LeBron James and the Heat had their ups and downs in the preseaon. What do we make of it?
The Heat split the two-game preseason slate against the Orlando Magic. On Sunday, the Heat silenced Dwight Howard amid the trade rumors and routed the Magic by 33 points. Wednesday was a different story as the Heat ran out to a 23-point lead only to watch it evaporate in the second half. The Heat ended up losing by four points on the night and sputtered to the preseason finish line.
Even though the Heat struggled mightily down the stretch in Wednesday's loss, the Heat won't lend too much weight to the 1-1 record in preseason. But what should they be paying attention to coming out of the preseason?
In another installment of Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on what they learned from the Heat's shortened preseason.
1. What's the biggest takeaway from the Heat's preseason?
Tom Haberstroh: The Heat are flashing a new, up-tempo offense and the players seem to be very comfortable with it after such a short camp. In the halfcourt, Chris Bosh is shooting threes, LeBron is nailing mid-range jumpers and Dwyane is being Dwyane. The defense still has some issues, but that should come along fine.
Brian Windhorst: From a conditioning standpoint, the Heat are in excellent shape. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers are all in some of the best shape of their careers. That should pay off early in the season when much of the league is playing into shape.
Michael Wallace: Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James appear to be in mid-season form as far as their conditioning level. All three players entered training camp following an offseason of committed work on their bodies. Another positive is that rookie point guard Norris Cole appears to be a ready-made rotation player.
2. What's the biggest concern from the Heat's preseason?
Haberstroh: The Heat are still fighting the injury bug. After the Finals loss, we expected Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem would be fully healthy for the start of the season, but it appears that only one of them will. Also, Shane Battier and Dexter Pittman are battling quad injuries. At this rate, the supporting cast may never be fully formed around the Big Three.
Windhorst: The Heat have a plan to play uptempo offense and call very few plays this season. They have not worked on sets much at all in the preseason, instead focusing on running what is known as "early offense" with heavy scrimmaging. So many NBA games, though, come down to offensive execution in the halfcourt in the fourth quarter. Will this strategy be a home run or something that holds them back?
Wallace: The Heat can never seem to get whole. There's been a disturbing trend of injuries to rotation players that date to last season. As a result, Miami has yet to establish any chemistry with free-agent additions Shane Battier and Eddy Curry due to nagging ailments. Depth will be a major concern, meaning a heavier burden on Wade, James and Bosh.
3. As constructed, will Orlando join Miami as a top-four East seed?
Haberstroh: After two games, I'm still not sure what the Magic have here. As long as Dwight Howard is in the fold, the Heat will always have their hands full with the Magic, but I see the Knicks taking their spot in the upper echelon of the East. Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson came alive, but those two need a time machine in order for the Magic to contend.
Windhorst: They'd have a fighting chance to be there. This team has a lot offensive firepower plus the best defensive player in the league. This strategy has led them to four straight 50-win seasons. If Dwight Howard is somehow there all year, I don't see why this would change.
Wallace: No. The Magic - even if they hold onto Dwight Howard - are another versatile playmaker/scorer away from climbing into the top four in the East. They fall in line behind Miami, Chicago, Boston, New York and Atlanta right now.