Q: Andray Blatche would be fine with Chris Bosh alongside at power forward, but I'm not sure such a lineup with Whiteside at center and Blatche at power forward could work. -- B.A.
A: I think the Heat re-visit Blatche, once he is eligible to return from China, only if they opt to first trade Chris Andersen by the Feb. 19 NBA trading deadline. Should Birdman be retained, then I think the Heat would have greater needs for their $2.65 million disabled-player exception (received for Josh McRoberts) that expires March 10, perhaps on a point guard or a wing. The frontline certainly was not the issue in Tuesday's debacle.
February 3, 2015
Q: I believe Shabazz Napier to be the worst starter in Heat history. I also believe Pat Riley needs to stop burdening Erik Spoelstra by having him on the roster. Anyone who has spent any time watching basketball can see he cannot compete on this level. He is lost. Tyler Johnson is light years better. Why isn't he sent to D-League? -- Brian, Boca Raton.
A: I believe that when Dwyane Wade returns, further seasoning in the NBA Development League for Napier might be the proper move. For now, I think Spoelstra has stayed with Napier as starters as a means to retain continuity with his rotation in Wade's absence. But the reality is that Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole (even with his wayward shooting) and Johnson are offering more in the backcourt. The last time that Napier was with Sioux Falls, he did not get the full opportunity at point guard, with Larry Drew also in the lineup. Now, with Drew with the 76ers, a Skyforce reassignment would allow Napier to operate in a role he needs to play in the NBA. I don't think you simply give up on a first-round draft pick at this stage, but you are correct that he has been outclassed in most of his recent appearances.
Q: Danny Granger has been a huge disappointment. James Ennis always plays hard and outperforms Granger on a consistent basis. With Ennis contributing more and more, is it safe to say he'll back up Luol Deng from now on? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.
A: As I mentioned above with Napier starting in place of Wade, I think Granger is somewhat of a space-holder at small forward when Deng is out. With Granger, it has come down to whether he is making shots or not. While Ennis plays with far more energy than Granger, that energy sometimes can be out of control. And it late-game situations, especially on offense, there is something to be said for Granger finding space for his shots. Granger has struggled of late, but he did have his moments in December. The best of all worlds for the Heat would be for Granger to recapture that rhythm, if still possible. But Ennis has looked good the past two games, a return to his early-season play after a hitting a bit of a rookie wall. His energy, like that of Tyler Johnson, can make a difference.
Q: As much as Hassan Whiteside has obviously helped in the rebounding and blocks department, his input offensively has quietly been pretty good. He's been averaging 16.5 in his last four games. Can he continue that? -- Jackson.
A: I actually think it will get easier for Whiteside once Wade returns, with Wade having created more room for Whiteside in the post simply because of Dwyane's ability to space the floor with the threat of his penetration. I still believe the majority of Whiteside's points, when the Heat are at their most efficient, will come on alley-oops and second-chance opportunities. The reality is that the Heat have several superior post-up options, including Chris Bosh and Wade.
February 2, 2015
Q: Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and James Ennis are getting extended playing time. With the trade deadline coming up, are the Miami Heat showcasing these players or are they truly trying to develop them? -- Stuart.
A: There is no showcasing here. This is the long-awaited restart of the Heat's development program, and Sunday was particularly intriguing, particularly against a Celtics team that is in the midst of a full-fledged developmental program. Whiteside has moved past flash-in-the-pan status, considering how he continues to display different ways to contribute. First it was the alley-oop dunks. Then there was the shot-blocking. Then it was the rebounding. And now it's the offensive repertoire that included hooks shots and jumpers Sunday. With Johnson, it is about finally having athleticism and energy in a backcourt rotation that had grown stagnant. And those types of younger components also create a game where Ennis can flourish. Interestingly, the one young name you didn't mention was first-round pick Shabazz Napier. The reality is that once Dwyane Wade returns, whether that's this week or beyond, you could make a case for keeping Johnson in the rotation and sending Napier back down to the D-League for seasoning. Frankly, I don't think anyone would have thought at the start of the season that Napier would rank fourth among this season's Heat newcomers.
Q: Why is Mario Chalmers still all over the place? -- Diego.
A: I wish I had an answer. The thing is, he plays hard and he means well. But part of growing into a veteran is appreciating when gusto is required and when prudence is necessary. I'm not sure he has been able to differentiate between the two. He knows what to do. That I'm sure of. He just doesn't always do it. With this roster, the Heat need him to win. At this stage, Chalmers is beyond the developmental stage. But it's almost as if he still needs a mentor.
Q: Who has more to prove Tuesday: Erik Spoelstra against Stan Van Gundy, or Stan Van Gundy against Pat Riley? -- Steven.
A: I can guarantee you that neither is looking at that game as anything more than staying afloat in the playoff race. Van Gundy's sole focus is trying to find a way to succeed in the void of Brandon Jennings' season-ending Achilles injury, while Spoelstra will measure the hours leading to that game by gauging whether Luol Deng can return. There is nothing personal when playoff-race desperation is involved.
February 1, 2015
Q: Hello, Ira. Every other pro sports team at one time in the process of extremely underperforming questions and puts pressure on the coach. Not just internally, but most importantly externally by the media, fans and analysts (i.e. David Blatt with Cavs, Jacque Vaughn with Magic, heck Stan Van Gundy with Heat back when Pat Riley took over). Sure the Heat have had injuries, but when a professional NBA team can't score regularly, it usually means that the team does not have a good offensive system or training. Defense is more a product on player effort and the Heat aren't doing bad at it. It's the offense that is really underachieving, and that's on the coach. When will Erik Spoelstra be questioned? It might force him to improve his strategies and improve the team's play. Pat called for him to evolve and it seems he has not done so enough. -- Javier, Doral.
A: I can appreciate the frustrations, and agree that there have been more than a few shaky moments from Spoelstra this season. But that also has been true from just about everyone on the roster and even Riley, with some of his personnel moves (and non moves). Here's the rub: This team went to four consecutive NBA Finals, and whether it was because of LeBron James or more than that, that earns you a bye. In fact, that's what I think this season has turned into, the Heat's "bye" season, where the effort is not always there from those who have returned, the sharpness has not always been there from those who have had to make the decisions, the passion not there when the reality is something less than championship visions. So instead of "media, fans and analysts" putting pressure on Spoelstra, I think the realities of this season have done that. The injuries have destroyed continuity. But I agree that this is about more than continuity. So I think you take whatever this season delivers and then you (or perhaps Micky Arison) make it clear that the Heat's new reality requires new approaches, new visions, new attitudes. I don't think those can come in the midst of such a morass. But I do think the Heat, and Spoelstra, can be held accountable for such re-expectations going forward. In other words, for all involved, as Spoelstra likes to say, "everything has to be on the table" after this season. Until then, the Heat's "bye" season will play out.
Q: Chris Bosh has to step up because he's not playing anywhere near a max player. And if he can't, maybe it's time to listen to offers. -- Xavier, Gainesville.
A: I will say this, if the Bosh-Dwyane Wade combination can't get it done (and the Heat have struggled at times even when the two are healthy and in the lineup), then I could see the Heat considering transactions where they could receive multiple players in exchange for Bosh, perhaps from a championship contender looking for one final piece. It's not as much about Bosh stepping forward as it is Bosh and Wade stepping forward as a tandem. That's what these next two seasons, at least, are about.
Q: Shabazz Napier is outmanned and outplayed by everybody. -- Juan.
A: At this point, it is getting difficult to commit meaningful minutes to Napier when the payoff has been so minimal. Even Spoelstra appears to have shortened the leash. The question is whether Napier can overcome his physical limitations, and lack of shooting ability, with his playmaking and savvy. Right now, he is nothing more than another body in a mess of a mix at point guard.