Heat Check

What have the worst starts in Heat history led to? Hint: Root for a repeat of 2002-03

From the archives: Miami Heats first pick of the 2003 draft is Dwayne Tyrone Wade gets a loving touch from his son Zaire 16 months old as he and Pat Riley speak with the Miami media Friday June 27, 2003.
From the archives: Miami Heats first pick of the 2003 draft is Dwayne Tyrone Wade gets a loving touch from his son Zaire 16 months old as he and Pat Riley speak with the Miami media Friday June 27, 2003. el Nuevo Herald file

The Heat and Dolphins entered the New Year Sunday with 10 wins each, and it’s fair to wonder who will get to win No. 11 first.

At 10-25, the Heat is off to one of its worst starts in franchise history (tied for sixth-worst through 35 games) and there’s no telling if or when the misery will end.

Miami has lost eight of it’s last nine games including five in a row and six straight on the road. The Heat, of course, plays its next six games away from AmericanAirlines Arena beginning Tuesday in Phoenix.

So where have other horrendous starts in Heat history taken us over the years and what has it led to? Hint: Miami fans ought to hope it ends like the 2002-03 season did.

Here’s a look back at some of the worst seasons in Heat history:

1988-1989: 10-55 before 11th win. Finished 15-67

The first team in Heat history was outscored by 11.2 points per game and featured a roster with a dozen first or second year players including Rony Seikaly, Grant Long (he was named team MVP) and Kevin Edwards, who earned NBA All-Rookie Second team honors. Miami lost its first 17 games to start the season and was 3-31 on Jan. 13. Miami was the worst shooting team in the league (45.3 percent) and the worst scoring team in the league (97.8 points per game). Despite finishing with the worst record in the league by six games, the Heat ended up with the fourth pick and drafted Glen Rice. Pervis Ellison, Danny Ferry and Sean Elliott were taken with the first three picks.

2007-2008: 10-46 before 11th win. Finished 15-67

The dismantling of the Heat's 2006 title team began when Miami traded Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien, Antoine Walker and a 2009 first round pick to Minnesota for Mark Blount and Ricky Davis in October. It continued in February when Shaquille O'Neal was traded to Phoenix for Marcus Banks and Shawn Marion. In all, 22 players suited up for the Heat that season, Pat Riley's worst as coach. The meltdown on the court began when Miami lost 15 games in a row beginning on Christmas Day at Cleveland. The streak finally ended Jan. 26 at home versus Indiana. After that, the Heat began another 11-game losing streak, falling to 9-45. Dwyane Wade missed 31 games that season because of injury. Miami finished with the worst record in the league by five games (Seattle was 20-62), but ended up with the second pick in the lottery. The Heat drafted Michael Beasley. Russell Westbrook was taken two picks later by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a player Riley now acknowledges was the best player in that draft.

1989-1990: 10-44 before 11th win. Finished 18-64

Even with a roster that featured Rice and Sherman Douglas, who was taken with the 28th pick in the 2nd round and ended up earning All-NBA Rookie First Team honors, the Heat lost 13 games in a row from December to mid January and was 7-30. The Heat, the fourth-worst scoring team in the league (100.6) and fifth-worst shooting team (46.1) ended up being outscored by 9.7 points per game and finished tied for the second-worst record with the Orlando Magic. Miami got with the third pick in the lottery, but traded it to Denver Nuggets for two first round picks. The Heat drafted Willie Burton (ninth overall) and Dave Jamerson (15th overall). Denver took Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. All-Star Gary Payton went second in the draft to Seattle, which jumped eight spots in the lottery.

1990-1991: 10-27 before 11th win. Finished 24-58

Miami's growing pains continued in the franchise's third season and coach Ron Rothstein ended up resigning at the end of the season. Miami was outscored by six points a game despite having basically the same collection of players from the season prior. Miami averaged 101.8 points per game, seventh-fewest in the league, ranked 22nd out of 27 teams in field goal percentage (45.9) and finished with the second-worst record in the league behind the Denver Nuggets (20-62). The Heat, though, ended up with the fifth pick in the lottery and drafted Steve Smith. Larry Johnson, Kenny Anderson, Billy Owens and Dikembe Mutombo were the first four players chosen.

2001-2002: 10-26 before 11th win. Finished 36-46

After going 50-32 with a roster featuring Bruce Bowen, Anthony Mason and Alonzo Mourning, the Heat was bounced in the first round of the playoffs in three games by the Hornets and the free-fall continued with a 5-23 start to the next season. Mourning, of course, was in the middle of dealing with his kidney ailment, and Riley traded Tim Hardaway prior to the start of the season to the Dallas Mavericks for a second round pick. The Heat was also involved in a three-team trade which netted Chris Gatling from the Cavaliers. After an 8-26 start, Miami finished the season 28-20 behind Eddie Jones, Rod Strickland and Brian Grant. Miami, the best defensive team in the league (88.7 points per game), finished 29th in scoring (87.2) and wound up with the 10th worst-record in the league and the 10th pick, which it used to draft Caron Butler. Amar’e Stoudemire went ninth to the Suns.

1992-1993: 10-25 before 11th win. Finished 36-46

Kevin Loughery’s second season at the helm got off to a rough start, but the veteran team improved with Rice, Seikaly, Long, Edwards and Bimbo Coles leading the way. The Heat traded its 1993 first round pick prior to the season for John Salley (the Pistons used it on Lindsey Hunter). Steve Smith played in only 48 games because of injuries. Miami ranked 20th in the league in scoring (103.6) and 24th in field goal percentage (45.6 percent). The Heat was only outscored by 1.1 points per game.

1994-1995: 10-23 before 11th win. Finished 32-50

Loughery's final season at the helm – and the final season before Riley came to South Florida -- began with the franchise trading Rony Seikaly to the Warriors for Sasha Danilovic and Billy Owens, former first round pick Willie Burton being waived, and Grant Long and Steve Smith being traded to Atlanta for Kevin Willis. The Heat finished with the 10th-worst record in the league and drafted Kurt Thomas. The Heat then traded a first round pick to the Knicks to acquire Riley and two months later he acquired Mourning in a six-player trade from Charlotte for Rice.

2002-2003: 10-19 before 11th win. Finished 25-57

This was the year Mourning’s kidney disease returned and forced him to miss the entire season. Miami eventually parted ways with Mourning before bringing him back for a championship run. Eddie Jones, the Heat’s leading scorer, played in only 47 games because of injuries and the Heat sputtered through plenty of growing pains with Butler, Grant and Malik Allen shouldering most of the load. The Heat finished next-to-last in scoring (85.6 points per game), next-to-last in field goal percentage (41.2) and ranked fourth in fewest points allowed (90.6 per game). There was a payoff, though. The Heat finished with the fourth-worst record in the league and drafted Wade fifth overall. Miami then signed Lamar Odom in the off-season, Udonis Haslem as a rookie free agent and began it’s turnaround.

2003-2004: 10-17 before 11th win. Finished 42-40

Wade’s rookie season began 0-7 and then 16-26 overall before the pieces started to fit and Miami turned it’s season around, making the playoffs at 42-40. This Heat team outscored its opponents by 0.6 points per game. It ranked 22nd in scoring (90.3 per game), 25th in field goal percentage (42.5) and eighth in points allowed (89.7). The following summer, Riley traded Butler, Grant, Odom, a 2006 first round pick, a 2007 2nd round pick for O'Neal and the franchise was on its way toward it’s first title.