MIAMI - By the time it was over, Heat assistant coach Keith Askins slammed his protective pads to the ground and released a powerful sigh that was part relief, part cry for mercy.
"That's it for me, man," Askins shouted Monday afternoon, drenched in sweat. "I'm done. Whew."
Askins, a wiry 6-foot-7 and not much more than 210 pounds, had just gone to battle in the post with massive Heat center Eddy Curry and forward Udonis Haslem during a post-practice workout. Even with the extra padding, Askins was outweighed by about 100 pounds when he leaned against Curry. This was the "cool-down" period of the practice for Curry, who had just completed his most extensive work of the season as he looks to finally make his Heat debut, possibly during this stretch in which Miami plays eight of its next nine games at home.
Curry, a 10-year veteran trying to work his way back into NBA shape, has come a long way since he signed with the Heat on a make-good contract on the first day of training camp last month.
Challenged by team president Pat Riley to get in the vicinity of 300 pounds, Curry responded by dropping more than 70 pounds in the past 18 months, including about 30 since last fall. He's close to meeting the team's conditioning standards, but probably not close enough to be activated for Tuesday's game against the Spurs.
On Monday, coach Erik Spoelstra offered his strongest endorsement of Curry so far this season, when he thought long and hard before he responded to a question about whether Curry might finally get a chance to play at some point this week.
Curry then addressed his standing with the team as he awaits a chance to get on the court with the Heat.
(Where do you stand after going through your first extensive workout on Monday since the start of training camp?)
Curry: "I feel like I'm close. I just did everything hard. I just tried to compete on every single play, and that showed."
(Over the next few games, the Heat face big teams that feature Tim Duncan, Andrew Bynum, Spencer Hawes, Andrew Bogut and others. Do you look at that and say, 'Hey, get me in there. I can bang with those guys'?)
Curry: "Definitely. I mean, I'm glad that (Dexter) Pittman got out there (against Denver). I hope one of us can get out there and show what we can do. But yeah, I kind of look at every game like that, whether I'm suiting up or not. Just how I can match up and how I think I can help this team."
(Being this close to finally getting the go-ahead to play from the coaching staff, how tough is it to stand on the cusp but still not quite be over the hump?)
Curry: "It's tough because I want to play. But it's not tough because (Spoelstra) communicates with me. He lets me know I'm close. He lets me know to keep working hard. That's all I can really do."
(How close do you feel you are to playing? In all honesty?)
Curry: "I feel like I'm close. Me, personally, I'll say I'm there. But, you know, we'll see what happens. You know, it's all in (Spoelstra's) hands. When he calls me and lets me know that it's that time, then I'm right there, ready to lace them up."