2002-03: Caron Butler Makes an Impression
On June 26, 2002 the HEAT selected University of Connecticut forward Caron Butler with the 10th pick of the 2002 NBA Draft and LaSalle University forward Rasual Butler with the 53rd pick of the 2002 NBA Draft. Caron and Rasual impress during summer league play and are both signed by August 15th.
Due to a drop in in his body chemistry levels, the HEAT announce center Alonzo Mourning will be out indefinitely starting September 12, 2003. The Miami HEAT would miss the center mightily, as the team struggled to a 25-57 season without their veteran leader. Alonzo Mourning would miss the entire 2002-03 season. Despite losses, since Pat Riley took the reigns of the HEAT organization in September of 1995 the HEAT produced the eighth best record in the NBA over that eight-year period and the third best mark in the Eastern Conference.
The HEAT had other bright spots as well. Caron and Rasual Butler were rookie standouts through 82 games. Caron (78 gms) made the biggest splash by leading all rookies in minutes played, scoring and steals. As a result of his outstanding play through the first four months of the season, Caron was named the got milk? Rookie of the Month for November, January, February and March. With his torrid scoring pace during the month of March, Caron Butler recorded the highest scoring average of any rookie during the 2002-03 season with his 20.1 points per game average. He scored 321 points with nine games of 20 or more points and scored in double-figures with at least 11 points in all 16 games he played in for the month. Caron quickly made his mark on the Top 5 of the all-time HEAT rookie list in free-throw percentage (1st), steals (2nd), free-throws made (1st), free-throw attempts (2nd), minutes (1st) and offensive rebounds (3rd ). He moved into first place on the all-time HEAT rookie-scoring list after his 19-point effort on versus Washington on April 11.
Brian Grant stood out on the team, continuing his effective play by scoring and rebounding. Grant recorded 31 double-doubles on the season. His last one of the season came, when he pulled down 10 rebounds and scored 16 points versus Toronto on April 8, 2003. On March 8th versus the Denver Nuggets HEAT center Brian Grant recorded his 26th double-double of the season after scoring 16 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. That double-double marked the first time in his career, that he recorded six consecutive double-doubles and the third time during the 2002-03 season, that he recorded at least five consecutive double-doubles. He recorded 79 double-doubles with the franchise and 152 over his NBA career. Grant climbed to fourth all-time on the Miami’s double-doubles list, 19 behind Grant Long for third place who recorded 97 total. He also recorded 46 double-figure rebounding games.
HEAT head coach Pat Riley recorded his 1,100th career victory on Jan. 22, 2003 versus the Phoenix Suns. He recorded his first win on Nov. 20, 1981 after his then Lakers team defeated the San Antonio Spurs 136-116 in Los Angeles. He recorded his 500th win at Indiana on Jan. 24, 1990, 120-111 and his 1,000th win versus Orlando on Nov. 2, 2000.