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News » Knicks-Heat Preview 2009-10-28

Knicks-Heat Preview 2009-10-28

Knicks-Heat Preview 2009-10-28The Miami Heat will open the 2009-10 season by taking time to honor one of their past greats, while the New York Knicks appear to be looking towards next season before even stepping on the court.

Michael Beasley's tumultuous offseason may also have him focused on the future, and gaining some inspiration from Tim Hardaway might help when the Heat and Knicks meet Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.

Hardaway's No. 10 will be raised to the rafters, as he joins Alonzo Mourning as the only Heat players to have their number retired. A former guard, Hardaway was a major part of the Heat's success during five-plus seasons from 1996-2001, and he's still the franchise's career leader in 3-point field goals and assists, while ranking fifth in points and steals.

His time in Miami, however, might also be remembered for three straight playoff exits against the Knicks from 1998-2000 - twice in the first round and once in the Eastern Conference semifinals with each of those series going to the final game.

More recently, the Heat have failed to advance past the first round since winning their only NBA title in 2006. They've qualified for the postseason in two of three seasons since, falling in seven games to Atlanta last spring after finishing 43-39 and in third place in the Southeast Division.

Beasley could help them improve upon that if he's able to move past a difficult summer that included two infamous Twitter flameouts and a stay at a Houston rehabilitation facility. The forward posted disturbing messages and a conversation-sparking photo in a tattoo establishment on his now-closed Twitter feed before spending more than a month in rehab, and by his own acknowledgment, membership in the NBA's substance-abuse program.

"All behind me," said Beasley, drafted second overall from Kansas State in 2008. "I think I've worked harder now than I did last year. Last year, I found myself coasting through sometimes, just going through the motions. This year, I'm a little more hungry."

As a rookie, Beasley averaged 13.9 points and shot 47.2 percent. Second-year coach Erik Spoelstra appears encouraged by what he's seen from Beasley so far.

"He's making progress. I like what he's done this preseason. I do," Spoelstra said. "I keep on pointing to his focus, but I think we were able to cover a lot more ground. I see a quicker application from practice to the games. ... And defensively, he's done some things that I like. He needs to keep on going."

Dwyane Wade, who is 242 assists behind Hardaway's team record, is back for perhaps his final season in Miami. The guard, who is expected to test free agency as part of a coveted group in 2010 that may include reigning MVP LeBron James, led the NBA with a career high of 30.2 points per game in 2008-09.

Wade averaged 42.3 points in helping the Heat win two of three from New York last season. He scored a career-high 55 in a 122-105 home win on April 12.

With contracts of several current players set to expire in July, the Knicks could have their eye on Wade come next summer. They didn't make any significant moves during this offseason after going 32-50 to finish last in the Atlantic, marking their eighth consecutive losing season and tying a franchise record set from 1959-67.

New York hasn't won a playoff game since 2001 and last reached the playoffs in '04, matching Minnesota for the NBA's longest drought.

"This is our job. A lot of us are on our last contracts, and we want to win," guard Chris Duhon said. "We want to make the city proud of the Knicks again."

A season could be viewed as a technicality leading to a free-agent spending spree may put the Knicks in a difficult position to remain competitive or further risk losing fan interest.

"Probably if we don't win early but really go on a streak where we win 20 in a row, they'd come back. So there's all kinds of scenarios you could draw out there," said coach Mike D'Antoni, who begins his second season with the team.

"If it's a disaster, I'm sure they'll quit watching, and I don't blame them. But I think we can be competitive. I think we can make a run for the playoffs. And I think we can be enjoyable, and I think fans will like it. That's the plan, and hopefully we'll stick with it."

The Knicks showed some improvement in D'Antoni's up-tempo system last season, finishing fourth in the league with an average of 105.2 points. However, they also allowed the third-most points at 107.8.

Forward-center David Lee is looking to build on career highs in scoring (16.0) and rebounds (11.7), while leading the NBA with 65 double-doubles.

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Added: October 28, 2009


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