Q: I was at the red-white-and-pink scrimmage and was intrigued by Tyler Johnson. He brings noticeable energy and athleticism off the bench. These type of high-energy bench players (Patty Mills, Norris Cole) can have a real impact on games. Any chance we find a way to keep him? And I don't mean D-league. -- Yunasi.
A: Actually, there is a chance the Heat could do both, keep him on their NBA roster, but also send him to Sioux Falls for seasoning in the NBA Development League. Considering the long odds Johnson already has overcome, from going undrafted to impressing in the Heat's summer league, there is a chance. The Heat are at 20 on their training-camp roster, so you have to find five other names to cut. You probably can start with Khem Birch, Chris Johnson, Shawn Jones and Andre Dawkins. So it could come down to whether Johnson can beat out Reggie Williams. But it's still a bit early for such forecasting.
Q: I agree with yesterday's reader that there are always surprises every season. However, do not count me among the surprised when the Cavs underperform or even self-destruct. Before you dismiss me as a LeBron James hater (I'm not), hear me out: We all saw firsthand how hard it was to pull together a team of egos and superstars and get them to focus on the goal. We've all seen other teams try and fail epically. I believe the Heat culture and Pat Riley's influence played a huge part in our success. I don't think you can take LeBron, add any two All-Stars, mix in Mike Miller, and win. Not in Cleveland. I think LeBron thinks he has this figured out, but I think he's underestimating the role the organization played in making this work. -- John, Boca Raton.
A: Or could it be that LeBron learned the needed lesions during his four seasons in Miami? There actually is a chance that Riley could be the one who fuels LeBron's success in Cleveland, if James can export the Heat Way north.
October 2, 2014
Q: Ira, if Josh McRoberts misses the preseason will he still be a starter like you've been telling us? -- James, Miami.
A: I think the recovery from his toe surgery could put that in jeopardy, since McRoberts is such a unique player with his ball-moving skills. While Josh ultimately should prove to be a net gain for the Heat (Charlotte already is lamenting his loss), playing with a point power forward is a game-changer, including how the offense is scripted. With this latest revelation of McRoberts missing more time than outsiders had anticipated, it could open the door for the Heat possibly to go with Chris Bosh and Shawne Williams or Udonis Haslem in the starting rotation. Of course it's still early, and the word after Wednesday's intrasquad scrimmage is that the staff fully expects McRoberts to be ready for the start of the regular season. The greater question is whether his teammates will be ready for the unique skill set he provides.
Q: The past baseball season shows how unpredictable preseason forecasts can be. While teams such as the Dodgers and Tigers behaved normally, the Athletes had an epic collapse. Most NBA teams will follow their preconceived scripts, but there are bound to be a few unpredictable twists that will embarrass even the most sage of gurus. The scenarios will just have to run their course during the long season. On the revamped Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving always played on lottery teams and Kevin Love's teams never made the playoffs. They may be all-star quality talents, but they seemed to lack the leadership to make the rest of their teammates good enough to at least reach the playoffs. Time will tell if they are mentally ready to win the Finals. Meanwhile, the Heat have four older All-Star players and ones that have been to the NBA Finals and prevailed. Critics don't give enough credit to Heat's championship pedigree and playoff state of mind. The Heat are not a lock to get past the first round, but we'll have to see if the other teams have the moxie to survive postseason play. -- Leonard.
A: While some have said the East has been down for a while, I can't recall a season when pegging teams into a specific order has been as difficult. As you point out, you simply won't know about the Cavaliers' cohesion until you know. And with the Bulls and Derrick Rose, you seemingly never know, based on all of Rose's comebacks. Even Brooklyn, it's not as if Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and what's left of Kevin Garnett can't do damage. I agree that this is a season when there won't be any throwaway games in the East, including the Heat's season opener Oct. 29 against the visiting Wizards.
Q: Like many fans, I was confused to say the least at why the Heat would not go after the likes of Andray Blatche, Wayne Ellington or Jordan Crawford. But the more I thought about it, I figured the Heat might be trying to make up for the lack of a youth program the last four years. Blatche and Crawford would have been nothing more than fringe players. Those roster spots might be better served by having prospects. -- Kevin, Sunrise.
A: And you may be right, and the Heat may be right. Or maybe Shannon Brown, Shawne Williams and Reggie Williams ultimately will prove to be the preferred veteran answers from this summer's free-agent class. As I've repeatedly said, I was not privy to the amount of workout and scouting information the Heat had to assess free agents. They clearly saw something in this group beyond (I would hope) cost savings. Shawne Williams looked very good in Wednesday's scrimmage, perhaps now finally fully motivated. And Shannon Brown also offered hope Wednesday.
October 1, 2014
Q: Probably don't want to dwell on the past too much, but seeing your recent article regarding the Mike Miller amnesty got me thinking: What if they had used the amnesty clause on Joel Anthony instead? Of course, they eventually dumped Anthony anyways, but maybe if he had been amnestied, and Miller had stayed healthy, things might have turned out very differently. -- Adrian.
Q: Yes, in hindsight it was a mistake to amnesty Miller. But at the time he was always injured and the Heat needed flexibility thanks to the CBA that Dan Gilbert voted for. So he should really blame the Cavaliers owner. -- Yunasi.
A: It is a story with many angles and twists, including the reality that Mike not only was braced for his amnesty release in 2013, but expected it as early as 2012, putting his home on the market at that point. And his injury history was a concern, and a reality. If you remember, his people put it out there after his 2013 amnesty release that he might need back surgery, which, ironically, apparently was done to scare off the Cavaliers at the time. But it also seems a bit disingenuous for the Heat to now turn on the #HeatLifer campaign in the wake of what happened with Mike. It certainly wasn't that the Heat didn't have roster space for him. And #HeatLifer certainly didn't save Joel Anthony. Look, revisionist history, like catch phrases, are not what it's about at this stage. It's about what comes next. What happened with LeBron James and Mike Miller is history. It's what the Heat make of their future, and that is about more than #HeatLife or #HeatNation hashtags. Those are for the marketing division. What matters most is the basketball.
Q: Ira, love the new title photo of "Ask Ira"! My question is, Wade said maybe last year or two years ago that three rings was all he wanted when he entered the league and the rest would be "icing on the cake." Do you think he still has that fire in him that he certainly lacked in the Finals, or will he just play hard but not sacrifice for something he sees as just a bonus? Thanks. -- James, Fort Lauderdale.
A: First, it's funny how the new photo distorts things to make it look like I don't have hair, but that's another story. As for your question, I don't think it has anything to do with "fire" or "sacrifice" with Wade. I think it comes down to whether the body is willing. Dwyane certainly could not have wanted to go out like he did last season. And I think he has visions of offering reminders of what he once was. The question now is whether he still has it in him. We'll know soon enough.
Q: Will the Miami Heat coaching staff and organization catalyze on James Ennis' skills and experience? I am looking forward to enjoying the excitement of his game. Is it time the Heat organization develops their own LeBron James? I would be very disappointed if Ennis spends most of his time on the bench wasting his great talent and skills. -- Stefanie, Margate.
A: First of all, I think you need to step back from any LeBron comparisons or anything about "great talents and skills" for a former second-round pick yet to play his first NBA game. James is still very raw, even with his seasoning in Australia, and further seasoning in the NBA Development League might be one answer. If Danny Granger is ready for the start of the regular season, then the Heat probably will not see a need to fast track James. He has promise, but at the moment, that's