August 26, 2014
A: In the absence of a rim protector other than Chris Andersen, it is going to have to be everyone. But it has to start with Dwyane Wade for several reasons, foremost setting an example. Look, we all were exposed to that YouTube breakdown of Dwyane's defense in the NBA Finals, and, fair or not, it left an enduring impression. What would change that perception, and what would motivate from his position as team co-captain, would be leadership by example on that end of the court. Yes, Luol Deng is more of a defensive stopper. Yes, Chris Bosh is asked to cover more ground than any player in the Heat defensive system. But a Dwyane Wade who is recommitted to defense could be a game-changer.
Q: How does LeBron James come out smelling like roses in all this? Here is a guy who just ditched two good buddies (maybe one a real close friend) and who he had been to four NBA Finals with and has set this franchise back by playing defense on them during free agency, someone who left to be with a younger version (but maybe not better version, time will tell) of what he had here. How is his lack of loyalty and commitment to teammates, fans, organization not get called out here and how is it that he just does not give an [expletive]? Hope one day he gets what he deserves for what he has done to fans in Cleveland (2010) and Miami as a whole. Not wishing the guy nothing ill or stupid like that, but he has had it so easy in the NBA, getting his way always. I now can't stand the guy and dislike him a lot! -- Julio.
A: I know this won't placate you at all, but the reality is the NBA is a league where the mega stars have all the power, be it what LeBron did in 2010 or this summer, what Shaquille O'Neal did when he left the Magic or Lakers, or even what Dwight Howard did when he left the Magic and Lakers, as well. And, even before that, it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who forced his way out of Milwaukee. It's just the reality in a sport when only five play at a time, and where a single player can change the balance of power. But, again, as I have been stressing in this space for weeks now, also take time to appreciate the past four years, and how this team won't plunge to nearly the same depths that the Cavaliers subjected their fans after LeBron's 2010 decision.
Q: Now that General Manager LeBron James basically traded Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, do you think Wade and Bosh will be extra motivated this season, considering they had a lot to do with (more than fans probably know and realize) LeBron James finally becoming a champion? -- Stuart.
A: The thing is, while you might see it that way, I'm not sure Wade and Bosh do. I think they just saw it as someone moving as part of the NBA's evolution, that's all.
August 25, 2014
Q: Why could the Heat not have signed LeBron James and traded him to Cleveland for some future first-round picks, as Cleveland received from Miami four years ago? Was their some type of rule that prevented this, or did the Heat miss out on an opportunity due to egos or hard feelings? -- Brian,
A: OK, because this has become an issue again with the Heat's 2015 lottery-protected pick being part of the Cavaliers-Timberwolves-76ers trade this weekend, I'll again attempt to clarify the various aspects. The primary reason the Heat made the LeBron and Chris Bosh sign-and-trade deals in 2010 was to be able to offer higher raises to the two in their initial Heat contracts, therefore getting them to leave a bit more on the table initially, to allow Pat Riley to round out that 2010-11 roster. It also allowed the Heat to sign James and Bosh to six-year contacts, affording the players security in case of injury. Because LeBron only wanted a two-year deal from the Cavaliers, with a player option after the first year, the issue of raises and years never was a factor. So there was absolutely no incentive for the Cavaliers to turn it into a sign-and-trade. Plus, LeBron didn't force the issue, since it was an extra first-round pick that helped seal the acquisition of Kevin Love. Rule 1 of all transactions involving LeBron: What LeBron wants, LeBron gets.
Q: I know hindsight always has perfect vision, but if the Big 3 were going to get player options after four years, what exactly was the point of trading two first round picks to Cleveland? -- Kevin, Sunrise.
A: Because those deals were negotiated before the latest collective-bargaining agreement, without knowing when the new agreement could be re-opened and what the new work rules were going to be like. So basically LeBron, Bosh and Dwyane Wade covered themselves for any eventuality. And let's be realistic, who could have possibly fathomed that a player would walk away from a team that has appeared in four consecutive NBA Finals? That's what still tends to get somewhat overlooked: The Heat got LeBron exactly where he wanted to go, with the contract terms he insisted upon. Lament the picks dealt to Toronto and Cleveland if you must, but would you rather have had those picks or championship parades in 2012 and '13, as well as playing in the final game of the NBA season the past four years?
Q: So when it is all said and done, who will have had the better Big Three: Miami's previous trio of LeBron, Wade and Bosh, or Cleveland's current grouping of LeBron, Love and Kyrie Irving? -- Stuart.
A: I'll reserve judgment to first see how Love and Kyrie produce in their first trips to the playoffs, as well as whether Love and Irving are willing/able to put in playoff-level defensive performances. Just as Kobe Bryant tends to talk about when it comes to championships, we'll get back to you after LeBron-Love-Irving win their second NBA title.
August 24, 2014
Q: Does it concern you how sometimes Erik Spoelstra doesn't play his entire hand? I would really like to see some of the younger guys play (i.e., Shabazz Napier and James Ennis), but sometimes Spo's minute distribution is a little tight. And from the little I know about player development, I think I can say that younger players need to actually get time on the court to develop. Do you see this changing any time soon? -- Bryan, Mountain View, Calif.