Q: I wonder if they are OK in the NBA offices with no Los Angeles, New York, Boston or Chicago remaining! -- Stuart.
A: They're fine for now. But if the Heat don't advance, the question might become whether ABC will tape-delay their NBA Finals coverage until after Jimmy Kimmel or Nightline or both. Indiana-Memphis or Indiana-San Antonio would be an ABC and NBA ratings nightmare, even though there certainly would be compelling subplots.
MAY 18, 2013
Q: Is another long layoff going to result in another lackluster Heat performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals? It's easy to say that they learned their lesson in the last round, but not playing is not playing. Although Dwyane Wade benefits, the rest will have to fight off rust. -- Myles, Coconut Creek.
A: It's "easy to say" that they've learned their lesson, but it's difficult to actually plot a course of action so the same problems don't resurface. I think Erik Spoelstra is up to that challenge. One thing he has shown is an ability to adjust and adapt. All of that said, the Heat certainly will face a more imposing challenge in the East finals than the depleted Bulls. But that also will make the Heat aware of the significance of not having to fight to regain homecourt advantage, as they had to against the Bulls.
Q: Who do you think the Heat would rather face in the NBA Finals: Spurs or Grizzlies? The Spurs have looked pretty vulnerable in these playoffs, but Gregg Popovich and their level of experience are intimidating factors. On the other hand, the Grizzlies seem to be the more difficult matchup for the Heat, but you can't help but wonder if their inexperience on the big stage would hold them back. -- Kevin.
A: You make good points, and the Grizzlies, with quality scorers at both center and power forward, seemingly would set up as the more imposing challenge, especially if Chris Bosh gets into foul trouble. But your other point is valid, as well, that the Grizzlies could be in glad-to-be-here mode, as opposed to the Spurs, for whom it's championship or bust. So I think the better championship odds would come against Memphis, if the Heat make it out of the East.
Q: I've been Dwyane Wade's biggest fan. I never panic when it comes to him because he's always proven his doubters wrong. I just want to know: Will he be at least 90 percent by Wednesday? -- Evonte, Plantation.
A: I don't know how you put a percentage on the discomfort and pain created by a bone bruise. But don't understate what he did against the Bulls. As long as he can occupy his defender and not require defensive help on the other end, he should have the Heat at a net gain at his position.
MAY 17, 2013
Q: Ira, I am so sick of all of these Heat "fans" with the "oh no it's (insert Team X here they're scared of this week)"! I'm not saying any of the teams left will be easy, but unless LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Birdman, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, Erik Spoelstra go play on the other team, why should we be scared? -- Mike.
A: All you need to appreciate is this: The Heat are 45-3 in their last 48 games, and to dethrone them, an opponent would have to beat them four out of seven. Yes, the level of opposition will get tougher, but the Heat also have shown an ability to increase their resolve when needed. Ultimately, it all comes down to health. And that's why the Wade knee injury situation is, and should be, such a concern. Because for all the names you listed, without a healthy Wade there would not have been 45-3. But, yes, the sky isn't falling, although there just might be a few cloudy days along the way.
Q: While Wade is limited, he still has the ability to draw multiple defenders and create open opportunities for teammates. However, since he is noticeably less explosive and shooting inconsistently, will teams stop double covering him in order to keep a defender on Cole, Battier or Allen? -- David, Boynton Beach.
A: There rarely have been all-out double teams on Dwyane. Instead, it has been a case of collapsing the defense by getting into the lane. He certainly showed against the Bulls that he still could have such moments. It's not a matter of whether opponents will double, as much as whether Dwyane still can explode into the lane, leaving other defenders no option but to help.
Q: Ira, for the second year in a row Tom Thibodeau burnt out his team, so that they were injured and tired for the playoffs. He is a defensive genius, but why is he considered such a good coach -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Because he gets every last drop of potential out of his players, if not every last drop of their stamina, as well. Injuries clearly had him taking an approach he otherwise might not have. But the head games with Rip Hamilton cost opportunities to have better-rested players during the playoffs. Thibodeau made it personal at a time he could least afford, even if Rip isn't always the easiest to get along with.
MAY 16, 2013