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The Dawn of the Joel Anthony Era

I have long made the case that Joel Anthony will be a breakout player this season. But who cares, right? I'm just some dork at a computer.

Ah, but now I have company.

Anthony is impressing those people with opinions that actually matter, such as Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra and star player/assistant general manager Dwyane Wade.

Spoelstra raves about Anthony's "energy" and "athleticism," and implies that the defensive specialist has learned to bounce the ball against the floor and have it return to the palm of his hand:

"I don't know why I would be surprised about Joel, because he's been such an incredible hard worker for the last year," Spoelstra said. "But he's had a terrific camp so far and his energy has been incredible, with his athleticism.

"He's probably in the best shape of anybody in the camp, and he's really got an idea of what we're trying to do. He's really made strides offensively, even."

Regular readers of PiM know that I have been advocating for a larger role for Anthony all summer. I think he has potential for a Ben Wallace-style breakout, or at least a scholarship to the Tyrone Hill/Lorenzo Williams school of sharp-elbowed bigs, and he gained confidence running with Team Canada this summer.

Looking at the Heat's four potential centers (including Mark Blount, Jamaal Magloire, Udonis Haslem), only Anthony can provide the two things Miami most needs at the position: shot-blocking and running the floor.

"When we do our games in practice," Wade said, "I love when they say Joel is on my team, because I know he's going to block a shot on one end and probably go down and catch a lob and dunk it on the other end. That's just the way he plays.

I'll put it this way: when an opponent gets to the rim, I want Anthony to meet him there rather than Blount. When Miami gets out on the break, I want Anthony filling a lane rather than Magloire trotting to half-court.

I'll acknowledge that Haslem, if he can handle the height disadvantage, has earned the right to start, at least for now. But that's all the ground I'm willing to concede. I don't care about Blount's smooth jumper or Magloire's wide ass. Look at the team and the culture being built in Miami, and it's clear: Joel Anthony is the future.