Heat has an anchor up front in Grant

Heat has an anchor up front in Grant


Thursday, January 18, 2001
by Geoffrey C. Arnold of The Oregonian staff

He is one of the shortest centers in the NBA. He is part of one of the shortest front lines in the league. He is replacing the team's All-Star center.

Although he is not producing like his predecessor, Brian Grant is an anchor on the team's front line and is having a career-best season.

Grant did not expect to be playing this position when he agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that sent him to the Miami Heat on Aug. 30. Grant came to the Heat expecting to settle in at power forward and complement center Alonzo Mourning. Those plans were abruptly changed when Mourning announced in October that he would miss the season because of a kidney ailment.

Faster than you can say "Camp Riley," the Heat plummeted from conference favorite to just another contender. After playing musical positions for the first part of the season and starting the season looking like a team dreaming about the pingpong balls of the NBA draft lottery, Heat coach Pat Riley put Grant at center. The move has paid off.

Grant's play -- along with that of Anthony Mason -- has helped propel the Heat not only into playoff position in the Eastern Conference but has given the team a shot at home-court advantage in the first round.

"For me, it wasn't worrying if we would be a playoff team," Grant said. "But hoping it didn't come too late."

Since Riley moved Grant to center, the Heat has gone 18-10 and has won seven of its last 10 games. Miami has accomplished this despite the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Grant being one of the smallest post players in the conference.

Grant is tied with four others (Washington's Jahidi White, Detroit's Ben Wallace, New Jersey's Aaron Williams and Toronto's Antonio Davis) as the shortest starting center in the conference. Along with Grant and the 6-8, 225-pound Mason, Miami's other front-line starter is 6-7, 200-pound Bruce Bowen.

Grant's situation is helped by playing in the Eastern Conference, with Atlanta's Dikembe Mutombo the only center of notoriety and size. Grant has not missed a game this season, and he averages a team-leading 10.2 rebounds and has 40 blocked shots in 40 games.

"You can get away with it more now because of the lack of huge centers in the Eastern Conference," Riley said. "A lot of teams are going quicker and smaller."

Grant has a team-leading 22 double doubles (points, rebounds) and has proved he still can run with the top centers in the Western Conference. He scored 30 points and had 21 rebounds against Seattle on Nov. 8. He scored 24 points and had 13 rebounds in the Heat's 86-80 win against Portland on Nov. 18. He had 14 points and 16 rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 19. "I'm not surprised. He's a very hard worker," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Any time he has been injury-free, he usually comes up with solid numbers."

Though Mourning had a better scoring average (21.7) last season than Grant has this season, Grant possesses a better rebounding average than Mourning (9.5). But Mourning averaged a league-leading 3.72 blocked shots a game compared to Grant's 1.0. "It is important to have a shot-blocker, but you have to take this defense to a different level," forward A.C. Green said.

Portland received Shawn Kemp in the Grant deal, and Kemp has had trouble fitting in with the Blazers. Kemp is averaging 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 17.8 minutes. Kemp's production is far below his career averages (16.8 points, 9.5 rebounds), and he still is working on his conditioning. Portland forward Scottie Pippen says it's easy to see that Miami has benefited more.

"Shawn isn't going to get enough minutes to have the success he's used to," he said. Despite ranking near the bottom of the league in rebounding and blocked shots, the Heat remains one of the league's best defensive teams. Miami is giving up 85.8 points, second in the league behind New York. "They just win ugly," Portland guard Damon Stoudamire said.

Grant's intensity, hustle and desire are intangibles that remain one of the constants in his play. The Blazers know that they will have to bring the same type of intensity to tonight's game against the Heat, or Grant will embarrass them again.

"We miss it sometimes," Pippen said. "We've just got to bring energy to match his energy."


You can reach Geoffrey C. Arnold at 503-221-8556 or by e-mail at



Back to main page