A: And so it begins, the second-guessing after the euphoria of the 3-0 start. OK, I'll bite. Yes, the play at point guard is as uneven as almost could have been expected, with the Heat more about quantity than quality at the position, especially since Norris Cole's opening night. But Shabazz Napier also is developing nicely. And it's still more about who finishes, and Napier now has played all 12 fourth-quarter minutes in three of the last four games, which also might be too much. As for a center, Chris Andersen, without question could have made a difference in the past two games. And Udonis Haslem previously had his moments against Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson, so that might have helped, too. As for Chalmers, the Heat is counting on him to be a scorer, perhaps too much of a scorer, when Dwyane Wade is out. That's where Danny Granger could help. Again: no Birdman, no Granger, no Haslem. We have yet to see this team at full strength, let alone Josh McRoberts at full health.
Q: So is Wade noticeably healthier, or it is just no longer a sensible option to try and keep him healthy for the playoffs? -- Ignarus.
A: Playoffs? You're talking playoffs? (Sorry.) Put it this way, Hornets guard Gerald Henderson said Wednesday that Wade is noticeably healthier in his approach, looks like he did before missing all that time with his maintenance program. So there's that. There's also the reality that without Danny Granger, and with Luol Deng banged up, the points have to come from somewhere. The quick turnaround between Saturday's home game against the Timberwolves and then the long flight for Sunday's game in Dallas could be a truer test of how far the Heat are poised to take this with all-Wade, all-the-time.
Q: Don't you think the Heat are relying too much of a perimeter game? Where is the promised low-post game from Chris Bosh? We take too many jump shots. Thoughts? -- Alex, Boston.
A: With Bosh, think "post" game, not "low-post" game. Even at his highest-scoring best, Bosh did plenty of his work from the mid-post, where he largely is setting up again. That's his game, using his speed to face up and blow past bigger defenders. When it comes to "post" play, that might be more the province of Wade, an approach that also could help reduce some of the wear on his knees with those hard drives and hard cuts. You could say the Heat take too many jumpers, but this has become a 3-point league, and that's what teams do. The difference in recent seasons was how the Heat were able to get out on the break and at least get into their early offense. Now the freight train of LeBron James is gone.
November 5, 2014
Q: Ira, when will Erik Spoelstra learn to stop having his players chase double-teams when they can't outrun the ball? Tuesday was what we saw with the Spurs in the NBA Finals. The ball moves faster than players. Houston had too many open 3-pointers. It's a rerun of what I wrote you about after the Finals? -- Steven.
A: No, it's not, and here's why: Among those Spoelstra had on the floor in Tuesday's fourth quarter were Justin Hamilton, Shabazz Napier and James Ennis, players who were not on the Heat's playoff roster. For weeks, months and even longer, fans have been pushing for the Heat to play their younger players. Well, with the injuries to Chris Andersen, Danny Granger and Udonis Haslem (as well as the limited mobility of Josh McRoberts), Spoelstra didn't have any other choice. Those players have to learn to play the Heat's defense, how to read and react. Houston plays the 3-point game to a far greater degree than even the Spurs. But to your point, if the Heat were again exposed Tuesday, then good. Better the first week of November than when the games grow exponentially in importance. No, the Heat did not look good in being outscored 25-14 in the fourth quarter and losing by 17. But if lessons can be learned, the Heat can grow from the experience.
Q: Ira, one thing folks might not have focused on is how much of a grind the regular season was the past four years because the Heat always got the other team's very best game. Now that the Heat are just another team in the mix, it might actually be easier for them to win more regular-season games based solely on effort (much like the Alonzo Mourning/Tim Hardaway era or the recent Bulls teams while everyone else was focused on the Heat). While this says nothing about the playoffs, might it mean a 50-55 win season this year? -- Leon, Washington, D.C.
A: Of course, I still think they would have rather remained a Big Three and retained LeBron James, and dealt with any accompanying pressures. And I also think the "best game" thing tends to be overrated. Most teams bring their best game when properly rested and when healthy, both of which are greater factors than motivation for an upset. In fact, it is the Heat who will have to bring their best game to remain competitive, and that means bringing Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in the lineup, keeping them healthy. Teams still want to beat the Heat, because the Heat remain a relevant playoff team, especially teams that know they will be jockeying with the Heat for seeding position. It sure looked like the Heat got the Rockets' best game Tuesday.
Q: After the NBA Finals loss last season against the Spurs, Erik Spoelstra, in a highly admiring tone during the Game 5 postgame press conference, referred to San Antonio's thorough drubbing of our Miami Heat as "exquisite basketball." I think Spo and probably every other basketball coach in the entire world would like to model their system after what the Spurs had last year. Do you think he has the mind and the roster to pull off a version of that, along with some streaky players like Patty Mills and Danny Green? -- Jason, Miami Lakes.
A: While many teams model themselves after successful teams, I'm not sure emulating the Spurs is the easiest of tasks because I'm not sure where the next Tim Duncan is coming from (although the Pelicans might have come closest with Anthony Davis). What I think you try to do is emulate a style that produces success, and I do think the Spurs' ball-movement approach is an enviable model. But you also have to have players willing to move the ball, and enough talent on the floor to make the equal-opportunity approach efficient. What you can't do is what the Heat did on Tuesday night: move the ball to the tune of 19 turnovers.
November 4, 2014
Q: Dwyane Wade as facilitator is easier on his knees since he doesn't have to jump as much. Wade is extremely smart and savvy, so perhaps he'll transition into a quasi point guard, which is less physically demanding than a shooting guard, but requires great court vision. And Wade can really dish out assists, while remaining fresher himself. Mario Chalmers coming off the bench helps deal with his issues of committing needless fouls. As a starter he would often get into foul trouble early, which leads to a double whammy of taking himself out of the game and putting the Heat into the penalty situation. -- Jay.
A: But this team has to get more than facilitating out of Wade. With the way this roster is built, they're going to need about 20 points at night. At least. If he can do that while also facilitating, all the better. But a Dwyane Wade who relies in jump shots is not going to be a Dwyane Wade who helps create openings for teammates. He has to remain in attack mode, even if it's not attacking the rim with quite as much fury. As for Chalmers, the new role has worked early. But it's early. Eventually the Heat are going to run into an opponent where playing Chalmers alongside Norris Cole or Shabazz Napier simply leaves them too undersized. I still think Erik Spoelstra is in his exploratory stage.
Q: I know it early, only three games into the season, but you really have to love how the ball is moving on offense for the Miami Heat, the Equal Opportunity Offense. Are the Heat doing something different this year with offensive schemes or are the players just energized? And how do the Heat keep this up? -- Stuart.
A: Playing basketball the right way should never turn into a matter of keeping it up. Perhaps it's a bit of the Spurs rubbing off on them. Perhaps it's the reality of not having a singular perimeter star. Or perhaps it's opposing defenses not yet being in tune with the Heat's altered approach. Three games is way too small a sample size to make judgments. Sometimes it's as simple as hitting open shots. So perhaps it's as simple as: as Shawne Williams goes, the Heat go (or something like that).