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Heat’s ball movement has team talking hockey assists

Nov 9, 2012, 8:41 AM EDT

Heat forward James looks to pass under pressure from Celtics forward Bass during their NBA basketball game in Miami Reuters

LeBron James gets the ball on the wing and drives, blowing past his man and toward the lane and quickly the rotations start and the defense collapses on him. LeBron draws the defense in then kicks it out to Dwyane Wade who quickly makes the extra pass to Ray Allen in the left corner. He drains the three.

Allen gets the points, Wade gets the assist and LeBron… nothing. In hockey he also gets an assist (there are two per goal) but as there are a handful of scoring plays a game is something the sport can track.

But the Heat, they are tracking it this year. They report LeBron had three in Monday night’s game and nine for the season so far, reports Tom Haberstroh at ESPN’s Heat Index.

If you have seen the Heat play this season, you have seen some quality ball movement. They are comfortable in their system now and are playing unselfishly. Coach Erik Spoelstra is analytics driven so he wants to keep tables on that movement.

“Very few players have an understanding what a hockey assist is,” Spoelstra said. “(LeBron) is able to read the

situation and make the hockey assist knowing that it’s going to take one or two passes for a wide open shot. He can make those calculations as fast as any player I’ve been around….”

Chris Bosh only has seven regular assists this season, but he has more hockey assists (four) than any of his teammates not named LeBron James. That’s part of a big man’s job, to kick out to shooters and restart the offense if there’s nothing there in the post.

The biggest recipient of hockey assists? That would be Allen, who has made six shots via the extra pass, all of which are three-pointers.

You know what your dad called the hockey assist? Good basketball. It’s not new, we just saw a lot less of it when the game drifted toward more isolation plays. Now that pendulum has started to really swing the other way.

Miami is not the only team tracking this stat internally, they just seem to have more of it to track than other teams. And the internal recognition that comes with it makes players even more likely to make that pass.

Just watch a Heat game and you’ll see what I mean.

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