Miami Heat New Years Resolutions: 15 Promises the Heat Should Make for 2011
A lot has certainly changed since the end of November, hasn't it?
Since falling to 9-8, the Heat have strung together eight straight wins that's complete with a four game sweep on their road trip that consisted of games against the Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, and Sacramento Kings in a span of six days. Prior to that, they had beat up on the cellar dwellers of teams, but also had a win against the Atlanta Hawks to boast.
Miami is now at 17-8 and in sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division and also three games out of the number one seed for the Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics leading the way. The Heat are starting to become the team who we thought they would be as they beat up on the weaker opponents of the league and hold their own against the elite teams. Their 13 point road win over Utah might be considered their biggest win of the season thus far.
Despite every player on the roster being the same as a few weeks ago, they have a whole new philosophy and mentality going into every game now it appears. Rather than forcing up jump shot after jump shot, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will make it an issue to drive before settling for a long distance shot. Even though their mid-range games have greatly improved, they still realize that they need to rely on their driving more than any other aspect to help the Heat win games.
With a strong strength of schedule to close out the season, the Heat's last two weeks of December could either be detrimental or beneficial as we begin to find out who this team really is. The streaking New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas should give us an indication of just how far the Heat have come in the span of a few weeks.
Now that New Years is right around the corner, it's time for the Heat to make some resolutions to improve going into 2011. Unlike nearly everybody else that makes New Years resolutions, Miami will need to fulfill their own promises if they want to be considered a legitimate elite team. Here are 15 resolutions the Heat need to follow if they want to continue improving and taking a step in the right direction.
The Heat Promise To...start Erick Dampier.
It still should be a serious issue of why exactly the Miami Heat didn't sign Erick Dampier when they had the chance at the beginning of the season.
Now that they got him, it seems that the entire defensive philosophy of the team has changed. Off the bench, Dampier has become one of the defensive leaders of a Heat team that desperately needed help in the paint. Considering Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Joel Anthony were the only other options, the idea to bring in Dampier was the only one Miami had to actually have an inside presence.
His offensive game is about on the same level as Joel's, but its his defense that has everybody wanting more Erick Dampier in every game. At only 14 minutes per game, Dampier's four rebounds and one block that he brings to every game is extremely beneficial. Miami needed a player like Dampier all season as they were constantly being beaten in the paint on offense and being outrebounded. Erick has stepped up to the challenge and has already made his presence felt in a number of instances.
In the Heat's win against Sacramento, Dampier went a defensive possession with three consecutive blocks. He sent back two of Samuel Dalembert's lay up attempts before sending back an Omri Casspi lay in for good measure. It's hard to believe that a 35 year old is still capable of this, but Erick has been playing nothing short of terrific on defense for the Heat.
Usually, the saying is if it's not broke, don't fix it, but Dampier would be a lot more valuable to the Heat if he was starting. Not only would you have Ilgauskas coming off the bench as a quick offensive spark, but you'd have a strong defender in the post that the stronger centers of the league would have trouble with. The Bucks Andrew Bogut had a considerably hard time with Dampier as he failed to reach double-digits in points.
Erick is quickly proving his worth as a center for the Heat and he should be rewarded with a starters role when he is completely conditioned and ready to run upwards of 20 minutes per game. It'll take some time for Dampier to be the physical specimen the Heat want him to become, but he will be valuable to the Heat as he will solve their post problems.
The Heat Promise To...give More Minutes to Eddie House.
Nobody has gotten the short end of the stick worse than Eddie House. At 41% from beyond the arc, it came as quite the shock that coach Erik Spoelstra knocked him out of the rotation, so that Mario Chalmers can receive more minutes and become more adjusted with the team.
A liability on defense at times sure, but House definitely proves his worth in nearly every game he's on the floor. He's had games where he has shot 6 of 9 and 4 of 4 from beyond the arc, while later on shooting 0 of 7 and 0 of 5 on the night's right after. House is dreadfully inconsistent despite shooting 40%, but the Heat need to realize that they are leaving easy points on the bench in every game.
Eddie could contribute one or two three-pointers per game and on a team where James Jones is the only three-point shooter, there should be no reason why he can't receive any minutes. The current starter in Carlos Arroyo has only proved himself to be a streaky shooter and a sub-par passer as he has fumbled on another fast breaks and has had a few games where he either shoots perfect or dismal. It's a game similar to House's with the only difference being Arroyo is the starter and House is a bench warmer.
With Mario Chalmers gaining more and more minutes and impressing coach Spoelstra nearly every time he's on the floor, it's only a matter of time before he becomes the starter. With Arroyo set to ride the bench as soon as Mario is completely healthy from an injury that limited him throughout the summer, he and House will most likely share minutes. Leaving a competent three-point shooter in Eddie House on the bench doesn't make much sense, especially considering that the Heat only have one pure three-point shooter on the floor.
The Heat need to make it an issue to at least give House some significant minutes that aren't just in garbage time. In the past five games he has only played six minutes with each minute being at the end of the fourth quarter in a blow out. He hasn't made a three-pointer since December 1st and it's time for the Heat to bring back the quick trigger of House back on the floor.
The Heat Promise To...Start Mario Chalmers.
Like Erick Dampier, Mario Chalmers should not be the starter yet to due to him having to adjust to the new team around him, while also caring for the injury that kept him out of the first few games of the regular season. When the time comes, probably by January, Chalmers should be the new floor general.
At least the figurehead floor general.
Over the win streak, the Heat have made it more of an issue to allow the pure point guards to take the ball up court before giving it up to Wade or James to run with it the rest of the way. While Carlos Arroyo has been good of late with two games where he has shot perfect from the floor, it has been Mario Chalmers who has shown that he is the point guard for this team. The problem is that Chalmers also shows why he still needs a lot more time to adjust as he still makes plenty of ridiculous and careless plays.
Like everyone else on the team, Chalmers needs to learn to adjust to his new teammates. Like Wade with LeBron and Bosh or LeBron with Wade and Bosh, Chalmers still needs time to learn to run with the likes of LeBron James and Chris Bosh much like how he needed to learn to run with Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley for the first two years of his career.
It makes it only better for the Heat that Mario is only 24 years old and is the second youngest player on the team aside from Dexter Pittman who is currently on D-League assignment. Unlike Arroyo who is 30, the Heat can mold Chalmers into the player they want to him to become while he learns to run with his new look team. It benefits Mario and the Heat as he learns to play with elite players that could also turn his career around in the right direction.
It might not be a full-on Rajon Rondo effect, but Chalmers will become a legitimate point guard when he is fully healthy and ready to run the floor with the big three for a significant amount of time. His defense and improving offense will be keys to the team as they attempt to make a deep run in the postseason over the next few seasons.
The Heat Promise To...keep Erik Spoelstra Around.
To be honest, no one was against coach Erik Spoelstra more than myself. I found his offensive system to be lackluster and his defensive system to be nonsensical. When LeBron James bumped into him during a timeout, I felt as if it was completely deserved because of the way the Heat had played prior to the timeout and to the way Spo was running the team for the first 17 games of the season.
During their eight game win streak, the team has completely changed and most of it is because of just how well Erik Spoelstra has run the team over the past two weeks. No it's not just because the team is winning, but because of the message he is sending to his team and the rest of the NBA. Prior to the start of their first win of the streak, he and LeBron held a half-hour meeting to discuss where each others minds where at and just what was wrong with the team.
The Heat haven't lost since then. A power struggle was ensuing between Spo and his players as it was believed that LeBron might be forcing him out of Miami just like he did with Mike Brown in Cleveland. Over one team meeting where it was said that LeBron was joking around, Spo went out of his way to call James out on it by telling him to be more serious. It then became obvious that Spoelstra was not backing down for anyone as he took full control of the team.
Since LeBron and Spo's meeting, the Heat have had a completely new mentality as the offense has become much more fast-paced and the defense has become stingier and more hard-nosed than ever before as the team is allowing 85 points per game over their win streak. Their greatest feat was allowing only 86 points to a Golden State Warriors team that is notoriously known for their fast paced, break neck offense.
Miami has shown that they have become a completely different team over the past two weeks and no person has made more of an adjustment than Erik Spoelstra. The new offense has completely changed the mindset of this team as they have won eight straight games by double-digits and are now having fun doing what they do best.
The Heat Promise To...find a Way To Give Dexter Pittman Some Minutes.
With two 35 year olds and a 28 year old with stubs for hands, the Heat aren't exactly the deepest team at the center position. Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are solid, but only for so long and Joel Anthony is the last person the team should possibly look to for a solid, legitimate center. There isn't much to say about Jamaal Magloire either as he hasn't even seen the court in the past few weeks.
With their first pick in this years past NBA draft, the Miami Heat took Texas center Dexter Pittman. The big man had some serious weight issues, but he knew how to throw his weight around and he knew how to rebound. Aside from Dampier, the Heat have no strong rebounding presence and they have not one center who can legitimately post up.
By sending Pittman to the D-League, it was a sign from the Heat organization that Pittman wasn't NBA ready and needed some experience in a lower tier league before he could begin playing. After a few solid performances, Dexter is looking more and more ready to suit up for the Heat and play in his first regular season game.
If anyone were to give up some minutes, it would be Joel Anthony. He has been deemed useless since Dampier arrived and has seen his minutes greatly decline as it is. By having Pittman in the rotation, it allows older players like Ilgauskas and Dampier to rest while Dexter holds his own in the paint. Even though he has lost nearly 100 pounds since high school, Pittman still has the type of body that could clog paints and force drivers and slashers into difficult shots.
He should start out slow to get adjusted to the team and the fast pace of the NBA, but he will come as valuable in the future when he Ilgauskas and Dampier eventually succumb to their age or health issues.
The Heat Promise To...find a Way To Play Mike Miller and James Jones.
When Mike Miller went down with an injury during a practice, the three-point load was then suddently thrust upon James Jones. With Eddie house as the only other pure three-point shooter, Jones had a large responsibility on his hands as the first option from beyond the arc. Needless to say, he has performed admirably while shooting 46% for the season and hitting 50% or more in nine of the past ten games.
With the return of Mike Miller is on the horizon, most likely the start of January, Jones role on the team is about to greatly diminish. The 24 minutes he has been averaging will most likely be cut in half when Miller is completely healthy and eventually regains his shooting stroke. He'll still be considered the second option from deep, but it will be Miller predominantly getting the task of being the number one option when it comes to shooting from deep.
Jones will probably hang around when Miller initially returns, to allow Miller to gradually come back and develop a chemistry, but there is a large possibility that he could be considered an after thought at times if Miller becomes the shooter that the Heat envisioned him to be. At 50% from deep last season, Mike was one of the best three-point shooters in the league while a member of the Washington Wizards.
Once Miller regains his form, the Heat should still make it an issue to find ways to give James Jones a significant amount of minutes. With the way Miller shot last year and how Jones is shooting so far, they can easily form one of the better shooting duos in the league. With Jones usually restricted to the three-point line, Miller could take some of the attention off of him with his mid-range game and his deep game.
It'd be a rarity to see both players on the floor considering Spoelstra likes to have LeBron or Dwyane on the floor at all times, but it'd be an interesting set to possibly have LeBron run the point, have Miller at the two, and Jones at the three.
The Heat Promise To...have Udonis Haslem Back By The Postseason.
The loss of Mike Miller was bad. Losing Udonis Haslem? That's a problem all by itself.
Not to mention, at least Miller will be back by January. Haslem might not be back for the rest of the season following a foot injury during their game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Udonis went down in the third quarter while going up for a rebound and needed to be carried out by his teammates. The loss hasn't affected the team too much so far, but it will hurt in the long run when the Heat desperatly need a strong rebounder and defender.
The Heat have tried to compensate with back up Juwan Howard and the signing of Erick Dampier, but it nowhere near matches the intensity that Haslem brings to every game. Howard and Dampier fail to match the rebounding, defense, and emotion that Haslem brings to every game. For eight seasons, Haslem has been one of the most reliant players as he has always been consistent throughout games with his mid-range game his rebounding.
The reports were originally for him to be out until Februrary, but it appeared that the injury was more serious than thought at first and it now seems that Haslem could be out for the entire regular season. It would be Udonis's first season where he has succumbed to a serious injury and considering it's Haslem that has to sit out, it is obvious that it is truly a serious injury.
Even though the Heat are in the midst of a nine game win streak and appear to be developing the right chemistry, when it comes down to the postseason and when Miami possibly faces the Celtics and Lakers, Haslem's impact will greatly be missed. Udonis is no stranger when it comes to playing in important games, as he was given the assignment to defend Dirk Nowitzki in the 2006 NBA finals.
The Heat should in no way rush Haslem back into rotation, but they need to get their strength and conditioning coaches to work their hardest to get Udonis back into form and ready for the post season.
The Heat Promise To...make Chris Bosh a More Aggressive Player.
Aside from coach Spoelstra, nobody has taken more abuse from critics in the Heat organization more than Chris Bosh. By coming out slow at the gate, skeptical Heat fans were already calling for the trade of Chris Bosh for a more competent big man.
They didn't give him enough time until Bosh had a 35 point game against the Phoenix Suns. Since then, Chris has had a number of double-doubles that's complete with a 12 point and 17 rebound game against Sacramento. Chris has taken the abuse from the media and has responded it to well by averaging 18 points and eight rebounds while adjusting to the role as the teams third option.
One of Chris's greatest aspects to his offensive game is his mid-range jumper. It is where the majority of his points come from and he has added a number of moves to the shot as well, one of the more effective is the pump fake that nearly every defender bites on. The problem for Chris is that he appears to not be too sure of what to do with the ball after. At times, he can drive and make a strong move, but he could also take a more difficult shot or go weak in the paint.
Chris has always been criticized as a 'soft' player and it has been considered to be his downfall when facing a larger power forward. It has been seen already when Bosh goes against a bigger player, Zach Randolph, that he does struggle and has a harder time finding position for rebounds. He has never been seen as one of the more physical big men of the league and would rather shoot from deep before posting up or driving.
It is not a lost cause for Bosh as we have seen from Pau Gasol and the Los Angeles Lakers and it is completely possible for Chris to toughen up in time for when it really matters. When Bosh has to face Kevin Garnett or Pau Gasol in their playoff runs, he'll need to be physical in order to showcase an advantage over his defenders.
The Heat Promise To...have Lebron and Dwyane Work On Their Chemistry.
Prior to the start of the season, the duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade was considered to possibly the greatest tandem to ever be paired up on the same team. Their slashing and driving skills coupled with their mid-range game and their ability to be clutch were supposed to be second to none as they were expected to wipe the floor with every opponent they faced just on sheer athleticism and skill.
Then the season came and those talks ended extremely quick. Their disappointing 88-80 season opening loss to the Boston Celtics was a cause for concern with LeBron James handling just about every responsibility and Dwyane Wade struggling to adjust considering it was his first game back from an injury. The 9-8 start didn't help either as they continued to struggle against average and above average teams.
Now at 18-8, we have seen a completely different team and a completely new look from the LeBron and Dwyane tandem. There have been plenty of instances where they have met at the summit for some highlight reel plays that leave even the largest haters in awe, but they have also played very sloppy in the fastbreak and in their new and improved offense as they continue to feel out each others games.
It takes time for things like this to work. Sure the big three in Boston brought immediate success, but this Heat team has parts that don't fit as well as Garnett, Allen, and Pierce did with the Celtics. LeBron and Dwyane are extremely similar in the ways that they play and it's an extreme for these two to go and change their games to adjust to each other from the start. It's a process that they knew they would encounter and they are beginning to play more like a team each and every game.
The nine game win streak has been fantastic for this Heat team as they see the LeBron and Dwyane duo hook up for big plays during the game and down the stretch. It'll only be a matter of time before we see them do it on every possession rather than sporadically throughout the game.
The Heat Promise To...beat The Boston Celtics.
It's a well-known fact that the road to the NBA finals in the East runs through the Boston Celtics. They have proved it over the past three years that they are the team to beat and are proving it this year as they rocket out to a 19-4 spot.
Even though we wanted to believe that the Miami Heat were the new team to beat, it became painfully obvious following the season opener that they still needed to work on many aspects of their game. Compared to the Celtics, there just wasn't an answer against a team that has possibly some of the greatest chemistry in the NBA today. Their second match up in Miami was no better as the Celtics once again came out fighting while the Heat regressed.
That Miami team and this Miami team are completely different from each other. That Heat team was a jump shooting, nonsensical, and lackluster team that had no form of chemistry or cohesion whatsoever in the rotation. The Celtics were an organized team that had plenty of chemistry and the right players to fit into the system they play. The 0-2 start against the C's wasn't exactly what the Heat asked for, but it is all part of the growing up process.
Come February 13th however, there will be no excuses.
Miami gets their second chance at redemption with a game back in Boston where they will have two more months to develop their chemistry and to continue to grow as a team. They'll also have their sharp shooter in Mike Miller back as well as they prepare to take on the team that has embarassed them on two different occassions. It will be a much better way to gage just how far this Heat team has come and just how well they stand in the post season if they do meet up.
The Heat Promise To...beat The Los Angeles Lakers.
This one comes a lot sooner and the Heat need to set their resolutions soon if they want to fulfill this promise.
Coming into the season, the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers was a match-up set in stone. However, with the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks tearing up the Western Conference and the Boston Celtics still in control of the Eastern Conference, this match-up might not occur for a number of years if the Heat can't get past the Celtics or Kobe Bryant's injuries and age begin to catch up.
Both teams have had their faults over the season so far with each team falling to teams that they usually shouldn't lose to. Not to mention, at 17-7 the Lakers are only third in the Conference early into the season. It's definitely too early to tell just how well each of these teams seasons will pan out, but it should be noted that each team will probably have extremely successful seasons and possible deep runs into the post season.
The Finals are a little too much to worry about now, the Heat's visit to the Staples Center on December 25th is definitely the date to circle on the calendar. Miami has always played the Lakers well and they split the season series 1-1 last season with the Lakers winning on a buzzer beater at home and the Heat winning in overtime in their house. The Lakers are essentially the same team, but the Heat are a completely new look team as they face Los Angeles for the first time this season.
Against elite teams, the Heat only have two wins, but they have proved that they are ready to face a team like the Lakers with big wins over the Orlando Magic and on the road against the Utah Jazz. LeBron and Dwyane have always had success against the Lakers and it'll be very interesting to see just the match-up's of Wade and Bryant, James and Ron Artest, and Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol.
With only five games until Christmas, the Heat need to keep the win streak alive going into their monumental game against the defending champions.
The Heat Promise To...keep Dwyane Wade Healthy.
Despite playing only eight years in the league, it seems that Dwyane Wade has played for upwards of 15.
At least that's probably the way his body feels. Dwyane has never completed a full regular season and has had three seasons where he played less than 60 games due to injuries. Whether it was to ribs, shoulders, or knees, Wade's style of play of reckless abandonment has been make or break as he continues to put his body on the line for his team.
Wade's driving and finesse is risky now more than ever at 29 years old as he could find himself out of games for longer than usual due to his age and the possibility of an injury on top of another injury. Dwyane has already fell to the injury bug when he pulled his hamstring two minutes into the teams first preseason game and was then forced to sit out the entire preseason. His regular season debut showed just how ineffective Wade can be when playing hurt or just coming off of an injury.
When the Heat brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh, they knew that they weren't only there to win, but to take the load off of Wade. Over the past two years, Wade has been the sole reason why the Heat won 43 and 47 games and why they also made the post season for both years. He was set with the responsibility of playing extremely extended minutes and commanding the ball for nearly 40 minutes over nearly 80 games.
With the addition of James and Bosh, Wade has already seen the load taken off of him as his two teammates take the scoring responsibility off of him for an extended amount of time. Dwyane can now look to and trust his teammates, rather than being forced to take on an entire team and putting his body at risk with either a hard foul or a hard fall.
Keeping Wade healthy is an extremely large issue as he is the heart and soul of the Miami Heat franchise. To lose him late in the season or in the post season would immediately put a damper on the Heat's chances of going all the way this year and in years in the future.
The Heat Promise To...have LeBron James Control His Temper.
We have seen what LeBron James can do for the Miami Heat. We have seen how he can react to pressure and criticism. We have seen what he could do when he has the ball in his hands and having full control of the team.
We have also seen just how far LeBron can go when frustrated. Out of LeBron's tenure with the team so far, one of the most noted times so far has been during a time-out at a Dallas Mavericks game early in the season. Following an early third quarter run that gave them a 15 point lead against the visiting weeks, Erik Spoelstra called a time out in an attempt to stop the damage. When he and LeBron James met in the court, James appeared to shove his shoulder into Spo's.
It wasn't the first time either as James did the same to former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown before he was let go. Even though he is one of the greatest athletes in the NBA, his mentality can sometimes get the best of him when he gets frustrated with the team and its performance. Unlike in Cleveland though, LeBron and his coach met a few days after to discuss their thoughts on the team so far. Since then, the Heat have yet to lose a game.
It's definitely a right step in the direction for LeBron and his state of mind with the team as we see him mature as a basketball player. At 25, we could see James take on a new outlook on the game as he adjusts with his new team and gets to know his new teammates. The outlook of looking at someone else as a possible better option than himself is a part of his maturity with the Heat.
The team will go through some tough times during their time together and James, as well as the rest of his teammates, all need to make sure they are ready when the Heat do actually begin to lose games once in a while.
The Heat Promise To...win The Eastern Conference.
A few weeks ago, critics of the Heat had this team as a possible second round exit. Currently, they are working their way back to elite status as they hold the second seed for the first time in nearly four years. Not since Shaquille O'Neal was on the team, have the Heat seen this success as of late. They had previously been used to being an average team topping off at 47 wins last season.
A possible 50 win season is on the horizon and Miami is sure to one of the top four seeds and home court advantage in the post season for the first round. The best scenario is the one seed which is at a high possibility with the way they've been playing as of late. The most likely to happen however is a two seed with the high possibility that the Celtics play how well they have also.
So far in the Heat's schedule against the Eastern Conference, they are 12-4 with two of the losses coming against the Celtics and one each to the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers. They have yet to lose a game when facing an Eastern Conference foe since November 24th and are 6-0 since. They have no doubt found success against their conferences opponents and should have no trouble with the first or second round.
It's the conference finals that they Heat aim for as they face the possibility of playing the Boston Celtics or Orlando Magic. It would be ideal for the Heat to face the Magic as they have seen a greater amount of success against their division rival. The Celtics have not been kind to the Heat as they have greatly struggled since their acquisition of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen.
They show up as the largest road block to the Heat's journey to the NBA finals. Dwyane as an individual has seen a great deal of success against the Celtics when he averaged 35 points per game last season, but the Heat fell apart as a team and lost the series 4-1. Miami hasn't won a post season series since the NBA finals.
That is sure to change this year, but it's more than one post season series that the Heat want to win.
The Heat Promise To...win The NBA Finals.
It was the objective when the team was brought together. Attempting to win a post season series and struggling to get over 40 wins is no longer the main goal of this team. When LeBron and Chris joined the team in July, they knew that they immediately were one of the championship favorites going into the 2010-'11 season. LeBron even said it himself that the team aims to win multiple championships in their time together.
We have seen just how good they can play and just how bad they can play. They have certainly come a long way from a struggling team trying to look for an answer as they now contain the Southeast Division lead and holding possession of the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The nine game win streak is also worth noting considering they also had a four game road trip in the middle of it to make it all the more impressive.
It's a long way from May and the Heat have no post season experience together, but it is still something to be made just how far this team can go in playoffs. LeBron and Dwyane have had post season experience with each of them making an NBA finals, Eddie House has a championship with the Boston Celtics, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas also has finals experience. One of the big three in Chris Bosh has limited experience in the post season as he and the Toronto Raptors failed to make deep runs.
It's still a stretch for this Heat team to win a championship this season considering just how much experience and time they have together, but they are still a threat to be noted in the post season as they do grow together as a more cohesive unit. LeBron, Dwyane, and Chris will learn to play together more and more each game as they figure out the offense and defense, the return of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem will finally make this team full strength, and the rotations will begin to become more fluent.
A championship is the last thing to worry about at the moment, but they do know what they are capable of and they do know that a championship could be won at any time.