D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Heat, Game 1 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Heat, Game 1

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Updated: October 29, 2014

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Looking like a season. How u

So it all starts tonight, the 2014-15 NBA season. Are you ready? I can’t say that I am. Maybe I should be. Maybe it will happen right before tip-off. And maybe in exactly 10 days I am getting married and there’s a lot going on with that in terms of last-minute planning and the what-not. Lest we forget: Basketball is… fun! The Wizards are… not going to be terrible! What else do you even need in life? Oh yea, a spouse.

Joining TAI for the the season-opening D.C. Council Opening Statements are Hayley Byrnes (@HayleyBrynes)—New Zealander, sports writer, Miami aficionado, and contributor to the SB Nation blog Hot Hot Hoops—and Benjamine “Cajun Ben” Reid (@benreid71)—Miami native, Heat fan, and former manager/grad assistant for the University of Miami men’s basketball team. Leggo!


Teams: Wizards at Heat
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: American Airlines Arena – Miami, FL
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Heat fav’d by 3.5 points.


Q #1: How has Miami’s offense adjusted without LeBron? (Or how should it adjust?

@HayleyByrnes: The key to how it ultimately adjusts is whether or not this team can be above average with outside shooting. Erik Spoelstra is still all about having movement, passing, and a constant flow on offense. LeBron was always the best at making sure things run smoothly, and now it will be much more of a team effort since he’s not there to bail them out. Truth is we probably won’t see real adjustments for a month or two because the new guys have to be healthy and on the court together.

@benreid71: LeBron’s departure comes at a high price for the Heat. Most notably, the transition game will suffer. With LeBron, you’re team is afforded a player that can grab the rebound, lead the break, and either finish above the rim, or find open shooters on the wings. The Heat won’t have as many of those opportunities this year, as Wade, the next best option to run the fast break, doesn’t rebound at the same clip.

From a “half-court set” perspective, the Heat’s offense hasn’t changed much over the years that Pat Riley has been involved with the franchise. From Mourning/Hardaway to Shaq/Wade to the Big Three, there has been a steady dose of high “HORNS” sets (where both bigs post high and either initiate the offense by screening for the PG or by receiving the post pass and turning to the wing for some sort of screen/hand-off action), single or double-down screens (for wing players to initiate a two-man pick-and-roll/pop game), and wing entry post-ups (from deep posts for Shaq/Mourning to 15-foot mid-posts for Bosh). Don’t expect to see much different. The goal with these sets was to either clear the lane for a slasher (Hardaway, Eddie Jones, D-Wade, LeBron), or create a one-on-one post opportunity for the big man, then spread the rest of the floor with shooters.

Spreading the floor with shooters will prove difficult for the Heat as seemingly all of the Heat’s 3-point specialists from the last few years are in Cleveland (weird, right?). While Chalmers, Cole, Bosh, McRoberts, Granger, and Deng are capable (don’t count out Andre Dawkins for this as well, I cursed him out several times for his epic shooting while cheering against Duke over the years), I wouldn’t put them at the ‘3-point Specialist’ level. This lack of 3-point shooting will cause problems for the Heat’s ability to spread the floor for Wade to be Wade and for Bosh to operate in the middle of the floor.

How do you overcome not having a guy that’s a one-man fast break as well as a lack of bonafide 3-point threats? Defense. The cure for any offensive deficiencies is timely pressure on defense that leads to easy baskets. The Heat had plenty of stagnant sets on offense when LeBron was in Miami, so it’s not like his departure drastically changes how the Heat operate in the half court. But what the Heat would do on defense (greatly assisted by LeBron’s defensive abilities) was turn up the pressure to another level at just the right time and amass a 15-point spurt in under three minutes to close out a half. The Heat has to find ways to create this defensive atmosphere where Wade is a proven threat in the open court. Find their Mojo there, and the Heat will be very competitive in this post-LeBron world.

Q #2: Were you more shocked that LeBron left or that Chris Bosh returned?

@HayleyByrnes: I never once felt concern for Bosh leaving; I knew his wife and family were big fans of the Miami lifestyle, and I felt confident he would always choose to stay. Despite toying with the notion LeBron might leave, it failed to soften the blow when the news came out. That day, where I was and what I was doing, will be embedded into my brain forever. (Sheds single tear.)

@benreid71: I was definitely more shocked that LeBron left. But first I’ll address Bosh. The ties between Bosh and Riley go back to draft night in 2003, where the Heat were poised to draft him until he was picked up by Toronto. I’d say the Heat did alright with the other guy they ended up drafting that night. Defensively, Bosh is the perfect fit for Riley’s scheme as a big that’s capable to guard center and patrol the entire back line defense. If you recall, Bosh committed to Riley and Wade before LeBron was headed to South Beach, so I’m not surprised that he held onto that commitment this offseason.

In terms of LeBron leaving, whether you’re shocked depends on which of his public personas you believe. On the one hand, when he left Cleveland for Miami, he said on the night of “The Decision” that his motivation was winning. Then, a few days later, at the fan rally, he famously said “not 5, not 6, not 7….” Earlier this year, he talked about wanting to be the greatest basketball player ever and how he will be on the Mount Rushmore of the NBA. After losing the Finals this summer, he talked about how the Heat needs to upgrade at every position to continue winning championships. Then, even after he left, he said in an interview that had the Heat won three of four championships, he probably would’ve stayed. All of that sounds like he’s motivated by success.

Now lets consider the other public persona LeBron now seems to be displaying. This is the persona that is all about Northeast Ohio. In the Sports Illustrated article (“I’m Coming Home” by Lee Jenkins) he talked about his relationship with Ohio and how it was much more important than anything he could achieve on the basketball court. Also, fresh off his new Beats commercial, he felt the need to clarify his feelings by saying, “I’m not driven by Championships, I’m driven by my hometown, by Northeast Ohio.” This is the other LeBron, the one that apparently isn’t motivated by success.

I truly believe that LeBron is motivated by success, that’s why I think his decision to leave is surprising. It’s surprising to me because the track record of the two franchises involved would indicate that Miami, led by Pat Riley, would provide much better opportunities for LeBron to achieve continued success. Cleveland has only known success when LeBron was playing for them, meanwhile, the Heat have won a title and been consistently in the playoffs for much of the last 20 years (off the top of my head I think its 15 of the last 20 seasons in the playoffs). I could be showing a little bias but to me it’s a no brainer that LeBron would’ve experienced more success in Miami. Thinking that LeBron is truly motivated by success is why I was so surprised he left.

Q #3: Which newcomer will have the most impact—Deng, Granger, McRoberts (or someone else)?

@HayleyByrnes: It has to be Luol Deng because they’ll rely on his defense to fill in where LeBron left off. Offensively, they’ll need him to hit corner 3’s and get quick, easy buckets moving toward the basket. This isn’t a terribly deep team, which means their top players have to fit in perfectly to the plan and execute that plan on both ends of the floor. Deng could end up being their most important two-way player, even with Bosh being asked to do so much.

@benreid71: Tough call. As a safe answer, my best bet would be Luol Deng. He’s a proven defender, and a guy that can fill up the stat sheet. Additionally, he can put in 15-to-18 points without having a single play called for him—he just has a way of being in the right place to finish plays after guys like Derrick Rose set them up. I’m willing to overlook his lackluster play in Cleveland last year because … well, let’s be honest, if you went from the Bulls, perennial playoff team, to the Cavs, worst NBA record over the last four years, what’s your motivation level gonna be?

The wild-card, without a doubt, is Danny Granger. He’s found himself in a position to prove he’s still a high-level player. And the Heat have had their fair share of ‘contract year’ players come through those doors and have outstanding years (best example is Anthony Mason, he got PAID after one year in Miami [Ed. Note: Mason got paid by Milwaukee, where Ernie Grunfeld was GM. Read TAI for more. —KW]). Last year, it can be argued that Granger got on a team where Doc Rivers had a very set lineup that he wasn’t willing to adjust. I personally think Granger could’ve been a better option than Matt Barnes or J.J. Redick. So we’ll see if Doc already knew he was done, or if Granger was passed over. Given Granger can opt out after this year, I think the timing is perfect for him to surpass his expectations. Put it this way, I don’t think there’s any middle ground here, he’ll either be a stand-out on the team this year and probably be the first guy off the bench, OR he’ll be in suits more than half the season

Q #4: Is Chris Bosh overpaid? Is Dwyane Wade overpaid? Is that just what Pat Riley had to do?

@HayleyByrnes: The alternative to not giving those guys this money is you’re a lottery team with nothing to hang your hat on. Bosh is still a really good basketball player, and it won’t take much for him to play into the value of that contract. Wade isn’t past the point of being good either. The only question with him is his health. Pat Riley had to do this to keep the team going but it was also the right decision.

@benreid71: I would say this is a combination of everything. Are Bosh and Wade max players? Yes. Are they worthy of max contacts? Maybe. Did they get big money because of the threat of the entire Heat team being whittled down to the Mario Chalmers show? Absolutely.

Bosh is a two-way talent in the league that is severely under-appreciated. That’s because of a few factors. For one, when he was a nightly 20-10 guy in Toronto, nobody was watching. Whereas Wade was wowing people in the Finals and LeBron was on the SportsCenter Top 10 every night. Once Bosh got to Miami, he fell to third banana and that’s when all the eyeballs were on him. So there exists a perception of Bosh as a glorified stretch-4 who doesn’t rebound very well. Also, where a majority of his value was evident, defensively, isn’t necessarily something the casual NBA fan notices. Depending on how much exposure the Heat get this year, that perception will likely change. He’s still the perfect fit for this defensive scheme due to his ability to guard down low and also cover the floor sideline to sideline. Now, he’s going to get plenty more looks offensively, where people will see he’s got some scoring abilities.

As far as Wade. He’s got the big question mark. He did miss more than 25 games last year, but he also had the highest shooting percentage among shooting guards in the NBA—that’s notable. This year, if he plays 70 games and is forced every contest to be a pivotal part of the offense (unlike the last few years where he could take nights off when he wasn’t actually sitting out and the Heat could still win), then he’ll look like a max player that scores 25 a game and makes timely shots (or visits to the free throw line).

Q #5: With two titles and four straight Eastern Conference championship, have fan expectations reasonably adjusted in LeBron’s departure?

@HayleyByrnes: It’s funny what the grieving process can do. I went to a Heat preseason game, my first since Game 3, but this was the first time I’d watched a Heat side without LeBron, and surprisingly it wasn’t as much of a bummer as I thought it may have been. To be honest I thought of him out there for maybe 30 seconds then he was gone. It was about Deng, Wade, Granger, and the rest of the side now. The city and fans have adjusted well and are far more optimistic than I would’ve thought. They won Championships before LeBron, so they know it can be done. It’s definitely a city that believes.

@benreid71: While I can’t necessarily speak for fan expectations reasonably adjusting, which they probably didn’t, I can tell you how my personal expectations have adjusted.

The Heat lost the best player in the NBA, no question. With that, they lost a ton of national respect and expectations. However, Riley & Co. regrouped and put together a team that’s more than capable of making noise. While this team won’t be as transition-oriented and will be forced to win more games looking like the Bulls (by stopping people and playing tough defense), they are still a team capable of winning 50 games.

Right after all of the free agent moves happened I thought about the Eastern Conference and concluded that the top teams in the East have tremendous upside, but at least one big question mark. Here’s what they were at that moment (things have changed obviously).

    • Miami – Still got two major playmakers, the big question mark is Wade’s health—if he’s on the floor, the Heat will be very good.
    • Cleveland – They got LeBron and a great young core, the big question mark is Irving’s health—he’s had injury problems.
    • Indiana – They lost Lance, but other teams in the East have leveled out too, so the question mark is Roy Hibbert—does he regain his stride?
    • Chicago – They’re always good, now with Rose back and adding Pau, they should be Finals good. Big question mark is Rose’s health.
    • Washington – Superstar level backcourt, getting better every year. Big question mark is, have they plateaued and can they make up for Ariza?

Cleveland since got Kevin Love, which makes them much better, and Indiana lost Paul George, which makes them much worse. The other teams still have those lingering questions. Looking at the Heat, Wade was good enough by himself to make Miami the 4-seed in the East (winning 47 games) the year before LeBron, and at that moment, Wade didn’t have anyone near as good as Bosh and Deng. Therefore, I think the Heat are still capable of being a home court advantage playoff team. I think they finish 3rd or 4th in the East and, depending on their second-round game, bow out in the Eastern semi’s or Eastern Finals.

 

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.