Miami's Best Option At Point Is A Familiar Face
MIAMI -- Between now and the Feb. 24 NBA trading deadline, the Miami Heat will have quite a dilemma on their hands.
Do they make a move at point guard and address a position that's not only the Heat's weakest area, but also one that's operating to the detriment of the team lately? Or should the Heat stand pat and avoid disrupting the overall chemistry right now by making even a modest shakeup?
If only the situation -- and solution -- for Miami were that simple. While it's been easy and convenient to dismiss Mario Chalmers and, to a lesser extent, Carlos Arroyo as the problems at the position, that logic only scratches the surface. Almost a month ago, when coach Erik Spoelstra first made the switch from Arroyo back to Chalmers as the starter, I wrote that both are as equally interchangeable as they are dispensable.
And that's why Chalmers' current struggles come as no surprise. Over his last three games, Chalmers had four turnovers against Detroit, was limited to just 13 minutes of playing time because of overall uninspired play against Boston and was 1-of-5 from the field, including 0-of-3 from 3-point range, on Tuesday at Indiana. At this juncture, Spoelstra will have to consider another change at the point.
It's time for the Heat to seriously consider making a deadline move at the position. But not the sort of move you might be thinking. After wrapping up their current four-game road trip with tonight's visit to the Toronto Raptors, Miami heads into the All-Star break. That gives the Heat ample time to regroup and convince Dwyane Wade that he's the man for the job on both ends of the court.
The last time Wade played the point exclusively, he opened his rookie season guarding Allen Iverson and guided the Heat past Baron Davis into the second round of the playoffs while setting up Lamar Odom and Eddie Jones. Imagine what he could do if he were to recommit to the role, only this time while working with LeBron James and Chris Bosh?
Wake up from the pipe dreams in which the Heat land Chauncey Billups, Kirk Hinrich or anyone else with more than $5 million left on his contract. Miami simply doesn't have the assets to address the point guard position by going the trade route right now. Pat Riley certainly isn't parting with Wade, James or Bosh anytime soon. Beyond those, the only contracts of value the Heat hold are the ones belonging to Mike Miller ($25 million/five years), Udonis Haslem ($21 million/five years) and Joel Anthony ($18 million/five years). Miller and Haslem likely aren't going anywhere, and the Heat may feel they have invested too much development time in Anthony to deal him, unless they get desperate.
Beyond those six, Miami has a bunch of players on minimum-salary deals that expire after this season or next, none of which are likely to fetch much of significance in return.
There are potential opportunities out there. With Roddy Beaubois on his way back from an injury absence, there might not be enough room in Dallas for Beaubois, Jason Kidd and Jose Barea. But why would the Mavericks want to help the Heat of all teams?
With Houston appearing to be committed to Kyle Lowry and his hefty contract, Aaron Brooks is certainly expendable and available on the market. The irony here is that Miami had a chance to draft Brooks four years ago but passed on him, Wilson Chandler, Rudy Fernandez and Arron Afflalo to instead acquire Daequan Cook.
Two executives from teams that have dealt with the Heat in previous trade talks said Miami is likely to keep its roster intact this season and address point guard concerns during the offseason. There's also a belief that if the Heat do make a move, it would most likely be a minor one in which the team would acquire a late-first- or early-second-round draft pick to replace some assets lost in the deals for Bosh and James.
The bottom line is that the demands Wade and James have on handling the ball would make it difficult for any pure point guard to thrive in Miami. No one short of Chris Paul or Deron Williams could go to Miami and avoid having the ball snatched from his hands and his natural instincts suppressed in key moments alongside Wade or James. The way the Heat have finished recent games is the style Spoelstra, Riley, Wade and James prefer to play. And that involves surrounding Wade, James and Bosh with a defensive-minded center in Anthony or Erick Dampier and a shooter such as Miller or Eddie House.
For now, that means more sacrifices must be made by the Heat's star trio. It means James must play off the ball more and be willing to take his offense into the post. It means Bosh must accept some stints at center, despite being uncomfortable with matchups against bigger players at times.
And it especially means Wade must return to those Heat roots from his rookie season and embrace point guard responsibilities more frequently on both ends of the court. The fact is Wade would have better command of the offense and already has a more trusting relationship with Spoelstra.
When Wade moved from point guard to shooting guard after his rookie season, it was because the Heat lacked a dynamic scorer on the wing. With James and Bosh now in tow, Wade doesn't face the same do-it-all demands he did over the past five seasons. He can focus on facilitating and running the team and allow James and Bosh to focus on finishing at the rim. And Wade could also have the luxury of relief at times when James is feeling it.
More important, Wade should be the one taking on those defensive assignments against Darren Collison, Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. For the Heat to reach their potential this season, they have few choices beyond asking more from their most dynamic players.
And they're asking a lot from point right now. In the past, Riley has said he's held off on making deals for a point guard because Wade would end up running the offense in the fourth quarter anyway. And that was before James arrived. So you can only imagine Riley's feelings now.
If the Heat are searching for a solution to their point guard problems, the reality is that they shouldn't have to look any further than their own roster.
The only move Miami needs to make at the deadline is moving Chalmers to the bench and convincing Wade to move back to where it all started for him.
The Heat would be better for it. At least for now.
Be Like Mike
... And follow in Carmelo Anthony's footsteps by fasting in search of peace and a deeper perspective amid all of this trade speculation. To cleanse his mind and spirit through all of the rumors in advance of the Feb. 24 trade deadline, the Nuggets forward said he recently gave up meat, bread and sugary sweets for 21 days. He's averaged 33.4 points since he came off the fast.
So let's take a similar stand at The Forecast. Starting today, I'm done with some of my South Florida favorites, including Caribbean jerk chicken, Churassco steak and Cuban coffee, in addition to Skittles and pork rinds, until Melo is dealt. Either this MeloDrama ends soon or I drop a few pounds in the process. Either way, it's a win-win.
"Who is he? So that was just something that he totally took out of proportion, to some degree -- with respect to those two players, or I would say two and a half players, since I don't think Chris Bosh is half the player of LeBron James. But there's no way those guys are gonna break any type of record. I don't think they can break the franchise record in Miami, or the state of Florida, I should say."
-- Six-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, during a recent interview with Slam Online. Pippen was addressing NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy's preseason prediction that the Heat could match the Bulls' record of 72 victories this season.
Close Up: James Jones
Michael Wallace goes one-on-one off the court with the Heat small forward, whose All-Star break will include participating in the 3-point shootout in Los Angeles. Jones will also be working to avoid a potential 2011-12 lockout during collective bargaining agreement meetings as secretary treasurer of the players union. It's all in a week's work for the sharpshooter, who graduated with honors as a finance major from the University of Miami.
Jones: It's a role I relish because at the end of the day we have different levels as players. Some guys have the talent to become superstars and help carry this league. But that's a lot of weight for them to carry. So when you have a situation like a CBA [collective bargaining agreement], they're overloaded. So someone has to step in there, get in there to do the dirty work, the nuts and bolts of what makes this league go. So I kind of look at myself as an extension of those guys because I'm not an elite player. But I get a chance to do everything I can to make sure we're all rewarded in this game.
Wallace: What would be more rewarding for you, personally, this weekend: winning the 3-point shootout to highlight a career of hard work or making at least some headway toward a new CBA?
Jones: That's a tough one, man. It would be best if I could do them both. It's a great honor to be invited to the 3-point contest. If I could win that to solidify myself as one of the 3-point champs, that's historic. But at the same time, it's also fleeting. The day after it's also over, we're back to trying to pursue a championship and trying to pursue a CBA deal so that next year is a reality. I was going to be in L.A. anyway to do some work on the league part. But I also get to go out there and compete for myself.
Wallace: With your background in finance, there might not be a better numbers man on the players' side in negotiations. Are you confident a deal will get done in time to avoid a lockout?
Jones: There's a lot more ground to be covered. The owners, their deals -- at least their proposals -- are ridiculous from our standpoint. And if they hold that hard line, then it's up to them. We're not going to accept that deal. So they'll lock us out. As a player, it's bittersweet because you want to play. This is our livelihood. By no stretch of the imagination will we ever consider something where we can't provide for ourselves and our families. But at the same time, it's in their hands. It's at their disposal whether or not they lock us out. From all indications, that's what they plan to do.
Wallace: You're more likely to relax in the locker room before a game by reading the Wall St. Journal or Business Week magazine than by donning headphones and blasting music. How does that approach, that different sort of perspective, relate to basketball for you?
Jones: The financial world is global. Long gone are the days when everything happened in America. Now everything is international. So you force yourself to see the big picture. In basketball, a lot of times you're trying to see where you fit. You have to be objective and think broadly. It's not as simple as, 'Will I play tonight, or will I not play?' It's about thinking, 'If I'm not playing tonight, what are other things I can do to help myself be prepared for an opportunity here today or somewhere else tomorrow?' You have to prepare, research and see the big picture in the finance world and in basketball.
There's a swing in favor of LeBron's popularity this week. James still has his share of detractors, which won't change, no matter what he does on or off the court at this point. But the boos no longer sound as vicious on the road, and he's won some fans back over with his MVP level of play on the court. LeBron won't ever be a sympathetic figure, but the way he handled the heckler in Detroit who insulted his mother probably had more people backing James on that incident than bashing him.
Top 5 Coach of the Year Candidates
1. Gregg Popovich, Spurs
The Miami Heat have gotten most of the hype. The Los Angeles Lakers remain in the headlines. But Popovich has found a solid supporting cast for Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili and has led the Spurs to one of the best starts in league history.
2. Tom Thibodeau, Bulls
Take two top players away for the majority of two months from Phil Jackson, Erik Spoelstra, Doc Rivers or Rick Carlisle, and I doubt they would accomplish as much as Thibodeau has, in his first season no less, with the Bulls.
3. Doug Collins, 76ers
The prodigal son approach didn't work well when Mo Cheeks made the transition from beloved Sixers player to head coach. That's not the case with Collins, who deserves credit for restoring energy, passion and pride to a Philly team that is looking to lock up a playoff spot.
4. Monty Williams, Hornets
First there was the semi-trade demand from Chris Paul. Then, there was the unrest leading to the sale of the franchise. Williams, in his first season, has navigated through all of the distractions to lead the Hornets to the second-best home record in the West.
5. Erik Spoelstra, Heat
Dealing with LeBron's ego, D-Wade's pride and Chris Bosh's initial discomfort with the system isn't easy. The combustible mix could have blown up in Spoelstra's face months ago. Instead, he stood firm and has won games and maintained the respect of his top players.