A: And yet with the volume of games they have played these past four years, and with Dwyane Wade's iffy knees, who's to say that if they pushed hard throughout they even would have made these four Finals? Popovich didn't push too hard either, he just had more quality pieces at his disposal.
A: I think he will adjust based on his system. Without a big-minutes shot blocker, playing disruptive gave this team the best chance. I think players just lost the passion for the system along the way, or grew too fatigued, perhaps as much mentally as physically.
June 15, 2014
Q: Ira, isn't this series a defeat for Pat Riley vs. R.C. Buford more than Erik Spoelstra vs. Gregg Popovich? Riley just hasn't gotten the blame for failing to put the pieces together for LeBron James, even with the financial restrictions. He has always taken the easy way out and not taken the time to develop and scout like the Spurs. "Just go buy me some superstars and if it doesn't work, destroy the team and try again." -- Howard, Palm City.
A: Look, at times like these I can appreciate the frustrations. But Riley first put together the Big Three, then added pieces like Shane Battier, Norris Cole, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen that helped produce consecutive championships, something the Spurs have never had and won't even if they finish off this series. The difference is when Riley got his prime lottery shot, he wound up with Michael Beasley; when Buford and the Spurs got their prime lottery shot, they landed Tim Duncan (after David Robinson). An argument could be made that with more youth and less experience, the Heat never would have been able to get LeBron those first two titles. And if not for Riley's veteran bent, and the moves for Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and Gary Payton, there likely wouldn't have been the 2006 title, either. Riley and Buford succeed in different ways. But they both succeed.
Q: I had the Spurs in seven. My expectations for the series were that the Spurs were simply the better, deeper team, playing better than the Heat. So losing the series won't be the end of the world. I'll gladly take another four years in the Finals with two more championships. But in these last two games, the lack of focus, intensity, urgency and whatever other adjective you want to use has been stunning. How to explain this? That is the disappointment here, not so much that we lost, but the way we are losing. -- Bob.
A: I agree. It is one thing to go down with a fight. It is another to leave this type of aftertaste. Pride should resonate more than it has these past two games. In Game 5, every play has to matter for the Heat. There can't be anything loose, lazy, loafing. That's where reputations are sullied, not by the final score alone.
Q: So the quest for redemption may actually be a stronger motivation than the quest to three-peat. You can tell Spurs want this bad, the way their coach prepared for this series (or this season for that matter) and the way the players have executed. -- Neil, Manila.
A: Sort of like the hunger the Heat displayed coming off the 2011 loss in the Finals to the Mavericks. Now the question is whether the humiliation and embarrassment of Games 3 and 4 are enough to inspire the Heat in time for Game 5, or whether such disappointment first must burn for an entire offseason.
June 14, 2014
Q: Here's to the Heat Big Three somehow finding a way to three-peat and then Dwyane Wade saying, "I've had an amazing career, but my knees are shot and it's time to retire." The Next Big Three: LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony. -- Shep, Washington, D.C.
A: Dwyane Wade is not leaving $42 million on the table. There's "sacrifice", then there's $42 million of sacrifice. Loyalty has its limits. And Dwyane Wade in the right role still has significant value. But that also means coming to grips with where he stands, what he can do, and what he no longer can afford to try to do. Look, at times this postseason Wade has been brilliant. But when the shine is off, such as Thursday's Game 4, the luster is completely gone. There no longer is a "1" and "1A" dynamic with Wade and LeBron. There can't be. But the issue in this series is there is too much standing still on offense, waiting for LeBron or Wade for a bail-out shot. That doesn't work against the Spurs. And once they Heat get too passive on offense, they wind up less sharp on defense.
Q: If somehow the Heat can obtain Carmelo Anthony as the Heat's Big Three take pay compromises, and if LeBron and Wade took turns defending point guards, then the opposing team would be forced to use their point guard to guard Wade and the two-guard has to guard James or Carmelo. Mismatches all over. Of course, Wade can only be counted on for half the games. But it's a nice luxury if that happened. In all reality, a case can be argued Heat need a Carmelo Anthony more so than they need a Chris Bosh. -- Martin.
A: Totally disagree on the last point. Bosh has bought in to the Heat's approach and sacrifices. With any outside player, you don't know if that would happen until it happens. In fact, for all the Anthony conjecture, an argument could be made that what the Heat really need is size, and a point guard. Put it this way, if Joakim Noah or Chris Paul were free agents, that would make more sense for salary sacrifice than adding Anthony. As I wrote previously, if you're suggesting essentially an Anthony-Bosh trade, it would leave the Heat at a net deficit. Of course, we could first get through the NBA Finals, a level Bosh has helped lift the Heat the past four years, before worrying about free-agency permutations.
Q: Is there any chance of a Mike Miller return next season? Will there be any interest from either side? -- Bruce, Deerfield Beach.
A: Under amnesty-release rules, the Heat cannot reacquire Miller, through any means, until the contract they amnestied expires. Miller's Heat contract runs through next season, with the Heat still paying off that contract (even though it no longer counts against the Heat's cap or tax).