December 22, 2014
Q: Ira, I like James Ennis' energy. And now he's playing more under control. -- Chet.
A: I don't know if he's necessarily more under control, nor if that is something the Heat are looking for. What makes Ennis unique among Heat players is his motor. And that motor powered the Heat to 10 points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter Sunday, when it appeared some of the veterans were running on fumes. Games against the Celtics on Sunday and then Tuesday against the 76ers are perfect spots for Ennis, against young teams more concerned with finding their own way. The question is whether Ennis can get it done against elite teams who know how to counter what he might do best. But among the Heat rookies, he has taken the greatest strides recently and it was nice to see Spoelstra have the trust to play him all 12 minutes of Sunday's fourth quarter. The irony, of course, is that it had been Shabazz Napier who had been playing entire fourth quarters earlier this season. It will be interesting, with Danny Granger now back, to see how Spoelstra spots Ennis going forward. Then again Ennis vs. LeBron James could have some interesting outcomes Thursday. The plot thickens.
Q: Ira, when the Heat get the injury exception for Josh McRoberts, they still would have to release a player to make a roster spot. Tell me it won't be Andre Dawkins. -- Ivan.
A: I doubt it, not after what Dawkins showed during his D-League stint. When it comes to odd man out, considering the promise Hassan Whiteside has shown, it is possible that Justin Hamilton could be the odd man out if the Heat get and utilize an injured-player exception for McRoberts' absence. Remember, McRoberts still would have to count against the 15-man roster limit even if the Heat add a player with his injury exception.
Q: I don't understand, Shabazz Napier is a better point guard than Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole. -- Alex.
A: But not as polished when it comes to decision making or defensive positioning. And possibly not strong enough yet to maneuver through NBA-level screens. The one thing about Heat prospects is that their chance tends to come again if they are patient. Just look at Ennis.
December 21, 2014
Q: To me, Mario Chalmers is a magician: He has a good game once every five or so and then disappears, poof! He shoots an occasional three, misses a ton of shots, very inconsistent and poof he is a starter! How does he do it? -- Stone, Miami.
A: Because the Heat's other options at point guard are Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier? The Heat arguably have the worst rotation at point guard in the league. So Erik Spoelstra has to try something. The reality is that Chalmers seemingly was playing well in his combo role off the bench, and essentially is remaining in such a role, coming out early in favor of Cole and then re-entering before the end of the first quarter in place of Dwyane Wade. When you think about it, the Heat have already demoted Napier to the D-League and demoted Cole from the starting lineup. It's as if they know what they don't have. The solution would be a D-and-three guard the Heat could play alongside Wade, since Wade lacks the quickness at his age to play point guard defensively. But Wade essentially has emerged as the Heat's offensive point guard, the way he has taken over getting the Heat into offense.
Q: The best trade option would be Norris Cole and whatever it takes for Dion Waiters. LeBron James gets to play with a point guard he likes, and we get a strong back up for Dwyane Wade so he can take days off (and not have to do 42 points on a nightly basis.) -- Nelson, Kendall.
A: Works for me. But I'm not sure it would work for the Cavaliers, who realize that Mike Miller, with his injuries, is not exactly a fulltime player.
Q: Although at the time it was generally considered another masterful job by Pat Riley, did Riles make a bad thing worse by signing Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts long term? When LeBron left, did we miss an opportunity to build a new foundation? -- Steve, Miami.
A: No, I like that he limited the long-term commitment to just two players, so there still is plenty of flexibility. And I think the Bosh-McRoberts pairing is intriguing, one that had precious little time on the court before the two were sidelined, McRoberts now likely for the season. As long as the two can make it work next season, I think it is a pairing that could prove intriguing to free agents, as well. Bosh has the look of a player whose game could age well.
December 20, 2014
Q: Tough loss Friday, but the silver lining is the upside of Hassan Whiteside. -- John.
A: I agree that it is nice to have young, active length. Chris Andersen does what he can, but you can see that he is limited, and starting minutes are a stretch at this stage of his career. Obviously foul trouble will be an issue, and the kid is still plenty raw, but I would go ahead and move Whiteside ahead of Justin Hamilton in the rotation. If he can rebound and block shots, he could wind up as a perfect complement to Chris Bosh. For all those who had been calling for a return of Khem Birch, Friday offered a glimpse into Whiteside's possibilities.