Shawn Marion hasn't disappointed in his first two games as a member of the Miami Heat. His new team's disastrous season, however, has shown no signs of turning around.
The Heat try to avoid a ninth straight loss and win for just the second time in 25 games on Thursday when they visit the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls.
Miami (9-41) seems to be on its way to challenging the inaugural 1988-89 Heat team for the worst record in club history. That squad went 15-67, and this season's team is on pace for 15 victories as well.
Last week's trade that sent Shaquille O'Neal to Phoenix for Marion and Marcus Banks was expected to inject some life into the organization, and the team has been competitive in both games since the deal was made.
But the losses haven't stopped. Marion has averaged 19.0 points and 16.0 rebounds in his first two games in South Florida, but the Heat fell 104-94 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday and lost 114-113 in overtime to Denver on Tuesday.
Still, the team's newest member - who went from the best team in the West to the worst team in the league - noticed some positive signs.
"I saw a lot of good things out there for this team," Marion said. "I think we are trying to get a new start right now. You can see the energy this team is playing with."
Marion, who was born 40 miles north of Chicago, is averaging 18.3 points and 10.4 rebounds in his career against the Bulls (20-31).
Dwyane Wade has seemed revitalized by the addition of Marion. After a five-game stretch in which he averaged just 16.6 points on 37.7 percent shooting, Wade has scored 24.0 and dished out 9.5 assists in his last two contests.
Wade is averaging 13.4 points and 6.4 assists in eight career games in his hometown of Chicago.
"I know it's been a tough year," Wade said. "But it won't last forever."
The Bulls were expected by many to challenge for the top spot in the Central Division. Instead, they find themselves approaching the All-Star break out of the playoff picture.
Injuries have been a factor in Chicago's struggles lately, as the team has lost consecutive games and seven of its past 10.
The Bulls' three leading scorers have missed time recently. Ben Gordon has missed nine of the past 11 games with a sprained wrist, Luol Deng has sat out the past 11 with a sore Achilles' tendon, and Kirk Hinrich missed three with sprained ribs.
Gordon and Deng are expected to be out until after the All-Star game, while center Ben Wallace will also miss this game due to a death in his family.
Hinrich returned Tuesday against New Orleans, scoring 15 points in 25 minutes, but it wasn't enough to help the Bulls avoid another loss. Chicago struggled offensively after halftime, and a seven-point lead entering the third quarter turned into a 100-86 defeat.
"We played well in the first half with good energy and our execution was good," coach Jim Boylan said. "In the second half we seemed to be in mud a little bit."
Andres Nocioni has stepped up with the team's leading scorers out. He's averaged 17.4 points in his last five games, hitting 13-of-26 from 3-point range.
Chicago defeated Miami 126-96 on Jan. 16 in the teams' only meeting this season. The Bulls have beaten the Heat nine of 10 times overall, including last season's four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs.
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