MIAMI – The preseason is finally over and the game are for real.
The Heat open the season Wednesday in Orlando and return for the home opener Friday against Charlotte. Miami plays its second home game Sunday against San Antonio.
Now that the roster is set we still have a few things to keep an eye on.
Here are three things to watch this week:
Who will be in the starting lineup: Three spots are known, Goran Dragic at the point, Justise Winslow and small forward and Hassan Whiteside at center. But coach Erik Spoelstra has kept us guessing on the other two spots. If you go by the consensus lineups from the preseason then Derrick Williams and Dion Waiters will be in that first group. But the option remains for Luke Babbitt to start at power forward and Tyler Johnson or even Wayne Ellington to slip into the two guard. But the guess here is Williams and Waiters will start for now, at least until Josh Richardson returns and gives Spoelstra another option at shooting guard.
A more up-tempo, fast-paced offense. We have anticipated this all summer since Dwayne Wade took his talents to the Windy City and Chris Bosh’s Heat career ended. And now we saw how it looks with this group during the preseason. The Heat averaged 104.5 points in eight preseason games, 4 ½ points more than their 2015-16 regular season average. Miami is much more athletic and the up-tempo game suites its style. The biggest difference will be at power forward with the versatile Williams and James Johnson. Richardson and Tyler Johnson bring more athleticism to the guard rotation.
The start of the Hassan Whiteside Era: The highest paid player on the team (not including Bosh) suddenly is the face of the franchise with Wade gone and Bosh not playing. Whiteside has some very impressive moments in the preseason, like scoring 16 points in the first quarter of the first preseason game against Washington and shooting 70 percent (30 of-43) and averaging 17.5 points and 12 rebounds in the first four preseason games. Whiteside had a tough week last week with the death of his great grandmother. Now is when he starts earning his $98 million.