Miami Heat Index: Henry Abbott

TrueHoop TV: Heat Problems?

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
3:32
PM ET
video

Now checking the MVP: LeBron James

May, 13, 2011
5/13/11
6:34
PM ET
By Henry Abbott and Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Derrick Rose and LeBron James
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
LeBron James says Derrick Rose is quicker, so he'll rely on length and athleticism.

The No. 1 question for any team facing the Chicago Bulls is: Who will guard No. 1, Derrick Rose?

In the Eastern Conference finals, the answer for the Heat will be: A small army, including Mike Bibby, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and ... LeBron James.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says, "I will not be giving away an incredible secret by saying that there will be some times when LeBron will be on him."

James has no expectation of shutting out the MVP.

"He’s quicker than me," says James, who finished third to Rose in this year's MVP voting, and points out that Rose can "go around anyone in this league. Jeff Teague is one of the quickest guys we have in this league and D-Rose can get around him at times.

"I use my athleticism. I use my length to give him space. If he takes 24, 25 shots a game, he’s going to make a few. He’s going to get into the paint. He’s going to make a few there. He shoots six 3s a game, he’s going to make a couple. You just have to make it tough on him.

"Myself, D-Wade. Bibby’s going to start on him, ‘Rio. Guys are going to check him. He’ll see different bodies, different guys, different speeds, different lengths, and just try to keep him honest."

As Rose's primary defender, James makes a lot of sense for several reasons. James is correct -- he isn't the most laterally quick defender in the league. But let's say James gives Rose a step or two and drops back. Can Rose map out a route to the rim that goes above, around or through James?

What happens when Rose's speed meets James' size at the point of attack?

Keeping centers busy
All season long -- before every game against Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams -- Erik Spoelstra has fielded questions asked how his team plans to deal with quick point guards. When you fill the name of Carlos Arroyo or Mike Bibby as your starting point guard, this tends to happen.


Spoelstra is quick to point out that, in the modern NBA, the primary defender against a speedy point guard like Rose isn't necessarily -- and certainly not exclusively -- the Heat's point guard. This is one reason why we've seen Spoelstra increasingly rely on Joel Anthony in crucial spots.

Spoelstra explains that as much as it may matter who starts the play on Rose, the Heat big man charged with protecting the rim is also, essentially, assigned to guard the slashing Rose, too. With that in mind, Heat centers looking for minutes while Rose is in the game will have to be up to the task of keeping Rose from waltzing to the bucket.

"Who can slide, who can contain, can keep the ball in front of them," says the coach, "will be a major key. ... If he gets to his launching pad, and you don’t get to him early, he’s going to finish over the top or get your bigs in foul trouble."

Also on Spoelstra's mind is the reality that when Rose attacks the paint, he's followed by big men eager for put-backs. "If it’s an absolute assault to the rim and you don’t have bodies in front of him early," says Spoelstra, "[Jaokim] Noah, [Carlos] Boozer and [Taj] Gibson are just lining up for those offensive rebounds. So you have to get to him early."

Similarly, just as Heat big men will be forced to cut off Rose before he gets close to the hoop, Spoelstra says the Heat guards, in defending the pick-and-roll, should be ready to spend plenty of time guarding Joakim Noah, and the other Bull big men setting picks.

"[Rose] doesn’t let you make it a one-on-one matchup," says Spoelstra. "Our guards and perimeters will be matched up against Noah more often than our centers, quite frankly, because when the ball gets broken down, Rose is going to draw our bigs and one of our perimeters will have to get to Noah."

"One thing you can’t do with D-Rose," says Dwyane Wade, who is also scheduled to guard the MVP, "you can’t take everything away from him. He has so many counters. You just have to play him as solid as possible and trust that you have teammates behind you that are going to help."

And now, with a jumper
The book on Rose has long been to play him like Rajon Rondo or other non-shooters: concede the jumper and play him for the drive, normally by having his defender go under the pick. The Hawks, however, changed the game in the last round, now honoring Rose's improved jumper by having defenders Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson fight over high screens and trail Rose while the big man corralled, to mixed results.


The Heat acknowledge Rose's improved stroke has changed the game. "He’s a good shooter," says James, "but you have to pick your poison. Would you rather him continue to penetrate your defense in the paint or take contested 3s? It’s the same thing with us. The days of going under LeBron and D-Wade are over too, but guys still do it. Because they’d rather keep us out on the perimeter than have us in the paint."

Spoelstra sounds more worried about 3s than long 2s: "He’s shooting it pretty well now. He’s a streaky shooter, but when he gets it going from 3, you have to be aggressive with him and meet him at the 3-point line."

Most important, though, says the coach, is to go all out, which means he will give no thought to conserving his stars -- James and Wade -- by keeping them away from Rose. "Not at this point in the playoffs, in the Eastern Conference finals," he says. "And not after what we had to do in the Boston series. On every single possession, Dwyane and LeBron had to be two-way players. We have to remain true to who we are and that’s an aggressive defensive team."

The LeBron James we loved

December, 2, 2010
12/02/10
1:24
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
LeBron James
Kent Horner/NBAE/Getty Images
In 2004, feelings about LeBron James were far simpler. What happened?

Writer Scott Raab has made waves lately as a leading voice among those most angry at LeBron James. Wikipedia notes that this lifelong Cleveland sports fan has "a tattoo of Chief Wahoo on his forearm, and a son." Ethan Sherwood Strauss, who writes for Salon, WarriorsWorld, HoopSpeak and others, takes issue with Raab. The result is this e-mail exchange about lost love:


Ethan: Scott, you angered me because LeBron James angered you. I sneered as you tweeted bile towards The King. When the Miami Heat excised your presence from their arena, I even cheered the authoritarian rebuke. I hated you that much. You were expressing honest humanity in the cynical sportswriting world, and I wanted you shunned for it. Sorry.

Then, realizations hit in question form: Why do I hate Scott Raab for hating a stranger? Have I become a crazy person?

As you were filing an anti-LeBron opus at Esquire, I was at Salon.com, wrapping maternal embraces around a superstar who wouldn’t care if I died today. My defense of James grazes pathetic obsession. I thought myself on a righteous journey, defending a young minority athlete from a frothing Puritanical mob. Now I can see clearer: I’m just childishly defending my deity from those who would angrily make him mortal.

I remember: 18 years old, 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds. That was LeBron’s first game and it was better than religion. At the time, the ungodly debut was as shocking as it isn’t in retrospect. I was hooked -- perhaps you were too. James crushed opponents with Venus Flytrap dunks, he threw passes between defenders like his hands were moving time and space. Nothing like him had preceded him, despite the comparison rush.

(Magic? Michael? Oscar? Zeus?)

Hype was trumped en route to more hype.

LeBron was going to save my favorite sport from its mid-2000’s obscurity. His transcendence would rescue pro basketball from the people who couldn’t let go of M.J., from those who derided NBA “thugs” with code words to cloak an unsavory bias. As a child, I was led to believe in the NBA as magic, a league so incredible that it delivered cliche moments of bonding with my distant, troubled father. LeBron James could validate my stupid belief in that sorcery.

Even if he didn’t save the universe, today’s NBA is more popular than anytime since Jordan. And for seven years, I lived vicariously through LBJ like all you Clevelanders did. Those were seven great years, ugly as he ended that Ohio run (saying those who burned his jersey were maybe never real James fans anyway).

You weren’t, I was. Your tribal attachment to Cleveland trumped any to The King. It’s easy for me to write, but I wish you could enjoy him from afar. Irrational as my defensive LeBron love is, it’s got to be better than unbridled antipathy. What’s wrong with simply saying, “Those were good times, let’s move on”? When Cleveland viciously boos James, it’s akin to turning positive memories poisonous.

Sure, he slighted a Rustbelt town with little else to publicly pride in. But LeBron James isn’t at fault for Ohio’s poverty -- he’s just born from it. It seems pointless to forever scorn a 25-year-old for the sins of public policy -- as his gutter footprints dry. Why keep on him, Scott? I implore and dare you: Enjoy LeBron James, the basketball player. Stop hating the person.

Scott: But I am enjoying LeBron James, the basketball player. I’m delighted that he’s shooting poorly and seems to be barely trying on D most nights. I’m thrilled to see the toxic effect of his selfishness on Dwyane Wade and Erik Spoelstra. I’m worried -- which, when it comes to sports, is part of my pleasure -- that the Heat will find a way to put it all together the right way, that the team won’t dump its coach and hand the keys to the franchise to the Whore of Akron.

I guess it’s hard -- maybe impossible -- for me to separate the player and the person, the artist from his art. Woody Allen? Not a problem. Richard Wagner? Not a problem. LeBron? Honking huge problem. And it surely isn’t about blaming him for the economic forces that have battered every Rust Belt city since long before his birth, or about my need for external affirmation due to a dearth of unconditional love in my childhood. You pretty much nailed it: My unbridled antipathy and tribal attachment are not separable. I -- and, if I may, the collective We of the Cavs fanbase -- thought he was a member of the tribe.

The joy you felt when all the hype turned into living history on the court? Imagine our ecstasy. The dreams we had dreamed in every pro sport for two generations seemed ready to come true at last. We had our Moses, our Messiah. Sure, it’s only sports, but you and I need not debate how vital sports are in places like Cleveland. What the Steelers and Penguins have provided to Pittsburgh, or the Pistons and Red Wings to Detroit -- that sense of mattering, the pride and joy of being the best -- goes far beyond the box score. Cleveland hasn’t felt that since 1964. LeBron was one of us, and he also was the Chosen One.

That wasn’t just our projection. He played to that; how could he resist? I don’t blame him for that, but not blaming him for it doesn’t make it any easier to say, “Those were good times; let’s move on.” And blaming Us -- the Cavs fanbase -- for “turning positive memories poisonous” is absurd. Our Moses left us tasting ashes with his play against the Celtics last May, and then he left us as part of an hour-long, nationally televised celebration of his solipsistic lunacy. Then he kept talking, and made it perfectly clear that he never counted himself as one of us -- and went on to issue quotes like the one above. Read it again, and think about it carefully. Ponder what it literally says about him: There is no team in LeBron. No team, no tribe, only Me and those who worship at my throne.

A few fans torched their LeBron jerseys, yeah. Are you honestly going to tell me that what LeBron burned down somehow mattered less? We are not LeBron fans, and never were -- not in the sense of the bum’s quote. We’re Cleveland fans, first and forever. And forever is precisely how long we will hate him.

Ethan: Fair enough, hate can be a hobby. But did you really think he was a member of your tribe? We talked on the phone, and you cited the self-deluding, jilted lover analogy. That splits the bullseye. Can I say -- as an outsider -- that LeBron’s membership actually was your projection? I can.

You wrote, “He played to that (Cleveland membership); how could he resist?” If Bron embraced Cleveland roots, he did so with that Game 5 shoulder droop. I never bought what Dan Gilbert sold.

Remember the Yankee cap incident? Of course you do. In your condemnation of this “traitorous act,” you made the case that LeBron knew. He was aware of the hurt this caused, cognizant of the offense.

To my mind, that’s the warning from a reluctant lover. When I was 19 years old, a girl from Cleveland (of all places!) broke my heart. And it wasn’t really her fault. In the dorm days, I pulled her into exclusivity. She was ambivalent, but that was no match for my need to love her. Or so I thought.

Towards the end, there were signs that only retrospect saw. When she muttered, “I love you too,” if it wasn’t muted, it was non-existent. Over the Summer break -- when she was back in Cleveland -- the phone calls slowed. “She’s busy with old friends,” I told myself. “Can’t wait to see her in the fall!,” my brain shouted on loop.

My love was impervious to observation and altogether not meaningful. She was my narcissistic projection, not a human being whom I listened to. And she swiftly destroyed that ersatz love with her own Decision -- as I collapsed into the dirty carpeting of the room we were supposed to share. The experience left me devastated, angry, searching for reasons to make her evil.

I’m reminded of David Foster Wallace’s book on infinity, “Everything and More.” The beginning explains how great geniuses suffer because they lack our stabilizing intuition. To make a system-warping discovery, to get to that point, the physicist has to doubt everything, even whether his feet will hit floor when he leaves the bed. These scientific pioneers often melt into complete madness, dissolving after their contributions like beached grunions. Uncertainty is the enemy of happiness.

To be certain of reciprocated love is to be ruined when reality undermines. It’s like rolling out of bed and falling 40 feet as you yawn. What gave you comfort was just an illusion, and it’s gone forever. And if a man recognizes his insane self-deception, then how can he be sure of anything?

So in hindsight, the jilted focuses on the lover’s awful deceit -- instead of the self-delusion. It’s easier to question their actions, instead of your own perception and insecurity. “She loved me, then screwed me over,” feels better than, “I was needy enough to imagine our cohesion.”

Making her out to be unstable and traitorous only carries so far. Clinging to blame, bitterness, and rage can be corrosive like self-doubt -- after awhile. As I said above, sometimes it’s best just to move on.

But back to LeBron. How awful of him to trick Cleveland and let you believe a lie. He didn’t. Your need to be loved back created that false hometown hero. He was just along for the ride, with one foot out the car.

One day, somebody will reverently wax: “Remember LeBron James on the Cavs? Now THOSE are the coolest highlights.” Cleveland Bron might have that ABA Dr. J cachet, and you still have the footage. The embarrassment and pain have long since subsided from my old relationship. Since I was able to move on, I’m fondly detached from those fuzzy memories. They are folded into a lot of early college hilarity. Who knows? Maybe one day, we’ll even be friends. The hate ebbed long ago, and I’m better for it.

Scott: I feel you, brother. That Cleveland girl broke my heart, too. But let’s not get lost in old romance. Let’s not let a metaphor stand for the thing itself. And let’s not pretend that fanhood -- as I define it anyway -- isn’t at its heart romance writ large. Love projected, if you will.

Fanhood for me -- and I’ll presume to speak for Clevelanders en masse -- is about the permanence of one kind of love: love of place. One of the most frustrating things about this week for me has been trying to answer media cretins who have no sense of history, who are not well-traveled or well-read, who are too dumb or disengaged to understand what’s really going on in Cleveland this week. One thing I hate more than LeBron? Smug and lazy journo-punks. And I am NOT talking about you, sir. I’m talking about all the schoolmarms telling Cleveland to behave itself tonight, lest it leave a bad impression on the pundits who have portrayed it as a sewer for 40 years.

Think about the World Cup and the astonishing global fervor that surrounds it. Think about what cricket and rugby mean to hundreds of millions of people in countries across the world -- and not in terms of sport alone; a single game can reflect and often help to shape the culture and politics of a nation. Those citizens aren’t playing the game; they’re projecting. To belittle their passion by comparing it to some long-lost love is to miss the point entirely. Fanhood on the level I’m talking about is a deeper thing than you seem to think. It embodies love, loyalty, passion, and pride on a titanic scale. I know, I know: Love of country has been defiled by red-state rabble-rousers. But that’s the kind of fanhood I’m talking about here.

Whatever plays out on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena is part of the history of the relationship between this city and people whose families have rooted passionately for Cleveland teams since long before the player who left was born -- and spare me the ridiculous notion that Akron and Cleveland aren’t a single entity when it comes to Cleveland sports. That’s nothing but more self-serving, post facto bull from the same guy who thought surrounding himself with small children on the night of The Decision would fool anyone into thinking he cared about anyone but himself. Yes, his place of birth, like mine and yours, was an accident. That still doesn’t make it a projection. Nor does it justify painting Cleveland fans as a collective version of young, hapless Ethan Sherwood Strauss.

As for the Yankees cap, I stand by everything I wrote at the time. I came back as a Cavs fan -- after boycotting the entire 2008 season and half of ‘09 -- not because I felt that the player had changed, but because the team had. I thought that they were good enough to win the NBA title, and I wasn’t going to miss that experience. I thought the same last season, when I started this book in the hope that it would a fairy tale come true.

The fact that the story hasn’t turned out that way isn’t all LeBron’s fault; there’s plenty of blame to go around. But that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for the disgrace and dishonor -- not "embarrassment and pain" -- he heaped upon himself and every Cleveland fan when he quit on the court against the Celtics last May and then spent an hour on national television feeding his insatiable ego at our expense.

How pretty it is to think that he and Cleveland will be friends someday. The truth is elsewhere. The time when we all get over it and reminisce about the good old days with young King James will never come. Here -- in the heart and soul of Cleveland -- he will be loathed forevermore.

Jeanie Buss: Phil Jackson respects Pat Riley

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
1:10
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Phil Jackson and Pat Riley
Victor Baldison/NBAE/Getty Images
In her new book, Jeanie Buss says Riley was intrigued by the Laker head coaching job in 2004.

Phil Jackson, you may have have already seen, has been sounding the alarm that Pat Riley may well be on his way to returning to the sidelines in Miami, where many have long whispered he was destined to replace Erik Spoelstra, like he once did to Stan Van Gundy. (Notice in that 2005 photo above, that's then-assistant Erik Spoelstra just behind Jackson.)

That has led to some talk about the relationship between Riley and Jackson.

Perhaps the best positioned person to offer insight into that topic is Jeanie Buss. She's the executive vice president of the Lakers, Jackson's girlfriend, and someone who had an insider's view -- as the owner's daughter and a sports executive -- of Pat Riley's transformation from ex-player and broadcaster into coaching legend starting in the late 1970s.

Buss's new book, "Laker Girl," addressed the relationship between the two coaches:
I still think Pat is more associated with the Lakers than Phil is, even though Pat also won a championship with another team. That's because we all witnessed the birth of Pat Riley, the coach. This was the nest he came from. We watched him become who he was, so the image of him crouched on the sideline in front of our bench will be forever ingrained in the minds of Laker fans. Phil, on the other hand, will be thought of in terms of coming here in the second half of his coaching career.

Phil and Pat are friendly rivals with mutual respect for each other. They even trade notes on occasion.

There is no bitterness there even though their teams had many fierce battles when Phil was coaching the Bulls and Pat was leading the Knicks.

"I always appreciated Pat's gamesmanship," Phil told me. "He always brought out the best in me. People in L.A. don't know that."

A page later, she adds:
When Phil left the Lakers in 2004, I was all for Pat replacing him. I thought that would have been a good hire.

However, given Pat's situation in Miami -- where he was not only the coach at the time but team president as well -- it didn't seem to make a lot of sense.

But Pat was definitely intrigued by the idea.

Mark Cuban laughs at the Heat's struggles

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
6:50
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
The Miami Heat are the NBA's big Rorschach test -- when you see them, what do you see?

I don't know exactly what Mark Cuban sees ... maybe he sees, in LeBron James, a player he hoped to nab this summer. Maybe he sees a way to get himself in the headlines. Maybe he just sees competition. The real answer is not clear.

What is clear, however, is that when he sees the Heat losing, he's happy.

He was on ESPN radio in Dallas and reacts to the Heat's four early losses by saying:
Hallelujah, boys, is that great or what? …

How cool is that? Now, they could still turn it around and win out for all that matters, but you’re starting to see some of the problems. Any team with a strong, big guy that can score, they’re getting abused by. Paul Millsap goes out and pulls a Tracy McGrady. What, Tracy McGrady scored 13 and 30 and Paul Millsap scores 11 in 29 seconds or something like that? They just don’t have size to battle. They have the fewest points in the paint of any team and that’s tough. …

My buddy Dan Gilbert is smiling all the way, too. Again, it’s early in the season and you never quite know how it’s going to play out, but how glorious.

Via Sports Radio Interviews

Big Z for the win

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
5:01
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Nathanial S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Bank on it.

Now that we're getting a sense of how the Miami Heat's offense is going to work -- all those superstars running all over the place! -- I had a thought strike me, as clear as day.

When the Heat are in crunch time, and need a bucket, in all likelihood Zydrunas Ilgauskas will have incredibly open looks. Defenses will simply be too worried about everything else. When he does, the Heat should not hesitate to get him the ball -- the man is not only incredibly tall, but he can also shoot.

It does not fit the narrative, to some. This is supposed to be LeBron James and Dwyane Wade duking it out to prove they are the man by taking over crunch time. But depending what the defense does, it may well be that the team's best option is a jumper from an aging role player. Machismo be damned -- if he's open, pass him the ball and live with the results.

The city of Philly: Not feeling the Heat

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
9:05
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
PHILADELPHIA -- They may have angered 29 teams by hogging all the best free agents, but one of the central tenets of the NBA season was the Miami Heat were going to reciprocate a little by spreading the blessings of box office revenue around the league.

Heat road sellouts in 29 cities have been seen as a given.

It certainly happened on opening night in Boston, where the house was beyond packed and word was that seats were selling for more than last summer's Finals tickets.

But this is Philadelphia -- a city that's a little more depressed, a little less into basketball and far less expectant of meeting the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

It's also a city that believes in baseball, and the World Series starts tonight.

Nevertheless, the Sixers doubled down. They opened parts of the Wells Fargo Arena that are normally closed, including standing room here and there, and seats in the "halo" around the very top of the arena.

So, does Philadelphia love NBA basketball enough to sell this game out? Did this game motivate the City of Brotherly Love?

Looking around the arena at tip-off, there was a young woman in the lower bowl with an "I hate LeBron James" sign. But there were not the huge swaths of empty seats that mar many Sixers games. Here and there, though, vacancies. Late arrivals?

Halfway through the second quarter, I walked into the box office. There were no lines, and several windows open. I asked to buy a ticket, and the guy behind the glass was happy to help.

He showed me a seat map, and said I could choose from any one of five lower bowl sections. Prices started at $140 in the corner, and went up from there. Lower bowl seats near the 50-yard line were available for less than $300 each. There were also seats in the halo for $50.

I said I needed two together, and he said no sweat, we could do that in any of those sections.

Wow. As of halftime, the official attendance was still listed at "not counted yet," but this is no sellout.

I walked outside, where a scalper immediately asked how many seats I needed. I asked him how business was, and he shrugged.

I asked why it was that this ticket was hotter than the Finals in Boston, but not even a sellout here.

"It's a dreadful city," he said, walking away into the night, before I could ask my last question: If this game isn't going to sell out, will any? This is one of the Eastern cities the Heat only visit once, so they won't be back again. The Lakers are due on December 17. Other than that, the best hope is an April homestand that has potential to have playoff implications. If you're a scalper, you have to cross your fingers that Doug Collins can bring some NBA excitement back to Philadelphia, because right now the hottest ticket in town seems to be in front of a TV.

The new LeBron James commercial

October, 25, 2010
10/25/10
3:15
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
The world gave the situation a ton of emotion, and Nike's genius marketers use emotion like Van Gogh used paint. (Stunningly, masterfully, boldly ... at times maybe a little over the top.)

If you haven't already seen it, you should watch now, because everybody's going to be talking about it.

Here's how you can tell it's powerful work: This has to be the first LeBron James-themed internet posting since July where the comments are majority pro-James.

The Heat's old, slow bench

September, 28, 2010
9/28/10
11:42
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh.

Pat Riley and his staff get an A+ for how they handled the offseason. They got the big things so right that it almost didn't matter how they handled the little things.

However ... Let's be clear. Not all those little things went perfectly. If they gave separate grades for signing role players, the Heat staff would get a D for that.

If for some reason this team does not work out, if there are not rings for everybody in the years to come, it's worth noting that Riley and company had countless options in filling out this roster. They could have scoured Europe and the D-League. They could have coaxed all kinds of players to play alongside these stars. They could have used their vast scouting apparatus to uncover some gem.

The opportunity was huge. Instead, they are left almost entirely without young, developing players, and with a major shortage of bench athleticism and speed. With hardworking veteran leadership they have a great environment to get the best out of impressionable young athletes -- yet there are hardly any of those guys in Heat camp. With unbelievable quickness and size from the perimeter stars, the Heat has the chance be the the fastest team in NBA history -- but not with brittle aging athletes like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard or James Jones on the floor.

Imagine if an executive with less juice -- say Billy King in New Jersey -- had filled the bench with the crusty half-dozen of Jamaal Magloire, Carlos Arroyo, Ilgauskas, Howard, Jones, and Eddie House (while drafting Dexter Pittman, Jarvis Varnado and Da'Sean Butler).

If someone besides Riley-on-a-hot streak had done that, they would have said indecent things about him on talk radio for three weeks, and he's have been left fighting to keep his job to the end of preseason.

When is the last time any one of those players had a great game, or even a decent season?

And before we get stuck arguing about the past, let's consider that all that matters is the future. If your mission is to win as many titles as possible while the SuperFriends 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? I know that Pat Riley has won more titles than I ever will. And I know he holds veterans in high regard, and I know that these are all good guys who are unlikely to make things difficult or cause trouble.

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