Wednesday , Feb , 14 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Heat ready to start at zero

(Sports Network) – The Miami Heat have worked their way back to zero.

While the club would most certainly like to be on the upper side of the .500
level, they won’t open up play after this weekend’s All-Star game on the
bottom end either.

The club has overcome a lot so far this season and had to do so one more time
on Tuesday to get past Portland and back to .500 at 26-26.

First, the team played a good portion of the first half of the season without
center Shaquille O’Neal, who missed 32 games because of left knee surgery he
underwent in November.

Next, the club lost Pat Riley on January 3 when the head coach announced he
was taking a leave of absence because of health related issues. He was
suffering from knee and hip conditions, both of which required surgery.
Assistant Ron Rothstein took over coaching duties and went 14-9. The team is
just 13-17 under Riley this year.

The Heat then got a scare on Tuesday when Dwyane Wade collided with Portland’s
Joel Przybilla, crashed down on top of Przybilla and began writhing in pain.
Wade went to the locker room, was diagnosed with a bruised left shoulder,
but, just like O’Neal and soon Riley, he returned to the floor.

Wade ended with 35 points in the 104-85 win.

Perhaps Wade didn’t want to be shown up by Riley, who had announced before the
game he is returning after the All-Star break. That event will go down on
February 21 in Houston. O’Neal is already back.

Riley returned to the Heat after a two-year hiatus in December 2005, and the
team racked up a 41-20 record and captured the Southeast Division crown under
the guidance of the veteran general.

Riley, who has also coached the Lakers and Knicks during his illustrious
career, won four championships as the head coach of the Lakers (1982, 1985,
1987, 1988) and led the Heat to the title in 2006.

So, reloaded and rested, the Heat will enter the NBA’s second half in the
thick of the playoff hunt. Entering play on Wednesday, Miami is tied with
Orlando for both second in the Southeast Division and seventh overall in the
East.

As far as this weekend goes, both Wade and O’Neal will start for the Eastern
squad in the All-Star game on Saturday. Wade is also slated to defend his
Skills Challenge title while Jason Kapono will participate in the Three-Point
Shootout.

MIA