Erik Spoelstra thinks that the Heat are going to be a much-improved squad this season. That kind of optimism you would expect from the teams Head Coach, but Spo is backing it up with some facts that you cant help but pay attention to. We have guys coming back healthy who played much of last season hurt, or didn't play much at all. We have top-notch rookies coming back for a 2nd season who have been working their butts off all summer.
Starting off with the youngsters, lets begin with the one who has gotten the most attention this offseason. Obviously, that's Michael Beasley, who returned to the American Airlines Arena on Monday and began working out with some of his Heat teammates. He had been working with Heat coaches, including Erik Spoelstra, while at the rehabilitation clinic in Houston, doing lots of on court exercises.
Spoelstra said Beasley (240 pounds) added 10 pounds of muscle, and "improved his perimeter skills -- he would show us something new all the time. He made dramatic improvements with individual defense. He's quicker. People will see more versatility. He can play either forward position. You'll see a different Michael Beasley. His skill level is so much more advanced than what it was. "
I'm still banking on Beasley coming off the bench this year, as Udonis Haslem is already penciled in as the teams starting power forward, and according to Spoelstra the starting small forward job is very much an open competition. It will be between Beasley, newcomer Quentin Richardson and James Jones.
Jones has come right out and said that he is back to 100% and should be playing at a high level after spending most of last season recovering from wrist surgery. When he finally returned to the lineup last year he was nowhere near his usual self, and is now very hungry to make up for a sup-par last season.
As for Richardson, I am very happy about that trade. Not only because we were able to dump the useless contract of Mark Blount, but more so because Richardson is going to fit right in with our team and add an element that we were really missing last year. Quentin can play the 2 or the 3; he can run the floor well, shoot from the outside and play the kind of defense that our coaching staff loves. Hard nosed, long armed and quick.
Spolelstra said Richardson ``is in the best shape of his life, 230 pounds. He hasn't weighed that since he was at DePaul 11 years ago. He's got defensive toughness, can post up guards and some small forwards.''
We'll move on to the guy who I see as this year's wild card, Jermaine O'Neal. Going into a contract year, J-O is out to prove he can still play at a high level, looking to regain his all-star form that would demand a high paying contract next summer. He is already going to be competing with other UFA's who are better and younger, so a great season would really help his cause.
Apparently, O'Neal is well on his way to having that kind of season. His main goal has been to regain the strength in his knees and regain some of the stamina he prided himself on while playing for Indiana. Should all the work he put forth this offseason translate into Jermaine being a 15 point 10 board kinda guy for us, while playing in around 70-75 games, I think that's a huge success. Says Spo about J-O:
``He's as healthy as he's ever been. We rewound the clock and brought him back to 26. He spent seven weeks with us'' working on strength and conditioning, then eight weeks with Chicago-based trainer Tim Grover. ``I went to Chicago and saw him in pickup games. He looks quick, jumping well. He looked like the guy I remembered with the Pacers, but stronger.''
You have got to love the way things are sounding, as well as the optimism that Coach Spoelstra is showing for his team. Apparently, the Heat organization holds a similar optimistic feeling about their coach, as it was announced earlier this week that Miami had extended the contract of Spoelstra. The teams of the extension have yet to be released, but it's believed to be for a year. That will be added to the reported 3-year contract that he received before last season, after he had been named the teams new Head Coach.
HEAT ADDING PLAYERS TO TRAINING CAMP ROSTER
As of now nothing has been confirmed, but it appears the Heat are going to add some players to their training camp roster. John Lucas III is a 6' point guard who went undrafted out of Oklahoma State is 2005. He spent two years playing for the Rockets, but after the 06-07 season he headed east to play in Italy, and since then he's spent time in the Spanish league as well as the NBA's D-League.
Lucas has been working out with fellow free agent Shavlik Randolph, and both are expected to receive contracts to join the Heat in training camp. Randolph, also undrafted in 05 (Duke), began his career in Philly. It was just beginning to get good when he broke his ankle during a late November practice. He spent one more year with Philly, then last year he signed a non-guaranteed contract with Portland. He did spend the season on their roster, but only played in 10 games and didn't do much to stand out.
Someone who worked out with the Heat a few weeks ago is also on the verge of returning for training camp. 6'9" power forward Andre Brown will compete with Shavlik Randolph for minutes behind Udonis Haslem. How much playing time and what kind of roles they are needed for will depend on whether Coach Spoelstra uses Michael Beasley as a power forward or a small forward. Brown is also a member of the undrafted club, coming out of DePaul in 2004.
All three will get non-guaranteed contracts, and its possible that none of them make the final roster, though unlikely. The Heat can carry up to 20 players on their roster until the regular season, at which time they must trim the roster down to 15.
These moves would leave the Heat's training camp roster looking like this:
Power Forward- Udonis Haslem, Michael Beasley, Shavlik Randolph, Andre Brown
That's 16 players, meaning should the Heat like what they see from everyone, only one player will have to be cut in time for Opening Night (Oct 28th) against the Knicks. However, Pat Riley has said that its possible the Heat may end up carrying as few as the NBA minimum 13 players. Training camp begins in just 4 days on Tuesday the 29th.
I'd like to send out a thank you to everyone on this site for your patience during my recent health issues. Your kind words, comments and e-mails were amazing to read, and I fully appreciate everything. Thank you so much, it's refreshing to know what good people we have in our little online community.
How many games do you think the Heat will win this season?
60 or more (26 votes)
55-60 (34 votes)
50-55 (82 votes)
45-50 (117 votes)
40-45 (42 votes)
35-40 (10 votes)
35 or less (13 votes)
324 total votes