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Old 01-01-2007, 02:35 PM   #1
BFRESH44
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Default Heat's Goal: Get well soon....

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HEAT

Heat's goal: Get well soon

Get well soon The Heat is hoping a three-day break will help heal its three ailing starters and fuel a turnaround from a troubling 13-17 start.

BY MICHAEL WALLACE
mwallace@MiamiHerald.com

Udonis Haslem's New Year's resolution is to forget everything that has happened, to delete every thought of any beatings the Heat has absorbed in the past two months.

In contrast, Alonzo Mourning insists he will store the names and numbers of each opponent that has landed a blow while the injury-plagued Heat has been down.

The two players approach the New Year from different psychological paths, but paths that ultimately reach the same conclusion regarding a turbulent first two months for the 13-17 Heat.

''Hey, championships aren't won in November and December,'' Mourning said of the slow start for the defending NBA champions. ``When we come back together, we're going to be a whole lot stronger, and there are going to be different results.''

At least that's the plan.

Today starts what appears to be a pivotal month for a Heat team that ended 2006 reeling physically and mentally -- with guard Dwyane Wade and center Shaquille O'Neal out with injuries. A third starter, point guard Jason Williams, remains a part-time player as his right knee completely heals from offseason surgery.

But that all could change this month, maybe as early as this week. The Heat did not practice Sunday after Saturday's 97-68 loss at Orlando, and won't play until the Los Angeles Clippers visit AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday. Coach Pat Riley is hoping Wade can return by then after missing the past two games with a sprained right wrist.

Three days to recuperate between games couldn't have come at a better time for the Heat.

''It's got to help,'' Riley said. ``We've got two days to really practice and try to get back a disposition. That's what we really need to get back. And hopefully, we get a little healthier.''

NO DATE SET

O'Neal, who had knee surgery on Nov. 19 and has missed 24 consecutive games, also is expected to return sometime this month. But he and Riley have been reluctant to publicly set a specific date since the team's initial four- to six-week window passed.

Miami is 0-4 without Wade, 11-15 without O'Neal and 3-9 without Williams.

The Heat's 29-point, year-ending loss at Orlando was a frustrating bookend to a 42-point drubbing by the Bulls in the Oct. 31 opener, the same night Heat players received their championship rings.

But if Wade and O'Neal return this month and Williams' knee soon allows him to play on consecutive nights, January could be the month the Heat consistently plays more like the team that earned the rings last June and less like the sporadic squad wearing them now.

''It's not like we're not playing hard without those guys,'' Haslem said. ``We're still playing hard, but those are the guys who 99 percent of our game goes through. It's not an excuse. That's just the way it is.''

The Heat enters the New Year four games below .500 for the fourth time this season, and sits one spot out of the playoff picture. It's a place Riley described as ''the bottom of the barrel'' after the Orlando loss, the Heat's 11th by double digits and eighth by at least 15 points.

''We know what type of team we are, and [opponents] know what type of team we are when D-Wade and Shaq are on the floor and J-Will is healthy,'' Mourning said. ``They're taking advantage of that and really sticking it to us. I'm not going to forget that, and my team is not.''

SIX-GAME TRIP

With the Heat facing a six-game Western Conference road trip that begins Friday, it's conceivable matters could get worse in January before they get better.

Still, the goal is to have a fresh outlook today and leave any baggage from the past two months behind.

''I'm just going to relax, get my mind right and try to forget everything that's happened, even though that's going to be hard,'' Haslem said. ``We have to come back with a new mind-set this week and just be ready to put it together from here on out.''

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald...l/16359736.htm
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