Q: Has James Ennis been this bad that he can't get minutes over Henry Walker? I mean, Henry Walker? -- Julio.
A: Not this "bad," but rather too "raw." Even with his at-times-wayward shooting, Walker still offers more consistency in more respects than Ennis, particularly on the defensive end. For now, Walker is about as good as it gets in that 9th/10th-man role, depending on if Tyler Johnson also plays. Basically, the Heat have tried to reduce their margin of error by removing their rawest players from the rotation, such as Ennis, Johnson and Shabazz Napier.
Q: Ira, assuming the re-signing of Goran Dragic and the availability of both McRoberts and Bosh next season, I could see a starting five of Whiteside, Bosh, McRoberts, Dwyane Wade and Dragic. Where does this leave Luol Deng, and would he be willing to come off the bench as the first or second sub? -- Ken.
A: None of those can defend small forwards, so that's where Deng is needed. I think McRoberts plays as a sixth man next season, if he returns. Of course, Deng also has an opt-out, although I would expect him to return, based on the fondness he has expressed for playing for the Heat and with these teammates.
March 23, 2015
Q: Ira, is there anything to what Hassan Whiteside said about cheap shots opponents are taking? This isn't the first time he brought it up. -- Howard.
A: Sure, there's probably everything to be said about what Hassan said about Steven Adams and the Thunder. And you know what? It's not going to stop. This isn't lawn tennis. This is the physical, big-man world of the NBA post, where if there's no blood, there's not always a foul. Watching Sunday's game, I'd almost go as far as to say that Chris Andersen took, by far, more abuse than Hassan, practically shoved under the basket every time the Thunder put up a shot. Adams was only doing what he should have. The same with Enes Kanter. What Hassan has to do is adjust to the way the game is being officiated. Sometimes that means hand fighting and bumping the cutter will be allowed, while touch fouls or shooting fouls will not. This is all part of the education of Hassan Whiteside. Which is why a playoff appearance would be particularly helpful, to learn about the whole next level of postseason physicality. There is nothing wrong with complaining about getting knocked around. But time better spent would be going through the tape and learning what is allowed and what needs to be cut back to avoid foul trouble. What I will say is that it doesn't appear opponents are trying to hurt Hassan (that's where you draw the line), but rather are using all the tricks in the books against a player likely still regarding by officials as a rookie.
Q: It looks like Erik Spoelstra is content on going with a small ball lineup team for the remainder of the season. During the LeBron James years, when the Heat matched up with Indiana and other long teams, Spoelstra and Pat Riley said it would come down to which team using their style of play could break the will of the other. Having LeBron made that possible. And even in the years the Heat won, there were some really close games. The Heat have a lot of talent, but not sure they have enough to always play small ball against long teams. Oklahoma City provided one blueprint Sunday on how to beat the Heat. -- Stuart.
A: But it's not as if the Heat have much of a choice. Sunday was the first time Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen played alongside one another, and that was fleeting, with no other size on the bench. And with Udonis Haslem and Henry Walker as the power forwards, the Heat wind up playing small ball from the outset. I'm surprised that Walker ultimately was the best the Heat could do at backup power forward. I appreciate that Michael Beasley has played in a power role, as well, but he mostly has played as a featured scorer when he has been in the game. Basically, there is no choice but small ball for the Heat. What they need is for Luol Deng to play a bit bigger to help offset some of the disparity.
Q: Spoelstra has to realize Beasley isn't a power forward. You can't get away with it all the time. Sunday it wasn't working. You have to have flexibility. -- Morris.
A: I think Beasley is regressing to his mean. I'm not sure he would make the top nine or 10 of next season's Heat rotation, when factoring in the return of Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts (if McRoberts is retained). And at that point, the preference could be developmental players, as it was this past summer, when the Heat bypassed an initial return from Michael.
March 22, 2015
Q: I am the only one that thinks this team is so much more fun to watch than the last few years? This team is so much more exciting. -- Frand, Miami.
A: The fun is in the winning, which is what has made this past week so enjoyable. But the Heat are playing an attractive style, with Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic leading the offense from the backcourt. And Hassan Whiteside has made the defensive end fun with his shot blocking. To your overall point, yes, the regular season largely had turned into drudgery in recent seasons, when it was all about the playoffs. What I will say is that this team is playing hard, which is all you can ask for, regardless of the level of talent.
Q: Ira, how realistic is a shot at the No. 6 seed for the Heat, with the way they are playing now and the struggles Milwaukee is facing? -- Danny, Miami.
A: We’ll all have a better idea after Tuesday night, when the Heat play in Milwaukee. But the fact that the Heat are 0-3 this season against the Bucks doesn't help. This is the time of year when the ones that got away earlier can come back to bite you. To get to No. 6, the Heat will have to continue to win a few unexpected ones, as they did this past week against the Cavaliers and the Trail Blazers, and might have to in upcoming games against the Hawks, Spurs, Cavaliers, Bulls and Raptors. Getting to No. 6 would be huge, especially if it gets the Heat out of the Cavaliers' side of the bracket.
Q: I'm still unclear on their rotation. Some games I would say Tyler Johnson would be perfect at this point to come off the bench and gets a DNP. Then on Wednesday I thought Henry Walker could have helped with guarding Aldridge, but he was a DNP. I would prefer a little more consistency. Wouldn't you agree? -- George, Miami Beach.
A: At this point of the season, the only consistency comes at the top of the rotation. Not only has Erik Spoelstra settled on a starting lineup of Whiteside, Haslem, Deng, Wade and Dragic, but also on Birdman, Chalmers and Beasley as his first three off the bench. From there, I agree that it has to be situational. And that often is determined by game flow and foul trouble.
March 21, 2015