Heat's lineup change has Walker, Payton on bench
MIAMI -- Searching for a spark, Pat Riley has shaken up the Miami Heat's starting lineup.
Antoine Walker and Gary Payton were both on the bench to start the Heat's game against the Orlando Magic on Friday night, getting replaced by Dorell Wright and Jason Kapono -- who've combined to make four starts in their first 95 games in Heat uniforms.
Walker has had a dismal start to the season, with his scoring (10.6), rebounds (4.1), field-goal shooting (.380), free-throw shooting (.357) and 3-point shooting (.238) all putting him on pace for career lows.
Payton has also struggled, averaging a mere 7.7 points and 2.6 assists on 34.6 percent shooting in the first 11 games. The defending NBA champions got off to a 4-7 start, albeit playing most games without starting center Shaquille O'Neal and starting point guard Jason Williams.
"I don't like change. I've never liked it," Riley said. "I've made a lot of trades here, but once I put a team together, I really hate change. I like to have a rotation that you can depend on every night, especially a starting rotation that hits the floor every night. That isn't the case for us this year because of the injuries and everything. And what I've put out there is just not acceptable as a unit."
With Payton out, Dwyane Wade started at point guard for the Heat, with Kapono at shooting guard and Wright at small forward. Udonis Haslem was in his customary spot at power forward, and Alonzo Mourning remained at center.
Already this season, Miami has lost five games by at least 15 points -- most recently Wednesday night, a 20-point loss at San Antonio. After that game, Riley said the Heat's effort went from "disgusting to discouraging to despicable," and many players agreed.
As such, a lineup change wasn't totally unexpected.
"Sometimes you have to go in another direction for a while," Riley said.
The Heat were without O'Neal (knee surgery), James Posey (sore calf) and Williams (recovering from knee surgery). Riley said Williams will play Saturday when the Heat are at Charlotte.
"He wanted to play tonight. I want him for tomorrow," Riley said. "I don't think I'll be able to play him on back-to-backs, so thinking that we're at home and maybe if we showed some passion and some energy we might be able to win and have him for tomorrow night on the road. At least, that's my thinking."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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