Posted April 29 2001 |
BY IRA WINDERMAN
Brian Grant made it to the finish line. It wasn’t nearly as rewarding as he expected.
Because of that, the Heat center said he would rededicate himself to the offseason program that helped him elevate his game to new heights this past season.
“It’s going to get better,” Grant said, the pain of the 0-3 playoff ouster to the Charlotte Hornets still stinging. “I know I didn’t finish as strong as I’d like to.”
Paramount among Grant’s goals was offering a complete effort. Before playing in all 82 regular-season games, he had not gone more than 63 in an 82-game season since 1996.
He entered training camp in the best shape of his career. Muscle was added; fat was subtracted. He was the Heat’s early leader for an All-Star berth.
Then the fade began. After averaging a double-double through the first half of the season, the rebounding numbers continued a steady decline, while the scoring plateaued.
A 20-10 threat early in the season — a fitting payoff for a seven-year, $84 million payout — Grant settled into a more mundane 15-point, nine-rebound producer.
“I started off tearing things up and then it just kind of subsided,” he said. “I’ve just got to look at the year and say, ‘Why did that happen?’ I can’t blame anybody but myself.
“I can’t blame the coaches, the system. That’s just how it ended up. I know what to expect next year.”
In making such an effort to meet the weight and body-fat standards sought by coach Pat Riley, Grant said he reinvented his body. The next step, he said, is sculpting what he has into a form that can endure through-out a season — and beyond.
“It was more a learning experience than anything,” he said. “I lost a lot of weight over the summer. I lost about 15, 16 pounds, got down to like 248, got there for a while, started off pretty strong, but as the season went on ... ”
He paused. For Grant, it proved to be a season of adjustments. When his conditioning program began, the goal was to transform his 6-9 frame into that of a sleek power forward who could run the floor with the likes of Chris Webber, Antoine Walker, Shawn Marion. Then, when center Alonzo Mourning revealed a kidney illness, which would sideline him the first 69 games of the season, Grant was thrown into the pivot, left to battle with the bulkiest of bodies.
“I look forward to putting solidness to this frame I have right now,” he said, amid enough uncertainty regarding Mourning’s status that time at center still could be in his future. “Even though it’s a negative that we didn’t go that far, I can take some positives out of it as far as my workouts this summer.”
Grant and guard Eddie Jones are the only Heat players under contract for more than two seasons. That either makes them the cornerstones of the next generation of Heat or showpieces on display for a quicker turnaround.
“That’s the one thing about being on a team, especially when you sign a long-term deal, is you never know what’s going to happen,” Grant said. “I made a commitment to be here, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to be here, unless they have plans for me elsewhere for somebody else.
“I don’t live in fear of being traded or anything like that. If it happens, it happens. But I’m just going to prepare like everybody’s who here is going to be here next year. And, if, along the way, people aren’t, then I have to deal with it, too.”