MIAMI (AP) -In a dismal season for the Miami Heat, Chris Quinn finally is getting a chance to shine.
For most of his first 1 1/2 seasons with the Heat, Quinn's games were played around noon on the practice court upstairs in the team's home arena. Sometimes 2-on-2, maybe 3-on-3, no fans, no referees, no scoreboard.
The former Notre Dame guard's role was essentially a practice player for the Heat, someone called upon often to work out with teammates such as Dwyane Wade and Jason Williams, run drills with them, play defense against them and use his talents to get those guys ready for games.
``That's how it goes sometimes,'' Quinn said. ``The only thing I could control was how hard I worked and how hard I played. I just want to help our team win. If that means making J-Will or Dwyane better in practice or going upstairs for a couple hours to work them out when they're coming back from injury, that's great, if it helps the team win.''
Only this year, the Heat didn't win. They carry the league's worst record, 14-64, into Friday night's home game with Memphis.
But those struggles gave Quinn something he hadn't previously had in the NBA - a chance to play on a regular basis. He's in the Heat rotation for the first time in his career, and at times has been Miami's best player in the latter stages of this season.
Not bad for a 6-foot-2, 175-pound boyish-looking guy who wasn't exactly considered a can't-miss NBA prospect coming out of college.
``Quinny, of all the things that have gone wrong this year, he has gone absolutely right. Totally right in every aspect of the game,'' Heat coach Pat Riley said. ``He's probably the most professional player we have on our team. He just is. I don't care how young he is or if he doesn't play or does play or whatever, the most professional player we have on our team right now.''
Those words might wind up costing Riley and the Heat.
Quinn is making just under $700,000 this season. He will be a free agent this summer and will command more next year, especially after the way he's played in Miami's past 13 games.
Sure, the Heat are 3-10 in those contests.
But Quinn has shone through, averaging 15.1 points and 5.7 assists, with nearly a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that stretch. And numbers like those have shown the Heat - probably some other NBA teams as well - that he's at least a more-than-capable backcourt player.
``He's in a spot in free agency to have some demands,'' Riley said. ``I'm very interested in bringing a guy like Quinny back. Those are the guys you want to have around.''
To think Quinn's chance to put up these numbers almost never came.
When the Heat traded Shaquille O'Neal to Phoenix a few months ago, they got Shawn Marion and point guard Marcus Banks in return. But Banks has been injured for much of his Miami tenure so far and unable to play. So that, combined with Williams having some injury problems of his own, sent Quinn's name soaring up Miami's depth chart.
Otherwise, he might still be languishing toward the end of the Heat bench.
``I'm just getting an opportunity to go out there and compete,'' Quinn said. ``Obviously, it's not the best situation, not the situation we thought we'd be in at the beginning of the year. All we can do is go out there and play with pride and play as hard as we can.''

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