Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
Posted 10:37 AM Updated 5:31 PM
By Aggrey Sam
Contrary to the notion that the Miami Heat believe their superior talent will simply overwhelm opponents, the team exhibited almost deferential praise when discussing the Bulls, the team theyll face Saturday night at the United Center.
Theyre a very good defensive team as well. Right now, theyre the best defensive team in the league and thats what we wanted to be, what were still striving to be. Theyre getting into a great flow offensively, said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. Their point guard is having an MVP year. Their power forward is playing as well as anybody, giving them a great inside-outside threat. Other guys are fitting in and the pieces fit, so theyre playing very good basketball and we respect them for that.
Windy City native and Heat superstar Dwyane Wade chimed in: Theyre a very good team. They, just like the other teams Boston, us have had injuries and theyve dealt with the injuries well, with not having Noah, just like I felt we dealt with not having Udonis and not having Mike for a while. Pretty well, same as Boston. So, this a good team, playoff team.
Theyre No. 1 in defense for a reason because theyve bought into the system and were one, two, three in the league us three with Orlando being right there. This is going to be a battle all year; it could fluctuate. The Bulls are there. They might not be the headlines of ESPN every night, but they have exactly what you need to be a championship contender team and thats two good star players in Boozer and of course in D-Rose who has emerged to be what everyone thought he could be, maybe even quicker than people expected and a great coach and a great support staff. Theyve got a deep bench, so this is a good team, he continued.
Theyre doing great. Of course coming out early and not having Boozer, and then getting used to a new coach, it takes time to jell. The biggest thing for them is when they went on their road trip earlier in the year and they really jelled, and really held their own. They got their confidence rolling as a team and now they moved up to No. 3 in the East, and two games behind us in the loss column, right there fighting it out. This team has got a bright, bright future.
The player on the Bulls with the biggest target on his back in the much-anticipated matchup will obviously be point guard Derrick Rose. Spoelstra and Wade paid their respects to the third-year players development.
What do you do now? I mean, seriously, when a guy who can attack like that and get to the rim and in the paint and compromise your defense so much, pretty much when he decides when he wants to go hes that quick and explosive and then if hes shooting threes, the game plan has to change, said Spoelstra, a former college point guard at the University of Portland himself. For two years, it was meet him under the 3-point line, give him those shots and bait him into that. Now, hell make you pay enough. Its not like hes shooting one a game. Hes shooting four of them a game, so its not an accident that hes shooting that percentage. But it still has to remain a key to limit his paint attacks, which is easier said than done.
Added Wade: The biggest thing is when I look at D-Rose play is the confidence that hes playing with. Confidence is so key in life and especially in the game of basketball. I watched him play the other night against Indiana and the way hes shooting the pull-up three, I thought it would take him a couple more years before he got that confident shooting it, but hes just confident in his overall game.
He understands his ability, he understands his strengths over a lot of guys. Theres not many point guards ever that have played this game that can do the things that D-Rose can do. Hes finally put it together. Thats why hes one of the best in our game, thats why hes an All-Star and Im sure Chicagos happy to have him.
Bosh vs. Boozer
Chris Bosh who, like Wade, was wooed by the Bulls as a free agent during the offseason discussed his head-to-head matchup with fellow power forward Carlos Boozer.
Playing Carlos is always a big matchup. I mean, hes an All-Star, no matter what conference hes in. He got off to kind of a slow start because of his injury earlier, but once he got into game shape, hes been showing what he can do and hes been really helping his team out. Hes a load down there, he can shoot the basketball, he can hit you from so many different angles, so its going to be a big challenge tonight, Bosh observed.
Every night is a challenge for the star-studded Heat, probably the biggest attraction in any city they visit since the championship-era Bulls. Spoelstra, after speculation hed be fired amid early-season struggles, has forged a defensive mentality, yet still allowing his star trio to play their games on the offensive end of the floor.
Its one of the biggest adjustments weve had to make, build different habits while allowing them still to remain who theyve been and the great players that theyve been before they got here, and thats something well have to continue to improve on, said Spoelstra. Theyre getting a much better grasp of how they can impact the game offensively when the balls not in their hands. A lot of times that can be with cutting or screening or simply being active on the weak side. The other part of that is our transition game has really picked up and its critical.
Wade concurred: You dont have to alter your games and the biggest thing is comes to the possessions you have the ball, how long you can hold the ball and different things of that nature. So, when you get comfortable with something for your whole career and then theres a change a change that you wanted to happen it just takes time for it to happen. Weve all accepted our new roles. Its something that we all wanted or we wouldnt be playing together. Now, were getting more comfortable with it.
Agreed Bosh: Keep being the players that weve always been since weve got into the league. Just because were on the same team doesnt make a difference. I think once we figured that out, we started having more success. At first, we were being a little too unselfish and I think the offense was lacking because of that, but now were bringing the same things to the table and its been working out. So, as long as we play defense and stay solid on the defensive end and take good shots, I think well have a pretty good chance.
The Starting Five
1. Superstar LeBron James, who missed Miamis loss to the Denver Nuggets Thursday night with a sprained ankle, is doubtful for the contest.
He did not go through the shootaround. We have not ruled him out for tonight, but it is doubtful. He is feeling better. Hes going to come over on the first bus, get treatment, try to loosen it up and well make that determination then, said Spoelstra. Hes moving around better. Itll come down to two things. One, can it become worse and two, whats his comfort level with it? Hes a very competitive guy, he wants to play, we will have some time off to rest if he needs it after this. So, well go through all of those scenarios tonight, after he gets treatmentif LeBron doesnt play, sharpshooter Mike Miller will play significant minutes.
Added Wade: If LeBron doesnt play, the way Im used to playing will have to change, as sense of this year. When LeBrons in the game, Im more off the ball, getting opportunities in different places. If he is not to go, then I would have to go back to more being in situations where I have the ball in my hands a little bit more, a little bit more isolations, things of that nature. So, I think itll be an adjustment for all of us the coaching staff, as well to get out of the comfort zone that weve been in, but hopefully he can go.
Chimed in Bosh: Some guys have to be more aggressive coming out of the gates and we have to be a lot more aggressive on defense, and I think really try to emphasize running a little bit more because he makes up so much of the fast-break points that we getwe have to be a lot more solid in the halfcourt and keep playing together like weve always been doing.
2. Wade downplayed the reception he expects to receive in his hometown.
Im over anticipation. I really dont know. Weve been on the road a lot this year. Nowhere we go theyre not cheering for us so I expect it to be the same way with these Chicago fans coming out, supporting their team, as well as they should. Chicagos got some of the best fans and Im sure theyll be here tonight supporting their team even more because of what the Miami Heat attraction positive or negative has done. So, itll be the same.
Of his offseason meeting with the Bulls, he said, It was a great experience. I had great meetings with the Bulls. Of course, I decided to go back to the team that believed in and drafted me from the beginning, and was able to be part of something special, but Chicago was always a top choice for me. If I was ever to not be in a Heat uniform, Chicago was a top choice. It was just something that didnt happen.
When asked by a reporter if Chicago was his second choice, he quipped, Is that going to save some boos tonight? I dont think it really matters.
Later, he joked, Im sorry, my blood is so thin. Im freezing. Ive got to get out of here.
3. Spoelstra also discussed his respect for Thibodeau and his history with Bulls veteran Kurt Thomas.
We have great respect for Thibodeau, going back to his days as an assistant with Houston. Its not an accident that they have the No. 1 defensive team in the league and hes gotten this group to believe in that side of the floor, theyve committed to it and its opening up a lot of opportunities for them. Theyre great in transition here at home and thats a direct residual to their defensive commitment, said Spoelstra.
That Thomas rookie year with the Heat was my first year. He started for us that year and hes your actually quintessential Miami Heat-type player tough, defensive-minded, rugged. Back in the day, he was always toeing the line of physicality and going overboard. Hes a great guy to have on your team because he does all the little things, he knows his role, plays within himself and he gives you every single thing that he has. Hes playing big minutes, too. Hopefully thatll take its toll, but he keeps himself in great shape and hes able to really step in. hes able to provide more than what people probably thought with Bulls center Joakim Noah being out.
4. Veteran Heat forward Juwan Howard, a Chicago native, talked to CSNChicago.com about playing in front of his hometown crowd, how his experience with Michigans Fab Five in college a circus-like atmosphere that preceded the Heatles have contributed to his behind-the-scenes leadership in Miami and how the Bulls pursued him in the offseason.
Its nice to come home and play against the home team that I grew up enjoying and watching and being a big fan of. As a veteran in this league, its gotten old, but I still look forward to seeing my family and friends, said Howard.
Weve talked about it Fab Five, but whats great about this group is we have a lot of mature men that have been through the wards, been through adversity and know how to adapt.
Howard added: I strongly considered signing with the Bulls. Chicago was my second choice and I hate to of course categorize one or two, but to be honest with you, they were one of the first teams that called, if not the first team that called and I respected it and I appreciated the fact that they wanted me to be a part of this franchise because Ive always been a big fan of this franchise since I was a little kid.
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Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.