Rebounding will be a tall order for this height-challenged club
By L. Jon Wertheim
Team Page | Conference ranking: 8 | Overall ranking: 18
Once among the elite teams in the East, the Heat has missed the playoffs two years running. How well Miami rebounds this season depends largely on how well Miami rebounds this season. That means starting center Brian Grant will be every bit as vital as forward Caron Butler, a star in the making, or free-agent signee Lamar Odom, a versatile swingman. "The points are definitely secondary," says Grant. "If I snatch the thing and throw the outlet, I know the camera is going down the other way and something good's happening."
Even before Alonzo Mourning took to wearing a new jersey with the Nets, the Heat ranked among the league's smaller teams. The undersized Grant, at 6'9", compensates with a brick wall for a chest and a reach that spans 7'5". As one of the few consistent performers on the team last season, Grant became the fourth player in franchise history to average a double-double, complementing 10.3 points with 10.2 rebounds (fifth best in the league). But given the team's wealth of young scoring talent, a preferable split for Grant this season would be something like five points and 15 boards.
Fine by him. Ever since he began his career in 1994, with the Kings, Grant has forged a reputation as a player who's happy to do the dirty work and defer glory to more offensive-minded teammates. In fact, last season it was his apparent reluctance to shoulder a bigger scoring load that spawned persistent trade rumors and intermittent boos. Now it's a moot point. "I've always wanted to be a main part of a team but not have things fall upon my shoulders," Grant says. So long as he retrieves the errant shots, that should be burden enough.
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Heat
"The story of Lamar Odom's brief career is that he's been a good offensive player when he hasn't been injured or suspended. I was shocked that he wanted to play for Pat Riley because with the Clippers he was neither a good defender nor a hard worker. Yet he and Riley seem to get along on a personal level, and if he buys into what Riley's selling, then Odom will be transformed into the multidimensional star everybody thought he could be when he entered the league in 1999. ... If they want to put their best players on the floor, then Odom will have to play the four and rookie Dwyane Wade from Marquette will be the point guard. It will be the worst defensive team Riley has ever had. The only potential shot blocker is Odom, but he's not used to protecting the rim. ... Should Wade have trouble at the point, the Heat can initiate the offense with Odom or Eddie Jones, who looks like he's recovered from the ankle injuries that sidelined him the second half of last season. Wade will be better offensively if they're pushing the ball. He's blessed with NBA athleticism, size and strength, and he can finish and knock down jumpers. In preseason he was already posting guys up. ... They desperately need another big guy. Brian Grant sets the standard of toughness and intensity for his teammates to follow, and in the last couple of years you could see him getting frustrated when he felt he was the only one battling inside. Malik Allen will be the first big man off the bench, though he's limited to making shots and spreading the defense.... Relying on up-tempo offense rather than defense goes against everything Riley has stood for since he left the Lakers [in 1989]. The question is whether Riley can put up with the turnovers and the easy baskets going the other way. But does he have any choice?"
Issue date: October 27, 2003