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.
Q: When will James Ennis get more playing time? -- Derick.
A: When he's ready? The reality is that he soon could get less playing time when Granger returns. What he has to show now is that he can thrive in short minutes, be a difference make in that type of role. But I still think there will be games when Dwyane Wade sits and it will be all hands on deck for offense. Those are the games when Ennis' ultimate opportunities could come.
November 8, 2014
Q: Any time you're blitzing high pick-and-rolls you will always have a corner three open after all the rotations go through. -- Alex.
A: But that's where closeout speed comes into play. Two seasons ago, when LeBron James was still around, when Dwyane Wade's knees were in better shape, when there were the likes of Shane Battier on the roster, the Heat were far better in recovering in those situations, almost tempting you to set up those shots. Now the closeout speed is not even close (and it wasn't last season, either). And there isn't the type of defensive guile that Battier helped provide. The reality is that when you bring in new players, and utilize so many young players, the learning curve can be substantial. Another reality is that the Heat do not have the luxury of funneling players in those situations into a shot blocker. So they try to compensate away from the rim with what they're not built to handle at the rim.
Q: Tell us why the Heat will not get a true five? Or why let Tim Hardaway go when he should be working with Shabazz Napier? What is going on here? -- Roper.
A: First things first. How many true fives are there, particularly the type of rim-protecting centers described above? And how many of those shot-blockers can also remain active in the offense (something the Knicks struggled with last season with Tyson Chandler). As for Tim Hardaway, his style at point guard was so unique, and so shot-oriented, I'm not sure his game could translate into Napier's game. The one thing Napier has going for him is the polish already in place with his play. He is mature and NBA-ready. Now it's just a matter of experience, which Spoelstra is providing with ample playing time. The kid will be all right.
Q: What's the process if the Heat wanted to add Khem Birch? Would they just have to waive someone and sign him? -- Paul.
A: Yes, but that's if someone else doesn't want to offer more or move to sign him first. Birch is no more the property of the Heat than of any of the other 29 NBA teams. But knowing going into the season that Udonis Haslem was banged up, that Danny Granger wasn't ready, that Chris Andersen is 36, that Justin Hamilton is unproven, you might have thought depth in the power rotation might have been a priority. Instead, Shannon Brown and Andre Dawkins sit and watch from the backcourt rotation.