The Heat’s acquisition of Goran Dragic has sent a ripple effect through the rest of the lineup, with several players directly impacted.
For Luol Deng, it means adjusting to playing at least part of the game at power forward, competing against bulkier players.
For Mario Chalmers, it means settling into the role of backup shooting guard after holding down the starting point guard job for much of the past 3 1/2 years.
And for Udonis Haslem, it means returning to the starting lineup at power forward — a role he handled for five years here previously.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“I really haven’t played four [power forward] since [spring] 2010, before the Big 3,” Haslem said this week. “The last four years, I played five [center]. But I’m a natural four anyway.”
With a premium now placed on power forwards with shooting range, Haslem said the starting power forward job here has changed slightly from when he started at the position from 2004 through 2009.
That’s why Haslem, who had taken only 13 three-pointers in 751 NBA games before Friday, has launched three (and made one) in the past three games since Chris Bosh was sidelined for the season by blood clots in his lungs.
“It’s part of our offense,” Haslem said, adding that coach Erik Spoelstra told him before the season that he has to be able to shoot the corner three to play power forward. “You’re not going to make all of them, but you have to take them with confidence. I’m going to make some.
“Coach gives me confidence. He’s seen me knock it down a thousand times in practice. Take the ones that are open. Don’t force it.”
Spoelstra said Haslem “has reinvented himself so many times in 12 years. He can find a way to be effective no matter how we play.”
Though Deng continues to start at small forward, a lot of his minutes are coming at power forward as part of a smaller lineup with Deng, Dwyane Wade, Dragic and Mario Chalmers or another wing player. Deng was terrific Monday against Philadelphia, scoring 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting.
“When we get comfortable, we’re going to be quicker [with that small lineup],” Deng said. “We’re going to put teams in a lot of switches they’re not used to, so their defense will not be as organized. There’s definitely advantages to it.”
Deng, listed at 6-9 and 220 pounds, said he played some power forward in Chicago when Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were injured.
“It’s definitely different,” he said.
Offensively, playing power forward means “doing a lot of dribble handoffs, finding myself at the top of the key a lot, getting the team into second situations that [Bosh] was so good at, spreading the floor,” Deng said. “Now I’m involved in a lot of screens instead of being in the corner. It’s totally different.”
And defensively, “I’ve got to guard the screen and make the calls for the guards,” Deng said. “I’m used to guarding the ball. … It’s a different game when you’re battling in the post.”
For Deng, it’s yet another adjustment in a season of transition and tumult.
“We just got Dragic; I’m playing out of position; D-Wade just got back. It’s a lot going on,” Deng said. “The CB news hit us. You kind of appreciate seasons you had in the past where you roll out and play. But we’re all about challenges. My whole life has been about some type of challenge, and I’ve always been OK with that.
“[Power forward] is something I can do. The way we want to play here is not think of positions, but you think a lot when you’re the four [power forward]. And that’s something C.B. was so good at.”
As for Chalmers, the acquisition of Dragic and the recent development of Shabazz Napier mean most of Chalmers’ minutes figure to come at shooting guard.
The enjoyable part of playing that position is “being able to attack,” he said. “As a two guard, your main objective is to attack and pass when you can’t get a score.”
Chalmers is easygoing about switching between both guard spots. “I was starting point guard, back to reserve two, to starting point guard” and now backup shooting guard again. “You just have to be ready for anything.”
Said Wade: “I like this role” for Chalmers. “We really need him to embrace it now. When he embraced it earlier in the year, he did unbelievable.”
WEDNESDAY: HEAT AT MAGIC
When/where: 7:30 p.m., Amway Center in Orlando.
TV, radio: Sun Sports; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM and WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).
Series: Heat leads 56-45.
Noteworthy: The teams split two meetings this season, with Miami winning 99-92 on Nov. 22 in Orlando (behind 32 points from Chris Bosh, who’s sidelined for the season with blood clots on his lungs) and losing 102-101 at home on Dec. 29, despite 25 from Dwyane Wade. Magic center Nikola Vucevic has always played well against Miami: a 29-rebound game on New Year’s Eve in 2012; 33 points and 17 boards in their first meeting this season; and 26 points and 9 boards in their second meeting.