Ira Winderman

Ira Winderman (September 30, 2014)

A: I agree that you can't ask Birdman or even Udonis Haslem to bang with the biggest of big men any time that Whiteside loses his cool. But it's also unfair because in many ways Walker is the opposite of Whiteside, giving his all every moment he's out there, an ultimate hustler. In a little over a week, the Whiteside narrative has almost completely changed. It shows you that in this league both the person and the player matter.

Q: Ira, I know about the injuries and lineup changes, but how can a team with Chris Bosh for half the year, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng for most of the year and now Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside be only barely ahead of the Celtics who are in total rebuild mode? -- Raul, Naples.

A: Because there never, ever was any continuity. Bosh never got to play with Dragic. Whiteside only emerged after Josh McRoberts went down. What we've seen this season are four or five variations of the partial Heat, but never anything close to the complete picture. And because of Bosh's illness, we won't see it, either. In the NBA, continuity is everything, even if you have to grow into it, as the Cavaliers have.


March 9, 2015

Q: Ira, think about what Pat Riley has done this season. His roster was ripped apart by injuries and he found players like Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson to step in, and he wasn't too embarrassed to bring back Michael Beasley after ignoring him all season? -- Rolf.

A: When you look at what this roster looks like now compared to what it looked like at the start of the season, the transformation is remarkable. To be honest, I had almost forgotten that Shannon Brown was even here, let alone started at one point. In mean think about some of the names who have passed through: Andre Dawkins, Shawne Williams, Justin Hamilton, all of whom actually played legitimate roles at one point. It would have been easy to cash it in, and effectively cash out on one of the remaining seasons in Dwyane Wade's career. Instead, Riley has made sure every game will matter. Based on all this team has been through, from Josh McRoberts to Chris Bosh, that says plenty, especially amid a season when other teams at the bottom of the standings are quitting right and left.

Q: While watching your team fight their way back to win a game is fun, I would prefer to see more sold play from tipoff. Everyone is raving about Michael Beasley's play, except he and others have not played well to start these last two games. -- Chet.

A: Would you rather have it the way it was earlier in the season, when they were blowing big leads in the third quarter? The reality is that throughout the season they have not had lineups with the abilities to sustain. To Erik Spoelstra's credit, he has been to find combinations that have worked, and has not been worried about stepping on toes, whether it is a rookie starter in Shabazz Napier or a co-captain in Udonis Haslem. He has played the players who deserve to finish, which is the way it has to be going forward.

Q: It's still jarring to see Miami's anticipated frontcourt sidelined for the season. This team deserves good health next year. -- Daniel.

A: At least the Heat know what they have in Chris Bosh, provided he is able to make it back, as expected. But they still were experimenting with Josh McRoberts when he went down and never were able to explore any of the McRoberts-Hassan Whiteside potential chemistry. This team will begin next season much as it did this one, with a period of discovery. How will the pieces fit together? I'm not sure even Pat Riley or his staff truly know. Figure on Erik Spoelstra going into next season with Plans A, B and C, and maybe even more.


March 8, 2015

Q: Maybe the Heat should just go to zone for a while because that seems to be the only working defense they have. -- Will.

A: And the irony is that the Heat actually have the ultimate defensive backstop for a zone in Hassan Whiteside, who wasn't even in the rotation Saturday when Erik Spoelstra made the move. More than anything, it was an act of desperation that opponents will catch up to, sort of like the Wildcat in football. In fact, you could even see toward the end of Saturday's game how a veteran like Andre Miller was figuring out the angles needed to attack. And with the NBA's illegal-defense rules, it's not as if the Heat simply can plant Whiteside in the middle when he returns, because of the defensive 3-second rule. What Saturday and the zone were about was Erik Spoelstra coming up with a twist to assist his shorthanded roster. In Spoelstra's all-hands-on-deck mantra, this time Spoelstra lent a helping hand when needed most.

Q: Not always pretty, but a great win. -- Chet.

A: They all count the same, including the ones that previously slipped away. Perhaps what mattered even more over this past week was the Heat showing an ability to finally close the deal at home against the Suns, Lakers and, now, Kings. That's important, with the Celtics and Nets up next on this three-game homestand.

Q: Can Michael Beasley sustain this type of play every night? -- Tato.

A: Look, based on his previous NBA tenures, the answer would be no. But I think this is a different Beasley, a player who now realizes his NBA prospects are not about being a leading man, but rather a supporting player. So now he's stepping in to take charges, working harder on the boards, and, yes, defending on the perimeter. As long as this hunger remains in place, I think there's a chance. Heck, I would bypass the formality of a second 10-day contract and just sign him for the balance of the season, which is allowed.


March 7, 2015

Q: I have never seen a game like this, ever. -- Chet.

A: And then, when you get down to it, have you ever seen a season like this, ever? Players are in; players are out. Players come out of nowhere to contribute; contributors suddenly can't offer anything for extended stretches. What Friday's near-comeback tells me is that Erik Spoelstra gets his players to work, gets them to buy in, pushes many of the right buttons when so much else is going wrong. It also tells me that he appreciates the greater scope of his job, considering how he handled Hassan Whiteside, as if appreciating that the longer view is more important with his prodigy center. So many of the little pieces that helped close out Friday's game -- from Michael Beasley to Shabazz Napier to Tyler Johnson to even James Ennis and Henry Walker -- displayed how helpful they could be at times with a complete and healthy roster. But that just hasn't happened this season. So instead you wind up with an underdog team that all too often comes up short. Games like Friday only increase the hunger for the possibilities of when Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts are in the mix, as well as when Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Goran Dragic and the other mainstays can be healthy on the same night. Heat 2015-16 looks promising. As for Heat 2014-15, the wild ride continues.