December 28, 2014
Q: Could the Heat save their exception for a veteran in the last year of his contract that's going to be cut and can still provide help? -- Martin.
A: Yes, the buyout deadline certainly could be another avenue for the Heat to spend the $2.65 million disabled-player salary-cap exception they received for Josh McRoberts' knee injury. Basically, players who have been in the league this season and are waived by March 1 are allowed to sign with another team and be playoff eligible. Caron Butler was an example last season. But most players in such situations generally already have been paid for the season and are not necessarily in the market for much more than the veteran's minimum. The real issue there is the timing. Yes, the Heat could wait until March 1 to outbid another team on the buyout market. But their need for roster relief would appear to be far more immediate. The exception can be spent between now and March 10, but this appears to be a sooner-rather-than-later situation. Then again, if the Heat can stabilize their situation, it would give them a card they could use down the road (say if they trade one of their point guards and choose to use it on a point guard, instead).
Q: All I know is that Hassan Whiteside has earned playing time and should be a Heat player long term? -- Alfredo.
A: I don't know about "long term" because we haven't had enough of a sample size yet. But if he shows in coming weeks that he can rebound, block shots and, most importantly, defend, then I could envision the possibility of the Heat trading Chris Andersen (one of their few trade chips), perhaps as a means of getting back into the draft, and giving Whiteside additional time. I think it is already is apparent that Whiteside will make it through the Jan. 10 guarantee date. His energy and sized helped Saturday against the Grizzlies, but he still is raw, very raw. He needs to add strength and play a bit more under control.
Q: The Grizzlies were playing a back-to-back game and were stronger than the Heat at the start and at the finish. What does that say? -- Evan.
A: That the Grizzlies with Zach Randolph are a far, far better team than the Heat without Chris Bosh. The Heat's guard play beyond Dwyane Wade on Saturday night was atrocious. I don't know if Shabazz Napier is the answer, but someone who can make a shot and make a play would be.
December 27, 2014
Q: Ira, do you think the way things are going for the Heat so far this season they'll still be able to make the playoffs, and if so, what round do you think they make it through? Thank you -- Juan, Miami.
A: It has been such a rollercoaster that this tends to be an in-the-moment answer, which means you probably would have received a different response after the loss to the 76ers compared to now, after the victory over the Cavaliers. With seven of eight on the road after Monday's home game against the Magic, I think you'll have a pretty good measure by mid-January, which is also both when the Heat reach the midpoint of their schedule and the first day (Jan. 15) the Heat are eligible to trade Chris Andersen (who might have the most value among the Heat's non-Wade, non-Bosh pieces). First, it's going to be really difficult not to make the playoffs, when you consider that only seven teams in the Easy don't advance. You can already count out the 76ers, Knicks and Pistons, and it's hard to make much of a compelling case (or reason) for the Magic or Celtics. So it comes down to the ability to beat out two of these teams: Charlotte, Indiana, Brooklyn or Milwaukee. Beyond that, as the Heat showed against Cleveland, when they can focus on a single opponent, they almost always give themselves a chance, especially if they can avoid the Bulls or Cavaliers in the first round. So the short answer: I think they will be in the playoffs and, if healthy, have a chance for the second round.
Q: The team can play a "grind it out" style of basketball but probably only for a five-game stretch until they tire out. -- Eric.
A: I don't think they have any other option. They no longer can afford to gamble for steals to fuel their offense, with their halfcourt defense so suspect, and they don't have the speed or athleticism they once possessed. With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh they do, however, have two quality halfcourt components. It's who they are right now.
Q: Ira, why not more minutes for Hassan Whiteside, who had five rebounds and a block in very limited action? -- Raul, Naples.
A: I think he will continue to steadily get more. First, I think the minutes as a starter will wear on Chris Andersen, but I also think the Heat will come to appreciate the need to have a rebounder and shot-blocker on the court, someone other than Birdman to provide deterrence. At minimum, I think Whiteside will get the minutes Justin Hamilton had been getting, and could see him getting some of the minutes Andersen and Udonis Haslem currently are receiving.
December 26, 2014
Q: If Dwyane Wade plays some more at point guard, which allows more Danny Granger (as the closing lineup featured), we could mask the Heat's point guard play. Thoughts? -- Martin.
A: I think playing Granger alongside Wade was inspired, because the Heat, especially amid the absence of Chris Bosh, too often have been left without a secondary scoring option beyond Wade. You saw that at the end of the 76ers game, when Philadelphia was sending two and three defenders at Wade, and you saw that approach again again by Cleveland. But the problem is who defends the opposing point guard? That wasn't as pronounced Thursday, because Kyrie Irving plays more as a shooting guard, with LeBron James handling most of the playmaking. It could come down to whether Luol Deng can take shifts against opposing point guards. Mostly what I liked about Thursday's rotation was Erik Spoelstra got his best players on the court. And I think having a second scorer in the lineup with Wade is essential. Ganger capably filled that role against Cleveland.