December 19, 2013
Q: I suspect the Heat still may not "go" for the number-one seed, but only because they can’t. They are an older team, and must pace themselves. Dwyane Wade's knees can't take it for 82 games. So they are politically correct in saying "it's early" and "we always win in the end," when in reality they just can't go full throttle in the regular season, even when they would love to have that first seed, which is called homecourt advantage for many reasons. -- Carlos, Miami.
Q: Ira, I see Shane Battier now like Dan Majerle toward the end of his Heat run, getting undeserved minutes solely because of his personality and memories of clutch moments from previous seasons. It's time to remove him completely from the rotation and give all those minutes to someone that can produce on offense (Michael Beasley) or at least defend bigs better (Joel Anthony). -- Will, Miami.
A: Completely? I think that's a bit of an overreaction, unless you believe Rashard Lewis should move ahead, as well. But Spoelstra long has proven flexible with his approach, while maintaining patience with struggling players. Look, it has not reached a point where Shane is hurting the Heat, just not helping to the degree he previously did. And I agree that if Beasley continues to progress, he could cut into someone else's playing time. For now, Shane is a nominal starter, at best, anyway. The numbers weren't there Wednesday, but there can be no denying Battier battled West, who only had three rebounds, himself.
Q: Should we be more concerned about Detroit? They have beaten the Heat and Pacers this year and have a lot of size and talent. -- David.
A: Perhaps as a second-round concern, considering they're likely good enough in the depleted East to get homecourt in the first round. But as imposing as the Pistons' size can be, with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, that will remain a mismatched roster as long as Josh Smith is at power forward and Brandon Jennings is calling the shots at point guard. Now, if they move Monroe for something closer to a true small forward, then Detroit could require a bit more respect going forward.
December 18, 2013
Q: Ira, I know you're going to say it's a regular-season game and doesn't matter. And I know that LeBron James has a bad ankle. But I also know that the Heat don't play the Pacers again until March, and don't you think these guys don't want to hear about it from Indiana until then? -- Troy.
A: That might be as good a reason to make Wednesday matter as any I've heard in recent days (this whole thing about securing homecourt in a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals supposes that there will be a Game 7, which is way too much of a variable to obsess about). As I wrote in my Sunday column before the first Heat-Pacers game, many of these Heat players have seen the Heat dominated in regular-season series only to make amends in the playoffs (with the Bulls and Celtics standing as prime examples). Considering the Heat effectively have already wrapped up a top-two seed in the East, I don't think much of anything truly matters before the calendar shifts to April.
Q: How do you account for Chris Bosh's robust play of late? -- Ernie, Aventura.
A: Having to listen to so many talk about how his play hadn't been robust (one of the great underutilized words, by the way). The Heat certainly could use more Bosh rebounds and more "robust." With Bosh, it has become a typical pattern these past four seasons, lulls followed by bursts of robust-ness. The key is having the timing right come the playoffs.
Q: Is Michael Beasley really hurt? Are you sure the Heat aren't holding him out so they can trade him for a center or point guard? -- Stuart.
A: For as many strides as Michael has made in these opening seven weeks of the season, I seriously doubt he has much interest from those beyond the 305 (or 786, if you're late to the game). And it's not as if his minimum salary is going to round out any deal of consequence. No, Michael is pushing past a pesky hamstring issue, with the Heat very much looking forward to see what comes next during this reunion tour.
December 17, 2013
Q: We hear a lot about players who have lost a step (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, etc.) and can't contribute as they once were able to. Would you put Shane Battier in that same group? Yes, he is defending bigger power forwards, but his 3-point game is off, and his defense is a step slow as well. -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Honestly, I think Shane would put himself in that group, often speaking recently about how this likely will be his final season and how he is going to give everything he can until he is running on fumes. Yes, he has not been the same player in recent weeks, but we've seen him over his Heat years annually stage revivals. The hope for the Heat is there is another one left. As it is, the Heat remain efficient when he is on the floor, even on the nights, such as Monday, when he doesn't take a shot and has only two rebounds. But when he no longer is a threat, then the Heat are back to the opposing power rotation ignoring him, as had become the case with Udonis Haslem on the floor.