That was not much fun to watch. Miami opened its 2008-09 season on the low end of the remarkably fluid expectations for the team, suffering a thorough beat-down slightly redeemed by some fourth-quarter spasms of competence.
Let's start at the top. Dwyane Wade's numbers on the surface were more than passable: 26 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists in 41 minutes. But he just didn't look like the player we gawked at in the early summer of '06 or the late summer of '08. This is Knicks vs. Heat, and even with both franchises embracing a more progressive style than the Ewing-Zo years, this game is far from USA-Argentina. That court gets awfully small when you've got guys like Udonis Haslem and Zach Randolph caroming about.
Wade looked like he couldn't quite figure out how to project himself onto this game, alternately forcing the action and settling for long-range shots on the way to a game-high 5 turnovers. He also spent an inordinate amount of time counseling teammates, even when they did something right: in the first half, after one of many productive drives by Marcus Banks, Wade pulled him aside at the free-throw line and gave him a quick lecture, I guess about how to maybe draw two fouls next time he attacked the rim. I couldn't discern exactly what was said, but it seemed overbearing, and Banks responded by just nodding politely.
I'm at least a little worried that Wade will fall into the superstar trap, where he's constantly tsk-tsking and rolling his eyes at the bumbling fools around him. I think he's a better teammate than that, but the possibility exists, especially as he shares a lineup with two knuckleheaded rookies, a quasi-star playing for one more huge contract and a center who will be placed at a physical disadvantage roughly 82 times this year. This roster will try Wade's patience at times no matter what approach he takes to leadership, but playing the wizened old professor to a locker room full of perceived dunces won't help anybody.
Mario freakin' Chalmers. I'm sorry I doubted you. 17 points, 7-13 shooting, 3-6 3-pointers, plus 8 assists vs. 1 turnover. A rookie, on opening night at Madison Square, plays 36 minutes against scrappy little dudes like Chris Duhon and Nate Robinson and coughs it up just once. That's what we're looking for. Thus ends the Chris Quinn era.
Marcus Banks has a nice little niche to work himself into, but he's not there yet. With Chalmers grabbing that starting job by the neck, Banks has recast himself as a sixth-man combo guard capable of causing some ruckus and getting the Heat into the bonus. Just need him to knock a shot down every once in a while - he launched a couple of stone-cold bricks from the perimeter.
Michael Beasley played like he was high. I promise that won't become a running joke, but it needed to be said tonight. On a higher level of analysis, here are what I see as the two biggest problems with his offensive game. First, he's heaving from the NBA-range 3-point line, which of course is the only one we're using up here, and as a result is hesitant to shoot the wide-open jumpers that are a big part of his package. Second, he takes way too many shots from a low release point. He opened the Heat's scoring with a fancy little scoop shot that really had no business going in, but that's a really, really bad habit. Teams are going to learn that you can reach in and strip Beasley any time he makes a move toward the basket. Can you imagine if Karl Malone guarded him? Overall, though, I'm not worried. He'll figure it out.
Udonis Haslem more than held his own, albeit against a Knicks frontcourt with the same best-forward-available approach at center as Miami's. I reserve judgement until he guards a legitimate center.
I continue to lament that Joel Anthony cannot catch a moving basketball. I was really counting on him to eclipse Mark Blount and bring the nasty to the world of Heat bigs. Alas, here we are in the familiar realm where slipped picks and feathery jumpers are celebrated while post defense and rebounding are taboo. I don't like it here.
What to do about Shawn Marion? He put up a tidy little double-double, but it's hard to get past the notion that his talents are wasted in this system. So to answer my own question, trade him. Quickly.
I like the Daequan Cook. Not as much as the James Jones yet, but I like.
So that's the eight man: Haslem, Beasley, Marion, Wade, Chalmers plus Blount, Cook and Banks. I want to see more of Shaun Livingston and any of Dorell Wright, but I understand their situations. I'm fine with burying Quinn if Chalmers plays like that. Blount, however, made me regret Jamaal Magloire's injury, and Magloire's completely washed up. Backup center, you may have noticed, is a smoldering, ash-strewn disaster area.
In opposing bench news, that was quite a statement from Mike D'Antoni, no? So not only are Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry not starting, those cats just aren't even breaking a sweat, apparently. I have no idea why Steph wasn't bought out at any cost, but I'm glad he wasn't, because that wild-eyed stare could be emanating from our bench instead of their's. Small blessings.
Day off before the home opener vs. Sacramento on Halloween. I know I'm scared.