Q: Hi, Ira. I want to start off by saying Dwyane Wade is my favorite basketball player. I have loved his game since day one. He has been the best player Miami has ever had put on the Heat uniform. It has been my opinion through observation that at this point in his career that he is content with his accomplishments and career accolades. For the last two seasons or so it has been evident in his play. I know injuries have a lot to do with his limitations on the court and his game. However, the gritty, hungry, hustling player that in our eyes was once an MVP candidate, those intangibles are not there on a nightly basis. I watch a player like Kawhi Lenard and forget about his talent, just watch the focus, the grit, the hustle. I catch myself thinking that was Wade not too long ago. Now we've come accustomed to not getting back in transition, losing assignments, getting beat on the defensive end by mediocre players. Again, I am a huge fan and will continue to be, but I'm also real with how I see the Heat and their players. -- Joel, New Jersey.
A: Which is why, in moments of truth, the Heat might have to come to a new world order next season, especially if Dragic returns. Wade actually had deferred to Chris Bosh at times at the start of the season when it came to scoring, but of course Bosh is not a primary ballhandler. I'm not sure you can ever change Wade's nature of trailing plays defensively, but you can build your team around an acceptance of what he is now: a player who still will wow at times, but one who also has to appreciate that his team is evolving, with other components who deserve a teammate who can be more complementary. Can Wade be that player? It is one of the most difficult transitions in sports.
Q: Ira, if every game counts and Henry Walker is injured, why not cut him and pick up another big man, with Chris Andersen still in pain? -- Nate.
A: With three more games remaining, I think what you see is what you've got. Teams who add players at this stage, and you can add until your final day of the regular season, tend to be teams that are taking the long view with the playoffs, looking to add a player who can help bolster the roster for weeks, if not months. Remember, the Heat are playing the Magic on Monday night, and it was Walker's late-game magic in that one that added a victory to the Heat's win column, his finest moment in his brief Heat tenure, one that helped earn him a contract that carries through the offseason into next season. Cut him now and the Heat lose out on an extended look. (Although I think to freshen the outlook next season that neither Walker nor Michael Beasley will be brought back.)
April 10, 2015
Q: So frustrated watching Thursday. Do you believe the removal of Bob McAdoo and Ron Rothstein had an adverse impact on the team this season? Yes, the injuries have been devastating. But it seems like the move to new coaches didn't pay off. This team's identity, particularly on the defensive side, disappeared. There's little continuity. The substitutions and rotations have been erratic and all the late-game collapses suggest potential issues with the quality of the coaching collectively. Shaking my head. Wondering if a shakeup of the staff next season is in order. --Michael.
A: Well, remember how Pat Riley at the end of last season said that Erik Spoelstra had to reinvent himself? I'm not sure that his staff might not get reinvented, to something more closely along the lines of having a defensive coordinator and an offensive coordinator, to immediately address such lapses. In fact, in light of the lapses and amid the need to reformulate strategy with this new roster, including possibly adding a big-man coach, I certainly could see a review of the entire coaching staff going forward. Someone has to be there with more answers than are currently being provided.
Q: How come Erik Spoelstra hasn't figured out a way for the Heat to get some easy baskets when the Heat are on a downward spiral? Dwyane Wade said the ball stopped moving and everyone was forcing shots. You know what Gregg Popovich does in those situations? He clearly let's his ballplayers know the right way to play the game. -- Stuart.
A: Getting the ball into the post, to Hassan Whiteside would have been a start. Yes, the Bulls were packing the paint, but that's where creative coaching comes into play, or a lineup with more 3-point spacing. Of course, this roster lacks 3-point shooting, so that becomes an issue.
Q: Another embarrassing loss. Let's look towards next season. There is something wrong when a team continuously blow large leads late in games. It becomes mental, and that's where coaching comes in to the picture. Someone has to sit Dwayne down and show him love, namely he has to know when to take over and when to let Goran Dragic run the offense. He does not have the wheels to consistently carry the team. Sharing is paramount for an aging Wade and Heat to succeed. -- Leon.
A: And that has to be handled very delicately. But it has been clear recently, save for his first basket Thursday, that Wade has lacked the exposition to do anything but shoot pull-up jumpers. That's where deferring to Dragic makes sense. That might have to be a postseason conversation with Pat Riley even more than one with Spoelstra.
April 9, 2015
Q: So wait, you're telling me that Goran Dragic finally gets more touches than the other three or four players on the team that he's better than, and the Heat win? I would've never guessed it! Giving the ball more and running plays around your second-best player on the team gets you wins? What a concept! I'm amazed! -- Nathan, Virginia Gardens.
A: Ah, sarcasm. (And truth.) I think the Heat still are learning to play with someone closer to a true point guard than they have had in years, perhaps since Jason Williams/Gary Payton. Since then, it's been mostly combination guards, players who certainly had their places when it came to the roster's overall versatility. But think about it, when is the last time you've heard Erik Spoelstra mention "position-less"? Instead, the Heat, for the first time in years, are most playing with a true center (Hassan Whiteside or Chris Andersen) and a true point guard (Dragic). I think, if Dragic re-ups in the offseason, that will have the Heat coming back with a decidedly different playbook next season. And I do believe that remains one of Erik Spoelstra's strengths, distilling his players' skills into a system that best fits. The playbook already has changed plenty this season. But it's the offseason when an approach truly can be defined and refined.
Q: Earlier in the year when playing with the newly constructed roster and even to some degree as of late, I believe that Dwyane Wade (who's still a superstar and has that superstar's mentality) didn't trust his teammates that much. That, in turn, led to him trying to self-will some games and/or him taking the all-or-nothing, ill-advised long jumper at the end of some very bad losses. However, Wade's postgame comments after Tuesday night's game on Dragic were, "He carried us tonight offensively. It's great to have another guy that can do that." Utilizing all your weapons keeps the pressure on the defense. Going forward, should Coach Spo and Wade now trust and realize that in Dragic, Wade and the team do have another option out there that can lead to better late-game execution on critical possessions and last second plays? -- Nikki.
A: Yes, as stated in the answer above, the two months since the trading deadline with Dragic have basically been exploratory, to see what works, what doesn't, and what needs work. This offseason, Spoelstra will be better positioned to incorporate that into his approach, and Wade will have more time to gain an appreciation for the possibilities of what Dragic can do for him, and what he can do for Dragic. If the Heat get everyone back, and get everyone back healthy, I think training camp next fall could be a heck of a laboratory for Spoelstra.
Q: For those who want the Heat to focus on their lottery pick, they need to take a good look at this past season and understand Pat Riley. Should the Heat secure a lottery pick this year, the chances of that player getting court time is minimal. Neither Shabazz Napier nor James Ennis were given enough NBA court time this year to round out their games. -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.
A: The difference was Napier was a late first-rounder and Ennis a late second-rounder. The No. 10 pick this year, in what is shaping up as a deep draft, will be a player of far higher pedigree, likely a ready-to-go prospect, should Riley get the pick and move in that direction, perhaps similar to what the Heat got in Caron Butler when selecting in that range.
April 8, 2015