Thursday , Oct , 19 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Miami Heat 2006-07 Season Preview

(Sports Network) – The Miami Heat are the defending world champions and will
need to be at their best every time they take the court. It was a glorious
2005-06 campaign for the Heat, who knocked off the Dallas Mavericks in six
games in the NBA Finals to capture their first-ever championship.

All-Stars Dwyane Wade, who was the NBA Finals MVP, and Shaquille O’Neal
delivered the crown to Miami in their second season as teammates.
Wade, who scored 36 points in the series-clinching victory against the
Mavericks, averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.67 steals per
game in the finals.

During Miami’s magical run in this year’s postseason, Wade led the squad in
scoring (25.7 ppg) and assists (5.7 apg). He made 49.7 percent of his shots
from the field, including 37.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

The Heat won the Southeast Division during the regular season, as they
finished 10 games ahead of the second place Washington Wizards. Miami
dismissed the Chicago Bulls in six games in round one of the playoffs, ousted
the New Jersey Nets in five in the conference semis and ended Detroit’s two-
year reign as Eastern Conference champions by beating the Pistons, who knocked
out the Heat in seven games during the 2004-05 conference finals, in six in
the East finals.

Shaq averaged 20.0 points and a team-best 9.2 rebounds in 59 games during the
regular season, while Wade led the Heat in scoring (27.2 ppg) and assists (6.7
apg).

Forwards Udonis Haslem, Antoine Walker, swingman James Posey and guard Jason
Williams are the main supporting cast, while veterans Alonzo Mourning and Gary
Payton re-signed during the offseason and will try and help the Heat repeat as
champions.

The offseason was uneventful for the Heat when it came to their roster. They
did re-sign Mourning and Payton, while guard Derek Anderson was waived. The
biggest event of the summer was head coach Pat Riley deciding to return to the
bench for the 2006-07 campaign.

Riley returned to the Heat after a two-year hiatus in December 2005, and
the team racked up a 41-20 record and the Southeast Division crown under the
guidance of the veteran general. Riley, who has also coached the Lakers and
Knicks during his illustrious coaching career, won four championships as
the head coach of the Lakers (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988).

BACKCOURT

Wade, Williams and Payton give Miami a solid three-guard rotation. Wade
can play anywhere, while Williams and Payton share the point guard duties.
The 6-4 Wade needs to be on the court all the time for the Heat, whether he
is running the point, playing shooting guard or even logging some minutes at
small forward.

The 24-year-old Wade has emerged as one of the top players in the game. He can
do it all on both ends of the court. A healthy Wade automatically makes
Miami’s backcourt very dangerous.

Payton and Williams are not consistent, but the Heat have figured how to get
around it. Payton averaged 7.7 points and 3.2 assists in 81 games last
season and is still a decent defender, while Williams, who contributed 12.3
points and 4.9 helpers in 59 outings, is erratic at times on offense which
leads to untimely turnovers.

FRONTCOURT

Shaq, Haslem, Mourning, Posey, who will also log minutes at shooting guard,
and Walker makeup a very formidable frontcourt. Once again, the 34-year-old
O’Neal is the key in the low post for Miami. He will need to control the
middle and stay healthy if the Heat hope to enjoy the same success they had a
year ago.

The 26-year-old Haslem does the dirty work down low for the Heat and must
continue to the little things that help the Heat win games. He averaged 9.3
points and 7.8 rebounds in 81 contests during the regular season, while
Walker, who is dangerous from the perimeter and has a decent all-around game,
posted 12.2 points and 5.1 boards in 82 games.

Mourning and Posey will be expected to make big contributions off the bench.
Veteran Michael Doleac will also see some time at center and power forward.
Doleac’s presence will help over the course of a long season.

OUTLOOK

The Heat are thinking repeat. However, they have a lot of competition as the
Bulls, Cavaliers and Pistons are going to make it tough to get out of the
Eastern Conference.

Miami should be able to win 52-55 games and capture another Southeast Division
crown. Wade and a healthy Shaq make Miami the favorite in the East, but
winning a second straight championship will be very tough.

MIA