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Ex-Heat trio still feeling estranged in L.A.

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by Val, Dec 24, 2004.

  1. Val

    Val Member

    Dec 4, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Discuss. Sad story.


    Ex-Heat trio still feeling estranged in L.A.
    By Karen Crouse

    Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

    Saturday, December 25, 2004

    LOS ANGELES — The star center? Gone. The larger-than-life coach? Gone. Why, the Heat last season had enough subplots for a nighttime soap.

    The team that Alonzo Mourning abandoned for New Jersey and Pat Riley turned over to Stan Van Gundy didn't founder like a hackneyed script. There was too much character — and closeness — in the locker room to let egos and hard times divide them.

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    The players overcame an 0-7 start to qualify for the post-season as the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed. They banded together like brothers.

    In the end, there may have been teams that were flat-out better than the Heat, who lost in the second round to Indiana. But none was as close-knit.

    Brian Grant, who has played for four organizations in his 11 years in the NBA, said the camaraderie on the 2003-04 Heat was above and beyond what he has known on other teams he has graced.

    You know you're on a team tighter than most families when a trade feels like a divorce. On July 14, the Heat sent Caron Butler, Brian Grant and Lamar Odom to the Lakers for Shaquille O'Neal. Two days later, when Butler, Grant and Odom were introduced to the L.A. media, their public faces could not mask their private devastation.

    Five months later, the trade remains a sensitive subject for the trio. It's nothing against their new teammates in L.A., but Butler, Grant and Odom miss their former family.

    "We bled together last year," Grant said. "There was nothing fake about our camaraderie. I've never been on a team like that. That was why it was so painful to be traded."

    Odom was so distraught, it was a few weeks before he was able to return the call of Riley, who had worked out the deal with the Lakers' Mitch Kupchak. The 6-foot-10 forward had flourished in Miami, finding happiness in Riley's structure and Van Gundy's discipline.

    He has had a rough start here, trying to meld his game with Kobe Bryant's. He wouldn't be human if he didn't look across the court today, when the Lakers and Heat meet for the first time since the trade, with a little longing.

    "It makes it harder," Odom said. "Those are still my friends. It takes time (to let go of their shared past)."

    Odom said he tapes the Heat games and watches them with interest. The bonds forged last season are strong enough to withstand time or distance. "The beautiful thing about that," Odom said, "is 20 years from now, when we're not playing any more, guys like myself and Eddie Jones and Brian Grant and Udonis Haslem and Rasual Butler will be close. There's no doubt in my mind we'll still be in touch."

    If Bryant and O'Neal had been half as tight, Odom, Butler and Grant wouldn't be having a blue Christmas. The inability of the two superstars to merrily co-exist changed the composition of the Heat, the Lakers and the league.

    It also gave hawkers, one and all, one heckuva Christmas Day matchup to peddle. "I don't think I've ever seen so much hype built up for one game," Grant said. "I'm almost sick of it. I haven't even heard nothing of the fact that me and Lamar and Caron got traded, too."

    Butler will really be as good as invisible. He was suspended from today's game by the league for taking a swing at New Orleans guard Dan Dickau Wednesday in the heat of battle.

    Will O'Neal and Bryant come out swinging? Plenty of people can't wait for the so-called Corvette to hit the concrete wall. Grant happens not to be one of them.

    "My whole thing on (the showdown in L.A. town) is I don't care because I wasn't there," Grant said. "For whatever reason, they couldn't stay together. I had nothing to do with it."

    Last year's Heat squad wasn't all sweetness and delight. Players grumbled about their minutes and clamored for more shots. Unlike in Lakerland, the Miami players kept disappointment from deepening into dissension. "Any negativity that came up, we handled it," Grant said. "Anything internal, we kept it in the room."

    Today's game is one more trial for Butler, Grant and Odom to endure. They'll get through it the usual way. Together.
  2. Val

    Val Member

    Dec 4, 2002
    Likes Received:
    To clarify, I meant sad state of affairs in LA, plus a sad story as well:)
  3. Charvo

    Charvo Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Lakers have an above .500 record. The Heat struggled stay above .500 at this point last year.

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