The postseason scouting report on the Heat calls for a rough and physical game plan. Enter one Mr. Larry Sanders of Port St. Lucie.
Sanders, a talented, young and volatile power forward, played in four games against the Heat this season, but only finished two. Sanders was ejected from games on two occasions against the Heat.
The Heat will match Sanders’ aggression with the guile of Shane Battier and the guts of Udonis Haslem, but that doesn’t mean Haslem is ready to go to war against Sanders as if he were, say, the Indiana Pacers’ Tyler Hansbrough. On the contrary, Haslem and Sanders are friends off the court. Earlier this season, Haslem went out of his way to pull Sanders aside and offer the 6-11, 235-pound bruiser some advice about, you know, not getting kicked out of games.
Sanders received 14 technical fouls this season, tied for second in the league, and was ejected from games on five occasions, including three ejections in a 10-day span.
“I saw him in chapel and being that he’s a Florida kid, Port St. Lucie, and he played for my college coach, Anthony Grant, who was the head coach at VCU, I kind of pulled him aside and it had nothing to do with basketball,” Haslem said. “It had something to do with life, and just growing in this league.”
Haslem related stories of his follies as “a youngster” in the NBA and told Sanders to respect the referees. During one of his ejections, Sanders gave the three referees calling his game sarcastic thumbs up as he left the court. He has been fined more than $100,000 this season.
“Not to say that [referees] hold a grudge, but if you’re real disrespectful and you talk a certain way and treat things a certain way … referees never forget that,” Haslem said. “I told him I’m not saying don’t play without emotion, definitely play with emotion and be yourself out on the court, but just try to put your cap on and be respectful to the referees, be respectful to the game and overall save your money, man.”
Dwyane Wade avoided contact Saturday in the Heat’s final practice before the playoffs.
Wade nursed a sore knee the final month of the regular season and didn’t want to aggravate the injury on the eve of the postseason. Wade is expected to start Sunday and play his normal minutes.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been coy about who is going to be in the starting lineup Sunday. Mario Chalmers, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are entrenched, but Spoelstra indicated that he would not hesitate to switch Haslem for Battier in the starting lineup based on matchups.
Haslem started most of the season in the Heat’s frontcourt, with Battier coming off the bench. Battier, of course, was the Heat’s starter at power forward for most of the 2012 playoffs.
“My job doesn’t change whether I’m starting or coming off the bench or whether it be nine minutes, 10 minutes, five minutes,” Haslem said. “It really doesn’t matter. We’ve kind of bought into understanding that, you know, sacrifice minutes, sacrifice time, sacrifice shots.”