But first, how Heat wins will come soon, and could kill our hopes for the team.
Born to Win
That the Heat would lose in Boston is not a surprise; while the Celtics weren't particularly wonderful at home last season (24-17), they lost only 70-12 in the regular season at TD Banknorth in the previous two (less injury-ravaged) seasons. Playing a team as good at the Celtics in Boston is a daunting task for any team, even one dubbed super.
As Rob Peterson noted, this certainly isn't the end of the world for Miami; the Heat are clearly a work in progress, with Dwyane Wade's preseason injury making things a bit rougher than they should be by opening night. But even more than that, with its performance Tuesday, Miami would have beaten 25 or 26 of the league's teams. Boston's famous defense (which apparently didn't die with the flight of Tom Thibodeau) and Rajon Rondo's playmaking stopped that from happening, and the Lakers and Magic certainly could have made Miami pay for the off night. But against most of the league, that would have been enough to win, even on the road.
That's the allure and the curse of the Heat to this point -- the team is talented enough to win 50 games in its sleep, but in doing so doesn't use the roster's unique talents in any harmonious way.
In the last five minutes of the first quarter, Wade and LeBron James were oil and watercolor, and it was messy. Wade tried so hard to create in isolation (as he has for the better part of seven years), but ended up with almost nothing. Likewise, James did what he does: high screen-rolls, isolation jab step jumpers, drive-and-kick. The result? In those five minutes, the Heat scored three points in nine possessions.
The story was the same in the more successful third quarter: with just under five minutes left, Wade hit Chris Bosh with an alley-oop in the halfcourt, then left the game. LeBron continued apace with his bread and butter: high screen-rolls (often with seven-year teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas), isolation jab step jumpers, drive-and-kick. And (as it has for seven years) it worked: LeBron assisted on or scored every Heat basket from the Wade-Bosh oop until the end of the quarter, and Miami ended up with 16 points in 10 possessions to end the third. But it was Cavs redux, with Udonis Haslem in there instead of Anderson Varejao and Eddie House replacing Mo Williams.
That's still an improvement on last year with the Heat; LeBron's that good. But it's not what Pat Riley, or LeBron, or Wade had in mind. Right now, playing the way the team did in Boston, the Heat are simply not greater than the sum of their parts. In fact, with Wade essentially needing to not be himself in order for LeBron to do his Cavs redux thing ... well, the Heat are actually less than the sum of their parts. Is it tenativeness between the two superstars? Just a feeling-out process?
The concern is that the wins will pile up for Miami and LeBron and Wade will never become more than LeBron and Wade. The team that had the world in apoplexy all summer wasn't a sequel of the 2006 World Championship team; it was the idea that 82 games could concoct something far more epoch-changing. Based on Game 1, it looks like that while the wins will come soon, our answer as to the Heat's identity will take longer to arrive. (TZ)
What We Like (Or, The Things We'll Miss During the Great '11-12 Season Shutdown): Ray Allen's Workout
What We Like champions the unlikely things we'll miss if the league shuts down next summer. Rob Peterson is a FanHouse producer and frequent contributor to The Works.
BOSTON -- When we started WWL, we said we wouldn't talk about the things everyone already knows, with Ray Allen's sweet jumper as the prime example.
Well, I couldn't help it. Ray's J is like the Sirens' song. At TD Garden on Tuesday, no amount of wax in my ears and no length of cheap Hellenic rope would be able to bind me to my original statement.
Yet as much as we dig Ray's results, the process is just as beautiful. Allen, famously, hits the floor about three hours before game time, earlier than any player in the NBA. If you're fortunate enough to be in the arena to catch it, consider yourself lucky. To the average fan, it's just some NBA player doing what he's supposed to do: shoot. But to those who dig the L deeply, it's fascinating to watch because of the pattern Allen follows around the court. It's like hearing Sinatra clear his throat, seeing Scorsese block a scene or watching Jay-Z scratch out lyrics.
Even the Celtics coaches are intrigued, and slightly awed. After Allen's Tuesday workout, they walk over and ask: "Were you keeping track? I've always wanted to know."
Ray begins against a coach's assistant, working on post moves he'll probably never use in a game. Hell, you never know, though, right? He posts on the left block, then the right. After a nifty up-and-under move on the right block, he steps to the free throw line. His goal is to hit 10 free throws. On Tuesday, he reached that goal in 10 shots.
Then, he moves away from the paint and begins to go around-the-world 20-feet from the hoop. On occasion, he has to dodge a dance team member. Not Tuesday. He spent a few minutes chatting up Jon Barry, Hannah Storm and Ernie Johnson, but the Celtics fun squad (or whatever they call them) made way with a clarion call: "Clear the floor. Player!"
From 20-feet, Ray tries to hit five shots from five spots apiece: left baseline, left wing, top of the key, right wing and right baseline. On Tuesday, he was 25 for 27, missing one from each wing. He takes a break for five freebies, again, nailing every single one.
Then, Allen, who is second all-time in made 3-pointers with 2,444 (146 behind leader Reggie Miller), goes behind the 3-point line and circumnavigates the arc in the same direction he did inside. This time, he goes 52 for 76 and misses three shots in a row only once from the top of the key.
When he's done, he heads to the free throw line where, again, it only takes him 10 shots to make 10. An attendant throws him a bounce pass and he leaps, grabs and slams it home. It's the cherry on top of the sundae.
Allen shows his gratitude as he shakes each attendants' hand and walks off, ball under his arm to the locker room secure in his knowledge that his work done for the time being and that, if he finds himself open anywhere on the floor, the crowd will rise (or groan) knowing that more than likely Ray Allen will make it because he's done so many times before.
RAY ALLEN'S SHOT CHART, Oct. 26, 2010
(Xs are makes and Os are misses)
FTs: X, X, X, X, X, X, X, X, X, X
Total: 10 for 10
Left baseline, 20 feet: X, X, X, X, X
Left wing, 20 feet: X, O, X, X, X, X
Top of the key: X, X, X, X, X
Right wing, 20 feet: X, X, X, O, X, X
Right baseline, 20 feet: X, X, X, X, X
Total: 25 for 27
FTs: X, X, X, X, X
Total: 5 for 5
Left baseline, 3-pointer: O, X, O, O, X, O, X, X, X, X, O, X, X, X, X
Left wing, 3-pointer: X, O, X, X, X, X, X, O, X, X, X, O, O, X, O, X, X
Top of the key, 3-pointer: X, O, X, X, O, O, X, O, O, O, X, X, X, X, O, X, X
Right wing, 3-pointer: X, X, O, X, O, X, X, X, O, O, X, X, X, O, O, X, X
Right baseline, 3-pointer: O, X, X, X, X, X, O, X, X, X, O, X, O, X, X
Total: 55 for 81
FTs: X, X, X, X, X, X, X, X, X, X, X
Total: 10 for 10
Total: 25 for 25 FTs; 25 for 27 from 20-feet; 55 for 81 from 3-point range -- 105 for 133
Meet the New Lamar Odom
Allow me to show my age: If you get me talking about Lamar Odom, circa 2000-2004, I get really misty, really fast. Not because of what was lost, or wasted, necessarily, but for what an wondrously complete, and yet totally unobtrusive, player he was on those bugged-out Clippers team.
Then, of course, on the Heat small-ball dynasty that never was. Miami once had a soul -- a nucleus of a fully-realized Odom, Caron Butler when he provided exalted support and had something to prove, and a rookie on the rise named Dwyane Wade. That team went far enough to sniff the conference finals, and then, poof, disappeared.
Then came the last six years of rocky, uneven time with the Lakers. Odom got two rings, sure, but he never panned out as the "next Pippen" role some had suggested he could play alongside Kobe Bryant. The forward didn't seem comfortable asserting himself alongside Kobe, nor could he find a rhythm playing the spaced-out Magic Johnson ball that had become his trademark with the Clippers.
Certainly, he wasn't getting to pick up where he left off with the Heat, as a do-it-all power forward who directed the offense and rebounded like the devil. The triangle wins titles, but it has also clipped the wings of many a great, or at least entertaining, player.
At this summer's Worlds, a bigger, greatly muted Odom excelled as a scavenger, picking up loose change to fund the empire. Stuck out of position at center for much of the tournament, Odom nevertheless played hard defense, rebounded and made small plays that helped set up Kevin Durant's monster performances. It wasn't even a shadow of the Lamar Odom some of us remember -- it was very nearly its opposite. Not only had he been broken, he had come to accept, to embrace, his yeoman's place in the league.
That's how I saw it at the time. Strangely, I was all for Andre Iguodala's rabid commitment to perimeter defense, and willingness to once and for all abandon the HOT SCORING WING identity that he never seemed to want in the first place. Watching the Lakers last night, though, I realized just how stupid my hypocrisy was (sometimes, I tell myself, it can be cute). A few brave folks on Twitter told me, politely, that Odom may have found himself for the first time since Miami, and while his new games lacks the alien brilliance of the young Lamar, it's finally established a role for him as a veteran. Dude's getting on in the years, and while he's signed with LA through 2012, with an option for the following season, he wasn't exactly essential. At least not in any way the Lakers could count on.
Now, though, coming off of the Worlds, Odom looks ready to start a new life, as a bigger dude who relies on instincts, size and timing, not pure skill and an endless parade of mismatches. Last night, he had a double-double in the victory over those pencil-necked Rockets. With Andrew Bynum's status uncertain forever and ever and ever, this version of Lamar Odom could not arrive at a better time for the Lakers.
Much has been made of Kevin Durant's scoring exploits in Turkey. But did he really change as a player, or alter our perception of what he was capable of? Iguodala reminded us all that he's most comfortable as a shorter Shawn Marion, who slashes and passes within the flow of the game. Doug Collins has already indicated that this data will shape the way the Sixers look this season.
However, the most important discovery might be that of an older, rickety and altogether less glamorous Lamar Odom -- one who just might show us how one of the league's eternal mysteries can yet find himself a steady, starting role that a dynasty can count on. (BS)
The Works is a daily column written by Bethlehem Shoals (@freedarko) and Tom Ziller (@teamziller). Their Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History is now available.