The Other Side: Miami Heat
If the Washington Wizards can find any hope in this lost season, they don't have to look much further than their opponent tonight -- the Miami Heat. This time last season, the Heat was the worst team in the NBA, Dwyane Wade was hobbling around on one good leg, and the team had an identical 9-35 record. A year later, Wade is healthy and the Heat is tied with Detroit for the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 24-19.
Miami has won five of its past seven games and is coming off impressive, back-to-back home wins against Southeast Division-leading Orlando and Atlanta. Both of those wins came after former Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning announced his retirement from the NBA. The Heat has two wins against the Wizards this season, beating them 97-77 when the teams met on Nov. 14 in Miami, and 94-87 on Nov. 18 in Washington.
Wizards forward Caron Butler spent one season with Dwyane Wade and said they communicate often. "You know we shoot texts," Butler said yesterday. "It's something I did last year, telling him to get healthy and remain positive. He was going through all that stuff where people said he wasn't the same, but look at him. He's back on top and now he's shooting me the texts telling me to be positive."
If the Wizards indeed follow the path of the Heat, Butler will need some more inspirational words. The Heat didn't win its 10th game last season until Feb. 26 -- several weeks after trading Shaquille O'Neal to Phoenix. Miami defeated Sacramento that night to improve to 10-45. The Heat, of course, finished the season 15-67.
Here's what else you need to know about the Heat before they host the Wizards tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena.
1. Wade Is a One-Man Wrecking Crew
I wrote about Dwyane Wade's rigorous eight-week training program to get back to an elite level earlier this month. But aside from being the league's leading scorer at 28.9 points per game, Wade has led a team of mostly toddlers with a rookie head coach into contention for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. With the Heat on pace to win 46 games, Wade has generated a little MVP buzz. Sports Illustrated's Phil Taylor wrote last week that Wade has certainly emerged as the best one-man show in the NBA.
2. Marion Is on the Trading Block
Shawn Marion's short stint in Miami has proven that he cannot thrive on a halfcourt team. Marion is averaging just 12 points, the lowest since his rookie year, and has to run to be effective. His time in Miami appears to be shrinking and Heat President Pat Riley isn't ashamed to admit it. Marion has been rumored in deals with Sacramento and Toronto, where he could reunite with former Phoenix General Manager Bryan Colangelo. The Miami Herald's Israel Gutierrez said Marion is unhappy and the Heat needs to move Marion soon. Marion is currently out with a groin injury. There is no timetable for his return.
3. Michael Beasley Is Progressing Slowly
Michael Beasley is no longer a leading candidate to win rookie of the year. The D.C. native has had an up-and-down season as Coach Erick Spoelstra tries to get Beasley to become a better defender and all-around player. Beasley is averaging 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds but showed flashes of stardom while recording three 20-point games this month. He banged knees with Atlanta's Josh Smith on Tuesday and left after scoring just two points, but he is expected to play against his hometown team.
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