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By Dylan Barmmer His career has been autographed with excellence and achievement. It has also been accented with setbacks and challenges. And as Danny Granger begins to carve out a niche and flesh out a role during his first season with the HEAT, the versatile veteran looks more and more willing and able to bring something special and impactful to his new teammates and organization. Granger entered the NBA as a cat-quick, long-limbed, silky-smooth small forward in 2005, joining the Indiana Pacers after a brilliant college career split between Bradley University and the University of New Mexico. In 95 games over four seasons at the two schools, the multi-talented, 6-foot-8 native of New Orleans averaged 16.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Granger averaged at least 18.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists in his final two college seasons at New Mexico, leading the Pacers to select the man nicknamed “Batman” with the 17th overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft. Granger served a valuable role off the Pacers’ bench in his first NBA season, appearing in 78 games (and even making 17 spot starts) during the 2005-06 season. He averaged 7.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 blocks and 0.7 steals in 22.6 minutes a game, and helped the Pacers carve out a 41-41 record and a postseason appearance. Granger was also named to the All-NBA Rookie Second Team following his strong debut season. After his rookie season, Granger would soon evolve into the Pacers’ primary offensive threat, becoming more and more of a force over the next several seasons. After averaging 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds and making 57 starts in his second season, Granger averaged at least 18.7 points and 5.0 rebounds and made a minimum of 62 starts over the following five seasons. Granger’s finest campaign with the Pacers came in 2008-09, when he earned NBA All-Star and Most Improved Player honors by averaging 25.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals in 36.2 minutes a game. Granger started 65 of the 67 games he appeared in for the Pacers that season, and set career-highs in scoring and blocks. He also shot 44.7 percent from the field, including a career-high 40.4 percent from behind the three-point arc – where he also drilled a career-best 182 three-point field goals. At the end of that brilliant season, Granger had raised his scoring average by at least three points per game every season for three consecutive seasons (7.5, 13.9, 19.6, 25.8) – becoming the first player in NBA history to post such dramatic improvement. After playing an intense, aggressive, all-out style and logging many high-impact minutes over seven seasons with the Pacers, Granger began to have some challenges with his knees. He was limited to 62 games during the 2009-10 season, though he still managed to average 24.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks. Granger also joined the U.S. Senior Men’s National team in the summer of 2010, helping the star-studded team win the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Granger would bounce back to play extensively in each of the following two seasons, but would appear in just five games in the 2012-13 season while battling patellar tendinosis. In April of 2013, he underwent surgery on his left knee, and ended up sitting out the remainder of the 2012-13 season before returning to action last season. Granger appeared in 29 games for the Pacers last season, coming off the bench in all but two of them, before the only team he had ever played for decided to deal him to the Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen on the eve of the 2014 NBA trade deadline. The rebuilding 76ers decided to part ways with Granger after acquiring him, and he ended up closing out the season with the Los Angeles Clippers. In 12 regular-season games with the Clippers, Granger averaged 8.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 16.2 minutes per game off the bench. He would go on to play a solid role for the Clippers in the playoffs, appearing in 13 postseason games as a reserve. The 31-year-old Granger signed with the HEAT this past summer, and entered his 10th season as an NBA professional vying to serve a vital role as a bench sparkplug and scorer in Erik Spoelstra’s innovative and “positionless” rotation. Slowly but surely, he has worked his way into a rotation spot and more offensive opportunities. Since working his way back to game strength and shape following more offseason knee rehabilitation, Granger has now appeared in 14 of the HEAT’s first 35 games, including two spot starts. Granger has averaged 7.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.3 assists and 0.3 blocks in 20.7 minutes over those 14 games, shooting 45.2 percent from the floor, including a sizzling 42.6 percent (20-of-47) from behind the three-point line. Granger worked his way back into the HEAT rotation in a big way around the Holidays, and closed out 2014 on an absolute tear. With his recent string of strong, energetic, powerful play, he looks like a true weapon for the HEAT. Over the final four games of 2014, Granger scored at least 9 points and pulled down 3 or more rebounds in each game, averaging 15.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 0.5 steals in 26.8 minutes per game. Granger hit an incredible 24-of-34 (70.6 percent) shots from the floor, including 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) from behind the three-point arc. Granger’s year-end outburst began in a nationally televised Christmas Day game. He scored nine points and grabbed a season-high seven rebounds in 22 high-energy minutes off the bench, making several crucial plays on both ends of the court in the closing minutes of a 101-91 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Granger drilled 4-of-5 shots in that game, and his late-game energy and offense ignited the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd and helped secure a sweet victory. Granger followed that with an 18-point, 3-rebound outing in a 103-95 loss to powerful Memphis two days later, and on Dec. 29, he exploded for the most extensive and complete outing of his time in a HEAT uniform. Granger scored a season-high 21 points, pulled down 4 rebounds, dished two assists and snared one steal in a season-high 32 minutes off the HEAT bench during a narrow 102-101 loss to in-state rival Orlando. As efficient as he was explosive, Granger drilled 7-of-10 field goal attempts in that game, making 6-of-7 shots from three-point range. Two nights later, Granger closed out 2014 with a strong showing in a New Year’s Eve game against his old team, scoring 14 points and grabbing three rebounds in 25 minutes of a 106-95 loss to the Pacers in Indianapolis. The Pacers’ home crowd cheered Granger when he first checked into the game, but by the time he hit his second of two 3-pointers en route to those 14 points, they were less supportive of their former star. In the HEAT’s first game of 2015, Granger made less of a statistical impact – scoring three points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing three assists – but his all-around, all-out efforts over 31 minutes of passionate, professional play helped the HEAT earn a hard-fought and much-needed 88-84 win over the rival Brooklyn Nets. Just how much Granger continues to play – or how much of a statistical impact he makes when he does play – for the HEAT this season remains to be seen. But his rare blend of size, skill, length, toughness, versatility and veteran savvy could well prove to be an invaluable asset to the team down the stretch. Granger has always been able to score at a high rate (he has three 40-plus-point games on his NBA resume), and able to pour in those points in a variety of ways. Now, the experienced and seasoned veteran also appears to be evolving into a better three-point marksman than he has ever been. He can pose as an offensive threat for the HEAT at not just small forward, but also the shooting guard and power forward spots if needed, and is capable of defending multiple positions as well. He also possesses excellent ball-handling and passing skills, and can serve in a “point forward” role if called upon to do so. Granger also possesses considerable postseason experience, having appeared in 35 career playoff games, including those 13 with the Clippers last summer. He’s averaged 10.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks in 25.7 minutes a game over those 35 games, which includes 19 starts. When the HEAT tangled with the Pacers during a thrilling six-game Eastern Conference Semifinals series in the 2012 Playoffs, Granger was a true postseason force, averaging 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 0.7 steals in 36.2 minutes per game over those six games. He started all 11 of the Pacers’ games during the 2012 Playoffs, averaging 17.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.4 blocks in 38.2 minutes per game over those 11 games. Granger clearly brings a lot to the table as the HEAT continue to evolve in the second half of this season, and his considerable skill set and experience help provide the team with flexibility, security and confidence.
By Dylan Barmmer Ray Allen has seen and done and won a lot during the course of his brilliant 17-year NBA career. Like a 2000 Olympic Gold medal. A 2008 NBA Championship. Four franchises (on both coasts and in the heart of the midwest). Ten NBA All-Star Game selections. And an NBA-record 2,857 3-point field goals (the closest active player to that mark, New York Knicks guard Jason Kidd, has 1,988 long-distance hits). But this season has been a bit different. And in some ways, it's even been entirely new for the 37-year-old veteran who's put the "shooting" in shooting guard like few others ever have. For starters, Allen did not start a game in the 2012-13 season. After not only starting, but starring, for the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics and Boston Celtics in his first 16 seasons, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Allen has successfully and smoothly transitioned into a reserve role during his first season with the HEAT. Serving as the spark plug and primary scorer off the HEAT bench, Allen has handled his new job with the same blend of professional class and cold-blooded, game-icing accuracy that always defined his days as a starter. As the HEAT transition into playoff mode after wrapping up a franchise record-setting and historic regular season, Allen closes yet another stellar season having finished fourth on the HEAT in scoring (10.9 points per game), fifth in steals (0.9 steals per game), fifth in assists (1.7 assists per game), sixth in rebounding (2.8 rebounds per game) and seventh in field-goal percentage (44.9%). The veteran sharpshooter also led all HEAT players in free-throw percentage (88.6%) and 3-point field goals made (139), and was second only to Shane Battier in 3-point field goal shooting percentage (41.9%) – an already awesome accomplishment that is even more impressive when one considers he did so coming off the bench. The 41.9% mark was also good enough for 15th in the entire NBA, while the 139 3-pointers made ranked 29th in the league. Allen did all this despite ranking fifth on the HEAT in playing time, with his 25.8-minute-per-game average the lowest since he logged 30.9 minutes a game as a 21-year-old rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1996-1997 season. To put Allen's experience and durability in perspective, HEAT point guard Mario Chalmers was just 10 years old at the start of Allen's first NBA season, while his backup Norris Cole was only 8. HEAT stars Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James were just 14, 12 and 11, respectively. Most importantly, Allen's veteran presence helped the HEAT fine-tune and refine their exciting new era of brilliant basketball. And like Allen himself, his new team experienced a season of more than a few firsts. Allen played a vital role in the HEAT setting a new franchise standard for wins and securing an NBA-best 66-16 record – an accomplishment that is not only a franchise first, but guarantees them homecourt advantage throughout the postseason. Allen also was a big reason the HEAT set a new franchise record for homecourt wins (37), with his scoring (11.7 points per game), rebounding (2.9 rebounds per game), shooting (48.3%) and 3-point shooting (48.1%) averages at AmericanAirlines Arena all exceeding his overall season averages. And with the NBA's all-time 3-point field goal marksman leading the charge, the HEAT also established a new franchise mark for 3-pointers made (717) and 3-point field goal percentage (39.6%) in a single season. With 4 players canning 100 or more 3-pointers in the same season for the first time in franchise history, the HEAT drilled 10 or more long-range field goals 31 times – winning each of those 31 games. Of course, Allen's tireless work ethic – in opponent preparation, shooting drills, conditioning work and in-game effort – and age-defying fitness level also helped elevate the already intense and focused culture of the club established many seasons ago by former HEAT coach and current president Pat Riley. Despite ranking as the second-oldest player on a veteran-laded team, Allen missed just 3 games, and logged 30 minutes or more off the bench in 12 games. Then there was The Streak. As the HEAT methodically and at-times miraculously strung win after win after win together to build a 27-game winning streak that ranks second to only the Los Angeles Lakers' 33-game streak in 1971-72, Allen came up big time after time after time. His offensive output was also as prolific and consistent as it was all season, as he scored 10 or more points in 17 of those 27 games – including 8 straight games from Feb. 12 through Mar. 1 – and cracked the 20-point barrier twice. Put simply: Ray Allen delivered for the HEAT this season. And then some. And he did so operating outside of his comfort zone. In a new role. On a new team. Surrounded by new teammates. And he did so from Game 1. Allen opened the season scorching the nets off the bench, scoring 15 or more points in 4 of the HEAT's first 6 games, as the HEAT raced out to fast 5-1 start. Allen drained 16 of 27 shots from behind the arc during that opening 6-game stretch, including 2 of 3 in his first game in a HEAT uniform, a 120-107 win over the Celtics that saw him score 19 points, grab 2 rebounds and dish 2 assists against the franchise he helped lead to its 17th NBA Championship in 2008. That 5-1 beginning would prove to be just the start of a truly spectacular season for the HEAT, who now prepare to face the Bucks in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, bringing everything full circle for Allen, who will turn 38 on July 20 – or just a handful of weeks after the HEAT hope to be celebrating their second consecutive NBA Championship. While Allen's methodical, professional, intense and intensive personality, professionalism and overall approach to all facets of the game make it impossible to measure his impact on his team and teammates in mere numbers, there were certainly a handful of highlight performances that HEAT fans won't soon forget – and that enabled and empowered both the franchise record-setting win streak and victory total. --Just 2 games after his successful debut, Allen scored a season-high 23 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and snared 2 steals in a 119-116 home win over the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 3, 2012. Allen nailed 8 of 12 shots from the field, including a season-high 6 3-pointers in 10 attempts, to help the HEAT bounce back from a 104-84 loss to the Knicks in New York the night before and avoid a 1-2 start to the season. Allen's final 4 points came on a rare 4-point play with 6.7 seconds left to play in the game, after LeBron James found him for a left corner 3-pointer that he drilled while being fouled. --Allen scored 17 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in a 110-108 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 24, hitting 6 of 11 field goals, including 3 of 5 from long-distance. Allen once again converted a go-ahead 3-pointer on a drive-and-kick from James, this one coming with just 18.2 seconds left to play. That dagger was part of a game-ending 9-0 run by the HEAT in a game they led for just 2:29 – and trailed 108-101 with 1:58 remaining. It was also the final 3 of 15 points Allen scored in the fourth quarter – the most he had poured in during a fourth quarter since March 8, 2009. The thrilling win gave the HEAT a 10-3 record, and helped them move to a perfect 6-0 at AmericanAirlines Arena. --In another thrilling home win, this one a 105-101 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 29, Allen scored 20 points, going 7 of 15 from the floor and a flawless 5 of 5 from the free-throw line. Allen once again nailed a late-game 3-pointer from James, this one coming from the left wing and putting the HEAT up 100-98 with 22.6 seconds left to play. Allen scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including 5 during a game-closing 12-2 run that saw the HEAT race back from down 98-93 with 2:14 remaining. The long-distance dagger made Allen 3-for-3 on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of a game – and ensured the HEAT stayed a perfect 7-0 at AmericanAirlines Arena. --Allen scored 12 points, grabbed 2 rebounds and dished 2 assists in a 98-94 win at Philadelphia on March 13, 2013. Allen scored his 12 points on just 5 field goal attempts, hitting 3 of them, including 2 from long-range, to go with 4 free throws. In a tight, back-and-forth game in a hostile environment, Allen scored 6 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer in front of the 76ers' bench that put the HEAT up 89-86 with 3:11 remaining. The win stretched the HEAT's streak to 20 games, making them just the fourth team in NBA history to win 20 consecutive games in a single season. --Allen scored 20 points in just 25 minutes of a 108-91 win over the Raptors in Toronto on March 17, drilling 7 of 10 shots from the field, including 4 of 6 from behind the 3-point arc. Allen scored 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, with all 16 coming during a blistering 28-4 run that broke a 77-77 tie and ensured a HEAT rout. Allen drilled 5 of 6 field goals during that game-changing burst, including 4 of 5 3-pointers, and pumped out his 16 points in just 5:43 of game time. The win put the HEAT at 51-14 and extended their winning streak to 22 games, tying the 2007-08 Houston Rockets for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. --Shortly after the HEAT's historic streak had ended, Allen played a key role in maybe the season's most surprising win, scoring 14 points, dishing a HEAT-high 5 assists and grabbing 3 rebounds in an 88-86 victory at San Antonio on March 31. Allen hit 6 of 12 shots, including 2 of 5 3-pointers, but his biggest contribution didn't involve shooting – although it once again helped secure a comeback win in the game's waning moments. With the Spurs leading 86-85 following what looked like a game-winning shot by Tim Duncan, Duncan missed a short runner with 11 seconds left on the clock. Allen alertly grabbed the rebound, raced downcourt and kicked the ball out to Bosh, who drilled an open 3-pointer of his own from the top of the key with 1.9 seconds left. Perhaps inspired by Allen, the 6-foot-11 Bosh hit a career-high 3 3-pointers in the game, and the short-handed HEAT beat the Spurs on their own floor without the services of James or Wade, who both rested nagging injuries. The rousing road win put the HEAT at 58-15, 3 full games ahead of the Spurs in the race for the NBA's top record – and homecourt advantage throughout the 2013 Playoffs. The win also ensured that the HEAT finished March with a 17-1 record – and set an NBA record for wins in a single month. --With James, Wade and Bosh all resting minor injuries, Allen scored a game-high 23 points, pulled down 6 rebounds, dished 4 assists and snared a game-high 3 steals in a 103-98 win at Washington on April 10. Allen had another huge fourth quarter, pumping in 11 points, handing out 3 assists and getting his hands on 2 rebounds and 2 steals to key a 34-point outburst that enabled the HEAT to race from down 72-71 to up 93-86 in just 5:40. The win gave the HEAT a franchise-record 62nd victory, and snapped a 9-game home winning streak for the surging young Wizards. --With James, Wade and Bosh all returning to the lineup for the first time in two weeks, Allen complimented the HEAT's star trio with 17 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block to help key a 109-101 home win over the Celtics on April 12. Allen drilled 5 of 6 shots from the field, including 3 of 4 3-pointers, and sank 4 of 5 free throws to help lead a blistering bench that outscored Boston's reserves 52-14. The victory stretched the HEAT's new winning streak to 5 games, improved their NBA-best record to 63-16 and tied a franchise record for home wins (35). All told, Allen scored 10 or more points 48 times this season – including in 17 of the 27 games during the historic winning streak – and the HEAT went 41-7 in those games. Allen also hit the 20-point threshold 7 times – including 2 games during the winning streak – and the HEAT went 6-1 in those games. Allen also finished the season strong, averaging 12.6 points per game in April and scoring 10 or more points in 7 of the 8 games he played in. With Wade, James and Bosh sitting out a handful of games to nurse nagging injuries, he also upped his assist-per-game average to 2.6 per game over those 8 games. But it may be the postseason that proves most beneficial and fruitful in the already successful partnership between Allen and the HEAT. Allen is certainly no stranger to postseason success. In 128 career playoff games spanning 9 postseason appearances, Allen has averaged 18.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals in 38.8 minutes per game. He's shot 44.7% from the field, including 40.2% from long-distance (with 313 made 3-pointers) and 88.2% from the free throw line. Once again the model of consistency, those averages closely mirror his regular-season averages over 1,224 games. Allen averaged 15.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals over 26 grueling postseason games in the 2008 Playoffs, when he won his lone NBA Championship -- and helped the Celtics secure the most recent of their NBA-best 17 titles. He scored 20 or more points in 6 of those 26 games, including 25- and 26-point outings in the Celtics' 4-2 NBA Finals win over the L.A. Lakers. The 26 points came in the closeout Game 6 victory, a 131-92 rout that saw him drill 8 of his 12 field goal attempts, including 7 of 9 from behind the 3-point arc. Allen averaged 20.3 points and hit 50.7% of his shots from the field in the Finals, including an incredible 52.4% (22 of 42) from long-range. He also grabbed 5 or more rebounds 3 times, and snared 3 steals in 2 of the 6 games. As he prepares for his first foray into postseason play as a member of the HEAT, fans of the team and the NBA alike eagerly anticipate witnessing whatever Allen will author as the next chapter of his compelling career. A title defense is rarely anything like easy or predictable. But if anything in NBA history has been close to automatic, it's been Allen effortlessly and athletically rising for a crucial, crippling 3-pointer...and landing with another milestone marker in his hip pocket. After all, Allen has seen and done and won a lot during a career that seems destined for the Hall of Fame annals. And he's showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
By Dylan Barmmer Preparation pays off. And in the NBA, you never know when your number might be called. Veteran reserve sharpshooter James Jones reminded HEAT fans of the value of staying ready recently, scoring 18 vital points by draining 6 clutch 3-pointers off the bench in a 98-75 win over Detroit on April 8. Fellow veteran swingman Shane Battier has done the same all season, providing a little bit of everything off the bench and stepping in to start 8 games at various spots on the schedule during this grueling, compressed season. And so has Ronny Turiaf. He just hasn't been with the HEAT quite as long. Not even close, actually. Jones has had four years to learn the HEAT system, and adjust to his various roles within it. Battier joined the HEAT during the offseason, and has appeared in all 56 games this season. In stark contrast, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound Turiaf has only been with the HEAT since March 21. And before jumping right into the fire down in the low post, the rugged power forward/center had barely played all season. Turiaf was sent from Washington to Denver at the NBA trading deadline on March 15. The Nuggets immediately bought out Turiaf's contract, he cleared waivers, and the HEAT eagerly signed the 7-year veteran. Turiaf played in just the first 4 games for the Wizards, missing the next 2-plus months with a broken hand. In those 4 games, Turiaf averaged 1.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in just 11.8 minutes, shooting a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor. But when Turiaf signed with the HEAT, he was ready to mix it up again down low, and coach Erik Spoelstra wasted no time inserting him in the mix. Turiaf played 11:28 off the bench in an 88-73 win at Detroit, scoring 4 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Turiaf also added an assist and a steal in his high-energy debut, and hit both of his shot attempts from the field. The 29-year-old Turiaf has continued to play a valuable role for the HEAT, even starting the past 5 games at center. In 11 games in a HEAT uniform, he's averaged 3.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 15.7 minutes. He's shot 53.6% from the field, and drained 6 of his first 7 shots. And every time he's on the floor, it's nearly impossible not to notice his powerful blend of energy, athleticism, aggressiveness and leaping ability. Turiaf scored 8 points, pulled down 9 rebounds and blocked 2 shots in 21:57 of the same game Jones dominated recently, and in his first start for the HEAT, he scored 6 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and swatted 2 shots in a 99-93 win over Philadelphia. Turiaf's sky-high shooting percentage leads the HEAT, who are shooting 47.3% overall as a team. The 1.1 blocks per game is second-best on the club, just behind Dwyane Wade and Joel Anthony's 1.3 average. And the 4.1 rebounds per game are good for fifth-best, just above Anthony's 4.0 average. In fact, Turiaf has pulled down 5 rebounds or more in 5 of his 11 games with the HEAT. The fast success shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to anyone who's followed Turiaf over the course of his career. In 7 seasons with 5 different teams, Turiaf has proved durable, productive and valuable, averaging 5.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.4 blocks while shooting 53.0% from the field in 17.5 minutes per game. His most productive season came in 2008-09, when he averaged 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 blocks in 21.3 minutes for Golden State. All those numbers except scoring average were career highs, and Turiaf also appeared in a career-high 79 games for the Warriors that season, starting a career-high 26. That standout season came one year after he helped the Los Angeles Lakers reach the 2008 NBA Finals, where they eventually fell to the Boston Celtics in 6 games. The Lakers went 57-25 that season, and Turiaf averaged a career-high 6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 blocks in 18.4 minutes. He played in 78 of those 82 games, starting 21 of them. During the Lakers' 19-game playoff run, Turiaf averaged 2.0 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting 58.8% from the field in 9.8 minutes per game. Turiaf has had a rock-solid career in the NBA's trenches, certainly not the most common course for a player who learned the game on the tiny Caribbean island of Martinique before playing his high school ball in Paris. After his eye-opening time at Paris' National Institute of Physical Education, Turiaf decided to trek out to the American West, accepting a scholarship to play for upstart Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Turiaf was a standout for four years for the Zags, earning All-West Coast Conference accolades during his final three seasons and WCC Player Of The Year honors after leading the conference in scoring as a senior. Turiaf averaged 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds during his four-year college career, including 15.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game as a senior. After his decorated career at Gonzaga, Turiaf was selected in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft, with the 37th overall pick, by the Lakers. He was a valuable and versatile member of the Lakers roster for three seasons, and a favorite of the notoriously demanding Kobe Bryant during his stay in L.A. Now, he's a key component in the HEAT's march toward the postseason.
By Dylan Barmmer Imagine you are playing for your third NBA team in two seasons. Imagine you are in your 12th season overall, and 5 months away from your 34th birthday. Imagine you had hardly any time to familiarize yourself with your new coaches, teammates, city or surroundings before being thrust into a prominent, multi-dimensional role as the bench leader of a deep, talented team. Imagine much of this was happening while you battled lingering quadriceps and calf injuries. Imagine you are Shane Battier. The prize acquisition of the HEAT's offseason, the versatile, veteran Battier is averaging a respectable 4.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks in 22.5 minutes per game. He's played in all 52 of the HEAT's games, starting 7 of them. And he's compiled those numbers while battling the aforementioned litany of obstacles to smooth, sudden sailing in new waters. In the 12 games that fellow veteran swingman Mike Miller has missed due to an ankle sprain over the past three weeks, Battier has picked up his production, scoring 5 points or more in 6 of those 12 games, including 11 points twice. And he's pulled down 4 rebounds or more 6 times. He's also drained 11 of 40 3-point attempts during that stretch. Battier has also had a few monster games during this tough, truncated season. During a nailbiting 99-98 loss at Utah on March 2, he scored a season-high 18 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, handed out 3 assists and blocked a season-high 4 shots in 32 high-energy minutes. Battier drained 6 of 7 shots in that game, all from behind the 3-point arc. Battier was also brilliant in a 106-89 win at Washington on Feb. 10, scoring 15 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and grabbing 5 rebounds in just 23 minutes. He also had a steal, block and assist in that game, showcasing his impressive all-around talent. For the season, Battier is shooting 38.3 percent from the floor, below his career average of 44.1 percent. But he's drained 34.9 percent of his shots from behind the 3-point arc, not far off his career average of 38.3 percent. And his 53 3-pointers made ranks second on the HEAT, behind only Mario Chalmers' 90. “I want to play well," said Battier in early February. "I grade myself harder than anybody else. At this point, I’m not worried about the numbers. Even if I go on a tear, I’m pretty far below my averages. I’m not going to be playing to those." But offense has always been a bit of a bonus for the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Battier, who carries a career average of 9.3 points per game over those 12 NBA seasons. Of course, the high-octane HEAT haven't needed Battier to score too much, allowing him to do the many other things he does so well -- many of which don't show up in box scores. In fact, of the 7 games Battier has scored 10 or more points in this season, only 4 have been HEAT wins. The quintessential "glue guy", the rugged, rangy and resilient veteran has always been more revered for his myriad defensive abilities. And it's on that side of the ball that Battier's skill set, savvy and energy really jump out at even the most casual observer. Battier willingly and creatively defends a number of players and positions, and does so with an energy and aggression that appears almost maniacal at times. When you consider that Battier is in his 12th NBA season and closing in on 34 years old, his defensive play is even more impressive. And while hustle plays, dives and jump balls don't show up in the box scores, things like blocks and steals do. Battier's 32 blocks are fifth-best on the team, just behind Chris Bosh's 36. And his 45 steals are fourth-best on the HEAT, one ahead of Bosh. Not bad for a reserve player who also happens to be the HEAT's second-oldest player. According to The Sporting News, Battier may also be the HEAT's smartest player. The esteemed publication recently tabbed him as the seventh-smartest athlete in all of professional sports. Graduating from Duke with honors while leading his team to two Final Fours and winning a National Title might have something to do with that. As might the effusive praise that seemingly every NBA analyst, especially former coaches like Hubie Brown and Jeff Van Gundy, regularly direct his way during telecasts. Van Gundy, who coached Battier in Houston and doesn't exactly hand out compliments like candy, has called Battier "the finest competitor I ever coached." "I have so much admiration for how Battier approaches his job, and his commitment to winning," Van Gundy said a few years back. "He comes ready to play every single day. He plays for the team, he plays for his teammates. If there is any NBA player that is egoless, it is Shane Battier. Battier is winning-driven." Add all of it up, and you're left with the portrait of a player whose value transcends mere numbers. And you see why Battier was the sixth player selected in the 2001 NBA Draft after a decorated career at Duke, where he won a National Championship and swept the major National Player of the Year awards as a senior. And why he was later selected as part of the U.S. National Team, helping them to a bronze medal in the 2006 FIBA World Championship. And you see why the HEAT coveted Battier long before signing him as a free agent this offseason. Because, as Van Gundy said, Shane Battier is "winning-driven." And the HEAT are winning with him.
By Dylan Barmmer He's not in the starting lineup. He's been DNP-CD for 12 of the HEATs' 48 games. When he has played, he's logged 15 minutes or more just 10 times. But there's no denying James Jones' value to the HEAT. Despite playing in only 36 games this season -- and averaging just 10.2 minutes in those games -- the nine-year veteran has managed to average 3.1 points a game. A superior sharpshooter from long range, Jones ranks fifth on the HEAT in 3-pointers made (27), and second in 3-point field goal percentage (a sizzling 42.2%). The 6-foot-8, 215-pound swingman is also third in free-throw shooting percentage, having drained 17 of 21, or 81.0%, from the line. Jones got a chance to start at shooting guard when Dwyane Wade was out with a foot injury early in the season, and scored 14 points -- all in the first half -- in a 118-83 win over the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 4. Jones hit 4 of 8 3-pointers in that game, and drilled 12 of his first 22 shots from long-range this season. HEAT fans who watched him take the 3-point shootout title at the 2011 All-Star Weekend weren't surprised, and University of Miami fans who remember Jones starring for the Hurricanes were even more familiar with that sweet stroke. But Jones, who is a career 40.3-percent shooter from behind the arc, began to see his minutes give way to fellow veteran Mike Miller, who missed the start of the season while recovering from hernia surgery. Even so, the heady and steady veteran has remained ready for any time his number might be called. And with Miller missing the past eight games with a sprained left ankle, Jones has once again gotten his shot to take his shots. "I have a different role on this team," Jones said recently. "My role is to make sure that things run seamlessly if someone's out for a game, or out for a stint. Just to be ready at all times." Jones hasn't disappointed, hitting 7 of 16 shots from the field since Miller's absence, including 6 of 13 from 3-point range. While filling in capably at both the shooting guard and small forward positions. All after having seen action in just 12 minutes over the previous 7 games. With all of those 12 minutes having come in one game. Jones was especially brilliant in the HEAT's thrilling 106-102 loss at NBA-leading Chicago on March 15. He drilled a tough 3-pointer with 10 seconds left to pull the HEAT within 3 points, and then nailed another 3-ball with 6.8 seconds remaining, drawing the HEAT to within 104-102. He finished the game with 6 points, 2 assists and 1 rebound in just 14 minutes, and nearly led the HEAT back to a win. Jones' role on the HEAT at times seems akin to a baseball closer. And if that's the case, then the Miami native would have to rank among the NBA's saves leaders. It's not easy to just jump into the action cold in any game, at any level, in any league. But to do so in the game of basketball, at its highest level on earth, can be especially daunting. It doesn't seem to phase the steely Jones, however. He's done nothing but deliver when called upon, especially when Erik Spoelstra dials his number for a long ball. "I'm the guy that, at a moment's notice, when I haven't played for five games, I'm expected to go in there and make a shot," said Jones. "That's a role that I embrace, and it's something that's necessary for this team to be able to function the way that we're built." It's that kind of tenacity, focus, perseverance and will that has allowed Jones to play a key role for four NBA teams since being drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2003. A bench player and spot starter for most of his career, Jones has still managed to average 5 or more points four times, and exceed 40% shooting from behind the arc on three occasions. The 31-year-old Jones has spent the past four seasons with his hometown HEAT, and has become a vital and valuable member of the club. His best statistical season in Miami came last year, when he averaged 5.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in 19 minutes a game. He even saw action in a career-high 81 games, missing just one game all season and making 8 starts. His 42.9% shooting from long range was the second highest of his career, and third-best on the HEAT. Jones continued to stand out in the postseason last year, averaging 6.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 22.7 minutes per game. He shot 47.1% from the floor, including a sizzling 45.9% from long distance. This season, Jones' statistical output -- and time on the floor -- has lessened a bit. But Jones' value to the HEAT remains as strong and clear as ever. Especially to him. "I know that the last couple of years here, my role has evolved to the point where now, I think I can do whatever this team needs me to do," said Jones. "Whenever they need me to do it. "I want to be remembered as a champion here in my hometown."