Miami Heat Index: Heat Index

LeBron/Boozer
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireWill Carlos Boozer and the Bulls be able to handle the Heat on Friday night?

Winners of eight of their past 10, the Miami Heat host the Chicago Bulls on Friday night (ESPN, 8 ET). Are the Bulls a threat in the East when Derrick Rose returns? Is the NBA world taking LeBron James for granted? Our panel breaks it down.

1. Fact or Fiction: Miami’s lack of motivation is a real problem.


Tom Haberstroh: Fiction. Do the Heat have a lack of motivation? Probably. Of the top eight teams in Hollinger's Power Rankings, seven of them are from the West (the Heat are sixth). Not much competition to drive them out East and they already know they don't need a top seed to win it all. But is it a real problem? That's where I disagree. They'll get by.

Michael Wallace: Fiction. Are the Heat playing absolutely inspired basketball every quarter, every game? Certainly not. But name another team that has. Miami's play raises some legitimate concern at times. But c'mon, man. The Heat are first in the East, have one of the best records in the league and are led by two players posting the most efficient shooting numbers of their careers.

Brian Windhorst: Fiction. They have the comforting reality that they play in the Eastern Conference. Other than their terrific overall shooting this season, they have not played up to their potential in any other phase. Yet they are still at the top of the conference standings and, in my mind, are still the overwhelming favorite to win the East. Let's revisit this conversation in March because, before then, I don't think it's an issue.


2. Fact or Fiction: The Bulls with a healthy Rose are the biggest threat to the Heat in the East.


Haberstroh: Fact. Key: healthy. But they won't maximize Rose until they upgrade their shooters. If Joakim Noah keeps up his defensive dominance and Taj Gibson returns to form, watch out.

Wallace: Fiction. That's the highest of hypothetical questions we're pondering here. Rose's injuries have impacted two seasons now. Because of their size, front-line depth, smart point guard play and prolific 3-point shooting, I say a healthy Knicks team represents a bigger potential problem for the Heat.

Windhorst: Fact. But I do not expect a healthy Rose this season. Those adidas commercials were cool, but I don't think they were fair to him. They feed the assumption that he's going to be stronger than ever when he comes back. That could be the case in the future but with his style of play, especially offensively, it is not fair to assume he will be himself when he returns.



3. Fact or Fiction: We take LeBron for granted.


Haberstroh: Fact. Or at least in general, I think so. The guy is averaging 26.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists on 54 percent shooting. No one's ever done that before and, yet, many people don't think he's the most valuable player in the game. The world spent several years nitpicking his flaws because he hadn't won a title. It's going to take some time to move away from that. Now that he's won that elusive title, maybe we can start fully appreciating what he's done rather than what he hasn't done. Also, he just turned 28 last week.

Wallace: Fact. LeBron's best attribute -- beyond the scoring, facilitating, leadership, defense, etc. -- is his durability. That alone separates LeBron from even the league's elite-level players. He's a tank. His ability to play through nagging injuries and still deliver near triple-doubles each night is simply expected. He's supposed to be superhuman, and that's just not fair.

Windhorst: Fact. Let's start with this question: Who is the MVP so far? If there is even a discussion, then the answer is an overwhelming yes on taking him for granted. He's having the best shooting, 3-point shooting (by a lot) and rebounding season of his career so far. This is a career with three MVP awards already. With apologies to others, especially Kevin Durant, LeBron has no true peer right now.
LeBron/Millsap
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireHow will Miami's small-ball lineup fair against Utah's size in the paint?

The Miami Heat search for their fourth straight win when they host the Utah Jazz Saturday night. Have LeBron James & Co. regained their championship form? What do the Jazz need to do before the trade deadline? Which team's scheme is best for a title run? Our team of Heat writers breaks ahead of the matchup in South Beach.

1. Have the Heat rediscovered their mojo?


Tom Haberstroh: Yes. They rediscovered Joel Anthony. As much as it seemed like an effort crisis for the Heat, it really was just a matter of personnel. The lineup data underscores the fact that Rashard Lewis wasn't cutting it as a rotation member, even though he was shooting well from downtown. Anthony, on the other hand, makes Miami's defense so much more formidable and provides a spark for the transition game.

Israel Gutierrez: They never really lost it. In fact, the brief slide might’ve been a result of too much mojo. This group, seemingly like any great team, is at its best when it's challenged. The Heat needed to be questioned before they showed off consistently great play.

Michael Wallace: I'm not totally convinced yet, but it's certainly looking like the Heat are starting to at least turn a corner. LeBron James has led the way to three straight victories by a combined 56 points. Miami has also improved its defensive ranking, moving from the bottom third in the league two weeks ago to just outside the top 10. We always knew the Heat had this in them, but the bigger issue is whether they are motivated enough to sustain this level of play right now.



2. What should the Jazz do at the trade deadline?


Haberstroh: Trade at least one of their bigs. If there isn't a "#freefavors" hashtag on Twitter, we've failed. Derrick Favors is ready to step in now, but Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson haven't let him get the playing time he deserves. Both Millsap and Jefferson are expendable because of Favors and Enes Kanter but because of they're expiring contracts. They need backcourt help if they want to make a move into the elite West circle.

Gutierrez: Get as much as they can in return for Millsap and/or Jefferson. With Favors and Kanter as their bigs of the future, Utah needs to sacrifice this season for a chance to grab some quality players under contract for a few years. The Jazz can’t rely on free agency to lure talent.

Wallace: The Jazz are just one of those teams that seem to have two of everything, but no one really, really special at any position. From a performance standpoint, they're essentially the Atlanta Hawks of the Western Conference. My guess is they move Millsap and his expiring contract to land a quality player on a longer deal. Perhaps even the Lakers might be interested in some sort of deal to swap power forwards with Utah.



3. Which style do you prefer: Supersized Jazz or small-ball Heat?


Haberstroh: Small ball. All else equal, I want athleticism and spacing. Post-up basketball isn't nearly as fun to watch from a basketball aesthetic standpoint. Give me open court, attack and kick-out ball every time -- the more movement, the better.

Gutierrez: To watch? It's easily the Heat’s small ball. To win in the regular season? The big-man style is probably easier, assuming they’re talented. To win in the postseason? These days small ball might be better, if only because there aren’t enough talented bigs.

Wallace: How about "LeBron-ball," which is whatever style is played when James is making majority of the decisions with the rock in his hands. That said, the last time the Jazz visited Miami they overcame a triple-double from James and 39 points from Dwyane Wade and rallied from a 22-point early deficit to win in overtime. So it's obvious that anything can happen. But the Heat seem to have regained their defensive footing, and it's not like they're all of a sudden afraid of big teams.

Heat 'Temp Check' Postgame Show returns

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
5:41
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
Archive
MIAMI - With LeBron James set to face his former team again, and the Miami Heat then scheduled to embark on their longest and potentially most grueling road trip of the season, now seems to be the perfect time to run another installment of our Heat Index 'Temp Check' postgame show.

Here's how it works. You watch the Heat-Cavaliers game tonight, then send us your thoughts, questions, concerns and feelings about the team.

You're ticked off about the Heat playing down to the level of competition? Tell us why. You're wondering why LeBron isn't getting the MVP hype he's deserving? Holler at us.

Are you confident after seeing Shane Battier or Mike Miller bounce back with a solid game tonight? Let us know.

You want to know whether we'd trade Erik Spoelstra for Byron Scott straight up right now as Heat coach? Just ask.

It's that simple. Whether you want to rant or rave about the Heat, I'll be there to address your issue and give you a shoutout to go with it. Just hit us on Twitter, Facebook or reply in the comment section of this post with your questions/concerns during and immediately after the game. I'll pick a few to feature in the 'Temp Check' show, and ...

It's on.

In the meantime, check out our last episode below.


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