Miami Heat Index: Udonis Haslem

Heat Reaction: Grading Pacers-Heat

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
10:09
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Heat Temp Check: LeBron on Pistons

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
8:09
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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LeBron JamesIssac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesLeBron James likes what the Pistons did to improve during the offseason.
LeBron James' take
The Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets weren't the only teams that underwent major offseason upgrades in an effort to prevent the Miami Heat from winning a third consecutive title.

James was intrigued by an offseason makeover that saw the Detroit Pistons bring back championship guard Chauncey Billups as well as acquire former Atlanta Hawks star Josh Smith and high-scoring ex-Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings. Detroit also hired Maurice Cheeks as head coach.

The Heat get their first peek at the new-look Pistons in Detroit for Thursday's preseason game. With the Pistons expected to be in the mix for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, they could end up as a possible first-round postseason opponent for James and the Heat.

“I think only time will tell, but they definitely improved their roster bringing in Jennings and Josh, and Big Shot [Billups] as well,” James said after Wednesday's practice. “[On] paper, they look like they can be pretty good this year.”

James is familiar with the adjustment process teams like the Pistons face as they try to blend established veteran newcomers with a talented young frontcourt tandem of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.

James said the first priority is buying into a team-first, winning mentality.

“No individual can do it by himself,” James said. “But they have a lot of talent. If they buy into what Mo Cheeks is trying to preach to them, then they're really going to be pretty good.”

Progress report
Michael Beasley said Wednesday he's available for game action and is no longer bothered by a bruised calf that was part of the reason he sat out of Sunday's scrimmage and Monday's preseason opener.

Apparently, the only thing now standing between Beasley and a shot at playing time in the next two preseason games is a nod from coach Erik Spoelstra.

“I practiced today -- full practice -- and it didn't give me one problem,” Beasley told ESPN.com. “I'm ready, physically.”

Beasley said he has not been told whether he's in the plans to play either Thursday against Detroit or Friday's neutral-site game in Kansas City against the Charlotte Bobcats. Beasley, a former Kansas State star, was a crowd favorite when he played a 2008 preseason game in Kansas City after the Heat drafted him with the second overall pick.

He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2010 but signed a one-year contract last month to rejoin the Heat on a make-good deal. Beasley said he's still searching for a comfort level in camp and believes he's “just thinking too much out there” instead of simply making instinctive plays in practice.

“Finding a niche that hasn't been used yet -- that's been the tough part,” Beasley said. “Everything else has been the same, defensively, from when I was here the last time. I just have to let the game come to me. I'm excited, more than anything, for the home opener [Oct. 29 vs. Chicago ]. I'm just using these next 20 days to tune my machine up. And when my number is called, I'm going to be ready.”

Health watch
Greg Oden (knee rehab) and Chris "Birdman" Andersen (foot) were not seen in the gym during the final moments of practice that were open to the media. Udonis Haslem (offseason right knee surgery) said he's been cleared by doctors to play but is being cautious in the preseason. Mario Chalmers (hip) was limited in Wednesday's practice. Spoelstra said he'll wait until Thursday to decide who plays in Detroit.

Did you know?
Roger Mason Jr., an 11-year veteran, said Wednesday that it was a recruiting call from Ray Allen that convinced him to spurn other offers and sign a nonguaranteed deal with the Heat despite very few roster spots being available. Mason also played for the Heat's summer league team that was coached by Spoelstra 10 years ago.

Quote of the day
“Being with an organization that takes it very seriously is cool, because I've been some places where you have crappy videos. That's not a way to get the game started.”

- Chris Bosh, on the extravagant filming of the Heat's pregame introduction video.

Wade, Bosh aim for bounce-back Game 6

June, 1, 2013
6/01/13
1:29
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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One step away from a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, struggling Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aim to regain enough of a stride to help LeBron James finish off the Indiana Pacers.

A sore right knee continues to limit Wade's effectiveness during the least-productive playoff series of his 10-year career, while a sprained right ankle has contributed to Bosh's scoring and rebounding woes the past two games.

Both Wade and Bosh hope to bounce back Saturday when the Heat carry their 3-2 series lead into Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Game 6 with a chance to close out the Pacers and advance to the Finals to face San Antonio.

“Nobody is 100 percent,” Bosh said Friday before the Heat's team flight to Indianapolis. “It's just really all mental. Just knowing you have to come in, you have to do your job better than the other guy and know that everyone is ailing a bit. But that's part of the game, especially this time of the year. Everybody has to rise to the challenge.”

That challenge grew steeper for Bosh when the NBA announced Friday that Heat reserve center Chris Andersen is suspended for Game 6 for his role in Thursday's altercation with Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough.

The absence of Andersen's interior scoring, defense, rebounding and energy will create a void for the Heat that demands more production from Bosh, Udonis Haslem and seldom-used center Joel Anthony against Indiana's physical and productive big men in Roy Hibbert and David West.

Bosh said the only choice is to embrace the opportunity.

“[You] have to love pain, love basketball, love the game,” Bosh said. “And love the position you're in.”

(Read full post)

Heat Reaction: Game 5 vs. Pacers

May, 30, 2013
5/30/13
11:16
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Hibbert explains the Heat conundrum

May, 24, 2013
5/24/13
2:25
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Roy Hibbert
AP Photo, Getty Images
Roy Hibbert explains why the Miami Heat are more difficult to guard than the New York Knicks.

MIAMI -- It must be weird to be Roy Hibbert these days.

On Friday morning at the Indiana Pacers' Game 2 shootaround at AmericanAirlines Arena, he sat at a plush courtside seat with cameras, microphones and tape recorders jammed into his face. For several minutes, he fielded a barrage of questions about another player kneeing him in the groin area.

This is Hibbert's first Eastern Conference finals experience.

It must be weird to be Hibbert because he must wear two hats when talking with the media. In one breath, he would talk extensively about his "family jewels," as he put it. In the next breath, he'd put on his coaching hat and discuss the hard X's and O's of basketball.

For some people, the controversial layup from Shane Battier, the target of Hibbert's Thursday night tweet, is all they want to hear about. And that's understandable. Trash talk between athletes can be pretty compelling.

But for others, it's the X's and O's that makes the NBA experience fun. Why are the Heat so difficult to guard as a big man? Indiana coach Frank Vogel called the Heat offense "more intelligent" than the New York Knicks offense, but why is that the case?

Hibbert will explain.

During Game 1, Hibbert said he could hear LeBron James instructing his big men to do something that the Knicks didn't do enough.

What was James telling Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem out on the court?

"'Be ready for that dump-off pass,'" Hibbert recalled.

In Game 1, when the Heat scored 60 points in the paint, Hibbert and the Pacers couldn't stop that dump-off pass.

Why?

Because James and Dwyane Wade are a threat to score and a threat to pass at the same time.

"When you play against a team this athletic with LeBron James, D-Wade and those guys, you have to pick your poison," Hibbert said. "Do you want LeBron James, who has a large launching pad, taking off and dunking on you? Or do you want Birdman making layups at the rim?"

The Pacers didn't have a dependable answer to that question in Game 1.

"It’s kind of putting me in an uneasy situation because you have LeBron coming at you at 100 miles an hour and he can take off from anywhere," Hibbert said. "What do you do? Do you try to stop him or do you worry about that pass?

"It’s a conundrum. I’m trying to figure that out."

James tallied 10 assists in Game 1, and Wade registered five. As a team, the Heat recorded 24 assists, four more than the Knicks did in any game of the Eastern Conference semifinals. In fact, James dropped more assists in Game 1 (10) than Carmelo Anthony did in the entire series against the Pacers (8).

To Hibbert, that's where you'll find the difference between the Knicks and the Heat.

"Last series, you didn’t have to worry about guys making plays like that," Hibbert said. "Carmelo is just coming straight at you, it’s easy to deal with. But with two or three guys around the basket ..."

Hibbert trailed off.

"We just have to do a better job," he said. "If I step up, somebody else has my back, and then we have a rotation after that. It’s pretty tough when you have guys like Ray Allen in the corner, LeBron and D-Wade on the court at the same time, and you have Chris Bosh, who’s a spot-up shooter. They’re going to push us to the limit."

The Pacers spent Thursday's practice and Friday morning's shootaround figuring out how to defend the Heat's multiple threats.

"We just have to be able to help the helper," Hibbert said. "That’s why Birdman and Chris Bosh have been living off the dump-off passes and stuff like that. We had our hands full. If we can stop the line drives, we can hopefully protect the paint a little bit better.

For the Pacers, the best way to deal with the Heat conundrum is to avoid it in the first place.

"We worked on some things," Hibbert said. "We’re trying to stop it at the point of the ball screen so I don’t have to be tested at the rim like four or five times in a row. We’re working on ball screen defense and the guard-guard pick-and-roll.

Easier said than done.

"But that’s hard to deal with when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are coming at you," Hibbert said.

The imminent return of the LeBron floater

May, 21, 2013
5/21/13
6:56
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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LeBron James
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
Don't be surprised if LeBron James breaks out his floater against Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers.

MIAMI – For the past several weeks, LeBron James has finished up his daily routine at practice by shooting free throws with Ray Allen. Every practice, same thing.

But on Tuesday, things were different.

A day ahead of their Eastern Conference finals matchup against Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers, James was at his normal basket at the Miami Heat’s practice court, but Allen was on another hoop, practicing his 3-point shot on his own. Instead of trading free throws with Allen, James was working with Heat assistant coach David Fizdale and point guard Mario Chalmers on a different shot:

The running floater in the lane.

Yes, the same one he unleashed out of nowhere against Hibbert last playoffs and used to help push the Heat over the top in six games.

James' goal on Tuesday was obvious: to polish his Hibbert arsenal.

“I just dust it off when I need it,” James said of his rarely-seen floater.

This was the first and only day that James has put in extra work on it this season. James started from the top of the key, barreled down the middle of the paint and launched in the air for a floater. He’d do that a few times and then switch angles. Starting from the baseline, James took a dribble on the move and then soared across the lane to drop a running hook. Over and over again.

The only thing that was missing was a 7-foot-2 cardboard cutout standing at the rim.

James knows he’ll need his full repertoire against the Pacers’ front line for this upcoming series. No, the thinking isn’t to only drop floaters in the lane. Rather, it’s to keep Hibbert honest. No more allowing Hibbert to camp out around the rim and wait for intruders. The Heat want Hibbert on the move and guessing.

“He won’t just have one look,” James said after Tuesday’s practice. “We have to be able to give him different looks to keep him off balance.”

James unveiled the crafty shot in the third quarter of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, just minutes after Chris Bosh left the game with an abdominal strain that sidelined him for weeks. James turned the corner after a high pick-and-roll with Udonis Haslem and made his way to the rim as Hibbert sidestepped off Ronny Turiaf to park himself underneath the basket.

That’s where Hibbert waited for James. But instead of trying to shoot through the 7-foot-2 giant, James hopped off two feet halfway into the lane, rose up and tossed the ball high into the air. Swish. From then on, James went to that shot without hesitation, and it proved to be a handy weapon against Hibbert's size.

Remember James' monster Game 4 against the Pacers when he registered 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists? James used his devastating floater on multiple occasions in that furious comeback alongside Dwyane Wade, but James also punished the Pacers with 16 free throws. James still attacked the rim and racked up fouls against Hibbert, but he needed the reliable floater to keep Hibbert from getting too comfortable in the paint.

Typically, James will use his otherworldly athleticism and strength to overwhelm his opponent like a wrecking ball. But there will be times when he'll need technique and grace to keep opposing big men on their toes. So for James in this series against Hibbert and the No. 1-ranked defense in the league this season, the key will be variety, not velocity.

James knows Hibbert doesn't want to be dragged away from the basket. He paid close attention to the Knicks-Pacers series and it resonated with him when Hibbert rose up for that iconic block on Carmelo Anthony at the rim in the decisive Game 6 (James called it "a very good block" on Tuesday). James watched every minute of the series during which the Knicks' percentage of shots in the restricted area plummeted from 39.5 percent with Hibbert on the bench to just 30.5 percent with him in the game, according to NBA.com/Stats.

This is the Hibbert effect, and James wants to neutralize it with as many weapons as he can. The floater, you can expect, will be one of them.

Heat Reaction: Game 4 vs. Bucks

April, 28, 2013
4/28/13
6:16
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Spoelstra continues to evolve in Miami

April, 3, 2013
4/03/13
2:40
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- Understandably, Erik Spoelstra believes he's the last person who would feel comfortable analyzing just how strong of a case he's making for NBA coach of the year.

“I'm probably the wrong guy,” Spoelstra said. “That is clearly the last thing I think about. And I say that with no disrespect. If that helped anybody win a title ... I would find it more interesting. But I don't think it correlates.”

But the record speaks for itself.

And on Tuesday night, even in defeat, the effort his short-handed Miami Heat displayed for a second straight game without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade available spoke volumes about the job Spoelstra has done this season.

Coaching James and Wade -- a three-time MVP and a two-time champion, respectively -- will never be viewed as a burden. But when a coach has two of the top five players in the league on his roster, it tends to block the view of those who lack the vision to look beyond the obvious.

Spoelstra shouldn't need the last two games the Heat played to bolster his résumé among the best coaching performances this season. But they certainly won't hurt.

With James and Wade resting nagging injuries, the Heat went into San Antonio on Sunday and knocked off the best team in the Western Conference. On Tuesday, with James and Wade watching from the bench, the Heat pushed the current hottest team in the league to the brink and absorbed a 50-point effort from Carmelo Anthony before fading late and falling at home, 102-90, to the New York Knicks.

Between those two games, Spoelstra on Sunday was named the Eastern Conference's top coach for the second consecutive month. Over the past two months, Spoelstra coached the East All-Stars, guided the Heat on the second-longest winning streak in NBA history at 27 games, has Miami positioned with the best record in the league and has developed a system that is producing career-best numbers from James, Wade and Chris Bosh on offense this season.

Spoelstra will continue to be overshadowed by James and Wade, which means he'll find it difficult to get much credit outside of his own franchise for the job he's done to keep the defending champions functioning at a high level.

“There are some nights when he probably feels like he's still got something to prove,” said Heat co-captain and forward Udonis Haslem, who has been in Miami since 2003, when Spoelstra was an assistant on Pat Riley's staff. “With LeBron and D-Wade being out -- we all would rather have them playing, obviously -- but I guess it's been a chance for all of us to step up a little more. Him, too.”

Bosh admits he's a bit biased. But he believes there are two clear front-runners for coach of the year honors this season.

“I think the only candidates should be (Spoelstra) and George Karl,” Bosh said of the longtime Denver coach who recently led the Nuggets on a 15-game winning streak that coincided with Miami's 27 consecutive victories. “Both guys have done great jobs. I'm not one to hang my hat on awards, so it's kind of tough saying that, because for a while, if you got coach of the year, it didn't mean anything. They were still getting you out of there (fired). He's not worried about that. He's just coaching his team.”

It almost seems silly to think that it was just a couple of March Madnesses ago when Riley, the Heat's president of basketball operations, spoke to a reporter in New York while attending the Big East Tournament and defended his coach amid rumors that Spoelstra could be dismissed.

“Write it off,” Riley told the (Newark) Star-Ledger in March of 2011 as the Heat were on a five-game losing streak. “That ain't going to happen. We're in a rough time right now. We'll get through it.”

Since then, the Heat have gotten through plenty of trials and tribulations along with intense scrutiny and criticism from league peers and national analysts. They've reached the NBA Finals twice, avenging a 2011 loss to Dallas with a five-game series win against Oklahoma City last summer.

And this might just be their most dominant season yet. There's no debating whether James, Wade and Bosh are the big-engine parts that make this Heat machine run. But Spoelstra ensures those pieces calibrate.

“He continues to reinvent himself every year,” Haslem said. “After we went to the Finals (in 2011), he could have said, 'We got all the way to the Finals, but we just didn't get it done. Let's come back and do the same thing next year. I'll be the same guy I was.' But he reinvented himself. And with that, he made us reinvent ourselves as a team.”

Spoelstra spent the offseason after losing to Dallas in the Finals meeting with successful and influential coaches from just about every sport, including some who managed egos of high-profile players and others who perfected strategies.

Haslem explained the difference he saw in Spoelstra.

"And after winning it all last year, he could have went to the Bahamas and said, 'I've got the team, I've got the guys. Let's do it the same way and make it happen again.'" Haslem said. “Once again, we came into the season this year and he challenges us to get better. He challenges LeBron to get better. He challenged (Bosh) and D-Wade to get better, too, and with that, he steps his game up as well.”

Spoelstra was reluctant Tuesday to explain some of the ways he's grown personally as a coach. But he did say he constantly tweaks, evaluates and reevaluates. There's a never-satisfied aspect to his approach. There's always more and better ways James can be used. Players who have spent their entire careers playing one position now play three.

It ranges from Ray Allen playing point guard to Bosh at center. Initial resistance has given way to eager acceptance.

“I think our coaching staff in general, we stay uncomfortable,” Spoelstra said. “You're in a constant state of uncomfortableness. And we look at the way the league has changed. It's changed dramatically in the last six, seven, eight years. But our team, we look at the way we played two years ago to the way we are now, it's kind of tough looking at that old film. We ask our players to have a growth mindset, to continue to try to reinvent ourselves.”

Spoelstra has led the way by creating the environment. Haslem said the biggest factor in Spoelstra's evolution from his first season as coach in 2008 after taking over for Riley to now is his unique way of communicating his message.

“His office door is always open and he invites us in to speak,” Haslem said. “It's kind of funny, but he enjoys confrontation. Not in a bad way. But he understands it's sincere, it's passionate and that we all want to win. Sometimes in the family, brothers bump heads, but we all want the same result in the end. So he doesn't mind a little bit of disagreement, when emotions get raised a little bit. Nothing in a disrespectful way. Nothing challenging him as coach, but ways to get it on the right path and together.”

If anything, Haslem said Spoelstra doesn't get enough credit for bringing three marquee players together and having two sacrifice -- sometimes to the point that it hurts.

“We got the talent,” Haslem said. “The hard part is getting everybody to buy in every day, and we're doing that.”

The rough beginnings have smoothed out. And it's allowed Spoelstra to hit his stride as a coach this season.

“You have to listen to the guy that's calling the shots,” Bosh said. “I've always been an all-in guy, where if you feel we're a better team doing it this way, then I'll do it. I just don't want a failing system. Being able to communicate, that was something we were all tiptoeing around at first. We were just tiptoeing in the locker room instead of telling guys how we feel. Sometimes you just have to step to the plate and say this is what we're going to do. It's attempts and failures. It just takes some time.”

Time should change the perspective on Spoelstra. Two years ago, he didn't get a single vote for coach of the year and was thought to be on the proverbial hot seat.

Now, there might not be a hotter coach in the league.

“You can't get caught up in highs and lows and try to change peoples' (perspective),” Spoelstra said. “That's not my job. I've been hired to produce a result. And that fills up the majority of my free time.”

Chris Andersen, Miami's missing piece 

March, 25, 2013
3/25/13
10:21
AM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Chris Andersen
Christopher Trotman/Getty ImagesWho has been the key to Miami's recent dominance? Don't forget about Chris Andersen.

MIAMI -- The Heat’s win streak has now reached 26 games, which is more victories than nine NBA teams have this entire season, and seven shy of the all-time record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, it’s tempting to look beyond the horizon these days, but let’s look in the rearview mirror.

How have they done it? How come, all of a sudden, they look unbeatable?

Forget LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for a moment. Put aside Ray Allen and Shane Battier's 3-point barrages and Udonis Haslem’s toughness. That core has been with the team all season long and they weren’t exactly rewriting the history books with their play earlier in the season.

So what, then, has been the difference-maker?

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Chris Andersen takes flight in Miami

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
2:45
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Andersen
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
After just five games, the man they call "Birdman" is already paying dividends for the Heat.

MIAMI -- Chris Andersen is not your usual NBA player. Neither is his offseason conditioning regimen.

What was his secret to staying in shape after nine months away from the game?

Fried rice.

Seriously.

"It was mainly my future mother-in-law’s fried rice," Andersen said after Wednesday morning's shootaround.

"Listen, I’m telling you. She’s from Taiwan. She makes some legit fried rice. It’s not like the fried rice you can pick up from P.F. Chang’s or something like that. This is legitimate, healthy ..."

And then a long pause.

"Man, it’s awesome."

Whatever Andersen did in the offseason, it's working. The 34-year-old -- who is known as "Birdman" but introduces himself to others as simply "Bird" -- is already playing big-time minutes off the bench for the defending champions. It's a big change considering just three weeks ago Andersen was unemployed, gobbling up fried rice and looking for his next NBA opportunity.

If he wasn't in shape then, he is now.

"I was in 'around around the waist' shape, but now I'm in 'six-pack abs around the waist' shape," Andersen said. "My knee surgery didn’t allow me to run mountains or the basketball five-on-five thing at the rec center, or stuff like that."

Andersen underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in July, but you wouldn't be able to notice any rust from the time off. He logged a season-high 15 minutes in Miami's game against the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday and finished with four points and six rebounds. It took only five games before the new signee replaced Joel Anthony in the Heat's rotation. Already, Andersen looks like Miami's best big man outside of LeBron James or Chris Bosh.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra insists that he's not playing Andersen 12-15 minutes a night just to help get him into playing shape.

"I’m not trying to condition him," Spoelstra said. "I’m playing him because he’s helping us."

Spoelstra likes what he's seen so far. The hustle plays. The rebounds from out of nowhere. The coast-to-coast drives. That's not stuff that you're seeing from Udonis Haslem and Anthony. And you'll never see Andersen take a play off.

"He doesn’t save anything," Spoelstra said. "He doesn’t pace himself. He’ll play until his tank is absolutely empty. Or until he passes out."

Spoelstra admitted that he initially wasn't planning to play Andersen until after the All-Star break. The coach wasn't sure how long it would take for Andersen to get conditioned and comfortable in the Heat's schemes. Those concerns are obviously gone now, but Spoelstra expects Andersen to need another six to eight weeks before he's in top shape.

But the thing that has intrigued Spoelstra the most is what he calls the "vertical spacing" that Andersen brings. The idea: Throw the ball up in the air and let Andersen catch it for an easy bucket. Bosh is usually out on the perimeter. Haslem doesn't have the legs or the height to pull that off consistently. Anthony doesn't have the hands to make it worthwhile. But Andersen has that promise.

At Wednesday's shootaround, Spoelstra as well as James, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and even Ray Allen drilled the lob pass to Andersen over and over. It's what Spoelstra fears the most when playing against athletic big men like Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard. Now, he's trying it out with Andersen.

“We haven’t had that element before other than Dwyane and LeBron in the fast break," Spoelstra said. "Guys are starting to see it now, but the play is there."

James unsuccessfully tried the pick-and-lob play with Andersen in Monday's game against the Bobcats. After Andersen screened James' man at the top of the key, the big man rolled toward the rim, watching James intently while James tossed the ball up toward the rim. Andersen went up to flush it home, only James' lob actually hit the back of the rim.

James, who was working on a near-perfect night from the floor, was credited with a turnover instead of a missed shot. Yes, they'll need some time to work out the kinks. That process started Wednesday morning.

"Working on it in practice and working on it in games is going to be completely different," Andersen said. "We tried one in the last game but it was off a little bit, but we’re trying to build that connection."

Andersen's still getting used to playing with a talent like James. One time in the first quarter against Charlotte, James drove baseline and threw an underhanded bullet-pass to Andersen who was barreling down the lane. Andersen didn't even get a hand on it; it came that quickly.

"I mean, that was a rocket," Andersen said, recalling the play. "I was coming to the ball almost full speed and I was like, ‘Holy smokes.’ He’s so capable of passing that you would not even expect some of these passes. It’s something that I have to get used to. Slowly but surely, we’ll get there."

In a little over a full game's worth of action (52 minutes), Andersen has registered 20 points, 19 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. If he keeps his fouls down to a manageable level (he's already been whistled a whopping 12 times), he'll be a big part of the Heat's quest to repeat. Andersen is still working on his second 10-day contract, but signing him for the rest of the season is a mere formality at this point.

If he keeps up his strong play, there might even be a starting job in his future. When Spoelstra was asked whether he could see Andersen eventually starting for the team down the road, the coach said he prefers Andersen coming off the bench.

At least for the time being.

"Right now," Spoelstra said," I like it."

Shane Battier doles out 'Battioke' awards

January, 22, 2013
1/22/13
4:31
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Chris Bosh
Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images
Yes, that's Chris Bosh.

MIAMI -- For a night, Chris Bosh was the Heat's most valuable player. Or at least that's how Shane Battier characterized Bosh and his karaoke performance Monday night at the Eden Roc hotel in Miami Beach.

Every year, Battier and his wife hold a charity event fundraiser called "Battioke," where people pay ($250 a head this year) to watch NBA stars perform karaoke and also get a chance to bid on Heat-related items at an auction.

It's for a good cause and a good laugh; proceeds from the event go toward the Battiers' Take Charge foundation which helps send South Florida students to college. Thanks to the event, Battier will pay the college tuition of about a half-dozen students.

Performers this time around ranged from LeBron James to Pat Riley to the Heat's newly signed Chris Andersen to Miami resident and Hollywood star Christian Slater. Yes, Christian Slater.

Some notes from the evening:
  • Remember when a video of James performing Rick James' "Super Freak" made the rounds last year? That was Battioke. James' encore this year was a horribly off-key rendition of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," but he followed that up with a duet with Dwyane Wade in which they serenaded a birthday girl from the audience to Shai's "If I Ever Fall In Love." You can watch the PG-13 rated performance here.
  • But Bosh was the big winner of the night. Speaking after Tuesday's Heat practice, Battier explained why Bosh received the night's top award, taking the Battioke trophy from last year's recipient, James Jones. "Chris [Bosh] was my sleeper pick," Battier said. "I don’t think anyone has ever done Barry White like he did last night." Looking at the photo above, you can tell Bosh came to play. "Chris was awesome because he undersold the performance," Battier said. "A lot of times when you do Barry White's 'My First, My Last, My Everything,' you tend to go for the bravado and he undersold it. He stuck a pillow under his shirt so he looked like a fat slob and he had this awful goatee. He looked like a cheesy lounge singer at his best."
  • Here is footage of Andersen and Mike Miller doing Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice Baby" courtesy of Hot Hot Hoops. Miller, as you'll see, carried Andersen.
  • Jones almost became a repeat winner by going onstage with Riley and performing Cee Lo's "Forget You." The best part? When Jones turned to Riley and told him, "Hey, you gotta tell your boy to give me some more minutes. I want to play." Coach Erik Spoelstra was in attendance. No word if Jones will play in Wednesday's game against Toronto.
  • Udonis Haslem walked out onstage wearing a wig with long dreadlocks (see that here) and did Rick James' "Mary Jane," but not before he jokingly announced that the song choice had nothing to do with his previous brushes with the law. Haslem was arrested in 2010 for possession of marijuana, but the charges were later dropped. Yes, this probably generated the loudest laughs of the night.
  • Battier gave the best newcomer award to Ray Allen, not Andersen, for Allen's duet with his wife. "I think with the heart and soul of Ray Allen, he wins it. He’s lucky he has his wife there to bail him out. Ray was a star, his wife was an even bigger star." Allen and his wife followed in James' footsteps and chose Michael Jackson's "I Just Can't Stop Loving You." Battier mentioned that he borrowed the Battioke idea from Allen, who did a similar event "many moons ago" with the Celtics.
  • Along with two friends, Slater performed the Heat's victory song "The Heat Is On" by the one and only Glenn Frey.
  • The list of auctioned items included two courtside seats to an upcoming Rockets game, a pair of LeBron's game-worn shoes and a day on a 100-foot yacht with Battier and his wife, along with select Heat teammates. You know, just normal stuff. Though there's no official word on how much money was raised, some items were going for upward of $20,000, which isn't a surprise considering the room was filled with some of Miami's finest, including Triple Crown winner and former Marlins star Miguel Cabrera, who plays for Battier's hometown Detroit Tigers. Good times all around.

Who's to blame for Miami's rebound woes?

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
1:41
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Haslem/Bosh
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
Udonis Haslem grabs a rebound from Chris Bosh's hands last week against Dallas -- a notable trend.

It seems the Heat have a rebounding problem.

The defending champs rank in the bottom 10 overall in rebound rate and second to last on the offensive glass. This has generated heaps of criticism toward both Chris Bosh and the Heat's decision to embrace small-ball after winning the title with it.

But here's the thing: The Heat have already ditched small-ball, and when they did, they became a worse rebounding team.

This is Miami's rebounding paradox. Sunday's game against the Washington Wizards marked the one-month anniversary of Udonis Haslem's promotion to the starting lineup. On Dec. 6, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, looking to shore up the increasingly problematic second unit, decided to insert Haslem into the starting five against the New York Knicks and bring Shane Battier off the bench as he rehabbed from his strained MCL.

We can debate all day about the importance of starting lineups or the lack thereof, but this was a landmark move in the Heat's season. Spoelstra, at least temporarily, put the title-winning formula on hold by slotting two traditional big men next to LeBron James.

Spoelstra went "big" and by doing so, it accomplished a couple of things. One, it allowed Joel Anthony to anchor the second unit's previously porous defense. So far, that's worked out and the defense has improved.

Secondly, it gave the Heat an additional big man next to Bosh to help on the boards. Haslem is known as the Heat's rebounding specialist. Earlier this season, he became the franchise's all-time leading rebounder, and last season he ranked eighth in the NBA in defensive rebound rate.

But the interesting thing is that Haslem's promotion has had the opposite effect on the Heat. Since Haslem entered the starting lineup, the Heat have ranked 24th in rebound rate. Before then: 21st.

Dig deeper and the issue becomes clear: The Heat's "big" starting lineup has gotten crushed on the boards. The five-man unit with Haslem next to Mario Chalmers and the Big Three has played 189 minutes together this season, which ranks 26th in the league, according to NBA.com's advanced stats tool. Among the top 30 five-man units with the most minutes in the NBA, that Chalmers-Wade-James-Haslem-Bosh lineup ranks 28th in rebound rate, grabbing just 45.5 percent of all available rebounds. A 45.5 percent rebounding rate would rank last in the NBA behind the Dallas Mavericks.

And it gets worse: That lineup gives up 19.3 second-chance points every 48 minutes -- easily the highest rate among those 30 lineups. It's actually the highest rate of any of the top 50 teams in minutes.

You want to know which lineup ranks 17th in rebounding among those 30 most common lineups?

The Heat's "small" starting lineup with Battier. Yes, better than the Haslem lineup.

How can this be?

There's a big difference between rebounding on the individual level and on the team level. Individually, Haslem does very well on the boards; he averages 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is the highest in Miami's rotation. But on a team level, the Heat have actually done worse on the boards when he's on the floor this season.

You know who in particular has done worse with Haslem on the court? Bosh. In fact, Bosh tallies 9.2 rebounds per 36 minutes with Haslem on the bench, according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool. When he plays next to Haslem: 5.8 rebounds per 36 minutes.

This is the opposite of the Bargnani Effect, the phenomenon when Bosh became an all-world rebounder when he played alongside Andrea Bargnani (the anti-Mr. Clean on the glass). When Bosh plays next to Battier in that starting lineup, he grabs 11.0 rebounds every 36 minutes. Those are numbers that Heat fans want to see from Bosh. But Bosh's boards have been cut in half when he plays next to Haslem.

Does Haslem steal Bosh's rebounds? And why do the Heat's rebounding numbers suffer when Haslem is on the court?

These are very good questions, and it's tough to pinpoint the answer. It could hint at something that probably doesn't get the attention it deserves: rebound hogging. That's when a player "steals" live rebounds from his teammates that would have been safely recovered anyway. This seems quite selfish when you think about it, and "selfish" is the last word people (especially those within the Heat organization) associate with Haslem, so something else is probably going on here.

It could very well be the case that when Haslem steps onto the floor, the other Heat players simply get lazy and let him swallow up all the boards. Bosh may be as guilty of this as anyone. Yes, Haslem has been a strong rebounder over his career, but he's 32 years old and his rebounding numbers are their worst since 2008-09 once you adjust for playing time. He may not be up to the task anymore.

That the Heat have rebounded worse with Haslem this season flies in the face of all the conventional wisdom. Bosh has actually been a solid rebounder this season, but not when he plays next to Haslem. It may not be Haslem's fault, but if the Heat aren't demonstrably better as a team on the boards with him on the floor, what exactly is he out there for?

That's a tricky question for Spoelstra that's being made even trickier lately. Haslem collected 12 boards on Sunday, but here's the dirty little secret: they rebounded better as a team when he was on the bench (53.7 percent of all available boards with Haslem on the court, 60.0 percent off the court).

That's the Heat's problem in a nutshell. But can they solve it? It's fitting that their next test comes Tuesday against the Pacers, one of the top rebounding teams in the league. Yes, the same opponent that prompted Spoelstra to put Battier in the starting lineup and go "small" in the postseason. And we all know how that turned out.

James, Wade and Heat search for continuity

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
11:26
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
Archive
LeBron/Wade/Spoelstra
AP Photo/Elise Amendola
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are getting more say in Erik Spoelstra's rotation shuffle these days.

MIAMI -- Erik Spoelstra hinted this was coming.

Two weeks ago, the Miami Heat coach essentially warned his players – and anyone who follows the team closely – to expect the unexpected.

He said to be prepared for opportunities to come one game, and flee the next. He cautioned to brace for sudden change.

“I don't know exactly how I'm going to go for the next 10 or so games, but I do want to look at some things,” Spoelstra said earlier this month. “It's not necessarily tinkering. But I'm trying to get our lineups consistent where it's a consistent wave of production and efficiency.”

That search for continuity continues as the Heat (14-6) try to smooth out a turbulent stretch that has included three losses in five games entering Saturday's visit from the Washington Wizards. In fact, it was a stunning loss to the then one-win Wizards on Dec. 4 in Washington that exposed the Heat for their inconsistent play this season.

But even before then, a combination of injuries, defensive lapses and sluggish starts has led Spoelstra to change his starting lineup five times in the past eight games and juggle his rotation as he patiently waits for the defending champs to rekindle the playoff chemistry of last season.

The Heat have 10 players averaging between 14 and 38 minutes this season. But none except LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh really knows what sort of role to expect – or how long it'll last – on a given night.

“We know who our top 11 or 12 [players] are,” Spoelstra said of trying to settle on a specific rotation. “Things could change. But that will really be based on how we're playing and what we like and don't like.”

In recent games, Spoelstra has liked a starting lineup that looks quite different than the one he prefers at the finish. Udonis Haslem has replaced Shane Battier as the starting power forward and Mario Chalmers continues to start at point guard despite his recent struggles on both ends of the floor.

But there has been a different set of closers on the floor alongside James, Wade and Bosh late in the fourth quarter. Battier, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Joel Anthony have been among the finishing options lately.

A clear sign that Spoelstra is still searching was revealed late in Wednesday's 97-95 home loss to Golden State, when the Heat effectively used Cole instead of Chalmers in the second half to slow down Stephen Curry. But Spoelstra replaced Cole with Allen in the final minutes and curiously stayed with Allen after a timeout with 11 seconds left when the Heat needed a defensive stop. The Warriors scored on a backdoor layup with a second remaining after a defensive mix-up between Battier, Allen and Bosh.

After taking the day off Thursday, the Heat went back to work Friday to regroup. It's a continuous process, and Spoelstra has involved his star players in the process as he experiments with different lineup combinations.

“When things are going good, you don't need to voice your opinion that much,” James said. “When things out on the floor are going well and you see a rotation that looks good, you want to stick with that. When you're deep, you go through a couple of phases in the season where you try to find the best combination of lineups, offensively and defensively … and you just go from there.”

James said he's gradually become more vocal over his three seasons in Miami about which players work best around him during certain moments in games. He doesn't dictate the Heat's substitution patterns in games, but he does approach Spoelstra with recommendations in meetings.

“I take on a lot of roles,” James continued. “Hopefully, I'm in a lot of those combinations. I feel that my voice ... that my opinion means a lot. Being out there, it's a fine line. You want to be able to score, but you also want to be able to defend. There's going to be better lineups offensively. And there's going to be lineups that are better defensively. As a coach, you try to find the one that fits in the middle.”

Wade said his suggestions to Spoelstra during challenging times are a bit more personal. They discuss ways in which Wade can be used more effectively and efficiently, considering he's still working his way back to full strength following offseason knee surgery.

Wade's performances this season have been as sporadic as those of his team. His scoring average (19.8 ppg) is the lowest it's been since his rookie season, but his field goal percentage (50.4) is currently at a career-high level.

“So far in the early season, for me, it's been me suggesting what I feel I can give or how I can help myself to help the team,” Wade said. “We're still trying to figure out and find out the way we want to play. It's still early in the season for a lot of teams. This is the time of year where you pick up wins while you're still figuring your game out.”

For Spoelstra, it's also about finding combinations that fit. Last season, that search continued well into the playoffs until he developed a small-ball rotation dynamic that fueled the Heat's push to a championship.

So it's still way early in the process.

“You don't just want guys to say, 'Yeah, well, I'll just sit over here. I don't want to play,'” Spoelstra said. “But our guys understand the big picture. They understand we will need all the guys and it's a long season. It's a luxury that we have that versatility. If everybody has the right mindset, then we can use it to our benefit. If guys get sideways in the mind, there's no point in even having that versatility.”
LeBron James
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
LeBron James and the Heat look to rise against the surging Hawks.

In another installment of the Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on the storylines before the Heat host the Hawks on Monday and aim to improve to 14-5.

1. Fact or Fiction: The Hawks will be the No. 2 seed in the East.


Tom Haberstroh: Fiction. Really want to put "Fact" here because I think the Hawks are legit. Trouble is, I think the Knicks are also legit so I'm going to pencil in Atlanta for the No. 3 slot. With their super-quick ball handlers, the Hawks will be the biggest test of the season for Miami's porous perimeter defense.

Michael Wallace: Fiction. The one constant about the Hawks is that they always manage to disappoint you. In both good and bad ways. You expect them to stay consistent and reach their potential, and the bottom falls out. Count them out of the race, and they're suddenly on your heels. That makes them a solid No. 4 seed year in and out.

Brian Windhorst: Fiction. Some are surprised by the Hawks' strong start and some, who liked them post-Joe Johnson trade, aren't. Either way, despite some early doubts, I think they've proven over the first quarter of the season that they're a playoff team. They have proven they are a good defensive team and that will probably carry them. But I'd be surprised if they got to 50 wins, much less the No. 2 seed.



2. Fact or Fiction: Josh Smith is still a Hawk next ATL-MIA game (Feb. 20).


Haberstroh: Fiction. I have no inside info on this one, but I have a sneaky suspicion that new GM Danny Ferry will flip Smith for assets a la Johnson and continue building around Al Horford. Midseason trades are always more difficult to pull off, but I'm not sure the Hawks want to give free-agent-to-be Smith a max deal after what happened with Johnson. Dealing Smith would ensure they get assets to re-tool with rather than letting him walk this summer for nothing.

Wallace: Fact. Especially if the Hawks somehow keep this successful ride going well through the All-Star break. Smith is probably the second-biggest available trade chip out there behind Pau Gasol. But he seems to be just as valuable if he stays. If the Hawks keep him, he's a free agent after the season and they could have even more cap space. So Atlanta's in a good spot either way.

Windhorst: Fact. Smith has been the subject of trade rumors for a few years, but there's a reason he's still there. He enables the Hawks to swing from playing big with him at small forward to playing small with him at power forward. He's also reasonably effective at both ends. He's also not quite an All-Star. These factors make it hard to judge his value, which is why it is hard to both find a trade for him and hard to want to trade him.



3. Fact or Fiction: Udonis Haslem should start for rest of season.


Haberstroh: Fiction. The key is getting Joel Anthony more minutes. Spoelstra wants the defensive ace in the rotation to help stop the bleeding on that end of the floor, and this is one way to do it. But Haslem's shot has declined so badly -- he's shooting an abysmal 21 percent on jumpers this season -- that he's no longer a big upgrade offensively over Anthony. To me, this feels like a temporary solution. Once the defense starts to pick up, I expect Spoelstra to go back to Shane Battier in time for the playoff run.

Wallace: Fiction. Erik Spoelstra proved he's adequate at making the proper adjustments for the long-term success of the team. The fact that he's flexible and unpredictable with lineup tweaks is a good thing because no one's ever out -- or in -- the rotation for long beyond the top four players. So if Haslem is the man for the job now, so be it. But things can change again in a hurry.

Windhorst: Fiction. I'm rather bored by "starter" stuff because I simple don't care who starts unlike most players and many fans. The bigger question is: "Should the Heat be as committed to playing small ball as they were at the start of the season?" I'm not sure we have an answer to that yet. The negatives have been obvious defensively and Spoelstra is clearly evaluating whether he should play a little more conventionally. It seems, for now, like he's going to and that means starting Haslem and playing Joel Anthony.

Ray Allen spurs Miami's changing identity

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
3:06
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Ray Allen
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Erik Spoelstra wasn't cheering at this moment and it's easy to see why.

MIAMI -- The Heat should write a thank-you letter to Ray Allen, Gregg Popovich and David Stern for distracting everyone on Thursday night from this dumbfounding reality:

The Heat just gave up 100 points to a team that started Patty Mills, Nando De Colo, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter.

At home.

With four days' rest.

Against an opponent playing on a back-to-back and their fourth game in five nights.

Anyway you slice it, Thursday's game was the cupcake of all cupcakes, yet Miami's once-vaunted defense couldn't seem to slow down the Spurs' JV squad.

This is isn't just an outlier performance for the Heat either. The team's defense has been a hot mess this season, surrendering 103.6 points per 100 possessions to the opponent. That ranks 23rd in the NBA, behind defensive juggernauts like Detroit and Charlotte.

"We know we're capable of more," Spoelstra said Thursday of his defensive struggles. "There will come a time when we just have to do it, but we're much better than what we're showing defensively."

A postgame press conference after a win isn't the most opportune time to focus on a team's weakness, but there's certainly lingering disappointment there. The Heat are proud of their 11-3 record after a month and they should be. Those games are in the books and no one can take those wins away.

But the way they've gotten there? So far, they've taken the outscore-your-opponent maxim to its literal extreme, and that's not exactly the Miami Heat way. Traditionally, Pat Riley-led Heat have prided themselves as an Eastern Conference powerhouse with a grind-it-out, defensive-minded mentality. In fact, in five of the Heat's previous six seasons, their defense has ranked better than their offense according to NBA.com/stats.

But this season has been a fascinating departure from the Heat's modus operandi. Only six NBA teams have been worse this season on that end of the floor; none of them has a winning record. That's not the company that the Heat would like to keep. Not in years past anyway.

In many ways, Thursday night's nail-biter was a microcosm of the Heat's season: LeBron James carried the Heat offensively as the defense hemorrhaged points to the other team, then Ray Allen came in to save the day. On one hand, the Heat could take their 9-0 record in clutch situations and shove it in the faces of their harshest critics that claimed that they couldn't win close games. How 'bout them apples. On the other hand, those same critics could just shrug their shoulders and counter, "Talk to me when Allen comes back to Earth and those late-game shots start going the other way."

How much longer can Allen keep bailing out the Heat? At some point he'll have to miss, right? That's the big question. According to ESPN Stats & Info, after Thursday's heroism, Allen is now 3-for-3 on game-tying or go-ahead 3-pointers in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. No one has more this season. No one else is 3-for-3. And to show how finicky those shots can be, consider that Allen missed all four such shots last season. If those shots don't go down, the Heat could just as easily be looking at a lukewarm 8-6 start to the season.

If Thursday's game was a microcosm of the Heat's season, then Allen is the face of it. Like the Heat, the 37-year-old's offense has been better than many expected, but his defense has been a disaster so far.

Take your pick of the staggering statistics. One trusted advanced metric even points to Allen as being a net loss because of his defensive liabilities this season. With a rate of 2.8 fouls every 36 minutes, Allen is being whistled for fouls more than ever, or at least since he was a rookie. SynergySports, a video-tracking service that NBA teams use, ranks Allen 105th among 114 qualified players on a per-possession basis defensively.

Or you can just watch him on film. Routinely, opposing shooting guards blow by him on the perimeter and he's forced to grab and swipe at his penetrating opponent. Allen has admitted that he doesn't think his ankle will be 100 percent again and you can see it on that end of the floor, especially when he's asked to move laterally.

But feed Allen the ball for a 3-pointer and ask him to rise up? No one has looked better. However, as good as he has been with that shot, it can't hide the fact that the Heat have allowed 109 points per 100 possessions with Allen on the floor and just 97 when he's riding pine.

Allen isn't the sole reason for the Heat's decline on that end of the floor. Dwyane Wade deserves some of the blame as well. Perhaps because of his sore foot, Wade has often taken his time "running" back on defense in transition and has shown only spurts of lockdown defense. And defensive specialist Joel Anthony continues to find himself on the outside looking in. There's plenty of time to improve, even if they've never struggled this badly on defense in the Big Three era.

Ultimately, the Heat will continue to be an elite team if they score the way they have. But it's worth wondering if Allen's clutch play is sustainable and whether they can get away with playing porous defense down the road in the playoffs.

So far, Allen has played the culprit and the savior for Miami's early weaknesses. And so far, it's working. How long will it last?

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