33 Games in which Dwyane Wade (17) and Mario Chalmers (16) each had at least four steals last season. That's the most by a pair of teammates since Gary Payton (20) and Nate McMillan (14) of the 1994-95 Sonics.
Record: 43-39 (third in Southeast) Points scored: 98.3 (18th in NBA) Points allowed: 98.0 (12th in NBA)
This article appears in the October 26, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated
Sun. Surf. Nightlife. No state income tax. What more could a free agent want? That's the decidedly nonrhetorical question the Heat needs to answer for one of the NBA's most eligible, Dwyane Wade, who is clearly keeping his options open. Over the summer he declined to extend his contract, giving him the option to flee Miami next July.
"A lot of things are great here," Wade says. "But you want to make sure that for the rest of your career you can compete for a championship."
But with the Heat hamstrung by the league luxury tax, president Pat Riley made no major roster improvements this off-season. Which means the promise of a competitive future will have to come from advances made by Miami's young players -- guards Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook and, especially, forward Michael Beasley, the No. 2 pick of the 2008 draft. Beasley followed an inconsistent rookie year with a monthlong mandated rehab stint in Houston this summer for violating the league's substance abuse policy. While the specifics of Beasley's violation remain shrouded, it didn't come as a complete surprise; he had been fined $50,000 for the scent of marijuana being present in his room during his rookie symposium.
Still, Miami's second-year coach Eric Spoelstra is bullish on Beasley after Heat staff worked with him throughout the off-season, even when he was in rehab (where the coach visited him three times). "You'll see the improvements with Mike right away," says Spoelstra. "In just four months he put on 10 pounds of muscle. He's faster and more explosive than last year."
Wade acknowledges much is riding on the 20-year-old's progress, saying, "How much better Michael got this summer will be how much better the Heat gets as well." Beasley and Miami have 82 games to help Wade envision a better future in South Beach. -- Paul Forrester
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