Grant: Knee won't be a problem

Grant: Knee won't be a problem

 

By Ira Winderman, Sun-Sentinel Staff writer

ESTERO The most meaningful action for the Heat in Saturday night's 82-81 exhibition victory over the Orlando Magic at TECO Arena came during the seven minutes that bridged the end of the first quarter and the start of the second.

That's when Heat coach Pat Riley had Travis Best at point guard, Eddie Jones at shooting guard, Caron Butler at small forward and Brian Grant at center.

It was the first time those four likely components of a starting lineup had played together during the preseason. It stands as a combination as viable as anything the Heat can muster this season amid the continued absence of ailing center Alonzo Mourning.

Riley had spoken an hour earlier of holding off on employing such a unit due to injury concerns, but with 3:36 to play in the first quarter he relented. "We need a veteran infrastructure which will come from Brian and Travis and Eddie," Riley said. "We need an infrastructure of stability to perform and to sort of bring it all together." Best and Jones each had missed the first two exhibitions, Best with a sore calf and Jones with a tender hamstring. Grant had sat out Friday night's loss to the Timberwolves in the Dominican Republic with tendinitis in his right knee. The combination certainly worked for Butler, who had his best outing, with an aggressive 18 points that included 8-of-11 shooting from the foul line, nine rebounds and three assists. "There was a real good chemistry out there," said Butler, the first-round pick out of UConn. "They were telling me where to go and I was going to those spots."

For all the experimentation with rookie Rasual Butler at shooting guard and Vladimir Stepania at center, and for all the rehashing of the tired notion of Anthony Carter as a starting point guard, it simply was not working. So with Caron Butler remaining at small forward, and with Malik Allen and LaPhonso Ellis splitting the shift at power forward, Riley went with his most viable lineup. It was a unit he also successfully employed in the second half. "I thought it went well, considering it was the first time we were together," said Best, the offseason free-agent acquisition who closed with six points, three rebounds and two assists.

Unable to match the athleticism and the shooting of the Magic's Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill, the Heat will have to succeed this season with systematic superiority, something that requires the type of cohesion that must be established as early as possible. "We've all still got to learn each others' games," said Grant, who had eight points and six rebounds. "I've got a good feel for Caron, and Travis is real smooth."

With Jones, Grant and Best back, Riley tightened his rotation, not playing forwards Luke Recker and Sean Lampley, centers Ken Johnson and Ernest Brown, and guard Khalid El-Amin. Center Sean Marks is sidelined with a foot injury. "I thought it went pretty good out there," said Jones, who finished with 15 points in his first preseason action in two years. "We did a lot of good things."

Ira Winderman can be reached at iwinderman@sun-sentinel.com.

 

 

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