October 25, 2014
Q: Ira, set the Heat's rotation for us. -- Steve, Plantation.
A: First, I've long held that there never truly is a "rotation" in the NBA because injuries and foul trouble automatically juggle any preset alignment. Plus, it doesn't matter what I set, it's what Erik Spoelstra chooses. Based on the current status of the roster, which includes Josh McRoberts' questionable status for Wednesday's season opener, I think, in Spoelstra's view, it sets up as Chris Bosh starting at center, Shawne Williams starting at power forward, Luol Deng starting at small forward, Dwyane Wade starting at shooting guard and Norris Cole starting at point guard. From there, I think off the bench the first center will be Chris Andersen, the first three-four will be Danny Granger and the first one-two will be Mario Chalmers. After those eight, you get into the as-needed/as-wanted portion of the rotation, and I do think the Heat will try to get regular minutes for Shabazz Napier, if only to get a long-term read on their possibilities at point guard. Once McRoberts returns, I'd slide Williams into the second four in the rotation, with Napier then as a 10th man. Beyond that, it does not look like more than spot minutes, when everyone is healthy, for Udonis Haslem, James Ennis, Justin Hamilton and the two survivors from the three-player pool of Khem Birch, Andre Dawkins and Shannon Brown.
Q: So Norris Cole is the starting point guard this year? -- Julio.
A: Yup, didn't see that one coming, either. And I'm not sure, based on the way he's played during the preseason, that he's actually not the Heat's third-best point guard at the moment. But Shabazz Napier is not ready to start, and the reality is that Chalmers has thrived during the preseason in his hybrid combo-guard role off the bench. This again could become a case of concerning yourself more with who finishes than who starts. And it remains more likely, based on what we've seen to this point, that Chalmers has the better chance to be in the closing lineups.
Q: James Ennis is going to be inconsistent, most rookies are. Still, there's no reason he shouldn't get the opportunity to play soon. -- Leif.
A: And that's fine . . . if. If fans are willing to say, "Well, they could have won that game if Spoelstra went with the veterans. But I'm glad he played the kids and looked to the future instead." I think Erik will spot James in certain situations, but still will play mostly, if not solely, with a focus on victory. The Heat's position in the East is such that every game will matter this season. When the minutes don't matter as much, that's when you'll likely see Ennis. Again, he's under contract for three years. There's time.
October 24, 2014
Q: Ira, I watched a lot of summer league, and Tyler Johnson was someone the Heat haven't had. Couldn't they have found a way to make room? -- Tim.
A: I agree that Tyler was intriguing, and the Heat apparently felt that way, considering they guaranteed him $75,000. It would be one thing if you could clearly delineate 15 better players on this roster, or even make cases because of salary guarantees. But it certainly seems like Johnson had more upside than Shannon Brown, who has done and shown little during the preseason. Unlike draft picks that you can stash overseas while retaining their rights, as the Heat did initially with Justin Hamilton, the Heat did not have that opportunity with the undrafted Johnson. Basically, it comes down to whether Shannon Brown proves Pat Riley right. Or whether the Heat will have a veteran collecting a check while Johnson perhaps gets his opportunity elsewhere, from one of the teams impressed with his summer work and showing at the end of the Spurs' game. Still, it's too early to say if this could become Patrick Beverley II.
Q: It seems like 70 1/2 for the number of games played by Wade is a touch high. -- Rohan.
A: I ran that item from the offshore sports book because I found the number intriguing. On one hand, it would be a huge jump after Wade missed 28 games last season. And yet, on the other hand, with this roster, and the lack of a proven backup at shooting guard, I'm not sure the Heat can afford to have Wade out for 12 games, the way their portion of the East is so closely packed. All of that said, I think the Heat would consider it a victory if Wade plays 70.
Q: I don't think the current play of this season's Heat team can truly be evaluated until Josh McRoberts is healthy and contributing. Fortunately, he and the Heat have time to get him going. With luck, Erik Spoelstra can find his starting lineup by the December deadline so if pickups are needed, Pat Riley can work his magic. -- Chet.
A: When evaluating this roster, I'd put McRoberts as the fourth-best player, behind Chris Bosh, Wade and Luol Deng. So any team without their fourth-best player can't maximize its possibilities. My concern is that McRoberts' passing game for a big man is so unique that it could take a while for his teammates to acclimate. Spoelstra, though, told me that he believes players quickly adapt to anyone who will pass them the ball, and that McRoberts has picked up many of the nuances from the sideline, as he continues to recover from offseason toe surgery.
October 23, 2014
Q: Shawne Williams was a great pickup, a classic Pat Riley guy. He has a long wing span. -- Stuart.