Heat Supporting Cast Has Become Better Than Expected
MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade certainly did a better job attracting players for his Miami Heat supporting cast than he did for his sold-out Summer Groove Charity Game Sunday at American Airlines Arena.
It was a better job than most anticipated -- a much better job -- which should put fear into any other team still doubting the team's well-deserved rise to NBA favorites this season.
Based on the fit of Miami's new supporting cast, the two-time defending champion Lakers are looking like yesterday's news.
While Wade's just-for-fun event Sunday lacked much star appeal beyond himself, the Three Kings of Miami -- Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh -- are near completion on a roster that should jell well around them, and nothing like the Moe, Larry and Curly cast that some had expected.
After The Big Three, the Notable Nine that will be available on opening night is looking tailor-made. Considering the Heat almost reached the $58 million salary cap to land the three superstars in free agency, they did exceptionally well in finding key veterans to fill specific roles.
"I think we did a really good job putting this (Heat) group together,'' Wade said Sunday before his game, which ended a week-long string of charity events in South Florida. "It's a better job than what people want to give us credit for, or what people thought we could do.''
On the day they signed Wade, James, and Bosh, the only player they had under contract was back-up point guard Mario Chalmers. Now they have a rotation.
Based on players they recently have signed, or will sign in the next couple days, the Heat are looking at a starting lineup that includes shot-blocking center Joel Anthony, a defensive specialist, and veteran point guard Carlos Arroyo, to put alongside the Big Three.
What's more impressive is a second team that will include veterans Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Chalmers. Waiting as insurance will be Juwan Howard and Jamaal Magliore. Miller and Haslem may not be starting, but they likely will be finishing games with the Big Three.
"The biggest thing is experience. I think experience is underrated in this league sometimes,'' Wade said. "You just can't put a price on it. The last few years, we were a young team, and now we're a veteran team up and down the roster. That's the biggest thing we gained. And that's key.''
Even before Wade re-signed with the Heat, he talked almost daily with Heat President Pat Riley, discussing what kind of supporting cast they wanted, assuming they would land three star free agents.
"He (Riley) had the final say, but there was constant communication with Coach Riley. I was always giving my thoughts on guys who we knew would be out there,'' Wade said. "We wanted guys who would understand what we'll deal with, from the outside. Inside the locker room, we wanted character guys, and not necessarily the best talent. We were looking for guys who could check their ego for a great cause, and I think we've gotten that.''
Arroyo, Magliore and Howard all could be signed within the next couple days. They were able to re-sign Haslem -- a key power forward -- and Miller, maybe the best long range shooter, because the Big Three agreed to take less than the maximum salary to play together.
"Guys all over the league were calling, reaching out to see if they could fit here,'' Wade said. "We just don't have many roster spots left now.''
The Heat still expect to sign another veteran wing player -- still possibly Matt Barnes -- and a third point guard, possibly Jason Williams.
Neither Bosh nor James came to Wade's charity game. No other NBA starter played, although Boston's Rajon Rondo was on the bench. Mostly it was NBA journeymen and even former players like Tim Hardaway in the game.
"We're going to be wearing a bullseye. But that's what you play for," Wade said. "We enjoy the bullseye. Plus, there's going to be times when we lose 2-3 games in a row, and it seems like the world has crashed down. You all (media) are going to make it seem like the World Trade is coming down again, but it's not going to be nothing but a couple basketball games.
"When the schedule comes out, people will be looking for the Lakers and Heat, to see when they play us. I feel like I'm a new player in Miami. That's how excited I am."