SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
As the Heat flounders at 15-21, the questions must be asked:
How can a team with two All-Star talents be languishing six games below .500? And how can Heat teams that featured only one All-Star at that time (Dwyane Wade) win 43 and 47 games -- and finish fifth in the East the two years before LeBron James arrived --- whereas this team with Wade and Chris Bosh stands eighth in a diluted conference, on pace for 34 wins?
Injuries play a large role; Wade has missed as many games (eight) as he missed combined in those final two pre-LeBron seasons. Bosh also has missed eight. But that doesn’t explain the 9-12 record in games that Wade and Bosh have played together, nor the defensive decline from the pre-LeBron teams.
Bosh revealed last week that he made some assumptions about this team that he shouldn’t have, and Wade suggested this Heat team has more talent but less of an established identity than his pre-LeBron teams. (More on that in a minute.)
Some points to consider:
### It’s unusual for a team with two legitimate All-Star caliber-players to have a losing record at this point. In the past 10 years, only one team has had two players in an All-Star game and finished below .500 --- the 2005-06 Rockets, which went 34-48. And there were extenuating circumstances: Their two All-Stars, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, missed 25 and 35 games, respectively.
Wade, who’s sixth in the league in scoring at 23 per game, is second among Eastern Conference guards in fan voting. But Bosh (13th in scoring, 26th in rebounding) is fourth among forwards and his streak of nine consecutive All-Star game selections isn’t assured of continuing. Conference coaches pick the All-Star team reserves.
### Consider the lineups of the two pre-LeBron teams that were a fifth seed. The 2008-09 Heat that finished 43-39 and lost to Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs started Wade, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and a combination of Michael Beasley, Shawn Marion (before he was traded that February) and Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon (who both arrived in that trade).
The 2009-10 Heat, which finished 47-35 and lost in the first round to Boston, started Wade, Beasley, O’Neal, Quentin Richardson and one of three point guards (Chalmers, Rafer Alston and Carlos Arroyo).
Wade said this roster --- which includes a starting lineup of Wade, Bosh, Luol Deng, Chalmers and Chris Andersen --- has more talent, and most would agree.
But Wade, while very good now, was a top five player during those seasons, averaging 30.2 points and 26.6 points. There are other differences: Those teams finished 13th and second in defensive field goal percentage; this one is 27th.
Those teams scored 4.5 and 2.7 more points per game than this one, which is 28th in scoring. Those two teams had better point guard play, even with Chalmers a constant on both.
Those teams had fewer significant injuries. Those teams protected home court (28-13, 24-17). This one doesn’t (7-12). The 2009-10 team was 14th in rebounding; this one is last.
Also, “that team had a little bit more of an edge early on,” Wade said. “I don’t want to say more toughness. But it was a team that knew what we wanted to do, knew what we could do. This team came in with a lot of question marks and didn’t know what team it was going to be. That team’s identity was kind of set.”
Wade said this team hasn’t established “togetherness” to withstand adversity.
What's more, those team played in a conference that was arguably stronger than the East now, especially the 2009-10 team, when the eighth seed (Chicago) was .500.
Haslem said it’s difficult to compare this team with the pre-LeBron teams because “it seemed like ages ago.”
But “this team has enough talent to win 40 something games, close to 50 if we stay healthy,” he said. “We’ve got the talent. Look at me: I can’t even get on the floor! [Besides Wade and Bosh], Luol Deng is a former All-Star (2012 and 2013), Danny Granger a former All-Star (2009). Look at the emergence of Hassan Whiteside.”
But Deng and Granger are clearly past their prime.
### One Heat official said this roster is simply not as good as what the front office expected, that the pieces don’t ideally complement each other and that the point guard play has been much worse than anticipated.
Wade also said he “would have thought” the Heat would be competing for a top-four seed, which now seems unlikely. Miami entered the weekend 9 ½ games behind No. 4 Washington.
“We’re [six] games under, and it’s going to take a while to climb out of that,” Wade said.
Bosh said being well under .500 “sucks. I didn’t envision this. It’s taught me one thing: Never assume. I did make some assumptions about this team.”
“I thought the continuity would be a little better," Bosh said. "As soon as we got Josh McRoberts going, he goes down.”
Bosh also said he believed this would be a better team defensively, that the pieces would fit together sooner and that “we were going to get off to a good record.”
### The Heat is calling up 6-2 rookie guard Tyler Johnson from its NBDL affiliate in South Dakota. Johnson, who was averaging 18 points per game, showed promise during the Heat's Summer League program last summer, and has become a YouTube hit because of his explosive dunks. He signed a 10-day contract with the Heat.
### The Dolphins' game against the Jets on Oct. 4 in London will start at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, the NFL announced Saturday. That will allow the game, which is technically a Dolphins home game, to be televised
The league announced that next season's Buffalo-Jacksonville game on Oct. 25 in London also will start at 9:30 a.m., which is 2:30 p.m. in London. The NFL experimented with a 9:30 a.m. start for the first time
when the Lions and Falcons played in October in London.
### Dolphins guard Mike Pouncey, who has said he wants to go back to playing center next season, was named to the Pro Bowl, replacing injured 49ers guard Mike Iupati. Pouncey joins Brent Grimes and
Cameron Wake as Dolphins in the Pro Bowl Jan. 25 in Glendale, Ariz.
### Though Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler’s cap hit is similar whether he’s on the team next season or not ($4.4 million to $4.2 million), that won’t necessarily save him.
After Jeff Ireland signed Wheeler, new Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum –-- then an NFL Network pundit --- criticized the move, calling Wheeler a journeyman and saying he would have used that money to keep Sean Smith, who signed with Kansas City and was rated the fifth-best cornerback in football in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus.
Wheeler said his criticism of coaching strategy on Green Bay’s game-winning touchdown “could be” why his playing time diminished a lot after that.
“I would think I could help,” he said.
### Tannenbaum indicated there has been no decision on the future of Mike Wallace; the matter is complicated by the fact Wallace’s behavior issues weren’t limited to the finale. Wallace has pouted or complained during previous games, which has worn thin on some teammates.
### A friend in touch with former Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad, who swam nearly 16 hours to safety after falling off his boat off Palm Beach Wednesday, said Konrad saw one boat about 50 yards away while trying to swim to safety but those boaters (apparently unaware he was in the water) didn’t stop.
The Coast Guard, looking for him overhead, didn’t see him below, either.
### Kicker Zach Hocker, signed by the Dolphins last week to challenge Caleb Sturgis, was 5 for 7 on field goals of 50-plus at Arkansas (Sturgis is 6 for 13 on such kicks as a Dolphin) but converted just 14
of 23 from 40 to 49 yards. The Redskins drafted Hocker in the seventh round last May, then cut him in August.
### UM athletic director Blake James said some people in the 8000-member Hurricane Club have told him they will not make the required annual donation (at least $50) to remain in the club because “they are upset where the football program is.”
But UM doesn’t know the precise fallout because the donation deadline isn't until late May.
Meanwhile, James gracefully is handling the fan backlash; he said one angry fan sent him the same email 54 consecutive times.
### James said he has met with Al Golden and his staff and Golden is “planning on changes to make things better, a variety of things.” James also said ticket prices aren’t expected to change.
### Ichiro Suzuki sits atop the Marlins’ ranking of free agent options in their search for a fourth outfielder.
But they’ve also been in conversations with others, including Andy Dirks, who hit .276 with 24 homers in three seasons for Detroit before a back injury sidelined him in 2014.