Miami Heat: Why The Heat Can Win A Title

Miami Heat: Why The Heat Can Win A Title
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
Yes. The Heat are still contenders. Thanks for reading. Jokes aside, the Heat can still win a title this season. Yes, LeBron James isn’t on the team, but they had an excellent offseason regardless. If Dwyane Wade is healthy, he is still one of the best players in the league, Chris Bosh was a 20-10 player and can be one with the Heat with a bigger role, Luol Deng is an elite 3rd option and one of the better small forwards in the NBA, Danny Granger can still be a 15 point per game scorer if healthy, they have a strong set of role players and one of the best coaches in the NBA.
Many will say that Dwyane Wade isn’t an elite NBA player, but he just averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists in just 32.9 minutes per game. Yes, he misses games to rest, but when he plays he produces like one of the best players in the league and this season he will again be the number 1 offensive source for the He…

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Heat promote Fizdale, add Smart, Quinn to staff (Yahoo Sports)

MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Heat have promoted David Fizdale to assistant head coach, and hired Keith Smart and Chris Quinn as assistants on Erik Spoelstra’s staff.

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LeBron James’ Departure Will Reignite Fire Under Forgotten Miami Heat

There’s no way to argue a half-dozen dudes with something to prove somehow make up for the loss of LeBron James, but this year’s Miami Heat are going to be one hell of a motivated group.

And even if they’re no longer the fearsome championship threat they were before, they’ll be a whole new breed of dangerous.

Glance over the roster, composed of equal parts old-timers and fresh blood, and you’ll find no shortage of chips on shoulders.

 

Remixing Ignition

Mario Chalmers, a player whose postseason disappearance could have easily ended his stay with the team that drafted him, has been among the most vocal proponents of the new Heat this summer, telling B/R’s Ethan Skolnick:

I feel like I’ve finally got a chance to shine, show my real game. Me, CB, D-Wade and the rest of the guys, we’re going to pick it up, we’re still going to play Miami Heat basketball, and we’re still gonna be a competitor.

There’s no way Chalmers would have survived the constant berating he endured at the hands of James and the rest of Miami’s veteran core if he lacked resilience. His thick skin can’t be questioned, which means his offseason confidence deserves credence.

He’ll be out to assure the Heat they were right to re-sign him after playing his way out of the lineup in last year’s Finals.

Dwyane Wade will look to revise the narrative of his demise, hoping to prove his secondary role behind James really was voluntary all along—and not a necessity driven by his decline. When Wade hangs it up for good, he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest shooting guards in history, no matter what happens in this last chapter of his career.

If he can show the world a few flashes of the old, well…Flash, his legend will only grow.

That, of course, would entail staying healthy all season and playing the occasional smidge of defense—two things he didn’t do in either of the last two years. Logic and the aging curve don’t suggest a rejuvenation is likely for D-Wade, but that just means he’ll be all the more motivated to prove those arguments (and all of his many, many doubters) wrong.

As B/R’s Tom Sunnergren wrote: “Despite his age and the lack of attention, the guard could be primed for a comeback campaign. At least relative to expectations. Because, as peculiar as it is to say, almost any meaningful contribution from Wade will come as a surprise to some.”

Chris Bosh will get a chance to demonstrate his reduced role alongside James didn’t irreversibly change him. His is a particularly interesting case as Bosh, just 30 years old, is probably still young enough to rediscover the 20-10 form that made him a top option with the Toronto Raptors during the first seven years of his career.

For what it’s worth, he’s spending the summer trying to find his old form. He’s been working out in California, honing his post game and mentally preparing for extra touches and the expectations that will accompany his new (old) role, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

It’s cool to be in that situation again,” Bosh said on 104.3 The Ticket (via Jackson). “I’m a much better player than I was the last time in that position.”

You can run down the rest of the roster, and the story doesn’t change. Everybody has something to prove.

Luol Deng must demonstrate his ugly post-trade tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers was a symptom of the dysfunction and apathy that pervaded the organization before LeBron came back and fixed everything.

He’ll also have to justify his position as Miami’s only offseason addition of real significance.

Even well-established vets like Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen must show they can be something more than deferential role players, which is a scary proposition because guys at their age, who’ve functioned as specialists for so long, don’t often do well when asked to expand their games.

Something tells me both Haslem and Andersen, two of the toughest customers you’ll find in the league, will relish the challenge of doing more—especially with so few expecting them to succeed.

Heat players aren’t the only ones with something to prove. Erik Spoelstra will suddenly find himself drawing up game plans that don’t involve the fail-safe option of relying on the planet’s best basketball player to bail him out.

That’s not to say Spoelstra is a bad coach, or that he’s been coasting behind an ultra-talented roster for four years. His in-game adjustments, impressive ego management and, most of all, bold decision to institute small ball in 2012 rendered that argument facile long ago.

Still, it’ll be fascinating to see what strategies and motivational tactics he employs now that he won’t go into every contest with the advantage of James on his side.

 

Free of Pressure, Ready to Fight 

As a whole, the Heat had it good with LeBron around and, to a man, they’d all probably prefer he was still in Miami to absorb all the pressure and wear the failures. If he got most of the credit for success, that was a perfectly fine price to pay.

At the root of all this, the Heat are still a team missing their best player. That makes it dishonest to argue they’re somehow better.

But it’s not too hard to find a positive spin on the upcoming season—and this one’s logically defensible.

Miami is loaded with guys from whom nobody expects greatness. That’s liberating.

Also note how many members of the Heat’s roster are short-timers. Outside of Bosh and Josh McRoberts, nobody is under guaranteed contract beyond the 2015-16 season. If proving doubters wrong doesn’t motivate these guys, the need to impress other suitors might.

And what professional athlete doesn’t love the “nobody believes in us” motivator? Everybody buys into that fiction at some point. The difference with this year’s Heat is that it’s actually kind of true.

Perhaps best of all, Miami is now an afterthought in the East, which is a major change from the way things have been since 2010. There’s a freedom in that subjugation—not one that will automatically revive Wade, bring back Canadian Bosh or enliven the rest of the roster, but one that makes all of those things possible in an environment with virtually no pressure.

Look around at the projected East landscape and you’ll routinely see the Cavs, Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards occupying the top three spots. The Raptors fit into that mix somewhere as well, but it’s reasonable to think the Heat can compete with all of those clubs.

When the postseason rolls around, there’s no telling what might happen. Say what you will about the deficiencies James’ absence will expose in the Heat; just don’t include playoff inexperience as one of them.

Miami doesn’t have the knockout punch it once did, but rest assured it’ll be in a fighting mood this season.

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Dwyane Wade Facing Unique Opportunity with Miami Heat in 2014-15

With the 2014-15 NBA season set to tip off in six weeks, Dwyane Wade is a name that’s on the tip of exactly zero tongues.

With LeBron James home with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chris Bosh set to assume the mantle of offensive threat numero uno for the Miami Heat, something exceedingly improbable has transpired: The surefire Hall of Famer has become an afterthought.

This marks a stark shift from seasons past. For the last several years, as Wade’s centrality to the Heat offense has diminished, his narrative import has swelled. In fact, it’s swelled for that very reason.

The primary question the Heat faced during the tail stretch of their title run was whether Wade had the physical wherewithal to continue to be a No. 2 option on a contender. Both sides of the debate marshaled powerful evidence.

The case against Wade was strong. His numbers dipped across the board. In 2013-14, the guard was below his career average in rebounds, points, assists, steals and blocks. In the last three seasons, according to Basketball-Reference, his win shares per 48 minutes slipped from .227 to .192 down to .149. The final figure is still 49 percent above league average, but that’s a precipitous drop nonetheless.

More disconcertingly, Wade didn’t look the same. He lacked the spark, the explosion, the kinesthetic panache that characterized his game across the first portion of his distinguished career. The “Holy smokes, he did what?” moments were scarce.

And even more troubling—in 2013-14, at least—this slippage persisted despite a Miami strategy explicitly designed to mitigate it. Wade sat 24 times last season. And at 32.9 a night, he played a career low in minutes.

The salient component of Miami’s three-peat plan this past year was to rest Wade as often as possible during the regular season so he would be maximally prepared to kick rear and record names in the playoffs. This plan wasn’t a rousing success.

Wade, again, posted the third-lowest win shares per 48 minutes of his life, per Basketball-Reference, and got flayed so fully by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals that Deadspin’s Sean Newell wrote:

Wade is 32 years old with a 75-year-old’s knees, but at times he looks like he also got the 75-year-old’s quaint senility, just out on the court watchin’ shit happen. When he’s actually involved and aware of his surroundings, Boris Diaw blows past him. All of which is exacerbated and exploited by the Spurs, who have been putting on a ball-movement clinic this whole postseason.

So there was that. But, alongside these failures, there stood great successes. Wade, despite struggling relative to his sky-high standards, set a career-best in true shooting percentage, per Basketball-Reference. And he finished second among shooting guards in player efficiency rating, according ESPN, first in the Eastern Conference.

And even with a win shares per 48 minutes figure that was, again, near his career nadir, he was nearly 50 percent more productive than a league-average player.

Wade became a human Rorschach test. Even with LeBron in town, he was the most dissected, the most polarizing member of the mighty Heat. James was greater; Bosh was arguably more central to Miami’s attack—but Wade was the most interesting.

But, in the course of an offseason, this dynamic has been flipped on its ear. Of the three principals in Miami’s mini-dynasty, he’s the one who’s attracted the least attention over the summer.

There’s a tasty irony in this. Though Wade hasn’t drawn the notice of the media to the extent he once did, he’ll be considerably more front of mind for opposing defenses now that James has finished his four-year degree at Miami and returned home to good ol’ Ohio. And here’s the strange thing: It’s a scrutiny he figures to fare well against.

The conventional wisdom holds that Wade’s game, as he declined athletically, became contingent on James. Defenders paid more attention to LeBron, which in turn led to more makeable shots for Wade, which in turn allowed the guard to post such gaudy true shooting percentages over the past four seasons.

This notion isn’t really borne out in the numbers though. According to NBAwowy.com, Wade recorded a true shooting percentage of 57.1 during the 2013-14 regular and postseason with LeBron on the bench and 58.6 with James in the game. Since January of 2012, Wade is at 56.8 with James and 55.8 absent the star.

That’s impressive in its own right. But it gets even more so when we consider his usage. It’s broadly accepted among basketball-stat junkies that shooting efficiency dips as usage increases. That’s not what happened with Wade.

In the regular and postseason since January of 2012, Wade has posted a usage rate of 36.5 percent without LeBron, per NBAwowy.com, and 25.5 percent with him. According to Hoops Habit, if extended over the course of a regular season, this non-LeBron usage rate would have been the fourth-highest in NBA history.

Despite his age and the lack of attention, the guard could be primed for a comeback campaign. At least relative to expectations.

“I am ecstatic to have him back in the fold and I am confident that Dwyane, as always, will be leading this team as we look to contend for NBA championships,” Pat Riley said via a press release after the Heat came to terms with the veteran (h/t ESPN).

Wade is probably a long shot to carry the Heat to contention this coming season, but, even with his profile at a low point, he could certainly resemble the player who once did.

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Report: Greg Oden’s alcohol abuse was an issue for Heat

Free agent Greg Oden NBA career has not been what we all thought it would be when he was drafted #1 back in 2007. Oden has been dealing with injuries since he came into the league, but now he may have a more serious problem. Back in August, Oden was arrested for felony battery charges after he allegedly punched his ex-girlfriend in the face. Oden admitted that he had been drinking before the incident occurred but his drinking problem might be worse than we could have ever thought. According to Michael Wallace of ESPN, Oden’s alcohol abuse was an issue during the season for the Miami Heat. Privately, his battle with personal demons still raged, according to multiple sources. Alcohol abuse remained a concern last season as he sat out many games because of soreness in his knees and back. When he was left in Miami during road trips early in the season, he often was spotted at local sports bars and restaurants, including a Hooters across the street from AmericanAirlines Arena, to watch t…

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Heat Players Won’t Take Backseat Now That LeBron Is Gone

Mario Chalmers is making headlines in mid-September. With the Miami Heat a little under two weeks away from beginning training camp and the regular season still a month-and-a-half from commencing, one can’t blame the media for making Chalmers’ recent remarks a big deal. In a recent interview with Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick, the veteran point guard stated that everybody on the Heat took a backseat in their 2014 NBA Finals series loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Chalmers stated the following in regards to his performance during the Finals:
“Everybody in my ear, talking about ‘We need you, we need you to do this, we need you to do that.’ And then when it comes to the game, I didn’t feel involved. Like, you all talk about how y’all need me, but y’all didn’t put me in position to do anything. In previous years, if I was in that position, I would make sure I would go get the ball, I would put myself in position to score. I felt like this year, we all just took too much of a back seat …

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After Tough Playoffs, Mario Chalmers Promises a Major Comeback for Heat

MIAMI — It had been nearly a month since his downward spiral had finally stopped, only because the NBA season had cruelly ended. Even after enduring enough recrimination and ridicule to last any athlete a dozen lifetimes, Mario Chalmers still couldn’t stop blaming himself.    

“I just needed to be by myself,” Chalmers told Bleacher Report last week, following a morning workout at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I just needed to get away. That was the main thing.”    

Yet, for a while, the only place he went was deeper inside his own head.      

“To be honest, I sat in the house and pouted,” Chalmers said. “I felt like, for us to have the opportunity to accomplish a three-peat like that, and not being able to perform to the best of my ability, not being able to be there for my team. … I just felt like I let people down. Especially with it being my contract year, I feel like I let myself down along with the Heat organization.”

What Chalmers had done, after a solid regular season as the Miami Heat‘s starting point guard, was completely come apart in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, to the point that head coach Erik Spoelstra pulled him from the starting lineup for Game 5 in San Antonio.

That came after Chalmers had started in his last 280 regular-season or playoff appearances, dating back to Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. That came after Chalmers had made his name, as a collegian and as a pro, for self-assurance that at times exceeded, but also enhanced, his abilities. 

“You know, for the first time in my career, I felt like I wasn’t…yeah, my confidence wasn’t there,” Chalmers said. “Going through that whole San Antonio series, I just felt like in the playoffs I kept getting worse and worse every round. I just couldn’t figure it out.”

Even as others—coaches, teammates, family, friends, reporters—had all the answers. 

“Yeah, that’s the worst thing, because you never know,” Chalmers said. “Everybody in my ear, talking about ‘We need you, we need you to do this, we need you to do that.’ And then when it comes to the game, I didn’t feel involved. Like, you all talk about how y’all need me, but y’all didn’t put me in position to do anything. In previous years, if I was in that position, I would make sure I would go get the ball, I would put myself in position to score. I felt like this year, we all just took too much of a back seat in the Finals.”

And after it was over, after he’d averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 fouls and 2.0 turnovers while shooting 33.3 percent from the field in the Finals, he struggled to find anything or anyone to move him forward.

Then, at last, someone did.

“It was actually my son, really,” Chalmers said. “He was with me that whole time. I would do some stuff with him, and then I would just go sit down somewhere. And he came to me and was, like, ‘Dad, don’t worry about it, let’s go play basketball, I’ll beat you.’ Just being around your kids, that just brings a smile to your face. That triggered me in my mind, like, it’s not the end of the world. You win some, you lose some. You’ve still got the bigger picture, and you’ve still got another year to come back and get better.”

So did he let Zachiah win?

“Nah, I didn’t,” Chalmers said, laughing. “I think he only scored one point. I kind of took it out on him a little bit.” 

Still, even as Chalmers’ psyche was recovering, his future remained uncertain. His contract had expired on June 30 and, after playing six seasons in Miami—the last three for a total of $12 millionhe was hardly guaranteed to return. At the start of free agency, it actually seemed like a longshot, and not only to Heat fans who had seen first-round draft pick Shabazz Napier added to Norris Cole on the team’s point guard depth chart.  

“I didn’t think I’d be back,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t think that at all. I didn’t even think the Heat would want me back, to be honest. That’s how I felt like my playoff performance was, that they didn’t want me back, they wanted to go another direction. So that was in my mind, too, but I was, like, if it happens, it happens.”

He received some encouragement from Heat general manager Andy Elisburg, who called to say that the team still considered him part of the family and still had an interest in retaining him. They just needed to see how LeBron James‘ free agency played out, and they’d come back to him. ”I at least knew that one team wanted me right now,” Chalmers said. “So that was a good thing.” 

Uplifted by that knowledge, Chalmers tried to show the world that he’d shaken off his stupor, posting Instagram video evidence of strength and fitness training, announcing he had “sat around long enough,” and sharing his signature line for the summer: “Minor setback for a major comeback.” 

That was July 10.

That night, James flew back from Las Vegas to Miami with Dwyane Wade, still seemingly up in the air about whether he’d sign with the Heat or Cavaliers. Early the next afternoon, Sports Illustrated published James’ “Coming Home” essay.

Two nights later, Chalmers agreed to a two-year, $8.3 million contract with the rapidly reworked Heat. Pat Riley added him back to a roster thatby week’s endwould officially include Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng to supplement the re-signed Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen. 

And, after signing the contract, Chalmers’ own workload intensified, chronicled with frequent Instagram posts that often referenced “the grind.” They were for himself, and for the public. 

“[I was] just saying that I didn’t give up on myself,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t quit. A lot of people doubted me, a lot of people still doubt me. But I believe in myself. And I’ve got a good organization that believes in me too.”

He hopes to reward that organization with stronger play from start to finish this season, due in part to a reshaped body. After initially joining James and Wade in trying to follow now-former teammate Ray Allen’s paleo diet, Chalmers felt irritable without all of the carbohydrates, especially as he intensified his workouts.

But even after altering his eating regimen somewhat, he insists he’s already close to “tip-top shape.” Chalmers has been training at the P3 sports training complex in Santa Barbara and noted he was “getting back to the basics” with Wade, Cole, McRoberts, Udonis Haslem and others during three strenuous but enjoyable days at Indiana University.

Chalmers returned from California early so he should lead the Heat’s young players in their team’s practice gym.

He’s also adopted a healthy attitude, as it relates to his reshaped role, one that he characterizes as “a jack of all trades.”

Pat Riley, in a video address to fans, called Chalmers “a player that we feel very confident about, back at starting point guard.” Still, Chalmers recognizes that—with two other point guards on the roster and no established backup for Wadehe might need to return to his Kansas roots, spending some time at both spots. Spoelstra and Riley have each told him separately that he will have the ball in his hands more, with more opportunities to score. 

“I feel like I’ve finally got a chance to shine, show my real game,” Chalmers said. “Me, CB, D-Wade and the rest of the guys, we’re going to pick it up, we’re still going to play Miami Heat basketball, and we’re still gonna be a competitor.”

He says confidence is no longer an issue.

“Fresh season,” Chalmers said. “Fresh start. Got a fresh team. You know, everybody [is] forgetting about us right now. That’s when we shine, when people forget about us.”

He has made this point often on Instagram as well, warning the pundits to “keep sleepin on the Heat,” promising fans that ”we will b back heat nation,” taunting the doubters with “u want some come get some.” He has even continued to use the #heatles hashtag, even though only six players remain from the 2013 champions, and though he recognizes the Heat aren’t the NBA’s most hunted team anymore.

They were for a while. Hunted and, by some, hated. Like few teams in NBA history. 

“Four years,” Chalmers said. “And now we’re the forgotten team. So it’s good. We all accept it. I’ve talked to D-Wade several times, I’ve talked to CB several times. We’re ready.”

Wade and Haslem have been with the Heat since 2003, Chalmers since 2008, Bosh since 2010. He references the song “Seen It All“ by Jay-Z and Young Jeezy, as consistent with their circumstances: “There’s nothing new that we don’t know, that we don’t know what to expect and we don’t know what to put in to get out. So we’re ready for it.”

And while he speaks of a “totally different energy” and acknowledges “there’s a lot of emotions going around right now,” he doesn’t mean those as digs at the departed James. That probably needs to be made clear, after some of his recent, cryptic Instagram posts have been interpreted that way.

Chalmers laughs at those assumptions. 

“I mean, I’ve never, ever taken a shot at anybody on Twitter without saying their name,” Chalmers said. “I’m the type of person, if I’ve got something to say, I’m going to say it to your face. So all this stuff that they’re trying to break up between me and ‘Bron or whatever—I mean, I’ve talked to ‘Bron five or six times during the summer. That’s still going to be my big brother. We’re always going to be friends. On the court, we’re going to go at each other, we’re going to compete and we’re going to try to draw blood. But off the court, we’re still going to be friends, it’s still going to be a brotherhood. It’s just basketball stuff.”

So, what about the post on Aug. 23, vaguely referencing loyalty and royalty?

“That wasn’t even about him,” Chalmers said. “He’s from Cleveland, so that’s his loyalty. It’s nothing. None of my tweets, Instagram posts have been about anybody. I just like rattling people’s brains, make them think something.”

He smiles. But he is serious, and unambiguous, about something else:

How he’ll respond from his playoff setback. 

What does he say to those who don’t expect a major comeback?

“Just watch,” Chalmers said, smiling. “Just watch. I’m not gonna say nothing else. I’m not gonna toot my own horn or nothing. Just watch.” 

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @EthanJSkolnick.

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Mario Chalmers, After Tough Playoffs, Promises a Major Comeback for Heat

MIAMI — It had been nearly a month since his downward spiral had finally stopped, only because the NBA season had cruelly ended. Even after enduring enough recrimination and ridicule to last any athlete a dozen lifetimes, Mario Chalmers still couldn’t stop blaming himself.    

“I just needed to be by myself,” Chalmers told Bleacher Report last week, following a morning workout at American Airlines Arena. “I just needed to get away. That was the main thing.”    

Yet, for a while, the only place he went was deeper inside his own head.      

“To be honest, I sat in the house and pouted,” Chalmers said. “I felt like, for us to have the opportunity to accomplish a three-peat like that, and not being able to perform to the best of my ability, not being able to be there for my team…. I just felt like I let people down. Especially with it being my contract year, I feel like I let myself down along with the Heat organization.”

What Chalmers had done, after a solid regular season as the Miami Heat‘s starting point guard, was completely come apart in the NBA Finals against the Spurs, to the point that Erik Spoelstra pulled him from the starting lineup for Game 5 in San Antonio. That came after Chalmers had started in his last 280 regular season or playoff appearances, dating back to Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. That came after Chalmers had made his name, as a collegian and as a pro, for self-assurance that at times exceeded, but also enhanced, his abilities. 

“You know, for the first time in my career, I felt like I wasn’t…yeah, my confidence wasn’t there,” Chalmers said. “Going through that whole San Antonio series, I just felt like in the playoffs I kept getting worse and worse every round. I just couldn’t figure it out.”

Even as others—coaches, teammates, family, friends, reporters—had all the answers. 

“Yeah, that’s the worst thing, because you never know,” Chalmers said. “Everybody in my ear, talking about ‘We need you, we need you to do this, we need you to do that.’ And then when it comes to the game, I didn’t feel involved. Like, you all talk about how y’all need me, but y’all didn’t put me in position to do anything. In previous years, if I was in that position, I would make sure I would go get the ball, I would put myself in position to score. I felt like this year, we all just took too much of a back seat in the Finals.”

And after it was over, after he’d averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 fouls and 2.0 turnovers while shooting 33.3 percent from the field in the Finals, he struggled to find anything or anyone to move him forward.

Then, at last, someone did.

“It was actually my son really,” Chalmers said. “He was with me that whole time. I would do some stuff with him and then I would just go sit down somewhere. And he came to me and was, like, ‘Dad, don’t worry about it, let’s go play basketball, I’ll beat you.’ Just being around your kids, that just brings a smile to your face. That triggered me in my mind, like, it’s not the end of the world. You win some, you lose some. You’ve still got the bigger picture, and you’ve still got another year to come back and get better.”

So did he let Zachiah win?

“Nah, I didn’t,” Chalmers said, laughing. “I think he only scored one point. I kind of took it out on him a little bit.” 

Still, even as Chalmers’ psyche was recovering, his future remained uncertain. His contract had expired on June 30 and, after playing six seasons in Miami—the last three for a total of $12 millionhe was hardly guaranteed to return. At the start of free agency, it actually seemed like a longshot, and not only to Heat fans who had seen first-round draft pick Shabazz Napier added to Norris Cole on the team’s point guard depth chart.  

“I didn’t think I’d be back,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t think that at all. I didn’t even think the Heat would want me back, to be honest. That’s how I felt like my playoff performance was, that they didn’t want me back, they wanted to go another direction. So that was in my mind, too, but I was, like, if it happens, it happens.”

He received some encouragement from Heat general manager Andy Elisburg, who called to say that the team still considered him part of the family, and still had an interest in retaining him. They just needed to see how LeBron James‘ free agency played out, and they’d come back to him. ”I at least knew that one team wanted me right now,” Chalmers said. “So that was a good thing.” 

Uplifted by that knowledge, Chalmers tried to show the world that he’d shaken off his stupor, posting Instagram video evidence of strength and fitness training, announcing he had “sat around long enough,” and sharing his signature line for the summer: “Minor setback for a major comeback.” 

 

That was July 10.

That night, James flew back from Las Vegas to Miami with Dwyane Wade, still seemingly up in the air about whether he’d sign with the Heat or Cavaliers. Early the next afternoon, SportsIllustrated.com published James “Coming Home” essay. Two nights later, Chalmers agreed to a two-year, $8.3 million contract with the rapidly reworked Heat, with Pat Riley adding him back to a roster thatby week’s endwould officially include Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng to supplement the re-signed Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen. 

And, after signing the contract, Chalmers’ own workload intensified, chronicled with frequent Instagram posts that often referenced “the grind.” They were for himself, and for the public. 

“[I was] just saying that I didn’t give up on myself,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t quit. A lot of people doubted me, a lot of people still doubt me. But I believe in myself. And I’ve got a good organization that believes in me too.”

He hopes to reward that organization with stronger play from start to finish this season, due in part to a reshaped body. After initially joining James and Wade in trying to follow now-former teammate Ray Allen’s paleo diet, Chalmers felt irritable without all of the carbohydrates, especially as he intensified his workouts. But even after altering his eating regimen somewhat, he insists he’s already close to “tip top shape,” after training at the P3 sports training complex in Santa Barbara; “getting back to the basics” with Wade, Cole, McRoberts, Udonis Haslem and others during three strenuous but enjoyable days at Indiana University; and returning from California early so he should lead the Heat’s young players in their team’s practice gym.

He’s also adopted a healthy attitude, as it relates to his reshaped role, one that he characterizes as “a jack of all trades.” Pat Riley, in a video address to fans, called Chalmers “a player that we feel very confident about, back at starting point guard,” but Chalmers recognizes that—with two other point guards on the roster and no established backup for Wadehe might need to return to his Kansas roots, spending some time at both spots. Spoelstra and Riley have each told him separately that he will have the ball in his hands more, with more opportunities to score. 

“I feel like I’ve finally got a chance to shine, show my real game,” Chalmers said. “Me, CB, D-Wade and the rest of the guys, we’re going to pick it up, we’re still going to play Miami Heat basketball, and we’re still gonna be a competitor.”

He says confidence is no longer an issue.

“Fresh season,” Chalmers said. “Fresh start. Got a fresh team. You know, everybody [is] forgetting about us right now. That’s when we shine, when people forget about us.”

He has made this point often on Instagram as well, warning the pundits to “keep sleepin on the Heat,” promising fans that “we will b back heat nation,” taunting the doubters with “u want some come get some.” He has even continued to use the #heatles hashtag, even though only six players remain from the 2013 champions, and though he recognizes the Heat aren’t the NBA’s most hunted team anymore.

They were for a while. Hunted and, by some, hated. Like few teams in NBA history. 

“Four years,” Chalmers said. “And now we’re the forgotten team. So it’s good. We all accept it. I’ve talked to D-Wade several times, I’ve talked to CB several times. We’re ready.”

Wade and Haslem have been with the Heat since 2003, Chalmers since 2008, Bosh since 2010. He references the song ‘Seen It All‘ by Jay-Z and Young Jeezy, as consistent with their circumstances: “There’s nothing new that we don’t know, that we don’t know what to expect and we don’t know what to put in to get out. So we’re ready for it.”

And while he speaks of a “totally different energy,” and acknowledges “there’s a lot of emotions going around right now,” he doesn’t mean those as digs at the departed James. That probably needs to be made clear, after some of his recent, cryptic Instagram posts have been interpreted that way.

Chalmers laughs at those assumptions. 

“I mean, I’ve never, ever taken a shot at anybody on Twitter without saying their name,” Chalmers said. “I’m the type of person, if I’ve got something to say, I’m going to say it to your face. So all this stuff that they’re trying to break up between me and ‘Bron or whatever—I mean, I’ve talked to ‘Bron five or six times during the summer. That’s still going to be my big brother. We’re always going to be friends. On the court, we’re going to go at each other, we’re going to compete and we’re going to try to draw blood. But off the court, we’re still going to be friends, it’s still going to be a brotherhood. It’s just basketball stuff.”

So, what about the post on Aug. 23, vaguely referencing loyalty and royalty?

“That wasn’t even about him,” Chalmers said. “He’s from Cleveland, so that’s his loyalty. It’s nothing. None of my tweets, Instagram posts have been about anybody. I just like rattling people’s brains, make them think something.”

He smiles. But he is serious, and unambiguous, about something else:

How he’ll respond from his playoff setback. 

What does he say to those who don’t expect a major comeback?

“Just watch,” Chalmers said, smiling. “Just watch. I’m not gonna say nothing else. I’m not gonna toot my own horn or nothing. Just watch.” 

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @EthanJSkolnick.

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Miami Heat News: Heat Sign PF Khem Birch

The Miami Heat have signed yet another big. The Heat announced early Sunday through their official website that they have signed 6’9″ forward Khem Birch to round their roster to a total of 17 players. As per club policy, details of the deal were not disclosed.
Birch is an undrafted rookie. The UNLV product averaged a double-double with the Rebels during the 2013-14 season, posting averages of 11.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Birch provides Miami with a much-needed defensive presence as he was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and finished second in the NCAA in blocks per game and total blocks (124).
OFFICIAL: The @MiamiHEAT have signed F Khem Birch. http://t.co/1WsiChHQoA
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 14, 2014
Despite going undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, Birch impressed the Heat enough during his Summer League stint with the Washington Wizards. The forward averaged 5.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.17 blocks in six games (all starts) during the 2014 Ve…

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3 Players Who Miami Heat Need to Step Up Next Season

With LeBron James now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat will no longer possess the significant talent advantage over opponents that they enjoyed the previous four seasons.

So, to a greater degree than in past years, Miami needs strong contributions from its role players in 2014-15.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the three role players the Heat most need to step up if they are to remain a top team in the Eastern Conference.

 

Danny Granger

Five years ago Granger was one of the NBA‘s best scorers. Now, he’s someone the Heat took a cheap flier on this offseason.

Miami can’t be expecting Granger to return to 2009 form, but it certainly needs the 31-year-old to perform better than he did a season ago.

Granger averaged 8.2 points per game on just 37.8 percent shooting from the floor and 33.6 shooting percent from beyond the arc last season with the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers.

Granger simply has to be a more efficient offensive weapon and a consistent three-point threat to have value on this team, considering he’s not exactly a great defender.

His career resume says he can. However, his play the past few seasons says otherwise.

 

Norris Cole

Fresh off a solid showing during the 2013 postseason, Norris Cole showed continued growth to start the 2013-14 NBA season.

However, Cole had a disastrous second half, seemingly regressing as an offensive talent. He finished the season with averages of 6.4 points (41.4 FG%, 34.5 3P%) and 3.0 assists per game. 

As the numbers indicate, Cole still had difficultly running Miami’s offense, and his shot remains decent at best.

But Cole is a skilled on-ball defender, and if he can make leaps offensively, he could be a real help for this team.

If Cole enters his fourth year with the same abilities as he left his third, Miami might have to give point guard Shabazz Napier more playing time than it would like during his first year in the league.

 

Udonis Haslem

Haslem certainly had a tough go during the 2013-14 season. 

UD averaged just 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Also, his mid-range game, which used to be a huge weapon for him, was basically nonexistent. He made 25 shots from further than nine feet away from the hoop, according to NBA.com.  

Still, with Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis gone and wild card Shawne Williams entering the mix, Haslem should have a shot at decent playing time. 

Obviously Miami would love if Haslem could re-emerge as a shooting threat, but the Heat at least need him to excel on the boards and be a physical defender if knocking down 15-footers is truly a thing of the past.

It’s hard to expect a bounce-back year for Haslem, given his age (34). But Haslem’s also the type of player one doesn’t like to count out. 

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