A: I'm putting it out there only as a reference point of what's left among big men on the market, for a team that clearly has such a void. I'm not saying there aren't blemishes or that there aren't off-court concerns. But I have a hard time believing Nazr Mohammed or Ryan Hollins are better than what the Heat already have in their power rotation with Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams. I think you could make an argument that Blatche would upgrade that group. Whether Blatche would want to be the fourth player in a team's power rotation is another story.
A: Luol Deng will do more than "fill in." And Dwyane Wade has to be healthy. A lot of factors that were masked by LeBron James will come under greater inspection this season. To a degree, there will be a greater breadth of focus on the roster this coming season.
September 11, 2014
Q: Regardless of future moves, now is the time for the players to get to know each other's quirks and what the coaching staff expects of them. With only seven weeks before the season starts, there is a lot to do to establish a comfort zone between everyone. A missed pass or blown assignment is often due to players not reading each other's intentions correctly. That takes time and bonding. -- Dean, Miami
A: I agree. To a point. This also is a time for players to clear their minds one final time before training camp, be it Dwyane Wade's honeymoon or Chris Bosh taking in Fashion Week in New York. While I do agree that this will be more of a teaching camp than during recent seasons, with so many newcomers, it also will be a camp with far fewer distractions than previous years. The trip to Brazil will help with bonding, but that time probably could have been put to better use on the practice court at AmericanAirlines Arena. So, to your point, while there will be a greater need for bonding and teaching, there also will be less time having to deal with the distractions that came with being the NBA's ultimate target with the NBA's ultimate player. I think the exhale will do some of the returning players good. Being the chased can grow exhausting, as can playing in the shadow of the player who casts the longest shadow in the game.
Q: Do you think the Heat will be able to sign Zoran Dragic? -- Justin, Pembroke Pines.
A: No, not with being limited to offering only the veteran minimum and with Goran Dragic's brother having a significant buyout clause in his contract in Spain. If it happens with the skilled shooting guard, it would be more likely in the offseason, when the Heat will have greater funds at their disposal.
Q: The Heat still need someone who can rebound. Why hasn't this been addressed? -- Scott.
A: Chris Bosh can rebound, and will have to. Josh McRoberts can rebound, and will be needed to. Luol Deng can rebound, and that is part of his allure in replacing LeBron James. Dwyane Wade used to rebound, and the hope is he will again. The real question is whether the Heat have the needed height to get the one rebound they have to get at the end of a close game. And that is a matter that remains unresolved. I agree.
September 10, 2014
Q: Ira, I was wondering why you list Norris Cole as your trading chip instead of Mario Chalmers? Is it because Norris has more worth on the trade market, or do you think Chalmers is a better fit for the Heat long term? -- Juan, Denver.
A: Cole is the only proven quantity on this roster who can be dealt before Dec. 15 (players signed in the offseason cannot be traded until then). This is not a matter of taking sides between Chalmers or Cole, nor is there even such a need. In fact, if you're asking what point guard could have the greatest impact on the Heat's personnel flexibility, an argument could be made that it's Shabazz Napier. Should Napier be able to move past his summer-league shooting struggles and prove NBA ready early on, it would give the Heat the flexibility to either thin their situation at point guard to address greater needs, or allow Chalmers to potentially emerge as a candidate for additional time at shooting guard.
Q: Ira, I don't know if Danny Ferry's comments about Luol Deng will get Deng fired up to play Atlanta this season, but I wonder what Erik Spoelstra's "brotherhood " speech will be before that game, like when LeBron James went back to play Cleveland or Chris Bosh to Toronto. -- Matt.
A: First, it remains to be seen what the fallout will be for Ferry. Beyond that, I think this is far too delicate a situation for Spoelstra or anyone in the Heat organization to turn into a rallying cry. This is not a case of proving something to management of a team that bypassed or shortchanged a former player; this is something that transcends pregame speeches. I would expect the Heat to downplay any Deng angle going into games against the Hawks. What will matter in those games against Atlanta is that they are against a division rival, and winning the Southeast no longer is a given for the Heat, in the absence of LeBron James.
Q: If the Heat start the season at four wins and 20 losses do you see them trading away several of their old players? -- Luis, Miami.
A: Um, yeah, that's not happening. They have the comfort of playing Philadelphia, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Orlando early in the schedule, and plenty of other favorable matchups. Plus, with Ray Allen not expected back and Shane Battier having retired, it's not as if there are many, if any, "old" players beyond, say, Chris Andersen. I think this staff and front office will keep these players well apprised of what many are saying about them and I would expect statements to be made early in the season.