Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The Miami Heat held out hope during the offseason that all of the players’ blustering about wanting to play for a contender rather than take lots of money would pay off with a center joining the Heat.
Unfortunately, the Heat will come up short in their search for a bargain basement big man and will again have Joel Anthony or Chris Bosh at center.
There’s also a possibility that second-year man Dexter Pittman can get into the rotation; if he can stay in the game without fouling.
The Heat will feature a lineup that outside of Bosh and Pittman, doesn’t have a player over 6’9” tall. That could change if Eddy Curry and make the team and contribute, but that’s a big if right now.
So, the Heat are going to have to give it a go with small ball as they try to knock out teams with quality big men like the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. But, the Heat may have a new weapon to throw at teams.
During the offseason, Heat superstar LeBron James spent a lot of time working on his post game with one of the best centers of all-time, Hakeem Olajuwon.
James didn’t just learn about how to post up with Hakeem, but also spent a lot of time talking with Olajuwon about life and how to conduct himself.
After spending a week with Olajuwon, James spent the next several months working with his back to the basket in an attempt to fix the one glaring weakness in his game, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.
LeBron and the Heat saw the need to fix his post game in the 2011 NBA Finals. The Dallas Mavericks relegated James to being a perimeter shooter, despite being upwards of 7-8 inches taller than the players guarding him.
Now, James will take his 6’8”, 250-260 pound body and use it to back down smaller guards and forwards to draw double-teams.
At that point, James’ phenomenal court vision will allow him to swing the ball out and help find the open shooter or take the player to the basket if no double-team comes.
“You take one of the best athletes to ever play the game and if you can implement some of Hakeem into LeBron’s game, not only does it take his game to a whole other level, it takes our game to a whole other level as a team,” Heat forward Udonis Haslem told the Herald. “It makes us somewhat unguardable. When he goes down to the post, you can’t guard him with a small guy and you can’t put a big guy on him.”
But, it will all rest with how much James is willing to get into the paint. He told the media on Monday that it’s not fun to do it. But it may be beginning to take shape in Heat practice.
“He’s so strong,” Heat forward Shane Battier told the Herald. “When he wants position, he gets it.”
In some ways, James could be taking on a role that Magic Johnson had with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1980’s.
Magic said that once he embraced that part of his game, with the help of Pat Riley, it took him to a new level and that James can replicate that.
For Heat fans still stinging over last year’s Mavericks’ loss; it sounds too good to be true. The only question now is can it be done for a full season?
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)