There was a time when midseason mayhem was the Miami Heat's approach to February.
No sooner did Pat Riley arrive in 1995, than he turned his roster upside down at his first NBA trading deadline with the team, on Feb. 22, 1996 maneuvering 11 players in four transactions, with Tim Hardaway acquired as the ultimate prize.
The following season, Jamal Mashburn was added at the 1997 trading deadline.
A lull followed before Bruce Bowen was added in midseason in 2000, with other complementary pieces similarly added at midseason in subsequent years, from Alonzo Mourning to Derek Anderson to Eddie Jones.
And then, just before NBA trading deadlines in 2008 and 2009 came blockbusters, first Shaquille O'Neal traded to the Phoenix Suns for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks, and then Marion and Banks rerouted the following year to the Toronto Raptors for Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon.
And since that 2009 trading deadline? Crickets.
That likely won't change this season, with the 2013 NBA trading deadline at 3 p.m. Thursday, when the Heat will be preparing for their nationally televised road game against the Chicago Bulls.
To a degree, those 2008 and 2009 blockbusters merely were a preamble to 2010 free agency, setting the stage for the signings of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Since then, free agency has produced the majority of answers, from Mike Miller to Shane Battier to Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
But that doesn't mean the Heat don't have chips they could put into play by Thursday's deadline. Among them:
Philadelphia's 2013 first-round draft choice: The Heat only get the selection if the 76ers make the playoffs, which is looking a bit dicey at the moment amid Andrew Bynum's latest bout of knee pain. Otherwise, the Heat essentially get the pick the next time the 76ers make the playoffs.
To a degree, the Heat might have a degree of, well, uh, thought of tanking in their three remaining games against the 76ers, since there is a possibility if Philadelphia sneaks into the No. 8 seed in the East, it could be the No. 15 overall selection, the best-case scenario from last season's draft-night trade with the 76ers.
Of course, the Heat also could go ahead and trade the pick (and the accompanying terms) for something tangible at Thursday's deadline, leaving another team to do the math with the 76ers pick. But in the NBA's impending era of onerous luxury tax, cheap labor is exactly what the Heat need.
As for their own 2013 first-round pick, it is earmarked for the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the 2010 James sign-and-trade, likely to wind up with either the Los Angeles Lakers or Phoenix Suns. The Heat do hold their own 2013 second-round pick, although that would hardly set up as a trade chip.
Joel Anthony: To the Heat, the remaining two seasons on Anthony's contract, at $3.8 million for 2013-14 and a player option for $3.8 million for 2014-15, could prove onerous under the impending tax increase. For another team, there could be value there, based on the way Anthony can cover up mistakes of bad defensive teams.
Considering how the Heat have found cheap labor to fill the Anthony role, be it Ronny Turiaf last season or Chris Andersen this season, such cost cutting might come with the Heat packaging further inducements in such a deal.
Mike Miller: Understand that if Miller does make it through the season, he almost assuredly be an amnesty cut in the offseason, with an additional two seasons on his contract at $12.8 million total. Also understand that if Miller is dealt, an acquiring team would lose the rights to such an amnesty move.
Based on Miller's negligible playing time, the trade market would appear non-existent. Unless, of course, a team in contention retains memories of what Miller did to end last season's NBA Finals.
Mario Chalmers: Yes, highly unlikely, although there are some salary matches out there, including Luke Ridnour. The great question is whether the Heat are poised to pick up Chalmers' $4 million team option for next season, or whether the search for cheaper labor in such a spot-up role might be under way.
Buyout deadline: A player waived by March 1 can be signed with playoff eligibility. This is the approach the Heat have used the past two seasons with Mike Bibby and Ronny Turiaf. There is no reason to believe another complementary piece on a non-contender won't sacrifice salary in exchange for a lengthy playoff run, even if it would mean the Heat having to cut a player currently under contract.
IN THE LANE
JUST SHOOT IT: Time running out in the third quarter Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers. LeBron James with the ball at the 3-point line. Buzz! Bang! Good! But too late. Because a player setting records for field-goal percentage certainly can't risk such a heave. So make it like hockey, where empty-net goals don't count against a goaltender's numbers. If the NBA can have a stat called "team rebounds" (a shot that goes out of bounds, a missed free throw), then there certainly could be a "team shots" column to balance out that part of the ledger. Long-distance heaves are part of the NBA experience, even when they're not for cars at halftime. The NBA easily could legislate a better outcome than a shot that could have meant plenty for the Heat on Tuesday night, with only a four-point lead against the Trail Blazers going into the fourth quarter of that victory. Face it, high-percentage shooters or 3-point specialists don't want those heaves on their ledgers, because vanity has been and always will be part of the NBA statistical makeup.
CONCESSION SPEECH: Yes, the New York Knicks are up 2-0 in the season series, in position to clinch the tiebreaker, but with a four-game deficit at the All-Star break, coach Mike Woodson appears to be placing a greater priority on winning the Atlantic Division than hunting down the Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. "I can't worry about LeBron and Miami," Woodson told reporters. "I've got to really focus in on what we're doing. First and foremost we've got to stay at the top of our division and then after that, whatever happens, happens. They're not going to quit playing. They're the world champions. They figured it out last year. We're trying to get where they were last year. I can't see them tailing off by any means."
WHAT THE . . .: Based on the accounts provided by the Oregonian, Trail Blazers players basically were scratching their heads after being torched Tuesday by James. "You have to guard him close, you have to play him tough, and we did that," forward Nicolas Batum, a highly respected defender, said of James. "But, I mean, we're just human. He's not." Unsolicited, inactive guard Elliot Williams muttered, "I've never seen anything like him. That was amazing." Meanwhile, veteran guard Sasha Pavlovic, a former James teammate with the Cleveland Cavaliers, said Blazers rookie guard Will Barton gave up rational thought. "You’ve got to listen to this," Pavlovic said of Barton. "He says LeBron was created in a lab."
AND ONE: Then there was Metta World Peace's take on James following last weekend's Los Angeles Lakers loss at AmericanAirlines Arena. "He's definitely strong. He reminds me of a more athletic me," the former Ron Artest said.
FOUR PLAY: With Gary Payton named among the finalists for 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame induction, it is possible the Heat's 2006 NBA championship team could wind up with four Hall of Famers, when counting Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O'Neal and Payton, the first of the group eligible for selection. We're assuming Antoine Walker ultimately will come up short, if only because there are no four-pointers in the Hall of Fame. (Of course, you could make the number five, anyway, with Pat Riley, coach of that team, already in the Hall.)
FREE FALLING: Kevin Durant, on his frightening, hip-first fall in Thursday's Oklahoma City Thunder loss to the Heat, when he collided with Heat backup center Chris Andersen while fighting for an offensive rebound, "When I jumped in the air, I looked like I was going to get the rebound, but then I got clipped. It wasn't a foul. I mean, I ran in there and Birdman was jumping just like I was. It just was an unfortunate play. I fell really, really hard. I couldn't catch my footing. But the last thing I was thinking about was coming out of the game. I just wanted to keep fighting." Durant played all but the final 28 seconds, when he fouled out.
NEW TAKE: To ease the burden of expectation on Dwight Howard, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni tried a new approach during last week's visit to Miami. Of the pressures Howard is facing, D'Antoni said it is difficult enough to transition as a star, let alone doing it while ailing. "It would be like LeBron going to Miami but not physically feeling good," he reasoned. "It makes it tougher."
4. Heat players, over the franchise's 25 seasons, with six or more consecutive games shooting 60 percent or better from the field, with LeBron James this past week joining Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Rony Seikaly.
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