Development program on hold for Heat

    It used to be that this is where prospects were unearthed, careers salvaged.

    Bruce Bowen. Udonis Haslem. Anthony Carter. Joel Anthony.

    For years, it had been an immense source of pride for Pat Riley and those on his Miami Heat staff.

    Heck, even Malik Allen, Mike James and Chris Quinn.

    But now? Now it's down to Jarvis Varnado on a 10-day contract and Dexter Pittman trying to find his game in the NBA Development League.

    Clearly, times have changed. There can be only so much patience during a championship defense for the likes of a Terrel Harris, with that two-season experiment severed a week ago.

    In fact, in recent months the Heat have moved past the likes of Mickell Gladness, Robert Dozier and even the reclamation project that was Eddy Curry.

    While this has to be a team living in the moment, this also is a team facing such an onerous luxury tax down the road that there certainly is something to be said about developing cheap labor. It is why the first-round pick due from the Philadelphia 76ers (provided they make the playoffs) could prove particularly significant (the Heat's own first-rounder is due to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the LeBron James sign-and-trade).

   Of course, nothing is guaranteed with unknown prospects, with Tang Hamilton, Harold Jamison and Jamal Robinson evidence of that during Riley's stewardship, which is why a James Jones finds his roster spot secure.

   Ultimately, it all comes down to timing.

   And that, Haslem and Anthony said this past week, has them recognizing how fortunate they were to not only be in the right place as prospects, but also at the right time, Haslem arriving after the Heat's 25-57 2002-03 season and Anthony after the first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Chicago Bulls in 2007.

    "Timing has a lot to do with it," Haslem said. "Being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it. But you also have to take advantage of your opportunity. Terrel did the best job he could, and sometimes the way this business is, it just ends up like that."

    Anthony is among the first to acknowledge that a player with his lack of polish likely never would have been granted an opportunity with the championship mix of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

    "A lot of this league is about timing, when you come around," he said. "Down the line, it depends on when you get to a certain team, if it's the right team, if it's the right time. There's so many small variables that can change the outcome of what happens with you in this league. So yeah, I'm definitely fortunate with how things have worked out with me."

   To a degree, Gladness was Anthony at the wrong time.

   "When I came here at first, we won 15 games, so there was definitely a rebuilding mode, if anything," Anthony said of the 15-67 2007-08 season. "Those are usually the best times for a young player to get an opportunity to play. That's what really happened for me.

    "Obviously, now it's a little different, with having a more established team with so many veterans and playing with a team at the top of the league. It's tougher to develop those guys."

   That has had Haslem see, well, a bunch of Haslems come and go without the opportunity for the extended look he received, perhaps as will be the case with Varnado at the end of his 10-day run, when more of a veteran presence, perhaps along the lines of a Chris Andersen, might be considered.

    "I think this group of guys is about now," Haslem said. "This is not an experimental process or anything like that. We definitely have to win now, so if we need some pieces that require veteran guys, they're not going to hesitate to bring those guys in."

IN THE LANE

     FRESH PRINCE: While the Heat now have King James, there once was a point when they had Prince James. That's what Mike James was known as in the Heat locker room, because of his over-the-top confidence. Now Mike James' confidence has arrived in the Dallas Mavericks' locker room, and Dirk Nowitzki said that might not be a bad thing for the point guard-starved, downtrodden team. "What I liked about him back then, he's got a swag about him," Nowitzki told the Star-Telegram of the 37-year-old veteran of 11 teams. "He's a real confident guy and he likes to take big shots. He's got this little aura about him that nothing really fazes him. I guess that's something we need right now."

   FEEL GOOD: Another feel-good story is former Heat draft prospect Patrick Beverley landing with the Houston Rockets, after bouncing around with overseas teams in recent years, most recently Spartak St. Petersburg in Russia. "I'm just trying to get used to everything," he told the Houston Chronicle. "I haven't had American food in six months. It's different looking at a TV. Everybody speaks English. I understand what people are saying walking down the street."

     BAD, WORSE: Michael Beasley not only has fallen out of the Phoenix Suns' rotation, but the former Heat first-round pick has the league's worst plus-minus rating of any player not on the Washington Wizards or Charlotte Bobcats. Of former Heat coach Alvin Gentry, his coach in Phoenix, Beasley told the Arizona Republic, "I don't really know what's going on inside that man's head, not saying that as a bad thing." OK, then.

    GOING GONE: Because his career seemingly was built on tormenting the Heat, perhaps it's not surprising the Scott Skiles' resignation as Milwaukee Bucks coach came in the wake of a victory over the Heat. "Considering a week ago we were 16-12 and beat Miami, you probably wouldn't have guessed this would happen a week later," guard Mike Dunleavy Jr. told the Journal-Sentinel. "But this is the NBA and oftentimes changes are made."

    WHAT WIN?: The beauty of Tom Thibodeau? It's as if the Chicago Bulls' convincing victory a week ago over the Heat never happened. "You have to understand why you win and why you lose, and you also have to look at circumstances," the Bulls coach said. "You don't get anything extra for winning a game against a certain team. They all count the same."

    ADDED PIECE: To a degree, the Bulls' acquisition, at least from this perspective, of Daequan Cook was surprising when Chicago native Quentin Richardson, another former Heat player and a defensive option against LeBron James, also was available. But to Thibodeau, the move made sense. "He's a pretty good team defender," Thibodeau said. "He can still improve with his individual defense. We'll see where he is once he gets going." Cook's playing time could come down to the rehab schedule of Derrick Rose and whether Rip Hamilton is shopped in a tax-saving move.

 NUMBER

   2. Former Heat players on 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame ballot (Tim Hardaway, who previously was on the ballot, and Gary Payton, a first-time nominee).

    iwinderman@tribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat.

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