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| Sports |

Ten Storylines Facing the Miami Heat as the Season Resumes

So, about Meyers Leonard...
So, about Meyers Leonard...
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The Miami Heat jumps back on the regular-season treadmill tonight when it faces the Orlando Magic in the team's first game since the All-Star break. Miami is hoping the second half of the schedule goes much better than the first, which the Heat finished with an 18-18 record, no representative at last weekend's All-Star event, and a bunch of nagging injuries and uncertainties.

A million questions surround the Heat as it begins the second half of the season. In the name of brevity and readability, we'll go ahead and tackle the ten storylines with the biggest buzz.

What happens to Meyers Leonard? The Miami Heat has announced that Meyers Leonard will be away from the team indefinitely while he figures out how to make good after using an anti-Semitic slur live on Twitch. Leonard is already out for the season, so following along with what happens to him is purely reality TV stuff at this point.

Leonard brought absolutely nothing to the court this year. It's too bad he'll be remembered for what he did off of it. Watching how the Heat handles this controversy will be interesting.

Will the Heat ever have a fully healthy team? An amazing stat from the first half of the season: Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo have been on the floor together for less than 90 minutes. That's it. Miami hasn't even had its best three players on the court together for two full games of the 36 it has played.

If the Heat is going to make any noise in the playoffs this season, the team will need to add a zero to that number. Those three guys playing together are the difference for the Heat.

Will the Miami Heat make a trade to improve the current roster? The NBA trade deadline is March 25, so pretty soon we'll know whether the Heat will improve the team via trade or take its chances with what it has.

The most likely culprits to be sent away are Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard, Andre Iguodala, and Kendrick Nunn. All are on contracts that expire after this season, with only Nunn likely to return next year. All would be easily replaced by someone else who could provide more impactful minutes, especially on offense.

Will Moe Harkless and Avery Bradley ever actually play for the Miami Heat? It's the age-old question for concerned Heat fans: Do Avery Bradley and Moe Harkless actually exist, or was the Heat signing them just a dream? The two newcomers have combined to play in fewer than 20 games this season. Overall, there's been no impact from the pair brought in to replace Jae Crowder. They're invisible.

If either Bradley or Harkless shows up for the Heat in the second half of the season, it will be like a solid trade where the Heat loses nothing. Our money is on Bradley coming back from his calf injury and providing some usefulness. Harkless, not so much.

Will the Heat feast on a schedule filled with crappy opponents? The Heat had one of the toughest schedules in the NBA in the first half of the season while dealing with an absurd number of injuries. In the second half, Miami will have one of the easiest schedules while (one hopes) finally getting healthy. That seems like a recipe for success.

If the Heat can stay healthy, the schedule sets up for a nice second-half run into the playoffs. That's a big "if," but if you had to choose, you'd bet on the Heat having better injury luck over the next few months.

Will the Heat allow more fans to attend games before the season ends? We're living in an ever-changing time when normalcy seems to be creeping back into our lives as more people get vaccinated for COVID and the spike in numbers from winter trends down. Will that translate to a semi-full American Airlines Arena, come this summer?

The Heat currently allows 3,000 fans to attend games. It's realistic to believe that before the season ends, the team could move close to 50 percent capacity, or 6,000 to 7,000 fans. Anything more than that would be a bonus and signal that things are looking up for the remainder of 2021.

Will Udonis Haslem announce his retirement? It feels like this question has been asked for the past seven years. It probably feels that way because it's true. Udonis Haslem is a man who refuses to retire. His true career ended with the Big 3 and LeBron James' departure in 2014, but here we are in 2021 and U.D. is still pulling a jersey over his head.

Will Udonis announce this is it for him in the second half of the year? You'd think so, but you've been wrong every year thus far.

Will Bam Adebayo ever make good on his promise to be more aggressive? It seems like once a week Bam Adebayo is telling the media after a loss that he needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. Bam had eight shots in a loss to the Hawks last week, a game that Jimmy Butler missed. A max player can't take eight shots in a game. This is not 1993. Offense wins, defense helps.

Bam is one of the best defenders in the NBA. That's undeniable. For the Heat to be anything other than an average playoff team that goes home early, he needs to be special on the offensive end, too.

Is there a player the Heat can add via the buyout market? For a team like the Miami Heat that has no draft picks to trade and no desire to part with a young core piece for a "win now"-type addition, the buyout market makes a lot of sense. Andre Drummond and JJ Reddick come to mind, with Drummond filling a lot more needs in the way of much-needed rebounding.

The Heat badly needs a big man to take some of the pressure off Bam. If he can shoot, even better. The buyout market is the bargain-basement solution to this problem.

Is "JiM-VP" actually a thing? Could Jimmy Butler actually play himself into the Most Valuable Player conversation by season's end? Probably not, unless the Heat goes on some sort of legendary run in the second half. Should he already be considered? Yeah, probably. The Heat is terrible without him and one of the best teams in the East with him.

If Jimmy Butler can get even a few MVP votes, that means the Heat did something out of this world heading into the playoffs. 

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