Q: Why was Shabazz Napier sent to the D-League? He should be playing. -- Evan, Miami.
A: Which is exactly why he was sent to Sioux Falls, to make sure he is playing. With Erik Spoelstra committed to Mario Chalmers as his starting point guard, it means the remaining minutes at point guard go to Norris Cole. Now, you can debate whether either of those two have earned such playing time, but the Heat have an option with Napier that they don't have with Chalmers or Cole, and that's time in the D-League. I do think the timing of Napier's next opportunity will come as much because of Chalmers and Cole as his own play. Through it all, the reality is that Napier likely has more of a long-term future with the Heat than either Chalmers or Cole, even if his time is not now.
Q: Would Ray Allen help the Heat? Allen would have a positive impact on the players. -- Jerry, Weston.
A: Sure. But he could have far more impact on a championship contender, if he chooses to return at all. I can't fathom Allen signing where playoffs aren't a guarantee and a championship isn't within reach. That likely is part of the factor of why we haven't seen him sign to this point and might not at all this season. If the Cavaliers were just a shooting guard away from being a top seed, I think you already would have seen him in Cleveland. And if the Clippers weren't in such a tenuous position that they might not last more than one round of the playoffs because of the competition in the West, I think a reunion with Doc Rivers might already have been sealed. For now, there is no reason for Allen to rush. He can sign as late as the final day of the regular season to be playoff-eligible, perhaps making him the ultimate closer.
January 4, 2015
Q: With the exception of some early-season spunk, the Heat have looked miserable for most of the season. It doesn't seem like Pat Riley has much to lose by shaking things up by the trading deadline. This team is not going anywhere. -- Stuart.
A: But there isn't much -- with the Heat's current personnel, lack of future draft picks, and cap position -- that he can do. And he's not going to jeopardize the big picture of 2016 free agency. But I can also guarantee that this is not how Riley envisioned the interim. If the Heat are routinely putting up the type of embarrassments they've put together recently, games like Indiana and Houston, you have to wonder if outside players will view the Heat in a different light. Those "hardest-working," "toughest-minded," etc., precepts that the Heat have turned into mantras aren't there right now. If this continues to go in this direction, then the outsiders who say it was all about LeBron James the previous four seasons will put Riley in a position I can't fathom he could tolerate. I do think a Riley Moment could be at hand. He tends to be with the Heat on West Coast trips, especially with the upcoming one including five consecutive days in Los Angeles. Whether he wants to be or not, he's smack in the middle of this right now, because it's his system, his roster, his approach. His problem to fix.
Q: How much is on the coach when the players give up? I mean a coach doesn't shoot or dribble, the players have to execute. On the other hand, if the players quit on the coach, what's that say about the respect he commands? Often times, that's when coaches get "reassigned," when the players no longer buy in. -- Martin.
A: Erik Spoelstra isn't going anywhere. Shouldn't go anywhere, except perhaps into a closed-door meeting with Riley, where the two can discuss what Riley has given him, if the pieces fit, and whether they can be molded into something better than what has been on display these past two months. And then Spoelstra has to go back to the drawing board as many times as it takes. What the Heat can't afford at moments like this is stubborn. There is a problem. That demands a solution. Spoelstra and Riley are hard workers. Now is the time for that work.
Q: Nobody seems willing to confront this issue with Dwyane Wade. He's scoring, but not in the third quarters. The Heat will continue to play lousy in the third as long as Wade appears disinterested in scoring. Expecting to make it up in the fourth won't cut it. I'm afraid James Harden was right when he complained that Wade was picked over him in player ratings before last season. This game should have showcased Wade's dominance, but it showed the reverse. Harden puts out on every play. -- Alan.
A: As a captain, more should be expected from Wade. That's part of the deal. It's why he's a captain, while Chris Bosh isn't. And accepting good as good enough can't be tolerated, and shouldn't. I do think that after the past four seasons, Wade is exhausted, perhaps more mentally than physically. But for the Heat to go anywhere from here, they are going to need four-quarter, two-way Wade. I am sure he believes he remains up to the task. But it's about more than scoring. Far more than scoring. Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant score. But their teams are at a place the Heat aren't expected to be . . . but will be if it only is about points for Wade, or anyone else on the team.
January 3, 2015
Q: A team that has Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Birdman, Luol Deng, Danny Granger playing so badly? A lot of NBA teams would like to have this core. Someone has to step up. We are too good of a franchise for this to be happening. -- Leon, Miami.
A: Let's first distill your premise to Wade, Bosh, Deng. That, alone, should be enough. Plenty of quality teams succeed with less. While Erik Spoelstra calls it a "consistency" issue, I think it's more about a "commitment" issue. How committed is this team to playing the right way for 48 minutes, without shortcuts? It could be as simple as Wade and Bosh being satisfied, sated and exhausted from what the previous four seasons delivered. This team has had stretches during games when it still has the look of a contender, consistently building double-digit leads. And then, during those same games, the attention to details wanes. And while Wade, Bosh and Deng are in place, there isn't enough of a margin for error for one bad period every game. The margin of error previously known as LeBron James is gone. This is about being able to sustain for 48 minutes. And that's about having the commitment to sustain and do it the right way for 48 minutes, even if it's not the easiest way. What the Heat have to resolve is the lack of resolve.
Q: The Heat will not improve until Erik Spoelstra utilizes his players to their full potential. A good coach adapts his system to his players' strengths. Couple that with sophisticated Xs and Os on offense and defense, along with impactful in-game adjustments, and you end up with a competitive team, something like my favorite Heat team, the 2003 team (remember that team didn't have a superstar, but still gave you a reason to watch every night, no matter the opponent). A team's ability to compete begins with its coach. I'm not taking championships, but just compete. -- Javier, Miami.
A: And at times you see it, like when Spoelstra ran plays for Luol Deng in the victory over the Cavaliers. And at times there is way too much freelance on both ends of the court. Managing players is another, equally significant, component. This is a different mix. "The Heat Way" has to be flexible. Spoelstra wants this team to run; it is not running. Yes, rebounding is part of it, but so is getting players to buy in.
Q: Is it the coaching? Is it the players? Is it apathy? Boy they are tough to watch. -- Juan.
A: They are. It's as desperation requires more effort than some are willing to provide. And make no mistake, with this record and the upcoming schedule, these are desperate times.
January 2, 2015