March 1, 2015
Q: How come the Heat don't run their offense through Hassan Whiteside? I know it is a lot for a rookie. But if teams double-team him, then Luol Deng is open, Goran Dragic is open, Dwyane Wade is open, Henry Walker is open, someone is open! -- S.R.
A: First, he is not a rookie, actually in his third NBA season. Beyond that, he has not yet reached the level with his post play where he has required a double-team. He tends to either go directly to the basket on the catch, often for alley-oops, or quick hooks. There is not much there at the moment from a back-to-the basket standpoint. And yet, with all of that said, perhaps it's time to at least greater consideration to getting the ball to Whiteside inside. Yes, as Wade said after Saturday's game, the Hawks are notorious for packing the paint. But that's where a system and structure come into play. On nights such as Saturday, when nothing it dropping from outside, it would be nice to at least have an inside option. It's not something Udonis Haslem can give you anymore when he starts, not something undersized Henry Walker offers. But I also think we're past the Whiteside-as-novelty stage. He's for real, and that means keeping better track of getting him back in games, and going to him when he's in games.
Q: Erik Spoelstra only playing with eight players is not being a good coach. -- Conrad.
A: Actually, I thought the approach Saturday was quite telling, that it absolutely is about securing a playoff berth. First, it would have been nine had Chris Andersen not been out with the flu. But this time, Spoelstra not only again sat James Ennis, but also did not use Shabazz Napier. Instead, there were bigger minutes for NBA journeymen Henry Walker and Michael Beasley, players with far more NBA experience. The time for Ennis, Napier and Tyler Johnson appears to be in the past tense. And if Walker or Beasley can’t get it done, there might be other veteran faces after Sunday's buyout deadline for playoff eligibility. The kid stuff appears over.
Q: Anthony Mason was instrumental in helping Pat Riley institute a coaching philosophy in New York, which is the cornerstone of a lot of what the Miami Heat do today: tough-minded defense and players who play more than one position. And many teams in the NBA do a lot of things today because of what Mason brought to the NBA. Rest in peace. -- Stuart.
A: He also helped the Heat salvage a season in the wake of Alonzo Mourning's kidney illness. It could be argued that Mason contributed as much to single-season success as any player beyond Dwyane Wade and LeBron James during the championship seasons. He was the story of the 2000-01 season for the Heat, an unlikely All-Star. He also was another of those players who resurrected his career in Miami and then never was quite the same after moving on. He was unique and uniquely driven. He had a lot of Pat Riley in him, from the style to the intensity.
February 28, 2015
Q: I would cut Tyler Johnson, sign Andray Blatche and call it a day. -- Julio.
A: I think there will be greater clarity after Sunday, which is the deadline for players to be waived and remain playoff eligible with another team, also known as the buyout deadline. With so many trades at last week's deadline, there probably are several players weighing giving up a portion of their salary either for a playoff opportunity or the opportunity for additional playing time elsewhere. I think that's why teams have been going the low-cost, 10-day route at the moment. I agree that with Goran Dragic in place, Johnson might be the odd man out in the backcourt (of course, if Goran Dragic wasn't an impending free agent, it is possible Zoran Dragic could be the odd man out in the backcourt, if not for his guarantee for next season). For the moment, I think with Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen, the Heat are covered in the middle. But an injury to either obviously would change that equation. As for power forward, there appears to be sufficient depth there with Udonis Haslem, Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. But if you're asking me if Andray Blatche is better than some of those in the Heat's current power rotation, it would be difficult to make an argument otherwise. Another factor is the Heat's suddenly delicate position against the luxury tax, and the long-term impact of the "repeater" tax. But through all of that, ask yourself the question of whether Andray Blatche would have been the player to stop what the Pelicans did Friday night to the Heat on the pick and roll.
Q: I am not a fan of Shabazz Napier. I think he's very undersized. Will the Heat continue to give him backup minutes at point guard? -- Anthony, Lauderdale by the Sea.
A: I do think there will come a time, once the roster shakes out and is stabilized, when Erik Spoelstra will tighten the rotation, as most coaches do as the playoffs approach. I would not be surprised if both Napier and James Ennis are asked to step aside, with Goran Dragic, Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade all probably better suited, at the moment, to be the primary ballhandler in big-game moments. I think development programs tend to be put aside for a season's final month when a playoff berth or playoff seeding are at stake. Napier played only 3:56 in Friday's second half and Ennis did not play at all.
Q. I hope they don't go with a three-guard lineup because that was what Goran ran away from in Phoenix! -- Barry, Miami.
A: What Goran had issues with was utilizing three point guards at the same time, with everyone trying to be the primary ballhandler. That won't be the issue with Dwyane Wade, who excelled playing off the ball with LeBron James, or with Mario Chalmers, who has played off the ball almost his entire NBA career. What I don't think you will see are many lineups that have Dragic, Shabazz Napier and another guard on the floor. There is little value, at this stage of his career, with having Napier playing off the ball.
February 27, 2015
(And for once, you get what you've been pushing for relentlessly: All Beasley, all the time, in today's mailbag.)
Q: I'm not a fan, but in this case it can't hurt with Michael Beasley. He can put points on the board which the Heat need. Hopefully a more defensive-minded player becomes available. If not, Beasley knows the system and it won't cost much. -- Chet.
A: Keep in mind three factors: First, Beasley's contract is only a 10-day deal and even that doesn't mean you have to keep him for all 10 days. Second the NBA buyout deadline for playoff eligibility is Sunday. So the Heat will know a lot more by the end of the weekend when it comes to what their overall options could be. Third, beyond all of that, there still is roster flexibility with Tyler Johnson's roster spot, in case you want to bring in someone else while keeping both Beasley and Henry Walker. What the Heat need at the moment, with Chris Bosh out, are players who can provide enough points to keep the team afloat. The back end of the roster very well could remain fluid for a while. As a matter of reemphasis, remember that a player does not have to be signed by March 1 to be playoff eligible elsewhere, he merely has to be waived by his current team by then. If Beasley has his own Henry Walker-type moment, he likely will live for another 10-day. If not, the Heat will turn to another player of the moment. Because in their scramble for the playoffs, it's all about the moment.