Heat players obsessed with 'hockey assists'

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Heat players obsessed with 'hockey assists'

From Comcast SportsNetMIAMI (AP) -- There's nary a pair of skates visible in the Miami Heat locker room, no bucket of pucks in the practice facility and no Zamboni following the team around, either.Still, there's at least one hockey principle that's in the mind of the reigning NBA champions so far this season.With emphasis on ball movement, the Heat are currently into what's known as "hockey assists" -- essentially, the pass that sets up the pass that sets up the score. In hockey, it's typical for two players to be credited with having passes to set up a goal, and while it's hardly an NBA statistic, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is working it into his team's repertoire as well."If anything, it's a compliment to the game of hockey," Heat center Joel Anthony said. "We're recognizing the different types of ways they reward players for making the extra pass. Hockey acknowledges it a lot more. There's no stat for it in basketball but we still acknowledge that. Spo recognizes that and wants to make sure we know it's extremely important."Anthony would seem to be the resident Miami expert in this field.After all, he's the Heat player who hails from Canada -- hockey's epicenter."That extra pass, it means a lot for us," Anthony said.The Heat begin a six-games-in-nine-days trip in Atlanta on Friday night, a game followed by contests at Memphis, Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver and Phoenix. Miami doesn't play at home again until Nov. 21.Miami's ball movement this season is beyond statistically impressive. In their four wins so far, the Heat have 109 assists against only 43 turnovers. Even with their lone loss taken into account, the Heat assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.98-to-1 leads the NBA entering Thursday's games."Our team assist-to-turnover ratio is important," Spoelstra said.As a team, Miami reached the 25-assist mark only 12 times in 66 regular-season games last season; this year, the Heat have gotten there four times in five games."It's all about getting somebody the better shot," Wade said.Take Wednesday's 103-73 win over Brooklyn as an example. LeBron James finished the game with 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in only 30 minutes, getting the fourth quarter off. A triple-double was easily within reach, though with the game in hand, there was no need for the NBA's MVP to play in the final period.So, no triple-double. That is, unless one takes into account the manner Spoelstra and the Heat chart certain things."He could have had more assists if he was thinking ego during the course of the game, if he was hunting down his own pass," Spoelstra said. "But again, I think he probably had three or four or five hockey assists, where he knew that it was going to be a rotation, that the next guy would be open. That's how fast his mind is going, thinking of the play after the play after the play. But that's the point."While it might be one of the go-to terms for the Heat these days, it's not a new concept.James said he began thinking about the parallel between hockey assists and smart basketball passing in high school. Chris Bosh credits Paul Hewitt -- his college coach at Georgia Tech -- with introducing him to the concept. Dwyane Wade had similar sentiments, saying it was a term that Tom Crean used when he was in college at Marquette."Making the pass to the guy who makes the pass is just as valuable," Bosh said. "We're unselfish. We don't care. From night to night, (statistics) will be different. From time to time, we're going to have guys with a hot hand. But as long as we're playing together and it's spread out, we're playing well."The first Miami basket of the game on Wednesday night had four players in key roles.Bosh got a steal, threw the ball to Mario Chalmers, who found Wade, who tossed a perfect lob to James for a dunk. The entire play took five seconds -- one steal, three passes, one dribble, one dunk. And in the "hockey assist" formula, Chalmers' nifty one-handed flick to Wade would have gotten as much credit for the score as the lob did, since it took defenders away from James' sprint down the left side to the rim."I'm all-in," Chalmers said. "I like it, since I'm usually the one that gets the hockey assist. As long as we're winning, everybody's happy."

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."