January 29, 2015
Q: Why sign Tyler Johnson again, he surely is not the answer? -- Chet.
A: But he is a viable short-term alternative, at least having a familiarity at a time when the Heat need a ready-to-go option. Remember, just because you sign a 10-day contract doesn't mean you have to be retained for all 10 days, in case something better comes along. And the Heat can sign Johnson for the balance of the season at any point, whether it's after his second and final 10-day contract, or somewhere down the road. But I agree that Johnson is not the answer if Wade is going to miss a week or more this time, and then perhaps have other absences, as well. The fact that the Heat did not have a Plan B beyond Shannon Brown at the start of the season when it came to a veteran presence at reserve shooting guard is mystifying. There is still time to correct that miscalculation. But now is the time to get it done.
Q: Hi Ira, I know Pat Riley said he is just listening to offers, but would he really consider Lance Stephenson? There are rumors of a trade brewing. -- Brandon, West Palm Beach.
A: By now, it is clear the Lance simply is not a Steve Clifford type of player. But if a player doesn't work for Clifford, you have to wonder if he would work for the Heat. The issue is that Stephenson is either a small forward or shooting guard, with Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng already in place at those positions. So it would be curious to see how much the Heat would be willing to move in order to accommodate a player who could set up as no more than a reserve. All of that said, Lance, if right, can fill several Heat needs, including adding a defensive component to help compensate for Wade's shortcoming in that area.
Q: Any chance of Hornets doing Shabazz Napier for P.J. Hairston? -- Brian, Boca Raton.
A: Oh, I see what you did there, as if last June never happened. I'm not sure a rookie shooting guard would be the Heat's choice behind Wade. They've already had that with Andre Dawkins and now Johnson again.
January 28, 2015
Q: Why do you think Erik Spoelstra doesn't give James Ennis minutes? -- Scott.
A: First, it's not part of any plot, and when there are nights like Tuesday, when Luol Deng is out, there will be minutes. The reality is that Ennis is exactly what Pat Riley said after summer league, a prospect who needs plenty of seasoning and refinement. Tuesday Ennis' 19:23 translated to two points, no rebounds, no assists and five fouls. Last season in Australia did plenty for Ennis' confidence, but it didn't necessarily groom him for the challenges of the NBA. He simply does not have enough of a handle to play as a wing for extended minutes. The problem is that the Heat are so limited on the wing that if the trust remains this limited in Ennis, the Heat seemingly will have to look for another veteran that further could push Ennis down the rotation. For now, you wind up with games like Tuesday, when Danny Granger starts at small forward by default. It's almost incomprehensible that the Heat have such limited depth on the wing, with Mario Chalmers the best answer at shooting guard behind Dwyane Wade, and with little beyond Granger who has even a modicum of trust at backup small forward. The reality is that Scotty Hopson could possibly be better off for the Heat on a call-up from Sioux Falls, while D-League seasoning might be an answer for Ennis/
Q: How about Michael Beasley now as a backup to Luol Deng, now that we have a rim protector? -- Kyle.
A: This is where I'm supposed to make a joke and then blow this off like all the similar emails received over the past few months. And yet . . . there are times when Beasley's offense would have been welcomed amid Heat stretches playing below the 90s. For all the struggles that Michael had with the Heat's defensive schemes, it's difficult to believe that Granger has offered all that much more defensively when considering his mobility limitations. And you are right, that with Hassan Whiteside in place, there is finally someone in place to erase some of those nasty defensive lapses, even if there will be games like Tuesday, when Whiteside goes without a block.
Q: With Birdman missing so much time, why not bring up Khem Birch, then you would have rim protection at all times? -- Kenny.
A: Works for me, and it could be the Plan B if Chris Andersen is dealt by the Feb. 19 NBA trading deadline or if Andersen continues to deal with these back and elbow issues. For now, Birch is eligible to be signed by any NBA team, as an unaffiliated player with the Heat's NBA Development League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Wait too long on that, and there's a chance he could be gone elsewhere.
January 27, 2015
Q: Moving forward, even if he's not Anthony Davis, I'm convinced Hassan Whiteside will give the Heat what they need from the center position. With that said, point guard becomes the glaring position of need in the starting lineup. I wrote to you before the season that Mario Chalmers will be exposed with LeBron James not here. I hope Pat Riley goes all in this summer on unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic. Mike Conley is unrestricted in 2016, but I don’t think he'll leave Memphis if Marc Gasol stays. I'm hearing Houston may want Dragic back. The Lakers, too. Phoenix has Isaiah Thomas waiting in the wings to take his place. -- Rich, West Palm Beach.
A: The problem is the Heat will not have cap space this coming offseason, unless Luol Deng and/or Dwyane Wade opt out, with neither expected. So you're talking something closer to the midlevel than Dragic money. But what Riley will have to decide is whether a core of Chris Bosh, Whiteside, Deng and Wade is enough to just continue to add yearly mid-level pieces. Of course a trade is another possibility. Depending on how the balance of this season plays out, it could be curious to see how committed the Heat remain to Bosh going forward.
Q: I'd like to see James Ennis get more time to see what he's about. I'm afraid that I don't really see us as very good at developing young talent. The Shabazz Napier, Andre Dawkins, Tyler Johnson and Ennis looks haven't been encouraging. Shouldn't this be part of Erik Spoelstra reinventing himself? -- Michael, Oviedo.