A: It also is early, very early. Wade's maintenance program this season is making sure than any minor ache or pain doesn't become something bigger. So rather than cherry-pick spots through the schedule, it is possible that when Dwyane does miss time, he misses multiple games. And that still leaves the Heat with the challenge of finding someone who could step in for those absences that inevitably will come up. For now, the answer likely would be starting Mario Chalmers alongside Norris Cole and then cycling through three guards when factoring in Shabazz Napier. But this also is when it would be nice to get a read on Danny Granger, to see if he can be the extra wing who could carry the Heat through a potential void without Wade. In fact, if Granger shows some of his previous abilities, it might make it easier for the Heat to lighten the load on Wade. Backup shooting guard remains a concern. For now, Wade is masking that concern by showing up every night, playing as long as needed.
Q: How much longer until we should expect Shabazz Napier to take Norris Cole's starting spot? -- Nekias.
A: It ain't broke, so I don't see the Heat tinkering with the lineup. Shabazz has benefited by being able to enter when the elite opposing point guards are taking their rests. Then, at the ends of games, he benefits by playing alongside the Heat's four other starters. Sometimes it's not about what a certain player is or isn't doing, but rather about how the rotation best fits. Napier has thrived in a well-defined role. I don't see the Heat tinkering with that just because Norris Cole has had some uneven moments. At least not yet.
Q: Someone asked who is considered the third-best player on the Miami Heat. I think we have our answer now. -- Joe.
A: Yet I wouldn't get too comfortable counting on Luol Deng for 30 points a night. And with the Heat moving the ball so well, I think it could be more of a case of having five players in double figures on some nights than necessarily a 30-point scorer on a regular basis. Even when Deng was thriving Sunday in Dallas, Chalmers was having a night of his own. And Josh McRoberts also is capable of having a moment, as is Cole. The reason the Heat attack is working is the ball is finding the right player, no matter who that player tends to be on a specific night.
November 10, 2014
Q: Luol Deng looks better and better every game. -- Chet.
A: Which exactly is what you would expect from a player whose greatest skills are his ability to play off of teammates and to facilitate for teammates. To a degree, it is the same thing with Josh McRoberts. And with both, you could see during Sunday's victory over the Mavericks how the chemistry is growing. No, Luol might not have those scoring totals on a nightly basis, but he showed Sunday night in Dallas what he can be when it all is working. And while his numbers weren't nearly as gaudy, McRoberts also offered signs of why he was sought in the offseason. The Heat have adopted and adapted to a system where selfishness cannot be tolerated. That's what makes players such as Deng and McRoberts, with their selflessness, such good fits. The Heat this season have to play as a team to win. They did that Sunday. And it was a delight to watch.
Q: Ira, how about we sit down and have a bottle of Scotch each with some Tequila chasers so that we could be qualified to sit down and make the NBA schedule. Your choice of drink is open to your own palette, but the back-to-back games must stay so that we can see teams at their worst -- Bob, Deerfield Beach.
A: Oh, I see, sarcasm. But I totally agree (even without imbibing). When you are seven games into your schedule, six of your games should not have been part of back-to-back sets, as has been the case with the Heat. What I will say is this: If you are going to play 16 back-to-backs, as the Heat do this season, there is something to be said about getting rid of three only 12 days into the season. But, as I have repeatedly said since training camp, the NBA needs to go from eight to four exhibitions, add two weeks to the regular-season schedule, and with those 14 extra days basically be able to remove all the back-to-backs from the schedule. Credit the Heat, they went 4-2 in those three back-to-backs, with Dwyane Wade playing all six games. And they pushed through the fatigue Sunday.
Q: What does Shannon Brown bring that Tyler Johnson doesn't? At what point do the Heat tinker with the end of the roster a little? -- David.
A: First, it almost never matters who your 14th and 15th men are, since you only dress 13. And if you are playing so deep into your roster, then your depth of talent likely isn't good enough, anyway. Before the Heat tinker with their roster, Erik Spoelstra first must get through this initial round of tinkering with the rotation, seeing if Norris Cole as a starter, Mario Chalmers as a backup shooting guard, James Ennis as a part-time rotation player make sense. Only then can he and management truly know what direction to go. Look, I had pushed for years for the Heat to carry a third point guard, which they now do. Recently, I proposed another big man, due to the injuries to Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and Justin Hamilton. And now I probably could make the case for another shooting guard. The problem is the tricky 15-player roster limit. For now, it's probably best to exhale. Then on Dec. 15, when the majority of players signed in the offseason around the league become trade eligible, that's when consideration of roster tinkering would best be served. For now, enjoy the moments.
November 9, 2014
Q: Ira, I wrote you in July that Danny Granger was washed up and you said it was a low-cost gamble. What kind of gamble is it when someone doesn't play? -- Guy, Tamarac.
A: The kind of gamble you make in today's NBA at $2 million a season when you have the cap space and room under the tax. The Heat did not sign Granger for the first two weeks of the season or the first month. They signed him for when Dwyane Wade wears down and another perimeter option is needed. If Granger can give the Heat 40 quality appearances, then it is money well invested. And if the Heat's approach is to make sure Granger is healthy before he takes to the court, there is no issue there. Now, if injuries keep Granger from developing a rotation rhythm, then you win. Because the Heat have to find another dependable wing option, something Shannon Brown hasn't panned out to be and something that James Ennis shouldn't be fast tracked into.
Q: Last season the Heat had no stopper against the Spurs' offense in the last three games. The series was tied 1-1; only three games out of the 100-plus contests during the season gave the Heat a black eye. Come playoff time, the Heat will need that stopper, which they don't have now. -- Bill, Hollywood.
A: Two things: Defensive stoppers aren't easy to find (neither are deterring centers). And in today's NBA, teams are looking for players who also can at least offer something on offense. The Heat certainly had a stopper last season in LeBron James. Dwyane Wade has been that at times during his career (but I'm not sure it any longer is that time). I do think Luol Deng can fill that role. Like many players, once Deng develops a rhythm on offense, I think he'll settle into more of a groove on defense. Ultimately, though, I think it will have to be the Heat defensive system that has to prevail. And that's why the Heat spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday's shootaround working on defensive repetition. They know it has to get better.