1) Big win in Phoenix! Start of 6 game West Coast road trip! Heat stay above .500 (18-16)! New point guard! My internet is down! Writing this in Starbucks! Lots of exclamation points! I don't normally drink coffee! It's 45 degrees and raining in Florida and I've poured enough hot caffeine down my throat to fuel a small airplane! Ehhhhhaahhhhh!
2) On Tuesday, the New Jersey Nets bought out the remaining few months of veteran point guard Rafer Alston's contract. When you are a 33 year old point guard with a certain amount of elan, you are happy to get off a team that currently sits at 3-33. How happy? Alston gave back a million dollars to the Nets to get released. He'll make some of that back on the prorated deal the Heat gave him for the balance of the season...In a subsequent transaction, the Heat traded third string point guard Chris Quinn to New Jersey for...well, for nothing, essentially. And they had to pay his salary in the form of a cash payment to the Nets. No word on whether they had to pay Quinn any money to report to The Swamp. Quinny was a favorite here at Dos, actually, he saved a game for them with a huge three in Golden State last year, and The Captain and I will be sure to tip a little over for you next time we are throwing back cold ones, Quinny. Godspeed!
3) Rafer Alston is a true New York City point guard. Played for Miami in 2003-4, during Wade and Haslem's rookie years. Heat started 0-7 that year, but came back to make the playoffs, thanks in part to Alston's outstanding year, which earned him a big free agent deal from Toronto following the season. Alston always claimed he was loathe to leave Miami, but the Heat couldn't match the financial package Toronto offered. Comes with the handle "Skip to my Lou," or "Skip" for short. Outstanding ball handler, knows how to run an offense. Not much of a scorer, but significantly large cojones. And there he was, thrust into the starting lineup last night, late in a tight game, running a high pick-and-roll. Steve Nash, his defender went under the screen. The big man, Amare Stoudamire, hesitated for a moment. Skip pulled a three - Stinky! Ran back down the court with a huge grin on his face - back home, baby!
4) Miami was expected to waive Carlos Arroyo's non-guaranteed deal as part of the Alston transaction, but showed a certain amount of class by, instead, guaranteeing Arroyo for the rest of the season. I liked that. Arroyo didn't play last night - Emcee Chalmers served as Skip's backup - but I noticed Arroyo was one of the first guys up off the bench after every big play - maybe that's one of the reasons he got guaranteed. In this vein, one thing Alston will bring to this team, besides superior point guard skills, is a certain joie de vivre, a moxie, that is too often missing with this group. Wade is intense, Haslem is stoic, Beasley is spacey, Chalmers is shy, JO is...not sure what JO is. Thinking about Connect Four strategies? Skip Alston is fired up. Like this: FIRED UP! Skip gave and received more dap during the game last night than the rest of the Heat had given and received during the first 33 games of the season combined. Is Rafer going to turn the season around, or make the Heat a contender? No. But he should make the game more fun.
5) One more thing about Skip: I almost forgot that, in an NBA game, your point is allowed to attempt to impede the progress of the opposing team's point guard. Skip dogged Steve Nash all night, fought him, tried to be physical with him. Nash is incredible, and still had 12 assists. But he had only 16 points on 6-14 shooting - in large part because Skip made him take tough, contested shots. Skip is bigger, more physical, and more dogged than the other Heat point guards - that can only help.
6) Wade was ridiculous and multi-faceted throughout the night. Reportedly he is good friends with Alston, and he seemed to be playing with more energy. Had 33 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists, along with 3 steals. Before the game, Alston described the nature of his reunion with Wade. "The first time I was here, he was a rookie, and I spent a lot of time telling him what to do; now, I am going to listen to what he tells me to do," laughed Skip.
Road trip continues Sunday in LA, against the Clippers. Some bad recent memories in that building, boy. Some baaaad, recent memories.