1 Miami Heat Even with Tim Hardaway healthy, will Miami have enough offense to win it all?

November 01, 1999

A black-and-white mural painted on the side of a building on
Biscayne Boulevard reminds passersby of Tim Hardaway's standing
in Miami. Under a picture of Hardaway, wearing a black Heat
warmup suit and holding a basketball, an ad for Nike reads
CROSSOVER LESSONS AT YOUR OWN EXPENSE. "They were supposed to
take it down awhile ago," Hardaway says of the mural, "but they
decided not to because it would cost too much. So it stays up."

Sort of like the 32-year-old Hardaway. Though bothered by a sore
left knee much of last season, he still averaged 17.4 points and
7.3 assists. That placed him alongside Gary Payton and Stephon
Marbury as the only NBA players to reach both those figures, and
he earned second-team all-league honors. Unfortunately for
Hardaway, his gimpy knee slowed him late in the season, and he
played horribly in Miami's first-round playoff loss to the
Knicks. In five games against New York he averaged only 9.0
points and 6.4 assists while shooting just 26.8% and committing
3.6 turnovers per game.

After undergoing arthroscopic surgery in the off-season,
Hardaway says he's ready to put last year's disappointment
behind him. He spent part of the summer quarterbacking Team USA
in the Olympic qualifying tournament, flashing his trademark
crossover dribble and taking the ball to the hole. He also hired
a personal trainer for the first time. As he enters the final
season of his four-year, $16 million contract, he's determined
to show that he's worth the four-year, $67.4 million deal he
wants at season's end. "I'm incredibly motivated," Hardaway
says. "Last year was my worst ever. I didn't feel I played up to
par. But I'm back now, I feel great, and it's time to make
amends."

If Hardaway bounces back, the Heat should contend for the NBA
title. Nearly all the key players are back from last year's 33-17
team, which won a third straight Atlantic Division crown and was
the top seed in the East for the first time. In Hardaway and
center Alonzo Mourning, the 1998-99 MVP runner-up who averaged
20.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and a league-best 3.9 blocked shots,
Miami boasts one of the league's best inside-out combinations.
Forward Otis Thorpe, a 15-year veteran who signed as a free agent
in August, will provide depth, scoring and rebounding when he
returns from a broken right thumb that could sideline him for the
season's first month.

Despite two straight first-round playoff exits, coach Pat Riley
refused to dismantle the Heat. "I've got a good team," says
Riley, who had little room under the salary cap to make wholesale
changes anyway. "There was no reason to break it up. Last year
our top three perimeter players were hurt all season. We've just
got to stay healthy."

Besides a gimpy Hardaway, Miami lost Voshon Lenard, its starting
shooting guard, for the first 35 games of last season because of
a broken left tibia, as well as Jamal Mashburn, its starting
small forward, for 26 of the first 28 games with a severe
left-knee bruise. Without Hardaway's usual penetration,
Mashburn's scoring and Lenard's three-point shooting, the Heat
offense sputtered, averaging just 89.0 points per game, 23rd in
the NBA. Miami made up for its lack of punch with stifling team
defense, but that wasn't enough against New York in the
postseason.

With rules changes expected to hinder the Heat's infamous
clutch-and-grab defense and with free agent guard Terry Porter
having taken his dangerous three-point shot to San Antonio,
Riley needs to find more scoring this season. In the off-season
he tried to acquire guard Mitch Richmond and swingmen Ron Mercer
and Calbert Cheaney, among others, but couldn't bring himself to
part with the hard-working forward P.J. Brown, the player every
team seemed to want. So Riley is reduced to hoping that Lenard,
a good spot-up shooter who doesn't create off the dribble or
defend particularly well, and the gifted but enigmatic Mashburn,
who has a full repertoire of moves but a lackadaisical approach
and a recent history of injuries, will flourish.

Riley will try to counter the new rules by getting his perimeter
defenders to move their feet as much as possible and to funnel
penetrators toward the intimidating Mourning, and Brown, an
effective weakside helper. "As much as the new rules are going to
hurt us defensively," says Riley, "they should help us
offensively because we've got guys who can go to the basket too."
If that doesn't work, look for the Heat to go back to their old
ways and force refs to blow the whistle every trip down the
court.

Riley won't change his tendency to treat each game as if it were
Game 7 of the Finals, but he'll most likely cut down on
Hardaway's minutes (36.4 per game last year) to keep him fresher
for the playoffs. Hardaway is convinced that his knees won't
trouble him. Eager to win an NBA championship and motivated to
earn a big contract, the 10-year vet says he plans to do
whatever it takes to bring the NBA Finals to American Airlines
Arena, the Heat's sparkling new waterfront home, which is
scheduled to open on Jan. 2. "I'll play 45 minutes a night if I
have to," Hardaway says. "We just want to be ready for the
playoffs. If we're healthy going into the playoffs, watch out.
Even if we get the Knicks in the first round, we're going to
bust their asses. I don't care who we get. We're going to win."

If Miami wins, Hardaway will get redemption, an NBA ring and,
most likely, a fat new deal that allows him to finish his career
in a Heat uniform. Then maybe he'll also get a new mural on a
downtown building.

--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN MUCH TO PROVE Hardaway will be looking for redemption and a fat new contract.

FAST BREAKDOWN

STARTING FIVE [3 1/2 stars]
BENCH [3 stars]
COACH [4 1/2 stars]
FRONT OFFICE [4 stars]
CHEMISTRY [4 stars]

By the Numbers

1998-99 record: 33-17 (tied for first in Eastern Conference)
Coach: Pat Riley (fifth season with Heat)

1998-99 PER GAME POINTS FG% REBOUNDS TURNOVERS
AVERAGES (rank) (rank) (rank) (rank)

HEAT 89.0 (23) 45.3 (6) 40.3 (22) 14.9 (8)
OPPONENTS 84.0 (2) 41.1 (3) 39.2 (4) 13.5 (26)

In Fact

With Miami's finish atop the Atlantic last year, Pat Riley's
teams now have earned 15 division titles in his 17 seasons as a
coach. Only one Riley-led team, the '95-96 Heat (.512), has won
fewer than 60% of its games.

Projected Lineup

STARTERS PVR* 1998-99 KEY STATS

SF Jamal Mashburn 71 14.8 ppg 6.1 rpg 3.1 apg 45.1 FG%
Career 18.1 ppg scorer tends to vanish in postseason (9.6 ppg)

PF P.J. Brown 92 11.4 ppg 6.9 rpg 1.3 apg 48.0 FG%
Career highs in scoring average, FG% and FT% (77.4) last season

C Alonzo Mourning 10 20.1 ppg 11.0 rpg 51.1 FG% 3.91 bpg
NBA's Defensive Player of the Year led league in blocks for
first time

SG Voshon Lenard 139 6.8 ppg 1.3 rpg 39.2 FG% 34.3 3FG%
Hit playoff-high 64.3% (nine of 14) of threes last year (minimum
five tries)

PG Tim Hardaway 17 17.4 ppg 3.2 rpg 7.3 apg 40.0 FG%
'98-99 was first active season in which he wasn't in league's top
10 in assists

BENCH PVR* 1998-99 KEY STATS

F Otis Thorpe [#] 144 11.3 ppg 6.8 rpg 2.1 apg 54.5 FG%
Reached 17,000 points and 10,000 rebounds in same game on April 14

F Clarence Weatherspoon 163 8.1 ppg 5.0 rpg 53.4 FG 80.4 FT%
Seven-year vet's scoring has consistently fallen from 18.4 ppg in
'93-94

G-F Dan Majerle 203 7.0 ppg 4.3 rpg 3.1 apg 39.6 FG%
In last season's playoffs he was 5 for 22 on threes and 0 for 4 on
twos

G Anthony Carter (R)[#] 300 11.6 ppg 2.7 rpg 4.4 apg 43.8 FG%
Free agent was Wooden Award finalist as senior at Hawaii in
1997-98

C Duane Causwell 325 2.3 ppg 1.8 rpg 57.1 FG% 0.58 bpg
Averaged 3.85 blocks per 48 minutes last year as Mourning's backup

[#] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (CBA statistics)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 102)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)