Q: Anyone else find the Dwyane Wade appearances at a high school graduation and on ABC a little too timely? Sure seems like damage control, given the bad press he's been getting with all the talk about leaving the Heat. -- Cris.
A: Actually, I look at it the other way, that most of the sentiment I've experienced is that Wade stands as the damaged party, considering his previous contract concessions. As for his attendance at Western High School's graduation at Nova Southeastern University? I thought it was the type of act that shows how much having an athlete as a community icon can mean. No matter the motivation, it was a special moment that created a lifetime of memories for a graduating class.
Q: Last year, Emeka Okafor was to be chased by many teams once he returned healthy. As I recall the Heat were very high on that list of teams. Any news on if he'll return to basketball this season, and if the Heat could make a run for him as their backup center, allowing a trade for Birdman's expiring contract? -- Chris.
A: I would find it difficult to fathom that after last season's experiment with Danny Granger that the Heat would invest anything more than the minimum on a player with significant injury questions. That Heat's salary resources are limited to the point that they have to get just about every personnel decision correct going forward.
June 5, 2015
Q: Hello, Ira. There have been so many storylines about the Heat season and current offseason rumors (the loss of Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts due to injury; the signing of Hassan Whiteside; although Dwyane Wade's knees were quiet, yet he missed time because of his hamstrings; trading for Goran Dragic; missing the playoffs; potential draftee; free agency; and now rumors that Wade may leave the team due to possible broken contract negotiations). I think the one story that has gotten lost amid everything else that is Heat related is the questionable roster/team that Pat Riley ultimately put together to represent Heat Nation last season. Once the former players were resigned and then Luol Deng, McRoberts, Danny Granger, Shawne Williams and Shannon Brown were added, the Heat was loaded with household names. Although the names were known, for some the time had passed or their skill sets were just not good enough, leaving many holes in the roster. Here are the reasons that team was doomed: 1. The team's best 3-point shooter (getting playing time) was their finesse 6-11 power forward who was masquerading as a center (Williams was the only shooter on the team, but lack of size and defense began to keep him stuck on the bench). 2. The team's second best 3-point shooter was their potential starting power forward in McRoberts who was a newcomer, unable to participate in training camp, and would not be available at the start of the season. 3. That starting frontline was going to be dominated on the boards (the Heat only signed Whiteside after McRoberts was lost for the season, and even with his dominating performances the team was still near the bottom of the league in rebounding). 4. The 2014 Finals should have been the last straw for a Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole backcourt (it didn't matter which was to be moved in the offseason, but I had seen enough to know that they could no longer work in tandem; and they were pretty awful when on the court together last season). 5. The very athletic Brown whose best days were for making highlight plays in the open court was the backup shooting guard to make it out of camp, yet in his entire NBA career he could never really "shoot" the ball. 6. The league seemed to believe that Granger was an end-of-the-rotation guy at best, but Riley signed him to be a major contributor off the bench; he was a newcomer who, also, would not be available at the start of the season and by midseason the league appeared to have had a more accurate assessment of what Granger had left. 7. Their backup center was a "still not ready for all the moments" Justin Hamilton and the backup power forward were the aging Birdman and Haslem, respectively, who both now struggle to finish at the rim and neither ever had a low-post game. 8. Then, once Brown got released, Riley never found a backup shooting guard to take hold or consistently contribute from the position. It was clearly becoming evident to Heat fans that this team had personnel issues but Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra continued to stress that "we have enough." After the ailment for Bosh derailed any possibilities of the Dragic trade really paying off last season, Riley did, however, find a group of young scrappy players that competed hard (but to no playoff avail) until the season was finally over. So is it possible that Wade feels that Riley sacrificed team success last year and if some holes aren't filled with more reliable personnel in the offseason, possibly will sacrifice team success this upcoming season because he still envisions putting together one last dynasty in 2016? With the current CBA, free agency, players' union and with players now more than ever utilizing their rights and leverage to play with whom and for whom they choose, generational teams maybe be a thing of the past. Thus, do you believe Wade has lost some trust and is no longer willing to sacrifice millions as he knows he only has so many years left at to pursue championships while still be a major contributor? -- Nikki.
Q: Well, you certainly covered all the bases. I do believe Dwyane has lost some trust, and perhaps even more than "some." I also believe he knows he only has so many years left and doesn't want to continue to remain in wait-and-see mode as his career odometer continues to rack up mileage. You are correct, if he was winning now, the salary might not be as much of a sticking point. This is what happens you when have an older player in your core -- you have to play for the moment. The upcoming season could be another "moment" that gets away from the Heat. But Riley also has shown a willingness to fast-track, as he did with Dragic this past season. The question is whether the Heat are "all in" for 2015-16. I'm not sure that is the case at the moment. And Dwyane probably recognizes that, as well. Should DeAndre Jordan leave the Clippers, that could open the door there for Dwyane to play alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, although that could require sacrificing Jamal Crawford or J.J. Redick or both.
Q: Is Zoran Dragic's contract guaranteed? Could the Heat cut him if they wanted to? -- Akinwole, Blue Bell, Pa.
A: It is guaranteed, and to cut him would mean eating his salary. Beyond that, Zoran's presence obviously plays a part in re-signing Goran Dragic, considering how they arrived as a package deal in February. The greater question might be whether Zoran could be part of the 3-point solution the Heat need to find. And that could come down to the question of whether he can develop into an NBA-caliber defender. Part of that answer could be whether Erik Spoelstra is willing to play more zone, now that he has Hassan Whiteside to anchor the middle.
Q: Hi, Ira. Can we conclude whoever the Heat draft will determine what will happen with current players if they opt in/out or are traded? For example, if they draft a center/power forward, is Josh McRoberts the odd man out? Or, if they get a small forward, is Luol Deng opting out? And if they get a shooting guard, is Dwyane Wade possibly paid what he wants to mentor his future replacement? -- Bryan, Fort Lauderdale.
A: The more I look at this draft, which I think has enough depth of talent to deliver a contributor at No. 10, I think you draft the best player available first, and then address the remaining pieces afterward. I do not believe the position played by the draft pick will necessarily impact what is in place, considering the Heat's lack of depth by the end of last season. More likely is the Heat sit down on June 26 and reformulate based on what happens on July 25.
June 4, 2015
Q: I'm a huge fan of Dwyane Wade and the Heat since 2005 and I would puke if I see him in another uniform other that Miami's. Here's an idea: Let's say the Heat give Wade a contract for around $12 million to $15 million a year and gave him additional bonuses and incentives of maybe $2 million if he play in 70 games and another bonus or incentive if he plays in 75 games. Does it sound like an option? Does the NBA permit that type of compensation? Do those bonuses/incentives counts against the team's salary cap? -- Edgardo, Puerto Rico.
A: First, don't puke. Second, bonuses are allowed, but in many cases such basic bonuses also would count against the salary cap and the luxury tax. What you can't do, as some have suggested, is either pay Wade for non-basketball purposes or assure him of future compensation in the front office. While the notion of a bonus for games played sounds good on paper, the problem is that a player then might go out on the court, perhaps just for a token appearance, when rest actually might be the preferable option in order to be fit for the playoffs. Basically, it comes down to Wade and the Heat making an honest assessment of how many games Dwyane is capable of playing at his age, and then going from there.
Q: Ira, is it possible that the Heat would not shed any tears if Wade opts out and leaves? Based on his body of work last season, he doesn't seem to fit what the Heat need with the inability to hit 3-pointers or beat his man off the dribble consistently, along with lackluster defense. He also needs the ball in his hands which seems illogical if Goran Dragic re-signs. It's been a great run but do we need another Kobe Bryant situation with payment for services previously rendered? At this point in his career, he may be better served coming off the bench as the offensive option with the second unit. -- Howard, Palm City.
A: This is why I hate what is playing out at the moment, negotiations that are fueling talk about what Dwyane's isn't. What he is, at the moment, is still one of the best two-guards in the league. If Dwyane walks in free agency, the Heat would be limited to mere exception-type money to replace him. And do you really want Mike Dunleavy Jr. instead of Dwyane? This is where the talk has to stop and the common sense has to start. This also is when the Heat have to rebuild trust that clearly has waned.
Q: If the Heat don't get a player they want at No. 10, could they turn that pick over to the Sixers? -- Rodney, Sarasota.
A: Not to complete the deal under the terms it is written, but certainly if the 76ers were amenable. But that also is not happening, because there will be multiple options for the Heat at No. 10, whether it is a player to fill a need (Devin Booker), a ready-to-go product (Frank Kaminsky), a prospect to mold (Kelly Oubre) or a much-needed wing (Stanley Johnson). There is sufficient depth in this draft to produce something more than a mere consolation prize at No. 10. The goal is to forward a first-rounder to the 76ers when it is out of the lottery, after the Heat return to the playoffs.
June 3, 2015