February 1, 2015
Q: Hello, Ira. Every other pro sports team at one time in the process of extremely underperforming questions and puts pressure on the coach. Not just internally, but most importantly externally by the media, fans and analysts (i.e. David Blatt with Cavs, Jacque Vaughn with Magic, heck Stan Van Gundy with Heat back when Pat Riley took over). Sure the Heat have had injuries, but when a professional NBA team can't score regularly, it usually means that the team does not have a good offensive system or training. Defense is more a product on player effort and the Heat aren't doing bad at it. It's the offense that is really underachieving, and that's on the coach. When will Erik Spoelstra be questioned? It might force him to improve his strategies and improve the team's play. Pat called for him to evolve and it seems he has not done so enough. -- Javier, Doral.
A: I can appreciate the frustrations, and agree that there have been more than a few shaky moments from Spoelstra this season. But that also has been true from just about everyone on the roster and even Riley, with some of his personnel moves (and non moves). Here's the rub: This team went to four consecutive NBA Finals, and whether it was because of LeBron James or more than that, that earns you a bye. In fact, that's what I think this season has turned into, the Heat's "bye" season, where the effort is not always there from those who have returned, the sharpness has not always been there from those who have had to make the decisions, the passion not there when the reality is something less than championship visions. So instead of "media, fans and analysts" putting pressure on Spoelstra, I think the realities of this season have done that. The injuries have destroyed continuity. But I agree that this is about more than continuity. So I think you take whatever this season delivers and then you (or perhaps Micky Arison) make it clear that the Heat's new reality requires new approaches, new visions, new attitudes. I don't think those can come in the midst of such a morass. But I do think the Heat, and Spoelstra, can be held accountable for such re-expectations going forward. In other words, for all involved, as Spoelstra likes to say, "everything has to be on the table" after this season. Until then, the Heat's "bye" season will play out.
Q: Chris Bosh has to step up because he's not playing anywhere near a max player. And if he can't, maybe it's time to listen to offers. -- Xavier, Gainesville.
A: I will say this, if the Bosh-Dwyane Wade combination can't get it done (and the Heat have struggled at times even when the two are healthy and in the lineup), then I could see the Heat considering transactions where they could receive multiple players in exchange for Bosh, perhaps from a championship contender looking for one final piece. It's not as much about Bosh stepping forward as it is Bosh and Wade stepping forward as a tandem. That's what these next two seasons, at least, are about.
Q: Shabazz Napier is outmanned and outplayed by everybody. -- Juan.
A: At this point, it is getting difficult to commit meaningful minutes to Napier when the payoff has been so minimal. Even Spoelstra appears to have shortened the leash. The question is whether Napier can overcome his physical limitations, and lack of shooting ability, with his playmaking and savvy. Right now, he is nothing more than another body in a mess of a mix at point guard.
January 31, 2015
Q: Come on Ira, Mo Williams is an awful addition. He's like a tiny Shawne Williams. -- C.C.T.
A: I mentioned the possibility on Twitter simply because of the reports of Williams being made available by the Timberwolves and of Detroit potentially having interest in Norris Cole at the right price. So it comes down to what you think of Cole and Mo Williams at the moment, with both on expiring contracts. Based on the fact that the Heat did not extend Cole by the Oct. 31 deadline, and with the reality that the Heat must extended a $3 million qualifying offer by June 30 to keep Cole from becoming an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, I just don't see many signs of him returning (and that's not even getting into his move to the agency run by LeBron James' business partner Rich Paul). So, to a degree, I think Norris can be viewed as somewhat of an expiring commodity by the Heat. With Dwyane Wade out, and with the Heat having scoring issues, the thought here is the occasional scoring burst from Mo Williams could provide the scant extra few victories needed to maintain a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Plus, with the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, there now is a second line of defense in place to help protect defensively limited players. Again, just a thought, trying to connect dots that may or may not be worth connecting. Williams' offense certainly wouldn't have hurt Friday not when the Heat were scoring 25 points in the second half and 12 in the fourth quarter. But I'm not sure where Friday's 1 of 10 leaves Cole.
Q: What will be our sales pitch in 2016? "Hey, come join a 35-year old-Dwyane Wade, a 32-year-old Chris Bosh, a 31-year-old Luol Deng. Sure we've either missed the playoffs or exited in the first round recently, but we can pay you just as much as these teams who are used to winning and have better talent, so c'mon down to South Beach"? Wow, hope they don't all come through the door at once. -- Ben.
A: Or the Heat can move in advance of 2016 (which I still view as a strong possibility) now that Hassan Whiteside now not only has been unearthed, but also will have to be paid in the 2016 offseason. I think all this "2016" talk basically buys the Heat time. I would keep an eye on the interim, when they get a feel of how far they can go with a core of Wade, Bosh, Deng, Whiteside and subtle additions. The reality is that Whiteside is going to eat significantly into someone's cap in the 2016 offseason if he keeps up performances like Friday's night 24 rebounds and 16 points.
Q: How about this scenario: Miami gets healthy by the end of the season and the team peaks for playoffs? Or am I dreaming? When healthy, we have two Hall of Famers and a raw-but-emerging talent at center. They just have to make the playoffs. -- Morris.
A: But we've been saying that during all those games when they were healthy, and it still wasn't enough. The question remains as to whether Wade-Bosh is a stand-alone championship core or just a pair of All-Stars.
January 30, 2015
Q: Well, Dwayne Wade's out again. It's difficult to have any fluidity with players in and out of the lineup ongoing. But let's look at this squad even with a healthy Wade. The positive: We have four quality players in the starting unit. Two are All-Star players in Wade and Chris Bosh (though Bosh's drop in rebounding from the first month of the season to now is a concern), and a third, in Luol Deng, though possibly on the downside of his career, is still a quality small forward, and we have a center in Hassan Whiteside who can protect the rim and score around the basket. So we do have a strong core of four in the starting lineup. Though not athletic, it still gives us a unit that is in the upper 25 percent of the teams in the league. Point guard, along with limited 3point shooting, are the only weaknesses in the starting lineup. What we have is absolutely no bench. Outside of Chris Andersen, Pat Riley has done as poor a job as we imagined in the offseason in fleshing out positions, adding depth. We have nothing at the point, no backup shooting guard, and no backup small forward. In theory, Mario Chalmers should be a capable backup shooting guard, but seemingly can only excel when playing with the starting unit. When Dwyane's in the lineup, Chalmers simply doesn't get the job done. It's an odd phenomenon. Coming into the season, we pretty much knew that Danny Granger would be a famine-or-feast player, and, unfortunately, it's the former. James Ennis, who looks to have potential, is extremely raw, has a poor handle, and is timid offensively. Ideally, Pat can make a trade to get a swingman, with 3-point skills who can back up both wing positions. The next best move would be a point guard with range. Regardless of how healthy we are come playoff time, a one-man bench won't get it done. -- Matt.
A: The problem is that without Wade, it now is about more than just the bench right. You also are overlooking Josh McRoberts, who could have helped at two positions and also served as a playmaker. I still think, if motivated, the Heat can fill the needs you mention at a relatively minimal cost, with little risk to future rosters, based on the $2.65 million disabled-player exception they have for McRoberts. That decision could come down to how much the Heat want to develop the youth on the current roster.
Q: Teams now will just pack the paint and guard Whiteside and let Heat players shoot all game. Losing a slasher to the basket really hurts an already challenged offensive team. Do you see the Heat picking anyone up? The positive side of Wade missing time is the Heat might find a new player similar to how Whiteside was discovered. You never know. -- Stuart.