the Heat this past off-season, Miller was supposed to provide critical floor spacing for a trio of superstars – in James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – who work best in space.

Heat president Pat Riley has met with head coach Erik Spoelstra and other team officials about options on dealing with the injury. They appear destined to turn to Jerry Stackhouse for temporary relief. It is the wrong move.

Stackhouse won’t rock the boat, won’t bring drama, and will bring a high caliber of veteran leadership. But let’s be clear — this team does not need more veteran leadership. James, Wade and Bosh provide plenty of that. This team needs to identify a player with the type of floor-spacing shooting stroke that it has just lost, preferably packaged in the body of a man who can provide solid backcourt defense.

Stackhouse is not that. He is old. He is working on wonky knees. He is a glaring defensive liability on a team that puts a premium on it. He is a man no longer capable of providing any of the offensive value he once did. And he never had the ability to stroke the long ball anyway; he is a career 30.7% shooter from beyond the three-point line. He provides nothing this team needs.

There is simply no way Stackhouse will be a contributing member of the Miami Heat organization come playoff time, neither this season nor any other in the future. So why sign him now?

But the Heat does have a glaring need. It doesn’t have a single true backup shooting guard on the entire roster.

Even when healthy, the slow-footed 6-foot, 8-inch Miller is more of a small forward than he is a shooting guard capable of defending the perimeter.

A possible solution comes from the unlikeliest of places: the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dan Gilbert’s team has just done the Heat a huge favor. It has waived second year guard Danny Green.  Read more…

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