April 22, 2015
Q: I wholeheartedly agree with Pat Riley that the best teams in the NBA have rosters completed with developed players. But the developed players brought in must complement the team's identity, on-court philosophy and the skill sets of its core players in order for the team to be fluid, consistent, and, ultimately, successful. Miami now has a core of the emerging Hassan Whiteside, the versatile Chris Bosh, and the still-capable-of-getting-it-done Dwyane Wade. Yet, there are so many decisions to be made due to the many holes that remain in the roster. Obviously, a backup shooting guard and knockdown 3-point shooters must be brought in. Also, I believe the team needs to bring in a younger, athletic power player behind Whiteside/Bosh who has some post moves, a nose for rebounding, and has the lift to finish at the rim (Birdman and Udonis Haslem are actually getting to the "over-developed" stage in their careers, if you will, and along with Josh McRoberts, each has a deficiency in one or two of these categories). Then there are the spots taken by three young or undeveloped prospects on the roster who all showed some promise at one point or another during the season, but that's probably two too many, as the Heat will most likely make a first-round selection in this year's draft. Finally, there is the upcoming free agency of Goran Dragic and Luol Deng (everyone knows the detriment of potentially losing Dragic after giving up so much to acquire him midseason, so no need to discuss what he brings on the court). I know what Deng brings to any team. He's a stat sheet stuffer and is still one of the league's best wing defenders (he was excellent against Chris Paul in a win over the Clippers in Los Angeles this past season). But, in my opinion, he does not fit offensively with Wade. Wade seemingly will continue to be a shooting guard who can still score 40 points on a given night without making a 3-point shot. Therefore, a small forward with better spot-up consistency would be a better fit. I believe if Deng opts out, Miami would greatly minimize the loss if (and that's a big "if") they could land Jeff Green (and also add Wesley Johnson to come off the bench behind him). Am I too far ahead of things or do you think Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra already have their sleeves rolled up so that they will be ahead of situations instead of being "late to all the parties" this offseason? -- Nikki.
A: Oh, I can guarantee you that this summer everything from Plan A to Plan Z will be in place. But, moving past the timing of LeBron James' decision last summer, the reality is that there always are moving parts in free agency, and when you are looking to make multiple moves, it often comes down to the timing of those you are considering. So as much as the Heat would like to have a neat, well-packaged approach, the reality is that while waiting for one I'll-get-back-to-you-on-that free agent, another free agent might insist on an immediate answer. I do agree on many of your points. An upgrade on the 3-point shooting is essential; it simply is the way the league is going, and there were too many nights when I tweeted, "Heat now 0-for-(some considerable number) on 3-pointers at the moment." Defensive athleticism on the wing also is needed no matter Deng's decision. And while I agree with your take on the power rotation and an injection of vitality, the reality is that Chris Andersen and Haslem will be back, so there might be only so much you can do without getting overloaded in that area.
Q: I have never seen Riley refer to an incident in the manner he does LeBron James' defection. You know it cuts him deep. Imagine LeBron not taking your calls, so you know he could be moving on, yet you're unable to sign anyone as he may just be coming back. -- Patrick, Hollywood.
A: But, as I mentioned in the answer above, there also has to be perspective. Every year free agents put teams on hold as they consider other possibilities (just as teams do when considering other free agents). And the NBA doesn't make it any easier with the "moratorium" waiting period, where even an agreement with a free agent can't be made official until the formal signing date. I think more than the timing of LeBron's decision, or even the way LeBron handled it, what stung (and apparently still stings) most was that after four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, one of Riley's players walked away.
Q: I just finished watching the full Pat Riley and Eric Spoelstra exit interviews. Compared to Riles being specific and candid with his answers, Coach Spo answered with cliche after cliche, no real specifics. Who does he think this benefits? Why not just give a specific answer to the question? This to me feels condescending and like he is running from or insulating himself from the truth. -- Stone, Miami.
A: The difference is Riley has the franchise's final say, so, save perhaps for Micky Arison, he doesn't have to answer to anyone for his perspective. Spoelstra does. So if Erik would come out sharply in one direction and Riley would offer a contrasting view, well, that would create all kinds of questions. For the most part, I find Erik and Pat in lockstep. In fact, it was Pat who largely ducked specific questions about Spoelstra and the coaching staff.
April 21, 2015
Q: It sounds like Pat Riley wants to run. He mentioned he was a fastbreak coach. Erik Spoelstra said he wants to run. We know Goran Dragic wants to run. So what happens when they don't run? -- Paul.
A: Seemingly every coach wants to run going into a season. But that also means rebounding, which the Heat do not do particularly well. Or it means forcing turnovers, which the Heat did a lot better before this past season. It also means players will have to be willing to run lanes (and then run back on defense), and move the ball. If Hassan Whiteside rebounds over a full schedule like he did over the second half of the season, then the transition opportunities should be there (it will be interesting to see if the opposition tries to jam the rebounder to test his outlet passing). And, of course, it comes down to how Dwyane Wade would work in such approach (although he is just a year removed from a dynamic transition game with LeBron James). Bottom line with all talk of running: Believe it when you see it.
Q: I had to laugh when Pat Riley seemed to lament his "buzzard's luck" this season. If there's one thing Pat and the Heat have not had, it's any type of bad luck. (This year alone: Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic becoming available, being "just" bad enough to probably keep their pick in a great, deep draft). --Anthony
A: But also losing Josh McRoberts just over a month into the season and then Chris Bosh at midseason. In the end, I don't think "luck" had much to do with the Heat's demise, especially when playing in the Eastern Conference. With one more victory, they would have been in the playoffs. And there were plenty of losses over the final weeks of the season (perhaps beyond the Milwaukee game) where "luck" had little to do with the equation.
Q: Pat made no mention of the coaching staff's gaffes. I still have some serious concerns about this coaching staff. -- Gary, Delray Beach.
A: And I doubted he would. As a former coach, the last place I would expect Pat to evaluate his coaching staff is in front of the media. As he said, he has no problem with passing along notes to his staff. And I'm sure he did that plenty both during and after the season.
April 20, 2015
Q: You have to like a starting five, at least on paper, of Goran Dragic (assuming he comes back), Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng (assuming he comes back), Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh. That's potentially a top-five NBA starting lineup, if the group stays healthy and Whiteside takes another solid step forward in developing his game. The key, outside of health, is depth. We need help on the perimeter in regard to defense and 3-point shooting range. -- Matt.
A: Spot on. The drop-off often was substantial when the Heat went to the bench. Yes, playing without Bosh and Josh McRoberts compromised the depth. But their absences had little to do with the wing depth, or with wing defense. If Danny Granger had worked out, that still would not have addressed defensive wing depth beyond what Deng could offer. Now the resources are even more limited (remember, last summer the Heat were able to work with salary-cap space once LeBron James left). The answer could be as simple as a three-and-D wing (I'm not sure James Ennis is there yet). But there has to be more for the games that Wade misses and the ones that Deng (or his potential replacement might miss). Ennis and Tyler Johnson aren't there yet.
Q: One takeaway from the last two seasons was gambling on reclamation projects doesn't work for the Miami Heat. Maybe it succeeds for other teams, but the Heat aren't built that way. -- Leonard.
A: Granger certainly set them back. And I agree that this time, already with older players in Wade and Chris Andersen, plus others, that the Heat can't be waiting on players who might work their way back. It's one thing to gamble on players who haven't quite found their way, such as what Boston did with Evan Turner. It's another thing not knowing if a player even will make it to the court.