Friday , Jan , 05 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Heat tries to withstand difficult stretch

(Sports Network) – Pat Riley announced earlier this week that he would be
taking an immediate leave of absence from his post as head coach of the Miami
Heat. Considering the current state of the defending world champions, you
can’t really blame him for wanting a break.

Playing without both of its two superstars, Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal,
Miami has lost four consecutive games. It’s the franchise’s longest slide
since a five-game streak from February 2-10, 2004.

The Heat are not only looking up at both Washington and Orlando in the
Southeast Division standings, but at 13-18, the club is currently on the
outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Miami’s current rut began when Wade sprained his right wrist early on during a
December 27 game at Chicago. The Heat went on to lose that contest, as well as
the next three others with their playmaking guard on the sidelines.

The Heat are hopeful that Wade will be able to return when they begins a six-
game western road trip Friday at Phoenix. Two players that will definitely not
be available against the Suns are forwards Antoine Walker and James Posey,
both of whom stayed behind to work on their conditioning when the team flew

Both Walker and Posey were suspended by failing to meet Riley’s mandated level
of body fat. Neither was in uniform when Miami was dealt a 110-95 home loss to
the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, the same day Riley announced he will be
temporarily stepping down from the bench.

The legendary head coach is suffering from hip and knee injuries that will
both require surgeries. Assistant Ron Rothstein will took over the team for
Wednesday’s game and will remain in that position in the interim.

O’Neal, who is recovering from knee surgery and hasn’t played since November
12, could return once Miami completes this current road trip.