Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Heat's Freefall One Of NBA's Strangest Stories

OK, all of you who had the Miami Heat sitting on 12 wins on March 19, raise your hand.

That's what I thought.

Of all the crazy things that have happened during this NBA season (the rise of the New Orleans Hornets, the Houston Rockets' 22-game winning streak, the blockbuster Cleveland/Chicago/Seattle trade), I maintain that the Heat's plunge to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings is right up there in terms of strangeness.

How can a team with Pat Riley as coach, Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal (for half the season anyway) and other castmates from the 2006 championship squad, fall so far from grace, and with such a thud?

The Heat managed to win one last night, topping the Bucks in Milwaukee. That gives Miami just its fourth win in 2008; they're 12-54 overall, and 4-30 since January 1.


They'll be hard-pressed to win more than a few more games the rest of the way, now that Wade is out till next season with an injury.

Alonzo Mourning hasn't played, but I find it hard to believe that Mourning is THAT valuable to the Heat.

Riley has to be as floored as anyone over the Heat's season

In 1979, the Pistons thought they had a frontline combo that would lead them out of the muck. Coach Dickie Vitale, functioning as a de facto GM, got rooked in a trade -- though he didn't know it. He was hell-bent on acquiring the former scoring champ Bob McAdoo, who had worn out yet another welcome, this time with Boston. McAdoo had previously poisoned the Knicks after being traded from Buffalo. So Vitale signed McAdoo, and the cost in terms of compensation (they don't do that anymore) was a pair of top draft picks and forward M.L. Carr. The draft picks were used by the Celtics to finagle Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. It wasn't one of the Pistons' better trades.

So McAdoo joined Bob Lanier up front, and with a feisty point guard in Ron Lee and a shooting guard in James McElroy, plus youngsters Greg Kelser, Phil Hubbard, Terry Tyler, and John Long (yes, Vitale was afraid to draft beyond the state of Michigan), the Pistons brass felt like they were onto something.

Oh, they were onto something, alright: a 16-66 disaster, in which Vitale was dumped after a 4-8 start.

The Heat, frankly, will be lucky to match the '79-'80 Pistons' win total of 16.

I just didn't see this coming. ESPN, for whatever reason, showed lots of Heat games this season, and I watched them play a bit in January and February. Their defense was non-existent; not par for a Pat Riley-led team. Strange.

Miami Heat, the dregs of the NBA. Who would have thought?

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