April 17, 2015
Q: Who do you think Erik Spoelstra is going to keep for next season? Henry Walker is three or nothing. Was Wednesday a farewell game for James Ennis? Is Josh McRoberts coming back? Michael Beasley scored his season high in the last game. Can he get more minutes next season? Is Tyler Johnson likely to leave as well? And Zoran Dragic played surprisingly well Wednesday. I am wondering what would happen if he played more during the season. -- Bric, Fort Lauderdale.
A: First, those decisions primarily belong to Pat Riley, although Erik's deal does include personnel input. It also is way too early to consider ancillary components of the roster, with so much still to play out. The Heat first have to see if they will have a first-round draft pick, with that fate not to be determined until the May 19 draft lottery (all the Heat have right now is a lottery seed). Then there is the question of who stays and who goes, with Luol Deng and Goran Dragic holding the right to become free agents. And then there is the matter of who might be available in free agency. If I were to speculate at this stage, I would guess that Ennis and Johnson would be back, and that Walker and Beasley would be put on the backburner. And I do wonder if Zoran Dragic could become the outside specialist and floor spacer the Heat lacked this season.
Q: I think Luol Deng not exercising his player option next season might be overstated. Luol buying a Mediterranean bay-front estate in Morningside last summer might be an indication that he'd like to settle in Miami for more than one season if he has a choice. Otherwise, he might have rented instead of making a nearly $5 million real-estate investment. I know things like major home purchases might be ancillary in a player's decision, but it's something to think about that maybe he's not ready to uproot so shortly after getting settled. -- Jason, Orlando.
A: I'm no expert on the resale market, and think there are matters of greater priority when it comes to such a decision. Primarily, will Deng be allowed to play his game, one where movement off the ball is rewarded? If Dragic returns and if Josh McRoberts gets back to where he was in December, then the style could be perfect for Luol. But based on body language, his upbeat spirit in the locker room and the few comments he has offered, I believe it is more likely he returns than he doesn't.
Q: Ira, is it possible that a Dorell Wright reunion could take place? With the possibility of Luol Deng leaving, there will be a glaring hole at small forward. -- Bryant.
A: Dorell certainly has matured since he departed the Heat, developing into a reliable three-and-D threat. But I think the Heat need to inject youthful vitality, not continue to play the game of worrying about injuries with players with too many years on their odometers.
April 16, 2015
Q: As a fan and season-ticket holder, I had hoped the Heat would be in the playoffs. As a realist, missing them was destined to happen this year. Looking forward, it will be exciting to see how Pat Riley utilizes his current assets to reinvent this team. With Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, assuming he re-signs, the Heat certainly have some special talent going forward. As you and others have said, Dwyane Wade is the key going forward, if he can accept a different mentality and role on this team. The Heat have to get younger, faster and just overall better. -- Chet.
A: As I've said in recent days, while the championship contention would have been the best-case scenario in the wake of the loss of LeBron James, the second-best outcome was finding a center and point guard. With Whiteside and Dragic, the Heat ended the season in a far better position at those positions than where they started. As for Dwyane, I've never felt he had a Kobe Bryant type of ego, where he would get in the way of progress. He deferred to LeBron when he was here, and even deferred to Chris Bosh at the start of this season. This summer, I'm sure Erik Spoelstra will define a speed game for Dragic and a post game for Whiteside. Then Wade will know how and where he fits best. Give Dwyane a blueprint that looks like it will succeed, and he willingly hops aboard. The problem this season was the Heat never had the opportunity to develop a trustworthy blueprint.
Q: What's wrong with this picture: The Bucks and the Celtics are in the playoffs and the Heat are not? Ira, you can't tell me they have better players. Better coach? -- Alex, Miami.
A: Everything is wrong with that picture, other than showing how much hustle, commitment and perseverance can carry a team in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks lost their first-round pick early in the season and a previous cornerstone shortly thereafter, yet found a way to thrive without Jabari Parker and Larry Sanders. The Celtics showed how playing within a well-designed structure could produce results, even after trading Rajon Rondo. Neither of those teams had better "talent" than the Heat. What it shows is that talent is just one part of the equation. And it's not as if the Bucks or Celtics didn't have their health issues, too. If anything is infuriating it has to be missing out on the playoffs by a single game to the Nets, a team they went 4-0 against this season. In the end, all those blown leads were the reason the Heat aren't playing on.
Q: We need to look at shooting guards this summer who can back up Wade. Both Geralds (Green and Henderson) would be solid pick-ups. Aside from them, most shooting guards are too expensive or not what we need. I don't say this because of the "Wade needs to take a step back" bandwagon, but because our second team is sad offensively. -- Jonathan.
A: I agree that either through the draft or free agency adding an additional wing is essential. Right now there is not enough to back up at the three or the two. Danny Granger being unable to play created a season-long problem. The Heat gambled on his health and lost. They can't afford such a risk again this offseason. Then again, Zoran Dragic did show something on Wednesday night.
April 15, 2015
Q: This team needs an offseason to catch up with the new talent and the aliments from the roster. -- Joel, New Britain, Pa.
A: There's been a lot said about how, after four years of advancing to the NBA Finals, that this roster needs an extended offseason. I think that's rubbish. First, the only players remaining from all four runs to the Finals are Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers (with Chris Bosh sidelined in February for the balance of the season). First, Haslem has been reduced to a limited role and Chalmers to sixth-man. So it is doubtful physical fatigue is an issue for either. And the reality is that Wade had a 23-day break at midseason because of his hamstring and then the All-Star break. If Bosh and LeBron James were still on the roster, then the talk of championship-series fatigue would be more legitimate. Exhaustion from the past four years is one of the last reasons for why the Heat's record has gone this far south. Adjusting to the influx of new talent is another story. The Heat did a reasonable job with Hassan Whiteside (although he clearly has shown an ability to do even more offensively in the post), but adjusting to Goran Dragic's pace is best done with a reworked playbook. And say what you want about Erik Spoelstra on game nights, but he is at his best when given time in the offseason to match a system to his talent.
Q: The NBA playoffs have moved from South Beach to Cleveland. I guess LeBron James is the BOAT (the best of all time). The fans of Cleveland get to enjoy what we have enjoyed in Miami, basketball from April until late June, for the last four years. Enjoy. And special thanks to Pat Riley for creating a great four years. Not having playoff basketball this spring will help us appreciate what we had the last four years. -- Stuart.
A: And it's not as if we haven't seen this current reality coming for weeks, if not months. And I have an inkling that the Cavaliers' television ratings with be second to Cleveland in Miami, albieit likely for different reasons.