15 Aralık 2007

Miami Heat insist they can turn poor start to NBA season around

Pat Riley stressed the need for faith. Dwyane Wade talked about resolve. Alonzo Mourning reiterated his confidence.

Say this for the Miami Heat: Even at 6-16, they emerged from practice Friday still willing to believe. So far this year, the Heat have endured dissension, roster moves that didn't work as planned, injuries, frustration and a simple inability to close teams out in crucial moments.

Given all that, it's no wonder Miami is off to the worst start in the Eastern Conference. And if the fortunes are going to change, Mourning said, the Heat not only have to start playing like winners - but think like winners as well.

"Guys know what they've got to do. We just don't do it out there on the court," Mourning said. "We step out there and don't do it. Once you get to this level as an athlete, none of that is excusable. It's not. Yeah, you're going to have some bad games, but continually to have the lapses we have and the mistakes we're making, it all boils down to our mental approach."

Mourning postponed retirement last summer, largely because last year's 44-38 record and first-round playoff exit was too upsetting to have as the final chapter of his career.

If 44 wins was distressing, consider this: The Heat will have to go 38-22 from here to match that total.

But there's a reason why Riley ordered the word "faith" inscribed on Miami's championship rings from the 2006 season.

He believes in it, and these days, he might be relying on it more than ever.

"I'm fighting the fight every day," Riley said. "I fight the fight of faith. I'm not preachy here. That's what coaches do: You fight the good fight to keep the faith, that you know the locker-room is going to be OK, that the guys are going to come hard and play every night. I'm fighting the fight every day. I'm not losing it."

Riley put the team through practice and a film session Friday, as the sting of a 104-91 loss to Washington - Miami's seventh in nine home games this season - still resonated. But there's little time to dwell on that one, as Indiana visits the Heat on Saturday night.

By all accounts, the mood Friday was somewhat upbeat.

"When a team begins to lose, then everything's wrong," Riley said. "And it isn't wrong. We prepare. We work on it. We watch film. The losing creates the doubt. ... It's a very, very fine line. But when it comes to confidence, it really comes from individual mental preparation."

So, while waiting for mental changes, Riley will make some tactical tweaks.

Riley said he wants Wade more involved in the offence from the opening tap and suggested he may try to get the 2006 finals MVP a bit more rest in the early portions of games.

He strongly - and loudly - insisted that Jason Williams will remain the starting point guard, even after Chris Quinn's 22-point effort off the bench Thursday, and repeated that Shaquille O'Neal's scoring woes aren't entirely dictated by his touches.

O'Neal is averaging 10 shots a game; he entered the season getting nearly 18 a game over his career, and the centre's scoring average is, accordingly, a career-low 14.4 through the first 22 contests.

There's a ton of numbers that show how Miami is struggling.

Wade's take is that a few wins would quickly turn everything around.

"Everyone comes in and understands that we can do better," Wade said. "We see flashes of it. You see flashes of it and you get excited about it. But like coach said, it's a fine line right now. We can either take a step to the right and be a great team, or take a step to the left and be one of the worst teams in the league. Right now we've just got to get closer to that step to the right."

kaynak : NBA