A: First, calling Udonis Haslem a stretch four is a bit of a stretch, with opponents rarely respecting his range. And while Joel Anthony could suffice as a backup for Dwight Howard, the Rockets certainly could get more for Asik. The Heat player who makes the most sense for the Rockets' needs is Bosh, but I can't see that happening. Yes, Asik would fill many needs for the Heat, but the Heat have precious little to dangle outside of their Big Three. Then again, Rashard Lewis is re-emerging as a stretch four and is from Texas. (Nah.)
A: I agree that Michael very much is on double-secret probation of sorts, and that the slow go makes sense in many facets. What Michael has to do is make himself invaluable on the court and a model citizen off. And that means more of a sample size than mere weeks. So far, though, so good. He played surprisingly well alongside Rashard Lewis in Friday's victory over the Mavericks.
Q: Do you see Roger Mason Jr. and Joel Anthony both making it through the year? Considering Mike Bibby, Erick Dampier, Rony Turiaf and Birdman were all picked up by the Heat right before the playoff-eligibility deadline during the Big Three era, I just can't see them not picking up somebody this year. All of those players also either became part of the rotation or were given every opportunity to become part of the rotation. Neither of those two players have a chance, barring injury, of being in the Heat's playoff rotation. -- Jeremy, Hollywood.
A: I would disagree to a degree. I'm not sure the Heat have previously had 14th and 15th men as capable of contributing as Joel and Roger. In previous years, it usually meant discarding a developmental player or project (with Carlos Arroyo a possible, and regrettable, exception). If the Heat move Joel, it will be because of his salary-cap number. If they dump Mason, it will be because he holds a non-guaranteed contract. But I could see both being better than what might come free on the buyout market.
November 15, 2013
Q: Is the only thing frustrating about the way Mario Chalmers is playing this season is that he's playing so well he will frustrate any chance of the Heat being able to afford re-signing him? -- Abel, Miami
A: It's interesting, because amid all the concern about the opt-outs of the Big Three is that Mario is an impending free agent, himself. And, yes, based on how the Heat handled the luxury-tax implications with Mike Miller, it is possible Mario could make himself too expensive, especially when you consider the Heat have already picked up the cheaper 2014-15 option on Norris Cole. It could be argued that Mario currently is outplaying his $4 million Heat salary.
Q: Michael Beasley is already the fourth-best player on this team. He is the solution to our occasional offensive stagnation and is providing high energy on both ends of the floor. Is this Heat's most talented and dynamic five: the Big Three plus Cole and Beasley? -- Shawn.
A: That's probably a bit too much offense in one place, but certainly an energetic alternative. To a degree, that's what these weeks and months are all about, finding combinations that work with Michael. But having someone taking shots from LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh might not be a preferred lineup option. It's why Michael as eventual sixth-man might make more sense.
Q: Given Birdman's history of off-court troubles and suspensions, do you see any special connection between him and Beasley? I'm sure he can relate to Beasley and offer some guidance. - Dylan, Clearwater
A: Well, Chris Andersen sits directly to Michael's right in the locker room, so they certainly have the opportunity to reflect on their career arcs. Then again, Udonis Haslem sits to Michael's left, which might be the preferred direction of mentorship.
November 14, 2013
Q: Was the game against the Bucks LeBron James' best-conditioned game of the season? It looks to me like LeBron is really getting his legs back. His jump shot was beautiful; he had his full legs into it. It was easily visible that from the Bulls game to the Celtics game that he clearly didn't have his legs. Bottom line is that an in-shape and injury-free LeBron and Dwyane Wade are better for the Heat than anything by far. Wade showed us in the preseason, 'Hey, I still have my quickness and I can be explosive when I want to be.' But he's playing it smart this year. He is taking mostly mid-range jumpers and only exploding when he can do it controlled and not like a wild man like in the past, where he gets hurt. D-Wade is on own playoff maintenance program. -- Jeremy, Hollywood.
A: I think having two days off before the Bucks game was particularly beneficial for LeBron, but I also think the sting of the loss to the Celtics also pushed him to another level. Having two days off before Friday's game against the Mavericks also should help. As for Dwyane, it is clear he is picking and choosing his moments, clearly with a preference to defer during the game against Milwaukee. It will be curious to see whether Dwyane plays both games of the back-to-back Friday at home against Dallas and then Saturday in Charlotte.
Q: After three straight runs to the NBA Finals, I believe the Heat will need a spark this season. Is this a case of Pat Riley being a basketball genius with the potential of Michael Beasley and Greg Oden possibly providing the spark the Heat will need to push through this season against a much tougher Eastern Conference? -- Adrian, Pembroke Pines.
A: Beasley, perhaps. It is clear the locker room has rallied around him. Just about every player on this roster has been heralded as the next best thing at one point or another, and many can appreciate what it is like to be viewed as falling short of that goal. As for Oden, it is clear there is a slow-go plan in place, with the Heat going as far as not activating him Tuesday against the Bucks, even with an active roster spot available, with Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem sidelined.