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A Long Way From Hot
Jack McCallum
July 05, 2006
Travel back with us to Year One of the Heat, when the team dreamed not of a championship but simply of a single victory
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July 05, 2006

A Long Way From Hot

Travel back with us to Year One of the Heat, when the team dreamed not of a championship but simply of a single victory

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? Three will help: center Rony Seikaly from Syracuse, who is an NBA player despite his penchant for dropping balls and not dropping free throws (he's shooting 51% from the line); Kevin Edwards, a slashing guard from DePaul; and Grant Long, a second-round pick out of Eastern Michigan, who plays every minute as if the Heat was contending for the NBA championship.

? One might: free-agent guard Anthony Taylor (not shown in team photo), an Atlanta Hawks reject whose build is slight but whose jump shot is not.

? And two probably won't: Sylvester Gray, an early signee from Memphis State whose superb athletic skills probably will not be honed soon enough; and John Shasky, a former CBA player who has already applied for membership in the Lifetime Backup Center Club chaired by Chuck Nevitt.

Even when third-year forward Billy Thompson and third-year guard Pearl Washington are thrown into the mix, the Heat is still a long way from hot. But for the time being, Miami will try to tread water, hoping that the youngsters cut their teeth quickly, that a respectable but hardly awe-inspiring group of veterans ( Rory Sparrow, Sundvold, Hastings, Pat Cummings) maintains its enthusiasm and that a few calls start to go the Heat's way. The most popular pastime of any expansion team is to dwell on alleged injustices by the zebras, and Miami certainly is no exception. Some of its complaining even seems justified. Through its first 16 games, the Heat shot more free throws than its opponents in only one game, against the Spurs on Nov. 9.

The season has already been a long one for Ron Rothstein, the Heat's coach, who six months ago was sitting on the Detroit bench as an assistant coach during the Pistons' championship series against the Lakers. But he has endured frustration before, notably in back-to-back winless seasons two decades ago at Eastchester ( N.Y.) High. "I contemplated suicide then," says Rothstein, laughing, "but never quitting." And now?

"I guess the worst thing I think about is--what else?--actually going zero and 82," he says. "You look at the schedule and think, Well, who are we going to beat? And when? It's tough."

Toughest on the Heat's veterans, who have been around too long to revel in the "Oh, boy, tonight we play Michael Jordan" spirit that seems to prevail--at least for now. "We're goal-seeking individuals, like most athletes," says Sparrow, "and our self-worth is tied up in winning. It's hard to feel good about yourself when you're losing."

Adds Hastings, "Winning and losing are opposites, but the funny thing is, you can get used to both. And losing's the one thing we must never accept. We can have fun and try to look at things philosophically, but we've got to guard against a losing attitude."

Through last weekend, though, it wasn't easy for the Heat to have any other kind.

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