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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012
MAN ABOUT SPORTS
Moves by Heat, Lakers may not pan out
By DAVE WIGGINS
VERO BEACH, Florida — At the start of the NBA season, the Miami Heat and Los Angeles
Lakers didn't dare come out and say so, but you KNOW what they were thinking: Dream Team.
Both ball clubs had spent the offseason adding significant pieces to their already abundant in-house talent. Each, no doubt, felt they had put together the perfect combo of players.
Miami brought in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. The Lakers acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
However, for Heat or Laker brass to vocalize those thoughts by invoking that most supercilious of sports terms, Dream Team, would be tantamount to putting a target on their players' chests.
Or hanging an albatross around their necks, laying el smoocho de muerte (the kiss of death) on them.
Or, well, choose your own simile/metaphor for dooming someone or something to a certain demise.
The last guy to utter that phrase to describe his ball club was Vince Young, backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011, after Philly had added a grocery shopping list of high-profile free agents.
We all know how well that worked out in The City of Brotherly Love: a for-the-birds 8-8 record and rare out-of-the-playoffs finish.
So, the Heat and Lakers wisely opted to learn from negative sports history and not repeat it.
But you can be sure, each was inwardly conjuring up images of the best collection of talent since Michael, Bird and Magic did some Olympic representin'.
After all, Miami now possessed proven outside snipers in Allen (all-time 3-point field goal leader) and Lewis (39 percent career shooter beyond the arc.)
In addition to supplying needed perimeter punch, the pair would open up the driving lanes for more of LeBron James' flashy forays to the hoop.
They would also stretch the court to accommodate additional dipsy-doodle Dwyane Wade maneuvers and provide slender Heat big man Chris Bosh some much-needed elbow room underneath the basket.
Well, so far, pretty good for Miami, is off to a 7-3 start. But the Heat are by no means hitting on cylinders.
Yes, Allen and Lewis address a glaring need — a downtown bomber. But in order to drain those 3s, the pitchin' pair need their pins under them.
So, recent leg injuries to both, at their advanced basketball ages, are a cause for concern.
The 37-year-old Allen had off-season ankle surgery and Lewis (33) is coming off injuries to both knees.
Whether they will hold up come May and June is anyone's guess.
Remember the gimpy Allen's sub-par showing in the playoffs last spring?
The Lakers didn't have to wait 'til spring for trouble to happen after adding perennial All-Star guard Nash and gifted big man Howard over the summer.
Zipping it regarding Dream Team hype didn't prevent the Lakers from getting off to a terrible start — they were winless in the preseason and lost four of their first five regular-season games.
Yes, it takes time for newly acquired talent to mesh with that already on-hand. But ESPN analyst Tim Legler put it best when he said Nash, normally a distributor and scoring contributor, "looks like he serves no purpose on the court."
Kobe Bryant was still handling the ball most of the time and hoisting up a ton of shots while Nash mostly stood around.
Meanwhile, the thoroughbred Howard had been turned into a Clydesdale in Lakers coach Mike Brown's new brainiac Princeton offense.
Under Brown the Lakers had gone from Showtime to Slowtime last year and Slow-as-Molasses this season.
Their ugly start cost Brown, a poor fit from the get-go, his job. Newly hired coach Mike D'Antoni, has installed a more up-tempo-style offense, the one he ran successfully in Phoenix but failed with in New York.
MAS was actually surprised the Lakers passed on Phil Jackson, who never saw a loaded contender whose coattails he wouldn't ride to a ring (see Jordan/Pippen Bulls, Shaq/Kobe and Kobe/Gasol Lakers). Word is Soul Patch Jax was nixed because he wanted a piece of the team.
D'Antoni knows Nash from their Phoenix days and will unharness Howard.
But Howard, the self-absorbed and self-named Superman, is a free agent after this season and seems to have his heart set on joining the Crooklyn, err Brooklyn Nets.
Bed-Stuy over Malibu?
Howard might end up being a distraction. His diva antics last season got his Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith fired.
The new Magic GM, Rob Hennigan, promptly shipped his butt out faster than it takes to say "You ain't gettin' me fired too, pal."
Will Howard's mind be on Lakers games or Coney Island's Cyclone roller coaster and Nathan's hot dogs?
Will Nash find something to do besides stand around mining for nose gold?
The Lakers have picked it up some since Brown's pink slip and are now 5-5; but it's still too early to say whether there has been a successful talent-meshing. So, stay tuned.
We'll also have to wait and see how well the achy-breaky leg joints of Miami's older newcomers, Allen and Lewis, hold up.
Regardless, MAS suspects both ball clubs will learn it's not enough to avoid speaking of Dream Teams; you can't even THINK about them, either.
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