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After nearly four months, the wait is over.
We know the story by now. LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined forces with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat to create the SuperFriends. Afterwards, general manager Otis Smith and head coach Stan Van Gundy had a few words to say about the way James handled his decision (literally and figuratively), president Pat Riley fired back with comments of his own, Van Gundy offered a rebuttal, and here we are. The players for the Orlando Magic have been sick and tired with talking about the Heat, and tonight will be their chance to air out their frustrations.
To preview tonight’s matchup, I enlisted the wisdom of Kevin Arnovitz and Tom Haberstroh — both write for the Heat Index at the TrueHoop Network.
Arnovitz and Haberstroh provide their opinions on Mike Miller’s eventual role with Miami when he returns from injury, the matchup advantages for the Magic against the Heat, and more.
It’s been two games, of course, but how have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh looked together on the court?
Kevin Arnovitz: It’s far too early to assess meaningfully, but they’ve looked a little disjointed in the half court as a unit. They haven’t been on the floor enough yet to establish a rhythm to their sets or develop an intuitive sense of where the other two guys are going to be in less structured moments. Wade has been the least deliberate of the three — for better (W at PHL) and worse (L at BOS).
Tom Haberstroh: Like they have only played a handful of minutes together. The Heat seem to be experimenting with different sets to try to spark some chemistry and dust off the rust. But they’re not hitting on all cylinders yet and believe me, we’ll know when they are. There’s plenty of time to change this but LeBron has been far too conservative with the ball. He has barely attacked the basket in each of the opening quarters this season and that’s a large reason they’ve sputtered out of the gates so far. That will change as he gets more comfortable alongside Dwyane Wade.
Do you think it’s superfluous for head coach Erik Spoelstra to start Carlos Arroyo at point guard, given that he seems to be a poor fit alongside James and Wade on the wings? Defensive alignments aside, wouldn’t it make more sense to start a shooter like James Jones or Mike MIller when he returns from injury?
Arnovitz: I though Arroyo would be serviceable as a dependable low-margin of error ball handler, but they clearly need someone on the floor who can drain shots consistently from beyond the arc. Once Mike Miller gets back, the Heat will have a perimeter threat who can also log minutes as the primary ball handler. In the meantime, the Heat will have to make do with James bringing the ball up. They could also see how Eddie House performs in that capacity, but he’s not a solution.
Haberstroh: I do. We had ESPN Stats and Info track the point guard play in the Boston game. Of the 75 traditional walk-the-ball-up halfcourt sets, guess how many times Carlos Arroyo was the one bringing up the ball? 14. He’s not running the offense and even worse, he’s not a serious deep threat. Sending out a conventional starting lineup just for the sake of sticking to convention is a great way to perform under your capabilities. I really believe Mike Miller, if healthy, would/will be a starter within a couple weeks.
If you were Spoelstra, what type of offensive system would you run to maximize the talents of James, Wade, Bosh, and others?
Arnovitz: Rotating pick and rolls on both sides of the floor, not unlike what Boston has done so well with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Miami could also do a lot worse than running much of the offense through Chris Bosh, drawing defenses low and allowing stuff to materialize along the perimeter. We saw a little bit of that in the first two games — a few dribble hand-offs with Wade, and another set where the point guard (often Arroyo) would feed Bosh at the pinch post while Wade would swing around a stagger screen on the weak side, which threw the defense off-balance.
Haberstroh: Push the ball at every opportunity. Stress the importance of playing to your strengths. Get as much movement off the ball to distract help defenders and always have a three-point shooter or two flanking the perimeter. Run, run, run, and then run some more.
What do you think is the Orlando Magic’s biggest advantage against the Heat?
Arnovitz: Familiarity and a firm understanding of how to consistently get the shots they want regardless of what kind of defense they’re facing. The Heat are lightning quick, but the Magic — when they’re fully engaged — can move the ball faster than the defense can react. Getting fully engaged will be the test.
Haberstroh: Dwight Howard‘s defense. If you think James and Wade have shown too much hesitation on the perimeter thus far, just wait til Friday night. If Howard’s not blocking shots, he’s discouraging them.
In your opinion, is Dwight Howard enough to tip the scales in the Magic’s favor considering the firepower on the other side with James, Wade, and Bosh?
Arnovitz: He definitely makes it harder for the Heat to attack the rim, which is ultimately how Miami is going to win basketball games (James Jones’ exploits aside, the Heat’s daggers are usually going to be inside jobs). We hear a lot about how the Heat have no defensive answer for Howard down low. But the more decisive advantage the Magic have in the paint is the luxury of Howard’s presence at the rim, where James is the most lethal player in the game off the dribble.
Haberstroh: Well, I think the Magic are already the superior team. Right now. Mike Miller means so much more to the success of the Heat’s offense than people realize. I don’t need to preach the importance of floor-spacing with your audience. Without him and without the team reps, the Heat may not be the better team at the moment but February on, I think they’ll be the gold standard in the NBA.
I like to thank Kevin and Tom for taking the time to answer my questions.