Miami Heat 2001-02 Capsule
COACH: Pat Riley (seventh season, 1,049-466 overall)
LAST SEASON: 50-32, second in Atlantic Division, lost to Charlotte in first round
ARRIVALS: F LaPhonso Ellis (free agent), G-F Kendall Gill (free agent), G Rod Strickland (free agent), G Sam Mack (free agent), G-F Rodney Buford (free agent)
SLAM DUNKS: The Heat have a nice three-pronged attack in C Alonzo Mourning (13.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg), G Eddie Jones (17.4) and F Brian Grant (15.2, 8.8) -- if Mourning is healthy. He missed most of last season with a kidney ailment and there are no guarantees regarding his ability to play basketball. There is far more offensive punch at the other positions, with Gill (9.2), Ellis (9.4, 6.0) and Mack, who has great three-point range. Gill and Ellis also play defense, so the Heat still will be able to shut down foes with their trademark. G Anthony Carter (6.4, 3.7 apg) has a long-term contract and doesn't have to worry about being immediately yanked for a mistake anymore.
AIRBALLS: The signing of Strickland (9.2, 5.6) means Riley was not sure about Carter's ability as a starting point guard. The escrow tax left the Heat unable to re-sign Mason, an All-Star whose all-around skills in the low post will be missed. A handful of players have a history of injury problems, including Mourning, Grant, Gill and Ellis. Jones also is coming off shoulder surgery. There is a huge stigma of playoff failure to overcome and another early exit could spell Riley's departure.
IN THE ZONE: If Mourning is healthy, the Heat can go to a zone whenever they like. He is a terror under the basket and erases a lot of his teammates' mistakes. Jones, Grant, Carter and Gill are excellent defenders as well. The problem may be on offense, where opponents will sag on Mourning and force the Heat to fire away from outside. This is where Hardaway could be missed.
OUTLOOK: A year ago, the Heat looked like they had a team that would reach the conference finals every season. Then Mourning got hurt and another first-round playoff exit had Riley
revamping his roster again. If Mourning cannot stay healthy, this team will have trouble making the playoffs. If Mourning is OK, there are still some questions that can only be answered in the postseason.