December 11, 2014
Q: The real problem for the Heat is their bench. When Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng sit, this team is not good enough. The big question is: Can our starters continue to play big minutes, or can we get something from the bench? -- Chet.
A: Actually, you raise several questions. First, the Heat cannot afford to pile on with the minutes when it comes to Wade, because of his injury history. And they cannot pile on with the minutes with Bosh, considering they invested five years in him. Even Erik Spoelstra acknowledged after Wednesday's loss in Denver that he went heavy, perhaps too heavy, with his starters' minutes Tuesday to secure the victory in Phoenix. Beyond that, after so much clamoring for Spoelstra to give his young players a chance, he is doing just that with Shabazz Napier (who has leveled off) and James Ennis (who is raw, as advertised). Where the Heat have to find productivity is from Mario Chalmers, who needs to play the way he played when Dwyane Wade was out. They need to get it from Shawne Williams, something similar to what he, too, offered as a starter. And they have to get it -- and this may be asking a lot -- from Danny Granger, whose resume offers exactly what this bench currently is lacking. And then there is Chris Andersen, with the Heat needing Birdman to get healthy. Williams stepped up Wednesday with his 3-pointers and Chalmers also had his moments. As for Granger, Wednesday was just another stuggle.
Q: Did Justin Hamilton earn himself some playing time Wednesday? -- Ross.
A: Yes . . . when one of the regulars is injured. Hamilton remains just about the only thing the Heat have when it comes to bulk. If Udonis Haslem was playing better, Spoelstra might not have made that move Wednesday, although size remains the best counter against Timofey Mozgov. What the Heat need is to get Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts on the court for an extended series of games, and then see what fits beyond that. If Hamilton is starting, it's only because the Heat are in scramble mode. Spoelstra compared Hamilton to Battier after Wednesday's game. That sure seems like a stretch.
Q: With Tim Hardaway and Carmelo Anthony feuding, you think the Heat should make a move? -- Gus.
A: Hardaway is intriguing, but he also is one of precious few young players the Knicks can build with (although it would be ironic if a move was made for Tim Hardaway Jr. after his father left the Heat staff to serve as an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons). I do wonder if the Knicks regret such a significant outlay for such a one-dimensional player in Anthony. But Carmelo isn't going anywhere. The Knicks need to have a face of the franchise during this period of famine. The reality with so many players supposedly on the market is that the Heat have very few tradable assets. What most teams dumping veterans want is expiring contracts, with Norris Cole just about the only one who holds one with the Heat that does not include a player-option year.
December 10, 2014
Q: Can the Heat make a push for Brook Lopez as part of the Nets' fire sale? -- John.
A: Two thoughts. First, for anyone who has questioned Chris Bosh because of his perimeter-based playing style, consider that Brook is considered among the softer big men in the league, despite his size and bulk (and that's not even getting into the injury-prone concerns). Beyond that, and this is more to the point of all of the trade questions that have come this way: What exactly do the Heat have to offer? Most teams looking to deal veterans, perhaps even the Celtics with Rajon Rondo, are looking for top-tier young talent, lottery-range draft picks or expiring contracts. The Heat have none of any of that to offer. As it is, the Heat's first-round pick in June is headed to the 76ers (through the Cavaliers) unless it is among the first 10 in the lottery (and a trade partner won't know that until much later in the process). And it's not as if Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers or even Shabazz Napier are going to match up favorably against what so many other teams can offer. The reality is that Pat Riley did his work in the offseason and now needs to see how that plays out. About the only permutation that could make sense would involve Luol Deng for Lopez. I doubt the Heat would do that, and where would that leave the Heat at small forward, anyway? As it is, Deng just about the only thing the Heat have when it comes to a perimeter defender, with his work critical Tuesday against Goran Dragic.
Q: Since the Heat play almost no defense and the rap against Michael Beasley was he couldn't learn the system, why not suggest to the powers that be they bring him back from China? He is averaging 33 points a game, about 11 rebounds and how could it hurt? -- Carl.
A: Yup, right on schedule. This is about when I figured these would start up again. Twice was the harm with Beasley. I don't see the Heat revisiting that again. They had their opportunity this offseason and passed. What were the scant Beasley minutes now are the James Ennis minutes. As it is, Erik Spoelstra tightened up his rotation on Tuesday night, so it's not as if an extra body would have made a difference.
Q: Danny Granger is damaged goods. Josh McRoberts is an underachiever. Luol Deng played his best years in Chicago. You can't get continuity out of that. -- Aura.
A: The Heat have no other choice. And how do you know until you actually get all three out on the court at the same time? The only way you bail is if you know that health-wise that can't happen. McRoberts is starting to come around. You can see what intrigued Riley and the Heat. And Deng was critical Tuesday with his scoring and defense. But I do agree it's almost odd how Granger has become out of sight, out of mind.
December 9, 2014
Q: Erik Spoelstra's constant shuffling seems indecisive and weak. Players respect coaches who are strong and fearless, yet this season is mired in soft platitudes such as "process." No questioning the Heat's work ethic, but it needs to be a focused one, and right now there is a lack of direction. It shows on the court with the players not knowing exactly what to do. Just too much indecision. -- Bill, Weston.
A: I'm going to disagree, only because the injuries and illnesses have not allowed for any sort of continuity. Look, Dwyane Wade missed more than two weeks with his hamstring. Luol Deng has dealt with wrist and hand injuries. Norris Cole missed time with his dislocated finger and then his illness. That's three opening-night starters right there. Only now is Josh McRoberts coming around after his toe and foot issues, and no one is quite sure when/if Danny Granger will be ready. Then there's Chris Andersen's high ankle sprain. That's six who were expected to be rotation regulars. And let's face it, part of a revamped roster is learning what combinations work, and which don't, rather than dealing with such lessons in March or April. It seems like most fans embrace the minutes for Shabazz Napier and James Ennis, and both have gotten their chances, while others wanted to see Justin Hamilton, who also received his chance. In fact, wouldn't it be weaker to not take chances on exploring possibilities? Now, when it's all together (if it's all together), that's a more reasonable time to make judgments,