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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
1 Apr 2023
Tribune News Service


NextImg:Ira Winderman: In metrics of misery, this Heat season one for the ages

To the Miami Heat’s credit, there at least has been candor about just how trying a season this has been.

Expectations have not been met. Opportunities have been squandered. Disappointment often carried the day.

Which led to a question this past week to those in and around the organization, many who have been around from the start or close to the start:

Has this been the most disappointing/frustrating season of the franchise’s 35?

No, not the worst. Not with a pair of 15-67 clunkers in the mix. But that was with Ron Rothstein asked to drive an Edsel in the augural 1988-89 go-round and then the Heat in full tank-a-thon mode in 2007-08, when the closing-night rotation featured the likes of Stephane Lasme, Kasib Powell, Earl Barron and Mark Blount.

Those were times when you could see it coming, as it was with other trying seasons, when from the outset it was clear there either was not enough in place to contend or a goal of building toward something better for future seasons.

But when using both frustration and disappointment as the combined metrics of misery, an argument can be made that unless there is some type of miraculous postseason reversal and revival, 2022-23 has to go down as an all-time disappointment, if only because of where 2022-23 ended, one game, one victory, one shot shy of the second NBA Finals appearance in three seasons.

Yes, recency bias, certainly. But misery that also has been palatable.

So, has anything previous come close? It is a tough call, but we’ll offer a few as a means of comparison.

2006-07: Coming off the 2006 championship, the expectation of success certainly was greater than ultimately being swept out of the first round in 2007 by the Chicago Bulls. But considering that championship defense began with a 108-66 opening-night loss to the Bulls, perhaps could have seen it coming.

By midseason, Heat President Pat Riley, still serving as coach at the time, deactivated Antoine Walker and James Posey after deeming the two unfit for the Heat’s conditioning standards. At the same time, Riley was gone, too, so badly injuring his hip during a halftime tirade that a hip replacement was required.

Shaquille O’Neal was lost to early-season knee surgery; Dwyane Wade was gone at midseason with a shoulder injury. No, no fun, at all.

1994-95: Coming off a 42-40 season and the franchise’s second playoff berth, the team appeared to be turning a corner under Kevin Loughery. Then Loughery decided he wanted something else.

So Rony Seikaly was dealt on the eve of the season to the Golden State Warriors for Billy Owens, and Steve Smith and Grant Long were traded two games into the season to the Atlanta Hawks for Kevin Willis.

And, with that, all semblance of continuity was lost, the Heat careening to a 32-50 lottery finish, with Loughery fired after a 17-29 start.

The disappointment was so severe that it led to a franchise reset, Micky Arison taking over as owner at midseason, Riley arriving as president and coach months later, with the Heat back in the playoffs the next six seasons.

1998-99: The Allan Houston shot.

Sometimes frustration and disappointment can arrive in an instant. Houston’s season-ending shot in the opening-round winner-take-all game against the New York Knicks at the end of the lockout-shortened season still stings.

2017-18: This was a season built on the expectations created by the 30-11 finish to 2016-17, that Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside and the returning cast were ready for the next step.

In some ways it mirrored the hope created by the Heat this season returning almost all of last season’s roster.

Instead, a 44-38 finish and 4-1 first-round playoff loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, a season not even the return of Dwyane Wade could salvage.

2020-21: After coming within two games of a championship in the NBA quarantine bubble at Disney World, the Heat meandered to a 40-32 finish in the pandemic-shortened regular season.

That was followed by a 4-0 first-round ouster at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

At this point, it’s almost as if such a replication would be a step forward, the way this season has gone.

STILL GOING: Yes, that is former Heat center Hassan Whiteside currently dominating in Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional, named this past week’s Player of the Week. Out of the NBA since finishing last season with the Utah Jazz, when he closed eighth in the league in blocked shots, Whiteside on March 14 signed with the Piratas de Quebradillas. Included in his performances was a recent 43-point, 19-rebound outing that helped his team improve to 4-0. The 12-team league plays a 44-game spring schedule, It is the first international competition for Whiteside, 33, since he played in Lebanon and China before joining the Heat in 2014. The league plays in arenas that range from 5,000 to 12,000 seats. Among others with NBA resumes who have recently signed into the league have been Greg Monroe, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Knight, Eric Paschall, Ed Davis, Sheldon Mac, and former Heat guard Norris Cole.

HIS TIME?: Heat forward Udonis Haslem again is a finalist for the NBA Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, an honor that the NBA designates as for, “the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-the-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other players in and around the NBA, as well as commitment and dedication to the player’s team.” A panel of NBA executives selected the finalists, six players from each conference. Players will then select the winner from the pool of 12 finalists. This season’s other finalists are Mikal Bridges, Darius Garland, Jrue Holiday, Derrick Rose, Grant Williams, Harrison Barnes, Stephen Curry, Aaron Gordon, Jaren Jackson Jr., Damion Lee and Damian Lillard. The Heat’s lone winner of the award that was introduced in 2013 was Shane Battier in 2014. The Bucks’ Holiday won the award for the second time in three seasons last year, the award’s lone multiple-time recipient.

ALTERNATE OPTION: With Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki to be enshrined in August into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Dallas guard Tim Hardaway Jr. finds himself with a different favorite player from the shrine’s Class of ‘23 than just about everyone else in the Mavericks’ organization. In his case, it’s Heat icon over Mavericks icon. “That was my favorite player growing up. Miami kid,” Hardaway said on the Outta Pocket podcast. Hardaway said Wade’s arrival in 2003 reshaped South Florida’s basketball landscape. “The Miami Heat weren’t really doing all that well,” Hardaway said of the period after the Heat transitioned away from Alonzo Mourning and his father. “Everybody went their separate ways. They needed a spark. When we got D-Wade, from the first day on he lived in the same neighborhood. He lived around the corner for a while when I was growing up. So it was awesome, and ever since that day that I met him he’s been my favorite player, all through his career.”

LOST SEASON: Chalk it up as another lost season for former Heat forward Justise Winslow, who underwent surgery Wednesday for an ankle sprain sustained Dec. 21, after previously undergoing a bone marrow aspirate concentrate procedure earlier in March to address the discomfort. Since playing 66 games for the Heat in 2018-19, the No. 10 pick in the 2015 NBA draft out of Duke, has played 11, 26, 48 and 29 games these past four seasons, with stops with the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. Winslow, 27, who earned $4 million this season, will be a free agent in the offseason.

87. Consecutive games Heat center Bam Adebayo had scored in double figures before being limited to nine points in Wednesday night’s loss to the New York Knicks. Adebayo’s previous longest streak was 55 games in 2021. The franchise record is all 294 regular-season games of LeBron James with the team, with Adebayo’s just-ended streak fourth on the franchise all-time list behind streaks of 148 and 111 by Dwyane Wade.

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