Q: Let's go Hawks, make that No. 1 seed a whole lot sweeter! -- Daniel.
Heat go hard for the win against the Bulls on Sunday, to at least try to knock Chicago into the other side of the East bracket. Of course, it's not as if Atlanta can be relied upon to take care of their end of the bargain (if the Hawks, indeed, truly even want to get to No. 5). The Heat will never come out and say it, but I'm sure they'd much rather deal with the Nets or Hawks in the second round than the Bulls.
Q: Rose, Rondo, Granger and Stoudemire. Think the road for the Heatles is a little bit easier? -- Billy.
A: And that's just the East, with Kobe out for the Lakers and the Spurs stumbling with their own injury concerns. Yet the reality is the Celtics initially played better without Rajon Rondo, the Pacers appear to be a better team without Danny Granger (at least when it comes to casting Paul George as a leading man), the Knicks haven't been nearly as efficient with Amare Stoudemire in the lineup, and the Bulls remained competitive without Derrick Rose. There still are plenty of hazards in the East if the Heat don't watch their step.
Q: Does Kobe show that you have to be careful with how old your mainline players are? -- Jabari.
A: No, because Kobe's injury was misstep, one that could happen at any age. Now, should a team be concerned about growing old? Sure. But the age issues with the Heat are not the Big Three, but rather some in the supporting cast. The key is to inject younger talent into the mix, as well, if possible.
APRIL 13, 2013
Q: I don't believe the Heat will amnesty Mike Miller. He has proven to be too valuable, not only as a player, but as a "Riley chip" for future possible bargaining for another player. Miller now has some trade value. If he is amnestied, the Heat get nothing back. Yes, next year Miller has a $6.2 million contract, but for comparison, Joel Anthony and James Jones will have a combined $5.2 million. Also, Riley has shown great loyalty to players that produce; it's part of the Riley Culture. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both want to play with Miller. Also, the Heat are playing for championships and that allows for more spending than if the Heat were buried in the standings. Micky Arison and Pat Riley have both said the Heat will spend if it is for a championship, and Miller has contributed. No, I don't see Riley giving Miller away for nothing in return, even if it saves a few bucks. Arison is not Donald T. Sterling. -- Roland, Portland.
A: I hope you are right. I would love to see Mike stay, for his locker-room presence and his playing possibilities. But for all he has done recently, the reality is that 80 percent of the time the tax meter is rolling on Mike's contract without any payoff on the court. Another reality is that everything Mike has done, and been asked to do, likely could be accomplished by a minimum-salary veteran, sort of as Rashard Lewis has done this season. Yes, Mike and LeBron are close, but LeBron also appreciates the luxury-tax implications on the overall roster. Then again, there will be time before the July amnesty window for the Heat to possibly work a Miller trade for lower-cost alternative.
Q: Hey Ira, barring a major injury to LeBron, I don't see any real obstacles to another championship. Certainly, a team from the West may give us some scary moments, but that's the drama of the game. My question is: Why not bring everyone back? -- Cheryl, Fort Lauderdale.
A: The Mike Miller bandwagon clearly has arrived (Friday's 0 for 6 notwithstanding). Look, while it certainly is all about championships, the reality is that everyone else beyond the Big Three is not only expendable, but replaceable. But if Micky Arison is willing to pay the maximum luxury tax required to keep it together, well, that certainly is his prerogative.
Q: As much as I hate the Knicks, I wanted them to beat Bulls on Thursday night. A second-round matchup against Chicago will be very, very tough. -- Jeffrey.
A: I agree. The Bulls are as gritty as any playoff team in the East. They will fight you for every inch, even as they're also having nights like Friday in Toronto.
APRIL 12, 2013
Q: It's obvious that Boston did not value the skills of Ray Allen enough. -- Jabari.
A: I think that's an overstatement, since they were willing to pay more than the Heat offered in order to bring Ray back. But you also have to look at it from where the Celtics stand, and that regardless of Ray's free-agency decision, they were going to keep Avery Bradley in their starting lineup. It clearly is easier for a player to move into a bench role elsewhere than where he had been an enduring starter. Plus, the Celtics saw the need to get more efficient with their perimeter defense, so Kevin Garnett didn't have to work as relentlessly as the last line of defense. All of that said, I still think the best of Ray will come in the playoffs, at the biggest moments. The Celtics moved on. That happens. The payoff for the Heat has been substantial. Now the question becomes whether Ray stays for his option year.
Q: So are you ready to spend a couple of boring days in Milwaukee in the first round? -- S.F.