Q: I was really impressed with Winslow in the summer-league opener. I didn't see one mental error on offense or defense. He always made the right basketball play. He looked for his teammates. It's going to be nice to see him with the vets. -- Todd.
A: As I always say: It's only summer league. But good habits should translate to any level of the game. But you could also see in the summer opener how an adjustment is required for any newcomer to NBA speed and force. I think that is among the reasons Justise went without a rebound in his debut.
July 4, 2015
Q: The West has better players, but teams keep getting diluted. Besides the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, the West is not great. -- Jeffrey.
A: I would beg to disagree, including with what the Mavericks did Friday with DeAndre Jordan, and even how the Rockets managed to keep everything together. Plus, you will have a healthy (presumably) Kevin Durant coming back for the Thunder and a locked-in Anthony Davis for the Pelicans. And don't sleep on the Jazz, who began a significant revival by the end of last season, or the muscle of the Grizzlies. Yes, the Clippers have been stung, with the same potential fate for the Trail Blazers, but an argument could be made that the West still has six of the seven best teams in the NBA, maybe more. Actually, the way free agency has gone probably has been a relief to teams in the East, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo from the Blazers to the Knicks are about the only significant West-to-East moves so far in free agency, and it's not as if the Knicks suddenly have the look of a contender. Beyond the Cavaliers, there are no locks when it comes to seeding in the East, or even that many teams, beyond perhaps the 76ers or Magic, that are locks for the lottery.
Q: My two reactions once I heard of Dwyane Wade's signing were relief and a little bit of sorrow. I didn't want the Heat to commit to a multi-year contract. It must be sobering for a player of Wade's stature to receive such little attention in free agency. So that Wade could save face, aren't you surprised the Heat didn't offer the full $23.5 million? -- Rich (West Palm Beach)
A: I wouldn't be surprised if the missing money was Wade's making sure Udonis Haslem will stay, as well, and not be sold off for luxury-tax savings. Similarly, it could be that Goran Dragic taking a bit less was to assure that his brother, Zoran Dragic, would remain alongside.
Q: Ira, who within the Heat family is being groomed to be the next Don (Riley)? The organization markets itself as a family that hires from within and we have seen individuals being groomed for other positions. Riley is getting older and I don't see any one obviously being groomed that would have the same cachet going forward in making the deals. Who is someone who can come to the table with multiple championship rings and has been proven to be as ruthless as Pat Riley? -- Henry.
A: I don't think there is a succession plan or even thoughts of one. I think this is a franchise very much living in the moment, thus the willingness to trade away three upcoming first-round picks, and the reluctance to take a package of first-round picks from the Celtics at this year's draft in exchange for the No. 10 pick. When Riley moves on, it all will change. For now . . . it's about now.
July 3, 2015
Q: Who can the Heat get with the midlevel? -- Art.
A: If might be a question of "will" rather than "who." The Heat are so hard up against the luxury tax that any player signed at the $3.4 million could cost at least three times that amount when accounting for the luxury tax, perhaps even more. By contrast, players signed for the veteran minimum would cost less than $1 million against the cap and only a modest amount in the tax. So the question becomes whether a player available at the taxpayer mid-level is a significant upgrade from what can be obtained at the minimum. The use of the mid-level could come down to the Heat's ability to sell off some of their excess pieces, especially ones earning well beyond the minimum or over the taxpayer mid-level. It is quite possible that teams unable to utilize their cap space might come to shop at the Heat's bargain bin. Usually you can find one-dimensional shooters on the minimum market. Heck, Jason Kapono was on such a tryout for the Warriors last preseason. The question is whether Erik Spoelstra would ever utilize such a player. So the long, long answer to your short question is that it will come down to where the Heat stand against the tax and whether such a mid-level addition truly could emerge as a rotation player.
Q: Will this be Dwyane Wade's last year with the Heat? I assume Pat Riley's plan is to re-sign him for much more modest amounts in future years. But if he's going to take a big pay cut, Wade might decide to team up with you-know-who in Cleveland. -- David.
A: I can almost guarantee that this one-year deal is the start of a series well-delineated, pre-orchestrated future contracts with Wade that the Heat never will talk about. The money will keep flowing to Dwyane as the Heat maneuver through various payroll scenarios in coming years. In some ways, he signed a one-year lifetime contract. As long as the contracts are individual, Wade can take this current $20 million one-year deal, take a minimal one-year deal in 2016-17 in order for the Heat to add a free agent, and then take a max deal in 2017-18 once the roster is set. He could wind up being a very, very well-paid 40-year-old.
Q: You think the LaMarcus Aldrich meeting is Riley's way of saying that "I'm not waiting around like I did last year"? -- David.
A: I think the whole league isn't waiting around like it did last year for LeBron James. This year, the fireworks come before July 4. I actually might get to watch summer league at summer league.
July 2, 2015
Q: Ira, I'm not worried about the price of Goran Dragic's contract. I am concerned that he will not be able to play his style with this Heat roster. Why should I believe otherwise? -- Thom.
A: Why? Because when given the opportunity to synthesize a system in the offseason, Erik Spoelstra has shown time and again an ability to develop a system that works for his entire roster. The problem last season was that two of the added components, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, arrived unable to immediately contribute. Then Hassan Whiteside emerged to change the dynamic. And when Goran arrived at the Feb. 19 trading deadline, the Heat were losing Chris Bosh for the season. The Heat never got to Goran's game, because they never got to anyone's game last season. Now Dragic and Whiteside will go to their first Heat training camp, Bosh will be back, and the Heat will have a sense of identity. Between Whiteside either triggering the break with rebounds or running to the rim in transition, with the ability for Bosh to drag and hit jumpers, and with Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng able to play on the secondary break, there should be no reason for the Heat not to play at Dragic's tempo of choice. This time the Heat not only can talk about running, they actually can do it.