A: Well, they still have the $2.65 million disabled-player exception they received for Josh McRoberts' knee injury. But several teams have exceptions that trump that total. The reality is that for as bad as the Eastern Conference has been, if Jason Kidd can keep the Bucks afloat and in the top six in the East, then the Heat could be battling Brooklyn and Indiana for one of the final two playoff spots. And if you haven't looked, the Pacers are right there, getting healthier and finding a way to work past the loss of Paul George. Oh, and the Pacers already are 2-0 against the Heat.
January 6, 2015
Q: Andre Dawkins, Justin Hamilton and Shabazz Napier all are just taking roster spots. Add Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Josh McRoberts because they are not making an impact this season. If no other team wants them, why should the Heat keep them? Better to use 10-day contacts to test prospects with upside the staff could mold into contributing more. -- Jose, Miami.
A: A lot of apples and oranges in your list there. Josh McRoberts is part of the long view, even with this latest setback. And I would find it difficult to believe the Heat would consider parting ways with Napier this quickly, unless they truly did draft him solely in a bid to appease LeBron James. But if the Heat were to part with Dawkins, Hamilton, Cole, Chalmers or even Chris Andersen, it hardly would be stunning. Based on the approach of the contract-guarantee deadline, opening a roster spot for flexibility could make sense. There is plenty on the back end of this roster that is expendable, as well as a pair of point guards who are playing that way, and a 36-year-old starting center who could have more immediate value elsewhere. This Heat team will rise or fall mostly on the play of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng. Everything else should be considered for future impact, as well as complementary impact, with those three players.
Q: After numerous failed attempts, maybe Hassan Whiteside could be the Heat's cornerstone for the next decade. He's young and healthy. -- Greg, Hallandale.
A: And also has played a grand total of 30 career NBA games over three seasons. Look, this is like when the Heat were excited with Joel Anthony's defensive coverages and how he could compensate for defensive shortcomings of others. Let's give Whiteside at least another month before anyone starts planning futures around him. What the Heat think of Whiteside could come into better focus around the Feb. 18 trading deadline and the March 1 waiver deadline for playoff eligibility. I doubt the Heat suddenly have lost all interest in Andray Blatche because of a solid week from Hassan Whiteside.
Q: Ira, I remember Pat Riley being interested in Reggie Jackson in the 2011 draft. If he is available, couldn't the Heat something together? -- Randy.
A: Jackson is the type of piece who would be huge for the Heat going forward. The irony, of course, is that Jackson was off the board before the Heat selected, with Norris Cole drafted four picks later as part of the draft-night trade that would land him with the Heat. Jackson is on the books at $2.2 million this season, so the Heat have the requisite matching salaries, including Cole. But the reality is the Heat have precious few attractive commodities to move and even less in the way of draft picks to offer. Reggie Jackson is worth more than just about anything the Heat could cobble together at the moment.
January 5, 2015
Q: Do you think Hassan Whiteside has the potential to start? He plays well with Chris Bosh. Or is it too much too soon? -- Bryan, Davie.
A: "Potential"? Sure. But when you consider where Whiteside stood at the start of the season, awaiting a potential call-up from the Iowa Energy, I think a degree of perspective also is required. He is intriguing, but not quite polished enough to be a plug-and-play option in the starting five. While he has proven efficient in ducking in for passes and finishing, he still doesn't necessarily get the full respect of opposing defenses, which means there still are extra eyes on Bosh and Dwyane Wade. I still think there is a place for the Bosh-Shawne Williams combination when it comes to spacing the floor. And I still think Erik Spoelstra needs time to reformulate his defense to one that makes better use of almost always now having a shot blocker on the court. This is so new and so different from what the Heat have done in recent years, having a combination at center like Chris Andersen and Whiteside, that I think it has to be cautiously developed.
Q: Why was Shabazz Napier sent to the D-League? He should be playing. -- Evan, Miami.
A: Which is exactly why he was sent to Sioux Falls, to make sure he is playing. With Erik Spoelstra committed to Mario Chalmers as his starting point guard, it means the remaining minutes at point guard go to Norris Cole. Now, you can debate whether either of those two have earned such playing time, but the Heat have an option with Napier that they don't have with Chalmers or Cole, and that's time in the D-League. I do think the timing of Napier's next opportunity will come as much because of Chalmers and Cole as his own play. Through it all, the reality is that Napier likely has more of a long-term future with the Heat than either Chalmers or Cole, even if his time is not now.
Q: Would Ray Allen help the Heat? Allen would have a positive impact on the players. -- Jerry, Weston.
A: Sure. But he could have far more impact on a championship contender, if he chooses to return at all. I can't fathom Allen signing where playoffs aren't a guarantee and a championship isn't within reach. That likely is part of the factor of why we haven't seen him sign to this point and might not at all this season. If the Cavaliers were just a shooting guard away from being a top seed, I think you already would have seen him in Cleveland. And if the Clippers weren't in such a tenuous position that they might not last more than one round of the playoffs because of the competition in the West, I think a reunion with Doc Rivers might already have been sealed. For now, there is no reason for Allen to rush. He can sign as late as the final day of the regular season to be playoff-eligible, perhaps making him the ultimate closer.
January 4, 2015
Q: With the exception of some early-season spunk, the Heat have looked miserable for most of the season. It doesn't seem like Pat Riley has much to lose by shaking things up by the trading deadline. This team is not going anywhere. -- Stuart.
A: But there isn't much -- with the Heat's current personnel, lack of future draft picks, and cap position -- that he can do. And he's not going to jeopardize the big picture of 2016 free agency. But I can also guarantee that this is not how Riley envisioned the interim. If the Heat are routinely putting up the type of embarrassments they've put together recently, games like Indiana and Houston, you have to wonder if outside players will view the Heat in a different light. Those "hardest-working," "toughest-minded," etc., precepts that the Heat have turned into mantras aren't there right now. If this continues to go in this direction, then the outsiders who say it was all about LeBron James the previous four seasons will put Riley in a position I can't fathom he could tolerate. I do think a Riley Moment could be at hand. He tends to be with the Heat on West Coast trips, especially with the upcoming one including five consecutive days in Los Angeles. Whether he wants to be or not, he's smack in the middle of this right now, because it's his system, his roster, his approach. His problem to fix.