Q: Articles on the internet have popped up defending Erik Spoelstra's job security. Even though I have been critical of Spoelstra's coaching ability, I do not want to replace him. Finding a replacement for him is a lot of work. The point other commentators miss is that coaching is not a tenured position, but a results-oriented one, just like the players on the court. After seven years, Spoelstra is getting long-in-the-tooth and set in his ways, thinking Dwyane Wade is immortal, as Gregg Popovich is tied to Tim Duncan. Spoelstra has never coached a team without Wade and last season was glimpse of what happens when Spoelstra depends on a Wade 2008 model when Wade cannot turn back the clock. Contrary to what others write, no Heat fan wants to fire Spoelstra. However time waits for no man and not keeping pace with other teams' rise to excellence leads to certain extinction for the Heat's championship aspirations. Spoelstra and Pat Riley are closely tied to Wade, so much so that Riley even demands Wade play more minutes, probably because Spoelstra is lost without him. Is Spoelstra counting on Wade too much? Does Spoelstra refuse to face a reality without Wade? Then the Heat are in trouble, because father time is undefeated. -- Leonard, Aventura.
A: Look, Dwyane had a statistically solid season. But I think you can also see in recent seasons how the Heat have been working to avoid over-reliance, which is part of the reason the Big Three was formed, and why the Heat were so aggressive in acquiring Dragic. As long as Wade is on the roster, he will always be a leading man. But to succeed, both Spoelstra and Riley appreciate that others have to be there to lead, as well. In the end, Spoelstra's tenure very much is tied to Wade, because when this thing goes south for any extended period, it likely will require rebuilding from the ground up.
April 30, 2015
Q: Did the Heat miss the boat on Billy Donovan? You know he's close with Pat Riley, and if the Heat eventually decide to make a move, they would have wound up moving too late. He's the perfect Pat guy. -- Donnie.
A: I know there is a great respect there between Riley and Donovan, but I'm also not sure that would have been the best fit for the type of roster the Heat are featuring. While Billy has had remarkable success with the Gators (I was working in Gainesville during the Norm Sloan era before it all went south for an extended period), I'm not sure if Billy's style of pressing after made baskets and playing for 3-pointers will necessarily work in the NBA. Of course, it's not as if that is the only style Billy's teams have played. And he has proven adept at producing NBA-ready talent, so there clearly is an appreciation of what works in the NBA. The bottom line is the Heat not only are not are poised to make a change, but the approach since Riley's arrival has been to promote from within, first with Stan Van Gundy, then with Spoelstra. I wouldn't be surprised if Juwan Howard eventually winds up in such a pipeline.
Q: I've been hearing the Heat might draft for frontcourt depth. Why is that? What we need is help on the wing. We already have a good front court. What do you think Ira? -- Tim, Miami.
A: When you look at the 2015 draft, there is plenty of depth of quality at the power positions, which is why you've seen names such as Willie Cauley-Stein attached to the No. 10 lottery seed, which the Heat currently hold. Once the result of the lottery shake out on May 19, you well could see mock drafts that look decidedly different. But I do believe that if there is a talent available at No. 10 who is a power player with a resume better than the other candidates, that Riley would go in that direction, and then round out the wing rotation in free agency. As it is, so many of the wings in that stage of the first round might not be that much of an immediate upgrade on James Ennis.
Q: With Luol Deng not wanting to be the 3-point shooter that the Heat desperately need, isn't he really the odd man out? If he opts out, use his salary to court Danny Green. If he opts in, trade him for a legit small forward would could shoot 3-pointers and defend. -- Joe, Fort Lauderdale.
A: But Deng, when he is playing his complete game, also likely sets up as the best option for the Heat at small forward next season. What many seem to lose track of is that if Deng opts out and departs, the Heat would receive no salary-cap relief, and would in fact still be considerably over the 2015-16 cap, because of their other eight-figure contracts. In fact, even if Deng and Goran Dragic both don't return, the Heat would have limited resources to replace one or both. Just with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Josh McRoberts, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and some of the other smaller contracts, the Heat would be at $60 million in 2015-16 salary. The best option for the Heat is getting both Dragic and Deng back, and then moving forward from there.
April 29, 2015
Q: Ira, what's the latest condition of Josh McRoberts resuming basketball activities? Did he have any closing remarks about the season? -- Jeremy, Boca Raton.
A: He spoke the final week of the season and expressed that he would be fully ready for camp. The greater question might be where he fits in, with the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, the expected return of Chris Bosh, and the possibility of the Heat winding up with length if they retain the No. 10 pick coming out of the draft lottery, with Willie Cauley-Stein a potential option at that selection, or even Frank Kaminsky. On one hand, I've been told that Pat Riley remains intrigued with McRoberts' possibilities, on the other hand, the Heat are a far different team than when they signed McRoberts to mid-level money last summer. I think the draft could impact where the Heat go with their power rotation.
Q: I know it does us no good to dwell, and I know the current situation with the Nets doesn't mean it would be the same situation were it Miami, but, still, the Heat could have been playing the Hawks. -- Thomas, Houston.
A: And this is why you push to make the playoffs, because you could wind up in an East field where the Cavaliers love Kevin Love, the Hawks lose their footing, the Bulls lose their way and the Raptors lose their ability to compete. The last time LeBron made the NBA Finals with the Cavaliers, the East was a mess. This could be a rerun. And while Washington rolled through the first round, they did it against the Raptors team primed to be rolled.
Q: What are the odds of Miami being able to draft Mario Hezonja? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.
A: I can't tell you how many questions I've gotten about the 6-8 wing from Croatia who has thrived in Spain. Based on most of the mock drafts I've seen, I think he goes earlier than No. 10. Remember, the only spots the Heat can emerge at in the lottery are No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 10. Otherwise, they must forward the pick to the 76ers. And I think a top-three selection is a bit early for Hezonja.
April 28, 2015
Q: When Chris Bosh went down in 2012, Dwyane Wade's next three games were 30, 28 and 41. Your move, Kyrie Irving. -- Esteban.
A: Actually, when Chris Bosh was lost in Game 1 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pacers for the balance of that series with an abdominal issue, Wade had 24 points in Game 2, just five in Game 3, then 30 in Game 4, 28 in Game 5 and 41 in Game 6, when the Heat closed it out. But I get your point, now that Kevin Love is out for the Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference semifinals with his dislocated shoulder. While LeBron James also stepped up against the Pacers in that 2012 series, you are on point about how Wade turned that series around, and how we'll now get to see if Irving is up to the moment. There are many similarities at play. And yet, with the watered-down East, it is doubtful that if the Pacers do advance they would face anyone as challenging in the Eastern Conference finals as the Heat faced in those 2012 East finals against the Celtics, when Bosh eventually worked his way back.