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dbarmmer posted a blog entry in The PULSE BlogBy Dylan Barmmer He was born and bred in Miami. He has worn a HEAT uniform for all 11 of his NBA seasons. Only Dwyane Wade has appeared in more games in that uniform. He holds the HEAT franchise record for career rebounds. He has shone, stood out and even starred at both the power forward and center positions. But for Udonis Haslem, this season has been more about patience than production. And like it often does, that patience has started to pay off lately – for both Haslem and the HEAT. After playing sparingly and sporadically for much of his 11th NBA season – and not playing a single minute in any of the HEAT's 10 February games – the beloved and determined Haslem re-emerged as a valuable and versatile cog in the HEAT's machine in March. In 13 games in March, Haslem averaged 3.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 0.3 blocks in 11.8 minutes of action. He shot a sensational 62.2 percent from the field in those 13 games, and pulled down 4 or more rebounds in 7 of those games. He also scored 14 or more points twice, and blocked at least 1 shot in 3 different games. Over his final 5 appearances of the month, Haslem logged at least 15 minutes of court time in each game. And more importantly, the HEAT won the final 3 of those 5 games – and went 8-5 in the 13 March games Haslem saw action in. Haslem has clearly been thrilled to be back in the HEAT's rotation in full force, especially when he's been given a starting role. In both of those 14-point-plus games, the hard-nosed and heady veteran scored 12 points in the first quarter alone. Haslem's finest all-around game of both the month and the season came in a 101-96 loss at Boston on March 19. Starting and playing 27 minutes, Haslem scored 14 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished a season-high 3 assists and blocked a season-high 2 shots. With reigning NBA MVP LeBron James sidelined with back spasms, Haslem started at center against the Celtics, and turned in an absolutely huge first-quarter performance that showed observers he still can affect the game in a variety of ways. Haslem helped stake the HEAT to a 34-22 lead after that first quarter, scoring 12 points, pulling down 4 rebounds, dishing 2 assists and blocking 2 shots in 11 high-impact minutes. Haslem hit 6-of-7 shots in the quarter, and finished a sizzling 7-of-8 from the field for the game. Haslem also played a large role in a prime-time, knock-down, drag-out, ultra-intense showdown with the rival Pacers in Indianapolis on March 26. Haslem scored 2 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and blocked 1 shot in 21 minutes off the HEAT bench, and the down-to-the-wire nail-biter ended in a narrow 84-83 win for the Pacers on their home court. Haslem's lone basket came during the tail end of a key 15-4 run that ended the first half and put the HEAT up 45-44 heading into halftime. But it was in the second half that Haslem seemed to really impact the game – in a less statistical but maybe more meaningful manner. While Haslem's statistical impact in that game was minimal, he played a vital role and left a decided impact on the game – particularly on the defensive end. Towering 7-foot-2, 290-pound Pacers center Roy Hibbert scored 17 points in the first half – including 13 in the first quarter. With the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Haslem willingly and valiantly bodying him in the post for much of the second half, Hibbert managed just 4 points after halftime. Haslem's recent resurgence has been as much about that physicality and presence as it has been about any conventional statistical impact like points or rebounds. Renowned for his toughness and intensity both within the HEAT culture and around the entire NBA, Haslem possesses the kind of Old School intimidation factor that you just don't see much of these days around the league. It's certainly the kind of thing that can impact and infuse the HEAT with an "edge" in more than one way – not just during the 2013-14 season's stretch run, but well into their postseason drive. Of course, Haslem can still score and rebound at a high level too. That was made more than obvious two nights after the Pacers grudge match, when Haslem started and scored a season- and game-high 17 points to go along with 5 rebounds during a 110-78 rout of the Pistons in Detroit. On a night when the HEAT were without Wade, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Greg Oden – and the Pistons honored the 1989 NBA Champion "Bad Boys" at halftime – Haslem helped the HEAT take control of the game early, scoring 12 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in 11 minutes of a first half that saw the HEAT stake a 57-42 lead. Haslem actually scored all 12 of those points in the first quarter, drilling 6 of his 7 field goal attempts and helping the HEAT race out to a 28-23 lead after one. With the HEAT missing their starting backcourt and top reserve, Haslem was part of a first-time starting five that also included James, Chris Bosh, Toney Douglas and James Jones. And when the game was over, the HEAT had a 32-point win, James had his 37th career triple-double (17 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) and Haslem had his most productive and efficient offensive game of the season (he scored his 17 points in just 21 minutes, and hit 8-of-11 field goals). Haslem has been equally impressive in April's early going, starting all 3 of the HEAT's games and scoring at least 6 points while grabbing 5 or more rebounds and playing at least 25 minutes in each of those 3 games. The HEAT are 2-1 in those 3 games (with their only loss coming in double-overtime), and Haslem has averaged 7.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 0.7 blocks while shooting a scorching 64.3 percent in 26.7 minutes per game. In a 102-91 win over the rival New York Knicks on April 6, Haslem scored 6 points, dished 2 assists and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds in a season-high 28 minutes. That game also marked 7 straight starts for Haslem – and the HEAT improved to 5-2 during that 7-game run down the season's stretch. After sitting out stretches of 3 games or more 5 times, and having averaged just 13.3 minutes a game over 42 overall games (including 14 starts) this season, the soon-to-be 34-year-old Haslem will have plenty of energy to expend come playoff time. And as HEAT fans know all too well, the man known affectionately as "UD" has played some of his best basketball in a HEAT uniform in the intense crucible of the NBA Playoffs – where points, rebounds, defense and overall toughness and execution are always at more of a premium. Haslem's postseason experience is extensive – and then some. He's averaged 6.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks and 24.1 minutes in 122 career postseason games, including 78 starts. He's also shot 48.0 percent from the field and 71.8 percent from the free-throw line over those 122 playoff games, and scored 772 points while snaring 750 rebounds. Along with Wade, Haslem is also one of only two HEAT players to have been part of all 3 of the franchise's title teams. Haslem was a major factor in each of those 3 title runs, playing 66 games (including 52 starts) and averaging at least 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 45.5 percent or better from the field in each of those 22-game postseasons. During the HEAT's third Championship drive in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, Haslem shot a postseason career-best 59.3 percent from the field and averaged 5.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and a postseason career-best 0.7 steals in his 16.2 minutes of action. Haslem was particularly effective and efficient in the HEAT's first-round sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 7.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.5 blocks and 0.3 steals in just 17.0 minutes. He shot a sizzling 61.9 percent from the field over the series' 4 games, and scored 25 total points (making 11-of-15 field goals) in just 36 minutes in Games 3 and 4. When the HEAT secured their first NBA Championship to cap the 2006 NBA Playoffs, a then-25-year-old Haslem started 22 games at power forward alongside center Shaquille O'Neal and averaged 8.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 0.6 steals. Haslem's role with the HEAT has changed since then, an inevitable evolution that always occurs in every athlete's career over time. But one thing about Haslem and the HEAT remains the same as it ever was: Whenever HEAT coach Erik Spoelstra decides to call Haslem's number, the rugged, reliable veteran will always be ready to go. And he'll always give the only club he's ever played for everything he's got. That's still a lot. And it's still worth an awful lot to the HEAT.
By Dylan Barmmer He's playing a new position. He's giving up 20, 30, 40, 50 pounds per game on the defensive end. He's in just his second season in the HEAT system. But Shane Battier is getting the job done. And then some. Battier has accomplished a lot throughout a professional basketball career that has spanned 12 seasons and three NBA teams, so it really should come as no surprise to HEAT fans that the veteran swingman is finding a way to contribute as the HEAT's 6-foot-8, 220-pound starting power forward -- many ways, to be exact. Through the HEAT's first 11 games of the 2012-13 season, Battier ranks fifth on the HEAT in scoring at 7.5 points per game and is tied with LeBron James for second with 1.0 blocks per game. Not deterred by spending time and energy banging big bodies in the low post, Battier also ranks fifth on the club in 3-point field goal percentage at 47.1% and first in 3-pointers made per game (2.2) through the HEAT's strong 8-3 start. A sharpshooter on a team stocked with snipers, Battier ranks 13th in the entire NBA in 3-point field goal percentage and is tied for eighth in 3-pointers made per game. He's drilled a team-high 24 3-pointers in a team-high 51 attempts, and has hit on a sizzling 15-of-24 attempts (62.5%) over the last four games -- all on the road. Not coincidentally, the HEAT won three of those four games, including the last two without the services of Dwyane Wade, who has been resting a sore foot. Battier picked up his offense dramatically in those two games, scoring a season-high 18 points in a 98-93 win at Denver on Nov. 15 and 12 in a 97-88 victory at Phoenix two nights later. Battier made 10 of 15 shots in those two wins, all coming from long-range. Talk about efficient. Battier's superior conditioning and seemingly endless energy make HEAT fans forget that he's a 34-year-old, 12-year NBA veteran, but the smarts, savvy and clutch play of the former Duke University star serve as ample reminders of his vast experience. There's so many things he does well, and many of those things don't show up in your standard box score. Of course, Battier's value has long transcended standard statistical summation, as evidenced by the New York Times Magazine piece once penned on him by sportswriter Michael Lewis entitled "The No-Stats All-Star." And this year has been no different -- even as Battier's positional assignment has changed, and he's transitioned from a reserve role into a starting spot. The win in Denver serves as an ideal example of Battier's multi-faceted and versatile game. Yes, there were the season-high 18 points on the game-high six hits from long range. But there were also the handful of charging calls he drew, most of them coming at key points in the game and helping to spark or extend pivotal HEAT runs. And there were the numerous other times he recklessly yet strategically launched his sinewy, flexible frame into the teeth of the opposing offense. At times it's almost like Battier is a skilled defensive back in a football game, locking down opponents and relentlessly hunting down the ball every time it's thrown into his airspace. And just like the defensive back often won't get talked about unless he's beaten deep or comes up with a big interception, you often won't hear much mention of Battier unless he hits the deck or drills a timely triple. But Battier's name has been called more and more by both HEAT coach Erik Spoelstra and game announcers lately. And it's increasingly clear that despite the tough positional assignment that has him battling younger behemoths like the Nuggets' Kenneth Faried and L.A. Clippers star Blake Griffin, Battier is clearly more comfortable in the HEAT system this season than he was last year, when he joined the team as a free-agent signing just before the start of a frantic, lockout-compressed 66-game season. Of course, Battier emerged as a valuable component of that NBA World Champion HEAT team, averaging 4.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals and nailing 62 3-pointers in 23.1 minutes off the bench in 65 games. He did serve as a starter in 10 games, mostly filling in for Wade at shooting guard, but seeing some time at small forward as well. The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft was even more valuable during the HEAT's playoff run to their second NBA title, averaging 7.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 steals in 33.4 minutes a game. His value, role and confidence continuing to grow as the season and postseason progressed, Battier ended up starting 16 of 23 postseason games, mostly at the small forward position, and nailing a HEAT-high 42 3-pointers during the title run. Battier was especially prolific during the HEAT's five-game NBA Finals win over Oklahoma City, scoring 9 or more points in four of the five games, including 17 in each of the first two and 11 in the closeout game. He canned a remarkable 15 of 26 shots from long-range (57.7%) and grabbed 4 or more rebounds three times. As usual, Battier's all-around game was strong in many other areas, and he helped limit the extremely explosive, young Thunder to under 100 points in three of the five games. Battier has continued to provide sweet shooting from long-range this season, while somehow managing to mix in spirited defense against men often much larger and longer than him down in the paint. It's been a win-win sort of situation, as the continued evolution of James' own post game, along with Chris Bosh's move to center, allows Battier to sneak and float back outside for good looks at 3-point shots fairly often on the offensive end, and he has continued to drain those shots when they matter most. So you might say Shane Battier is doing for the HEAT what he's always done during his decorated basketball career -- a little bit of everything.
By Dylan Barmmer He stands a towering, sinewy 6-foot-10. He can step in and contribute at either forward position. He has the knowledge, toughness and vision that can only be gained from 14 years of NBA experience. He ranks eighth in NBA history -- and fifth among active players -- in made 3-point field goals (with 1,690 and counting). He has averaged over 16 points and 5 rebounds (16.1 and 5.6, to be exact) while playing for three teams in 934 NBA regular-season games. He has been an NBA All-Star twice, and played in the NBA Finals once (knocking LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers out of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals as the star scorer for the Orlando Magic). And now, Rashard Lewis is ready for the next chapter of his highly decorated and compelling career -- as a member of the 2012 World Champion Miami HEAT. The HEAT didn't need to tweak too much following a blistering run to the franchise's second World Championship. After all, LeBron James won Regular Season and NBA Finals MVP honors while franchise face Dwyane Wade and versatile, valuable big man Chris Bosh helped stoke a red-hot run that culminated in a five-game triumph over the talented young Oklahoma City Thunder. Of course, life in today's NBA requires constant roster evolution, management and flexibility. So a few key pieces were added, with NBA all-time 3-point marksman Ray Allen and fellow silky smooth sharpshooter Lewis leading the way. Each veteran brings an array of proven skills, experience and insight to the already deep HEAT roster. But only Lewis possesses the rarest of rare blends of size and shooting ability. Not only is Lewis 6-foot-10, but he possesses a massive wingspan, and he's a career 45.4% shooter from the field, including 38.8% from long distance. It's not too many near-7-footers who can step back and knock down clutch 3-pointers. It's even fewer who can do so with enough accuracy, consistency and variety to rank among the Top 10 long-distance snipers in NBA history. But that's exactly what the 33-year-old Lewis has done during a remarkable career that saw him enter the NBA as a second-round draft pick of the Seattle SuperSonics (who later became the Thunder) straight out of Houston's Alief Elsik High School in 1998. Lewis went on to play nine seasons as a teammate of Allen's in Seattle, averaging over 20 points a game in each of the final three, including a career-high 22.4 in 2006-07. The following season, his first as a member of the Magic following a lucrative signing as a free agent, Lewis canned a career-best 226 3-pointers. A year later, Lewis led the NBA with 220 3-point field goal makes, and helped budding center (and new Los Angeles Laker) Dwight Howard lead Orlando to the 2009 NBA Finals, where they fell to the Lakers in five games. It was during that postseason run that Lewis helped the Magic knock off James' Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Lewis went on to star for the Magic for parts of two more years before being traded to the Washington Wizards during the 2010-11 season. Lewis was limited by knee soreness during the lockout-shortened season that saw the HEAT roar to the title, playing in 28 games for Washington in 2012, including 15 starts. Lewis still managed to average 7.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists in just 26.0 minutes per game. He ended up playing in 60 overall games as a Wizard, starting 42 of them. Now a proud member of the HEAT following his offseason signing, Lewis has patiently worked his way into the mix during the start of 2012-13 preseason play. Erik Spoelstra and his staff have gradually expanded Lewis' reserve role, and he turned in his finest performance yet in a 104-102 win over San Antonio on Oct. 20. Lewis scored a HEAT-high 15 points and added 4 steals and 3 rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench in the comeback win. He drained 6-of-9 field goal attempts, including 3-of-6 from three-point range, and scored 11 of his 15 points during a game-turning 27-point fourth quarter by the HEAT. In five games off the bench, Lewis has averaged 7.4 points, shooting 13-of-27 from the field, including 6-of-16 from long range. He's also averaged 2.2 rebounds in 19.6 minutes as he begins to find his rhythm and role while adjusting to a new team in a new city. Including two games in Beijing, China during a hectic preseason. Talk about long range... Lewis' range, ranginess, versatility, experience and team-first attitude certainly make for an attractive package, and Spoelstra and HEAT fans alike are excited to see what the veteran big man with the sweet stroke and unique skill set will bring to the HEAT as they gear up for what promises to be an electrifying title defense. As a new member of a tight-knit, successful and veteran team, Lewis' ideal role and rhythm will take a little time to crystalize, much as we witnessed with point guard Norris Cole during his fascinating rookie season last year. One thing is for sure -- it will be hard to miss Lewis when he takes the floor for the HEAT.
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.