Jarvis Varnado wants to show Heat more than defense
JUL 09, 2013 9:20p ET
The 6-foot-10 Varnado, who is the NCAA's all-time leader in blocked shots, recorded nine rejections in the Heat's first two Orlando Pro Summer League games. But on Tuesday, he turned in an usual linescore for him -- 16 points with only two rebounds and no blocks -- in a wire-to-wire 94-80 win over the Orlando Magic.
"I still need to go out and block a shot at least once,” he said. "But I've just been working on my offense and taking it one day at a time. I didn't get off to a good start on the offensive end the first two games. This game, I just slowed down, being patient, taking what the defense gave me.”
On the Heat's first possession, the Magic gave Varnado a wide-open look from the elbow and he capitalized on it. Aside from that, the bulk of his offense came near the rim. Varnado, who never got to the free-throw line once in eight games in limited action with the Heat this past season, attempted a team-high 12 foul shots against a Magic team that started four players from their 2012-13 roster and first-round draft pick Victor Oladipo.
In the third quarter, Varnado emphatically challenged a driving Oladipo at the rim and was whistled for a foul, much to the disbelief of the Heat's bench. He got the best of Oladipo late in the second quarter when he was part of a double-team that forced the Magic into their 15th turnover of the half and led to a layup at the other end.
"Guys are doing a great job for the little time we've had to practice together,” Varnado said. "It's defense first, first of all. And our defense leads to our offense.”
"We've got a really athletic, fast group that's long,” Heat assistant coach Dan Craig said. "And that's kind of who they are. So we've been talking about getting after things defensively.”
The Heat, who drafted Varnado in the second round in 2010, are trying to determine whether he has improved enough to where they might use the amnesty clause on Joel Anthony, their onetime starting center who barely got off the bench during their second championship run. Anthony has two years left on his contract and is due $3.8 million each of those seasons.
Varnado played in Italy and Israel before signing with the Heat last September. His shot-blocking was never a question -- at Mississippi State, he broke Shaquille O'Neal's Southeastern Conference record for most blocks in a career. Even when swats are few and far between, he can impact a game with his energy, as the Magic saw first-hand.
"We just haven't seen that type of pressure all training camp. We don't see it a whole lot in the regular season either,” Magic assistant coach James Borrego said. "Most teams don't play that aggressively. So give them credit. They had us on our heels, and it was impressive.”
James Ennis, the 50th overall pick, had 17 points by halftime for the Heat, who won all four quarters and therefore earned seven points using the system in effect for the league. Craig went deep into his bench, using 12 of a possible 15 players despite not playing undrafted free-agent guard Myck Kabongo at all.
Despite sporting a relative no-name roster, the Heat are tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder through the first three days with 14 points. The league will conclude Friday after all 10 teams are seeded according to strength.
Oladipo (22 points) and second-round selection Romero Osby (11 points) were the only members of the Magic to finish in double figures. Doron Lamb, who had been shooting the ball well in the Magic's previous two games, hurt his left knee in the third quarter and did not return. He limped to the locker room without assistance.
You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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