Ira Winderman: Heat statement this time stronger, earlier

Ira Winderman
Contact ReporterSouth Florida Sun Sentinel
Is quiet summer a sign of bigger noise next season from Heat?

A year ago there was money to spend, roster spots to fill, uncertainty amid a post-LeBron James apocalypse,

So here's what August 2014 delivered to the Miami Heat: Shawne Williams, Reggie Williams and Shannon Brown.

This August? Crickets, save for the non-guaranteed deals extended this past week to Keith Benson and Corey Hawkins to fill out the training-camp roster.

It could be argued that August 2014 was about nothing for the Heat, two Williams and a Brown. Hardly a winning hand in three-card poker.

It could be argued that August 2015 has been about the same for the Heat -- nothing. Only this time it has been by design.

Last season, when asked by the Sun Sentinel to assess the Heat's August addition of those three veterans, a long-time NBA scout found himself tongue-tied.

On Shawne Williams, "I mean, he's a one-trick pony. I guess he's supposed to be James Jones?"

On Reggie Williams, "He's sort of one-trick -- he's a scorer-shooter. He's had some good years. He's sort of faded recently. He's not a rotation player on a good team."

With Brown, he was practically exasperated.

The guarantee offered to Shawne Williams that was particularly perplexing.

In the ensuing months, the Heat came to realize how critical quality depth, or the lack thereof, would be to the overall product.

So this year Pat Riley and his staff moved with both haste and purpose. Gerald Green. Amar'e Stoudemire. A draft with intent that yielded Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. Unlike last summer, each commitment accompanied with a full guarantee.

That brought us back to that same Eastern Conference scout this past week.

On Gerald Green, "He's better than he was early on. What he's done over the years is show he can make shots at a better rate, so you sort of live with his shot selection. He can come in as a gunslinger. Ride him if he's hot -- and he can get hot. He can make hard shots. He's still a great athlete. His redeeming feature is his 3-point numbers are pretty good."

On Amar'e Stoudemire: "He wasn't half bad last year. He can score a little on the block. There aren't a lot of guys who can do what he can do. He can come in against second-line guys and provide punch. He's still got some punch left in him."

On Josh Richardson: "He was better in the summer league than college. He can guard. He can really defend. That's a big deal. He's a decent point guard. He's got good size. He's a good athlete. I think he knows how to play. Is he a third-string one? That's what he is now. His defense and size and athleticism are all pluses."

On Justise Winslow: "His shooting is still problematic. I think it's going to be a stretch for him to consistently make threes, at least early on. If he gets opens threes with his feet set, he could be OK. He's not an unbelievable athlete. His reputation as a great defender is definitely going to be tested."

On Keith Benson: "He hasn't been that far away from making it for years. He can score. He's pretty skilled. He's been around. He's a little older. Maybe they saw something. He's got some offensive ability. I don't see him as a big-time defensive-presence guy."

On Corey Hawkins: "He's a shooter. He made the pre-draft rounds with workouts, but he's somewhat one-dimensional. He's a D-League player. He's not real athletic. But he can shoot."

Clearly the grading was on a curve. But the grades were considerably more optimistic overall than what was expressed a year ago.

Another quiet August. This time the Heat spoke up earlier.

IN THE LANE

THE SWIRL: When it comes to rumors of an imminent departure because of Heat luxury-tax concerns, Mario Chalmers said he keeps his circle tight enough to avoid the talk. "I haven't really had to deal with outside people," the veteran guard said. "My friends and family really haven't said as much. They support me whatever is going to happen. Other than that, I just go into the gym, try to stay out of the way." That has included work on the Heat's practice court with Amare Stoudemire. "We're just getting that feel for each other, becoming friends, just to form a relationship with him," Chalmers said. For his part, Chalmers said it is a roster ready to move forward as reconstructed. "I think we're right back where we were," he said, with the Heat dropping from four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals to last season's lottery showing in the wake of LeBron James' free-agency departure in the 2014 offseason. "We could have been a good team last year and now I think we're a great team now. You just have to get everyone working together, fit all the pieces in the right spots and keep going from there."

BACK AT IT: Former Heat center Joel Anthony was at the same recent youth event that also featured Chalmers. A free agent this summer, Anthony said he embraced the opportunity to continuing playing with the Detroit Pistons for Stan Van Gundy, who also coached him with the Heat. "I definitely felt I had a good relationship with Stan. I feel that it was just a great fit for me to be there," said Anthony, who was dealt to the Pistons last season from the Boston Celtics. "I said that the whole time. It felt like a great fit. Obviously being familiar with his system and how he works, it brought me back to a lot of my time in Miami. So I definitely feel that it's pretty much like I never really left. So I'm happy with my situation over there." Anthony signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Pistons this summer, with only the first season guaranteed.

COUNTERPOINT: Gerald Green laughed recently when asked if he was excited to again be playing with former Phoenix Suns teammate Goran Dragic, with the two now reunited with the Heat. "He makes it a lot easier for me," Green said with a smile. "You should probably ask him, 'Is it OK for you to be playing with Gerald again?' No, playing with Goran is going to be great. I mean, he makes not only my job easier, he makes everybody else's job easier."

BONDING TIME: Tyler Johnson's offseason include a recent trip to Italy with Heat teammate Hassan Whiteside. "We went more for vacation," Johnson said. "We stopped in at a camp to just talk to some kids, and worked with them a little bit, but it was just vacation, see the world, just see a part of the world I hadn't seen before."

NUMBER

$2,539,424. Cash Heat spent to facilitate trades last season, the highest total in the NBA, per BasketballInsiders.com, out of the maximum of $3.3 that could be included in all transactions. $2.2 million of that total went to the Phoenix Suns in the Goran Dragic trade. The Heat already have spent $2.7 million of the $3.4 million they are allowed to throw into trades during the 2015-16 NBA calendar year that began July 1, due to the cash thrown into the Zoran Dragic and Shabazz Napier deals.

iwinderman@tribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat or facebook.com/ira.winderman

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