Ira Winderman

Ira Winderman (September 30, 2014)

Q: I have heard many storylines this year already pertaining to the Heat. But one story that has been understated is deciphering what exactly is going on with Danny Granger? Do you think the Heat bit off more than they can chew? I know we have seen him in limited minutes this season, but he has looked awful. It takes times to get your legs -- or, in his case, knees -- back, but I guess my greater concern is where he even fits on this team. We're seeing more from James Ennis than we thought we'd see (regardless of how raw he is) and if Deng and McRoberts can stay healthy, I'm not sure how many minutes Granger gets. Your thoughts? -- George, Toronto.

A: I think you've been seeing more of Granger lately (besides the injuries to others) because the staff wants to get a read on what's there. Watching Danny play off the ball, it's as if his confidence is shot. He used to play with tremendous swagger. Now, perhaps because of the injuries, he melts into the background. I think Spoelstra is doing the right thing in probing with Granger, but the results have been tepid. But it also is important that a young player like Ennis earn his minutes, rather than be gifted them simply because of the lack of alternative.

Q: What if the starting five for the Eastern Conference All-Star team was Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Chris Bosh? The way Carmelo Anthony has been playing, the frontcourt for the East could be set. The backcourt is a bit of a question mark, but totally possible. -- Tommy.

A: Hmm, sort of like a before-and-after shot with LeBron? Interesting . . .  and something that could at least happen during the course of the game. I'm not sure Bosh has the requisite popularity to win the fan vote, and I think the marketing of Carmelo and Derrick Rose still means plenty for their chances. But no matter who the East coach turns out to be, a lineup of LeBron, Bosh, Love, Wade and Kyrie would be fascinating and fun to watch at some  point (unless David Blatt is coaching and doesn't want to remind LeBron of what used to be).

December 13, 2014

Q: Is Pat Riley wasting Dwyane Wade's two years on a whim of 2016, making Wade the Kobe Bryant of the East (aging superstars still at a high level) with the current roster? -- Nikki.

A: Actually, that's a legitimate comparison, but not necessarily for the reasons you're considering. Like Kobe, Wade already has his championships, and while he's not necessarily sated, he's also accepting of the NBA renewal process when it comes to teams having to reload. What Wade wants, and what Kobe has demanded, is a competitive roster. While that might not necessarily be the case with the Lakers, Pat Riley made that a Heat priority in the offseason when he added Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng and Danny Granger, while also maintaining the needed flexibility for 2016. This is not like Mark Cuban ripping apart the Mavericks from under Dirk Nowitzki's feet after Dallas won the 2011 championship. The Heat knew after last season -- with Shane Battier retiring and many others getting on in years -- that there would have to be change. Then LeBron James made change a necessity. The Heat remain in win-now mode, and have the (huge) advantage over the Lakers that they play in the Eastern Conference. With Chris Bosh and Luol Deng, Wade had enough alongside Friday against the Jazz.

Q: Give the young bigs some more playing time. You don't know what you have until you play in real games. -- Daniel.

A: Well, Justin Hamilton has been getting his playing time be default, with McRoberts out. But Hassan Whiteside essentially just arrived, and that's going to take time. But, again, for all those who insist the Heat should play young players, would you also be willing to accept a sub-.500 season, maybe not even making the playoffs? The reality is there are veterans who can contribute more, and the playing time for the young bigs figures only to decrease once McRoberts and Chris Andersen return. It's not as if the Heat will be playing Udonis Haslem ahead of the kids. At least I don't think it will happen that often. I'll be honest, Hamilton has shown me more than I thought he had.

Q: I will be shocked if Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are named to the All-Star team, even as reserves. -- Julio.

A: First, it's the East. I think Wade will get in through the fan vote. And Bosh likely deserves one of the frontcourt spots. But . . . if the Heat are five games under .500 or something like that when the coaches vote for reserves, I could see reluctance to having two players from such a team. It could come down to the Heat's record in January. It would put pressure on conferences coaches if Wade isn't voted in, and if they therefore felt compelled to make a choice between Wade and Bosh, with the East far stronger in the backcourt than frontcourt.

December 12, 2014

Q: You have frequently mentioned that the Heat don't have tradable assets, but wouldn't there be interest in Luol Deng? He is a solid defender and role player, and would fit well with a contender like Houston looking to make a championship run. Ironically, he would probably be a good fit in Chicago and Cleveland, as well, but that obviously isn't happening. Miami needs someone who can create offense and that isn't Deng's strength. At some point, Pat Riley has to concede that this team isn't going anywhere and try to build for the future. I just don't see Deng being on the team beyond his current contract. -- David.

A: Here's the greater reality: As you mentioned with other teams, Luol Deng is the type of player who is the perfect complement on a roster that already has a pair of leading men  in place. So what you're really saying is that you no longer believe Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can be such leading men. If Wade and Bosh are who Pat Riley believes (hopes) they are, then Deng should be the perfect complement here. But if Wade and/or Bosh are not, in your view, leading men, and instead something like a half-leading man like Carlos Boozer was with Deng in Chicago, then your perspective has merit. So the real question is not as much about complementary pieces like Deng and even Josh McRoberts, but rather if the Heat have the right leading men.

Q: Their defensive philosophy/schemes either needs an adjustment or needs to be changed completely to better suit the personnel. It's ridiculously comical how predictable and easy it is for opposing guards and bigs to pick apart the defense. Miami traps and switches on the pick and roll and teams are smart enough to either drop the ball off towards the middle of the floor to the big setting the pick, who usually ends up creating a shot for himself or someone else, or usually what happens is the ball gets swung to an open wing player on the wing and Miami scrambles to recover. I understand every team's defense breaks down on multiple occasions throughout a game, but this is an every possession occurrence. If I and other fans can see it, why doesn't Erik Spoelstra. -- Joel.

A: Because, for better or worse, this is a system team that points to how efficient the approach can be when it is perfected. Now, whether they have the players to perfect it is another story. And Chris Bosh acknowledged the team already has made adjustments. But let me put it back to you this way: If you have wings who cannot not keep the ball in front of them, and if you had absolutely no deterrence at the rim, would you play it straight up? The reality is that is what happened a few times against the Nuggets, and Arron Afflalo simply sized up Dwyane Wade and scored.

Q: The Heat's problems on offense are simple: The Big Three dominated the ball (mostly LeBron James). Now, everyone has to contribute. I've seen it when Bosh and Wade pass up shots to help other players get hot. The other guys work off of enthusiasm at the start of the game, then die off. -- N.T.

A: Which is why it has seemed to work so much better when Josh McRoberts, who is selfless to a fault, is available to facilitate. The problem for the Heat is Wade is, almost by default, their best facilitator, but he also, of course, has scoring instincts.