A dozen postscripts and thoughts from the Heat’s 106-95 win against Washington in its preseason opener at Verizon Center:
• The results of a preseason opener should never be overstated, but the Heat’s first game of the post-Dwyane Wade era was more important than most for three reasons:
1) With a dramatically altered roster, Erik Spoelstra needs clarity on what lineups are most effective together.
2) This new group needs evidence, against real NBA competition, that it can play well together as a team. Veteran teams anchored by Wade and Chris Bosh don’t need to draw confidence from an exhibition opener. This roster, to an extent, does.
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3) For marketing and other reasons, the fan base needs reason for optimism after a summer that Pat Riley called a bad one – and that was before Bosh failed his physical.
The Heat achieved all of that, displaying chemistry and offensive rhythm unusual for a preseason debut.
• All of the veteran newcomers acquitted themselves nicely.
Dion Waiters, scoring 12 points in 22 minutes off the bench, was dynamic and dazzling in his Heat debut, especially as a playmaker (eight assists), including two nifty feeds for Hassan Whiteside baskets and a splendid one-handed dish to Justise Winslow for a three.
Offensively, he didn’t force shots, and his six baskets (on 10 attempts) included a glorious foray to the hoop for a reverse layup and two power drives for dunks.
Luke Babbitt started the first half at power forward and hit four of five threes on a 14-point night, though he had some difficulties with Markeiff Morris defensively.
James Johnson started the second half at power forward and was active (seven points, seven rebounds) and offered an impediment defensively.
Wayne Ellington sank two threes.
Derrick Williams missed six of eight shots but had three rebounds, two assists and a steal.
• We kept hearing that Hassan Whiteside has been engaged and driven and motivated in informal practices in September, with no sign of complacency in the wake of his $98 million contract.
Whiteside offered on-court evidence, with 18 points, 8 rebounds and two blocks in 13 first-half minutes. He closed with 20 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, showing a diverse offensive game including jumpers, jams and hooks.
• Good to see the Goran Dragic alley-oop to Whiteside, their chemistry vastly improved since Erik Spoelstra ordered them, in February, to spend more time together.
• Winslow changed the mechanics of his shot while working all summer with new Heat shooting coach Rob Fodor, and the results were encouraging: 2 for 5 on threes and 5 for 8 overall.
Winslow lost weight in the offseason, and his speed was evident defensively and in transition.
• The opening lineup of Whiteside, Winslow, Babbitt, Dragic and Tyler Johnson played well together offensively, scoring 16 points in barely over five first half minutes.
Spoelstra then summoned Waiters, Williams and Udonis Haslem.
• More Waiters: It has been widely reported that he wasn’t especially popular with some former teammates. That was the case in Cleveland, my former colleague Ethan Skolnick has noted.
Asked a general question about Waiters, Winslow on Monday mentioned “the perception of him and attitude and body language,” but added: “He’s been great. We are blocking everything out in the past. Clean slate. He’s been a great leader of this group so far.”
Asked Monday who he has gained an extra appreciation for in camp, Dragic quickly said: “Dion. He’s unbelievable, can bring a lot to the table.”
We saw the diverse skills all on display on Tuesday. He’s going to be a bargain at $2.9 million.
• With the Heat needing to keep Bosh on the roster until Feb. 9 or just beyond for cap reasons, the only real roster battle might be Briante Weber against Beno Udrih, who will be paid regardless of whether he makes the team.
Weber was impressive Tuesday, with several sharp passes on a five assist, one-turnover night. His stout defense was on display, including two steals.
• Times have changed: Bovada’s over/under for Heat wins (34.5) is ahead of only the Kings, Suns, Lakers, Nets, with the 76ers off the board because of injury.
• Heat guard Josh Richardson, expected to return from a knee injury by early November, told me that doctors have indicated to him that he’s ahead of schedule.
Richardson, Udrih, Josh McRoberts and Stefan Jankovic sat out with injuries Tuesday.
• All eight Heat preseason games are being televised except the two on the next two Saturdays in Kansas City and Louisville.
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