MIAMI -- Here’s a new one: LeBron James is now comparing his game to Dwight Howard’s.
Wednesday night the Miami Heat held their free scrimmage, a league-mandated affair that is a relic of the 1998 lockout recovery plan. There is usually very little from these fan-pleasing outings that proves to be relevant, especially when it is held this early in training camp, as a result of the Heat’s upcoming trip to China.
But one thing that is probably going to be a staple of the team as it tries to defend its title came glaring through: just how many shooters the Heat can deploy at once and what sort of high-volume 3-point shooting team the may turn out to be.
The Heat ended the NBA Finals with a dizzying shooting display in June, making 14 3-pointers in Game 5 to finish off the Oklahoma City Thunder at AmericanAirlines Arena. They made 14 more on the same floor Wednesday during a 40-minute running clock intrasquad game.
Newly-signed Ray Allen made three, Mike Miller made three, Shane Battier made four, even Chris Bosh made two. Rashard Lewis made none but not for lack of trying -- he was 1-of-9 shooting overall -- as he clearly looked like a player who hadn’t gotten his legs into game shape as yet.
All of which had James making a bit of a jarring juxtaposition.
“Teams are going to have to decide if they’re going to double me in the post or stay at home with our shooters,” James said “It’s almost like how Orlando was with Dwight. They surrounded him with so many shooters, it was very difficult and you didn’t know what to do.”
One in and four out with James as the man in, Howard style? It’s not something James has ever done before in his career on a regular basis. But it’s what he’s talking about as he projects toward the regular season, in which it looks like James will play a "big man" role more often than at any time in his past.
“I didn’t think I’ve ever see it,” James said about the possibility. “But we’re looking forward to it.”
It’s not going to be the Heat’s base offense. But with Bosh, who will be the teams’s primary center, attempting to become a legit 3-point option the Heat may indeed find themselves running in lineups where James is the weakest 3-point shooter and best post player on the floor. Which is going to lead to 3-point attempts by default.
Maybe not as much as the Magic of the Howard heyday, who set an NBA record for 3-pointers made in 2010-11, but not a look they’ve trusted before.
“For us, we’re going to take those looks if they’re given to us,” said James, who had 15 points and five rebounds Wednesday. “We have so many guys who can spread the floor and we don’t want none of our shooters to turn down shots because it creates so much space for our attackers.”
Over the years, James has made varying proclamations in preseasons about his intentions to play more in the post. Last season was the first time he followed through on it from start to finish, playing more with his back to the basket than at any time in his career.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra proudly announced the Heat were eighth in the NBA last season in post-up plays without ever using a traditional post-up center, which is a direct result of James’ transition. Now, with the addition of Allen, the team and James may trend more that way to take advantage.
“[Allen] has an uncanny way of breaking free at the 3-point line ... that’s something we’re looking forward to,” Spoelstra said. “The ball will find energy and he has an energy about himself beyond the 3-point line.”
The Heat hoisted up 42 3-pointers Wednesday, which meant one side was putting up more than one per minute. This is only five days into camp with very little offense installed and no Wade out there to create his offense. So it wasn’t an accurate sample. However, it was a display of the Heat’s new personnel and what they have a taste for.
“We have a such a great shooting team here,” Allen said. “Everybody moves the ball, guys can drive to the hoop and at the end of every play there’s a guy who has an open shot.”