WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
There were plenty of reasons for Tuesday's Game 2 Heat debacle - horrific three-point shooting (1-for-16), poor free throw shooting in the fourth quarter (5 for 10), subpar offensive play from the Heat's supporting cast, rebounding (Indy won the battle 50-40), 8 for 22 shooting from Dwyane Wade and too many isolations and too little ball movement. But Charles Barkley said there was another problem, too: the Heat's coach.
During an animated discussion on TNT early Wednesday morning, Barkley pointed to Dwyane Wade's missed layup with 16 seconds left and said, "I blame this squarely on Erik Spoelstra. I have no idea why the best player in the world is not closing. The play was to go into the corner for Shane Battier. This wasn't LeBron's fault. They ran the play for Dwyane Wade, as they usually do. The Heat is only going to go as far as LeBron James takes them, but those coaches in Miami are apparently living in the past when Shaq and Alonzo Mourning were on the team. People say LeBron didn't play well in the Finals. Neither did Dwyane Wade, and he never gets any blame."
Barkley said "it's time for LeBron... to go to coach Spoelstra and say, 'I want the ball.'" Barkley said he noticed Tuesday, reading a newspaper, that "Dwyane said, 'I learned something when I was out. This is LeBron's team.' But apparently, coach Spoelstra didn't read the article. Last play of the game, Spoelstra did the same thing he did in New York last week. Dwyane Wade is a terrific player, don't get me wrong. But when you've got a nuclear weapon like LeBron James, you have to unleash him.
"This guy is unbelievable. He ran the play. He's not selfish. That kid is too unselfish. The one thing I've always said about LeBron is he's too nice a guy. The coach has got to give him some help. I don't understand why they don't run plays for him."
But Shaquille O'Neal said: "We don't know if the play was for LeBron or D-Wade. If you want LeBron to be the go-to man, LeBron has to act like he wants to be the go-to man. When he gets the ball, he's got to make an aggressive move. LeBron could have put the ball down and drove, but D-Wade came in the way."
Said Barkley: "That's exactly right. D-Wade came and got in the way. If he had put his head down and drove, he would have run right into Dwyane Wade."
Kenny Smith said, "I would have loved to have seen LeBron James more aggressive in that moment. Did he run what the coach told him to do? Probably so. Was he correct in his assessment? I don't think so. Sometimes, you know better. You can look Dwyane Wade off at times. Wade's advantage isn't as great as LeBron's advantage."
Said Barkley: "Will you please tell coach Spoelstra that?"
Said Smith: "Coach Spoelstra, Wade's advantage is not as great as James' advantage. You have to put the ball in his hands and draw the play" that way.
### For our story on the Pacers' reaction to their Game 2 win, see our last post.
There’s a 24-year-old free agent center who’s affordable, has impressive career rebounding averages and has interest in playing for the Heat eventually once he recovers from his latest knee surgery, according to his agent. The only problem? It’s a very big one: He's not healthy and can't seem to stay healthy.
Greg Oden, 7-0, hasn’t played since 2009-10 and is recovering from his fifth knee surgery in five seasons. A Grantland.com story said that "right now" Oden's plan is to take next season off to rehab, then come back in 2013-14. But his agent, Mike Conley Sr., told us Oden is positioned be ready to play in December or January "as far as being effective and in shape" and will explore options in the coming months, with the possibility of joining a team next season. But nobody obviously can know for sure when he will be ready.
The Heat hasn’t called but “Greg has talked about Miami," Conley said. "He has interest. He’s not retiring.” Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, has played just 82 career games for Portland (which released him in March) and averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.
Whether the Heat takes a flyer on Oden or not – and Miami has nothing to lose, really, if or when they ever deem him healthy - the bigger question is this: With limited financial resources, can Pat Riley significantly upgrade at center during the Big Three era?
It’s looking increasingly doubtful, and the most realistic option might be sticking with Bosh at center, where he was playing well. Keep in mind that Bosh seemed to genuinely embrace center before the injury: “I’m a [center] no matter what. I’ve accepted it. Everyone can start calling me Big Fellow.”
ABC’s Jon Barry complained at halftime Sunday that the Heat “has had two years to get a center and hasn’t.” But in fairness, Riley has done all he realistically can, given the restraints of the salary cap and the high price for big men that can block shots and chew gum at the same time. Heck, even Kwame Brown got $7 million from Golden State this season, well above what Miami could do.
Turiaf was a smart March addition, and Anthony has demonstrated his value off the bench. Coaches didn’t see enough from Eddy Curry to believe he can help; he played 53 minutes all season and wasn't even active Tuesday despite Bosh's absence.
Beyond minimum contracts (at barely over $1 million), the Heat’s only available money this summer with be a $3 million exception available for tax-paying teams. (That won’t change even if Mike Miller is amnestied.) That won’t be enough for the top free agent power players: Chris Kaman, Kevin Garnett, Ersan Ilyasova, Spencer Hawes, Carl Landry, Jordan Hill, Brown or heck, even, Dallas’ Ian Mahinmi.
There had been some thought that Rockets free agent Marcus Camby, still effective at 38, might consider Miami, but he told ESPN he wants to finish his career in Houston: “I know, talking to my representative, that there’s going to be a lot of suitors, but this is where I want to be.”
The affordable options are backup types: Joel Pryzbilla (already turned down Miami once), Nazr Mohammed, Aaron Gray, Jason Collins, Hamed Haddadi, Hasheem Thabeet, Tony Battie, Daniel Orton, Troy Murphy, Dominic McGuire and power forwards Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans. Nothing Miami is willing to trade would net a high-quality center in return.
So unless the Heat gets lucky with someone like Oden or a first-round draft pick, the best option might be sticking with Bosh at center, adding a serviceable power forward who can hit a jump shot to complement Udonis Haslem, and using Anthony, Turiaf (who has a $1.2 million player option this summer) and Dexter Pittman off the bench. Remember, by leaving Bosh at center longterm, that creates more minutes for LeBron James at power forward.
The Heat is hopeful Pittman can become a competent rotation player. But the Heat needs to see Bosh play center against a big team in the Finals to get a true sense of whether that’s the best way to go.
### Though Shaq said Bosh has “to take four to six weeks off and is probably out for the rest of the playoffs,” the Heat is hopeful he can return at some point in the Eastern Finals, depending on how he responds to treatment.
### Do no underestimate the value of UM coach Al Golden’s recommendation in the Dolphins drafting Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon. Before the draft, Golden told Jeff Ireland he would be getting two first-round talents a year early if he picked them.... The Dolphins, still searching for a fullback, are bringing in Falcons veteran free agent Ovie Mughelli, who has started 50 games in nine seasons, including five last year. He missed most of last season with a knee injury. Released last week by the Falcons, Mughelli spent the past five years with the Falcons, after spending the previous four with Baltimore. He has averaged 2.9 yards on 42 career carries. Fullback Jerome Messam, the Canadian Football League import, had knee surgery but expects to be back for training camp... Former Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell is visiting with the Chiefs.
### Two out-of-town agents said UM’s new policy prohibiting football players with any remaining eligibility or their families from having contact with agents is highly unusual and will be impossible to enforce. An underclassman can ask UM for permission to talk to an agent, but a UM official must be in the room – which an agent said he has never heard of.
### Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen bemoaned Tuesday, “If we don’t start hitting, sooner or later our pitching staff will break.” He said he’s convinced his lineup is “pretty strong” and that other managers agree… What players are better than Guillen thought when he took the job? “Omar Infante, Randy Choate and especially Steve Cishek."… Marlins reliever Edward Mujica said Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) doesn’t expect to get a visa until June at the earliest. With an eight-week suspension to follow, his season will be short, at best.
### The lighter side: As if being the NBA’s best player isn’t enough, James shocked shoppers by working the cash register for 20 minutes last week at his Aventura urban footwear clothing store, unknwn. He spent 45 minutes in the store overall, helping in a variety of ways. “Everyone was taken aback,” store co-owner Frankie Walker said. “He was signing autographs, answering questions.”