October 22, 2014
Q: Ira, what has Norris Cole done to move ahead of Mario Chalmers in the Heat rotation? Erik Spoelstra did not start him when he benched Chalmers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals? -- Steve, Miami.
A: I wish I had an answer, could tell you that Norris has definitively outplayed Mario during the preseason, or that he has an element to his game that makes him a better fit as the starting point guard. I can't. It's almost as if the Heat are starting Cole simply to make it easier to maneuver Chalmers into a role as the backup shooting guard, as if Chalmers is paying the price of being versatile. And I find it difficult to believe the Heat are showcasing Cole, considering he can become a free agent by season's end. And now, with Shabazz Napier playing so well, it's not as if the sentiment could be that Cole is the Heat's point guard of the future. Look, Norris is a quality speed guard, the type of player who generally thrives as a change of pace coming off the bench. After all of those words, I really don't have an answer.
Q: Ira, Shannon Brown is confusing. He seems to be as athletic as anyone, yet has never thrived it seems. Is he the backup two-guard? Does he make the team? -- Jason.
A: Based on the Heat's approach to this point, it sure seems like Chalmers is the backup shooting guard. There apparently was a reason the Heat did not provide a contact guarantee to Brown, while offering guarantees to the likes of Tyler Johnson, Khem Birch and Larry Drew. Granted, the money for those three is mostly to ease the financial burden of moving on to the Heat's D-League affiliate, which is not an option for Brown. But it also is quite possible that the Heat scan the waiver wire after Monday's cut-down deadline to find additional wing support. Brown has taken a confident approach to camp. It will be interesting to see the level of confidence from the Heat going forward.
Q: Do you see Josh McRoberts figuring in a more prominent role in the rotation as the season progresses? Does Erik Spoelstra continue to stick with the small-ball approach, or shall we expect him explore other options (see McRoberts at point)? -- Xtianonil, Manila.
A: I think the Heat are in a tough spot, with McRoberts missing the preseason. His style is unique among power forwards, and I think there will have to be a period of adjustment, a period when Shawne Williams might start while McRoberts works his way back from offseason toe surgery. But while McRoberts is a facilitator, he is not a point guard, not someone who advances the ball across midcourt. The only way the Heat go big, with McRoberts perhaps alongside both Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen would be if Dwyane Wade operates as the de facto point guard.
October 21, 2014
Q: Why keep Justin Hamilton? He may be able to shoot, but I just see it as paying a big man to sit. I think the Heat are OK at the power positions and need more athletic players. Come to your senses. -- Wuloo.
A: First the moment, Hamilton offers more bulk than any player on the Heat roster. And there is something intriguing about a stretch five. But remember, Hamilton only has a partially guaranteed contract, with the next guarantee date on Dec. 1. So there still is time to see how or it he fits in with the current power mix. The reality is that Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen set up first- and second-string at center, and Josh McRoberts and Shawne Williams set up first- and second-string at power forward, so that doesn't even get into minutes for Udonis Haslem, or minutes that Danny Granger or Luol might take in the power rotation. But with all of those names, bulk is lacking. Being big, at the moment, might be Hamilton's most significant Heat asset (and having six fouls available whenever called upon).
Q: Shabazz Napier may be short, but he will be head and shoulders better than Norris Cole or Mario Chalmers. -- Steven.
A: Look, the problem in the NBA is that when you're as slight as Shabazz, it's difficult not to get pin-balled out of position by a series of screens. To his credit, Napier has shown enough awareness to this point to largely avoid those situations. But the reality is that it is easier to rub off a lighter player. The thing about Shabazz is I think that he already is a mature player, and while he obviously needs to learn the game, he might otherwise be as ready to start now as he ever will be. The question comes down to whether Erik Spoelstra feels he can take such a risk with a neophyte at a time when the Heat very much remain committed to a playoff run.
Q: Are media members actually buying LeBron James' contrived act of "going home," tempering expectations, trying to keep a low profile? -- Brian.
A: Yes, seemingly everywhere beyond the 305, 786, 954 and 561 that's exactly what's happening. And let's face it, LeBron's people are doing a masterful job of casting it that way. It is the exact same political spin that will be filling our television programming now through the first Tuesday of November. It's as if LeBron met Karl Rove.
October 20, 2014
Q: Both Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier have to play, almost for the same reason: Pat Riley has to see what he has. So where does Mario Chalmers fit in? -- Al, Coral Gables.