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With hard work, Joel Anthony finds a home in Heat of things
Updated 10/12/2010 1:46 AM ET
MIAMI — If players such as guard Kenny Hasbrouck — an undrafted rookie and a long shot to make the Miami Heat's 15-man roster — or center Mickell Gladness, whom Miami waived Monday, are looking for motivation and inspiration, they can look at the team's potential starting center.

Joel (pronounced Joe-elle) Anthony's route to the NBA is unusual, from high school in Montreal to junior college in Pensacola, Fla., from UNLV to undrafted rookie to multiyear deal with Miami.

"He's as hard a worker as we've had come through our doors, and he's a guy we all root for," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We want him to do well, because he's put in the time and he deserves it."

The Heat rewarded Anthony, 28, for his hard work and production by signing him in July to a five-year, $18 million contract. He averaged 2.7 points last season, but he makes his money on the defensive end.

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"I knew there were guys out there with a lot more talent than me," said Anthony, an outstanding shot-blocker. "I knew I was going to have to fight my way up. It's just been a lot of hard work. But it's been fun."

At 6-9, Anthony is undersized for a center, but he makes up for that with jumping ability, speed and strength.

He averaged 1.36 blocked shots in 16.5 minutes a game last season. He was 24th in the league in blocks, and only one player with fewer minutes per game ranked higher. He was also fourth in blocks per 48 minutes among those who played in more than 21 games.

Among centers on the roster, Anthony is the best shot-blocker. Zydrunas Ilgauskas no longer blocks shots as he once did, Jamaal Magloire's blocks have been in decline since 2007-08 and Dexter Pittman is a rookie.

Anthony "can really change a game and save possessions with his ability to protect the rim," Spoelstra said.

Anthony, who played for Canada in this year's FIBA World Championships, went undrafted in 2007 but latched on to the Heat's summer league team that year and earned a roster spot. He played 24 games in 2007-08, 65 in 2008-09 and 80, with 16 starts, last season.

Anthony cites hard work, but Spoelstra said it was more that keeps him in the Heat rotation.

"You can work your butt off, and if you don't provide something to help the team win, you're not going to play," Spoelstra said. "Joel has a great knack and timing for shot-blocking. We haven't taught him how to do that."

Take your pick:  By no means is Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy abandoning his effective pick-and-roll offense and three-point game. But this season, he wants to run more post-up plays and offensive sets through a big man —Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, maybe Ryan Anderson — at the elbow.

Van Gundy said the team needed to do better at developing plays with the idea of getting "better shots against the best teams in the biggest games of the year at playoff time."

The Magic shot 47% during the regular season but 41% against the Boston Celtics. It was the same trend in the playoffs. Orlando shot 46.3% overall, 41.6% against the Celtics in losing to them in the Eastern Conference finals.

During that series, Van Gundy often lamented that his players were not making the extra pass. He is hoping this move addresses some of the offensive woes.

Around the hardwood: Cleveland Cavaliers radio announcer Joe Tait, the 2010 Basketball Hall of Fame Curt Gowdy award winner in the electronic division, was hospitalized for pneumonia Sunday after the team's win at the Houston Rockets. He is listed in stable condition. ... It's about that time when teams start making cuts. Gone from the Heat on Monday was forward Anthony Mason Jr., son of the 13-year NBA forward. The Phoenix Suns waived 11-year guard Chucky Atkins. ... Tweet of the day, by San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili about teammate Tim Duncan— "Easier to get an elephant to the moon than getting TD to tweet."

Posted 10/11/2010 9:42 PM ET
Updated 10/12/2010 1:46 AM ET
Joel Anthony signed a five-year contract with the Heat in July worth $18 million. He averaged just 2.7 points in 16.5 minutes a game last season, but he makes his biggest impact on the defensive end of the court.
By Ned Dishman, NBAE/Getty Images
Joel Anthony signed a five-year contract with the Heat in July worth $18 million. He averaged just 2.7 points in 16.5 minutes a game last season, but he makes his biggest impact on the defensive end of the court.