Amar'e Stoudemire played a key role in recruiting Joe Johnson to the Miami Heat

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Since the All-Star break back in February, the Miami Heat have been one of the form teams in the entire NBA.

Now placed fourth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 43-30, many thought the Florida franchise would fall away in the same fashion as last season when Chris Bosh was also struck down with health concerns.

This year, however, that hasn't been the case. Erik Spoelstra's troops have gone 14-6 since the All-Star weekend and have managed to defy the notions they cannot thrive without either Bosh or other resident superstar Dwyane Wade.

In both of the duo's absence, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Hassan Whiteside and new boy Joe Johnson have all stepped their game up and made Miami a slicker and faster unit.

The acquisition of Johnson at small forward while Bosh has been on the shelf has undoubtedly helped the Heat's cause to no ends.

The current starting center for the former back-to-back NBA Champions, Amar'e Stoudemire, used to play with Johnson at the Phoenix Suns some eleven years ago.

The friendship the two multiple-time All-Stars built back then helped Johnson to spurn the advances of LeBron James and Cleveland to head to South Beach.

"Joe and I have always been good friends. We lost communication briefly over the years, him in Brooklyn and me in New York, but we always kept a solid rapport," Stoudemire said.

"When I heard we had the chance to get him, I immediately reached out. Saying this organisation is great, I'd love to play with him again; I'm sure it was a tough decision for him at one point. But I'm glad he made the right decision."

Stoudemire himself has played a bigger part in the franchise's surging fortunes than many would have thought.

The former New York Knicks superstar is currently starting ahead of emerging Defensive Player of the Year candidate Hassan Whiteside, but the 33-year-old told Michael Wallace, of ESPN, he's happy to lend his experience to a talented group.

"I didn't know what to expect. I knew we had a chance to compete in the playoffs, but this season has been kind of up and down for us. Now we've been able to build a good rapport, and my role has become the starting center. I just bring that experience, and it's panned out well for me."

The current role is clearly working for Whiteside. The 26-year-old, who was only playing D-League basketball two-years-ago, is currently leading the league in blocks and registered a career-high 27 points in Monday's win over the Brooklyn Nets, who Johnson used to suit up for.

It seems everybody is on the right page in Miami.

Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
Dwyane Wade
Amar'e Stoudemire
Chris Bosh

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