A: Look, if the Rockets had a healthy Donatas Motiejunas they probably would be in better shape against the Clippers. And don't discount Houston also being forced to play without former Heat prospect Patrick Beverley, who at least could have added an element of deterrence. I'm not sure that offense is the Rockets' greatest concern, and I'm also not sure that Bosh would have been maximized in an offense so James Harden-centric, to the point that even Dwight Howard seemingly is having trouble getting the ball. But, as you pointed out, the issue would have been moot due to Bosh's own health issues. It is remarkable how much these playoffs are becoming a battle of attrition. It's almost as if the last healthy team will get to turn out the lights.
Q: Who is in charge of developing our rookie players? We let Tim Hardaway go to Detroit instead of him developing Shabazz Napier. Is Hassan Whiteside learning from Alonzo Mourning during the offseason? Pat Riley's picks leaves Miami, develop, and become good players, like Caron Butler. Who is accountable. -- Roper, Ypsilanti, Mich.
A: For all the questions this past season about the coaching staff, one thing the Heat long have done very well is develop players. Hardaway never was involved in that process with the Heat because he was more involved in scouting. And Mourning is more involved with the players off the court. Great players don't always make great coaches or even teachers, because sometimes there's the lack of patience that made them such good players in the first place. As for Butler, the Heat did enough to develop him that the Lakers wanted him as a part of the Shaquille O'Neal trade.
May 11, 2015
Q: With Miami having a really good chance at keeping their 2015 first round draft pick at No. 10, a lot of mock drafts say Willie Cauley-Stein might be that pick for them. I'm not sure, because I really like the guy but I think he's way too good to go at No. 10 and even if somehow he does and Miami gets him, which would be great, what would happen to Hassan Whiteside? -- Tristan, Alexander, Ill.
A: If a power player is the clear best choice at No. 10, should the Heat hold that slot after the lottery, then you always have the option of dangling that pick. While I do believe the Heat have to remain in the first round to take advantage of the advantages of the rookie scale, I'm not necessarily wed to drafting in the top half of the round. Once the lottery is over, if the Heat emerge with the No. 10 pick or better, their obligation to the 76ers is then put off for a year. From there, the Heat would be free to move up or down in the draft order, making it more likely they can get a player to fit a need.
Q: If the Heat are in position to draft a high quality rookie big man (with a small contract for four years), and with Hassan Whiteside potentially in line for a huge payday in 2016, might trading him to fill other needs make sense? -- Brian.
A: Look, I think we first have to get past the lottery, since that will determine whether the Heat can draft an elite big man or any big man. If that four-percent chance of moving into the Top 3 comes through, then everything changes, just like it did for the Cavaliers in recent years. With the draft not until June 25, and with free agency still almost two months away, there is plenty of time for what-ifs. Like every team in the lottery, the Heat will remain in limbo until May 19. That's when the "what-ifs" can turn into legitimate questions of what should come next.
Q: I'd like a forecast of how much space the Heat will have under the 2016 cap if we sign Goran Dragic/Hassan Whiteside to big contracts. -- Daniel.
A: Basically none. That's what the 2016 free-agency stash would have to be saved for, to structure a deal big enough to keep Whiteside, with no built-in home-team advantages, because Hassan will yet to have reached his Bird Rights. But, again, that is a longer view that needs to be taken at the moment, and would include a large new deal for Dragic, as well as the Chris Bosh deal and others currently in place. There will be plenty of time by next season's trading deadline to get the roster, and, more importantly, the cap sorted out in advance of 2016 free agency.
May 10, 2015
Q: Funny, again, how everyone is saying LeBron James has to do too much. The question is does he create those situations by the way he dominates the ball? The other day, in Game 3 in Chicago, Tristan Thompson had to ask LeBron for permission to shoot. So does LeBron create the situation? He doesn't like playing down low and banging where he is unstoppable, if he gets the ball on the move. -- Stuart.
A: It is one thing to say during the regular-season that you have confidence in your teammates, or even to say it at the start of playoff games. But maintaining that trust at the ends of close playoff games is another story. I'm not sure there is anyone LeBron currently trusts to that degree on the Cavaliers, save, perhaps, for former Heat teammate James Jones, and Kyrie Irving, when he is healthy. That was a reality, as well, early in his Heat career. And I agree that LeBron is at his best in the post, but can also appreciate now that he is starting all over in a new situation that he doesn't want to become pigeon-holed into such a role, which is particularly taxing. It will be fascinating to see LeBron's level of patience if the Cavaliers don't make it out of this round. With the Heat, his teammates and his coach grew together for an extended period of success.
Q: If the Heat get the No. 10 pick in both rounds, would have it make sense for the heat to draft Stanley Johnson first round and a combo guard in the second? -- Sam, Annandale, Va.
A: I think you’re looking in the right direction, with the Heat bereft of depth on the wing. But there also is a Part Two to the equation, of what the Heat will do in free agency. If Pat Riley is confident there is a veteran wing the Heat can entice, then the draft could revert to best possible player. I think that's one advantage the NFL has, in handling free agency first, then moving on to the draft, and then being able to return to free agency. In the NBA, you basically go into the draft blind to the eventualities of free agency. The approach to the draft might have been far different a year ago if LeBron James' free-agency decision was made in advance.
Q: Hey Ira, I realize this may sound a bit optimistic, but the Heat actually have a window of opportunity of a year, maybe two, when they could be a dangerous team again. With a starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, they could contend. It gives you average players at the two forward positions, well above average at center and the guards. But they need to add solid (youthful?) backups at the two forward positions and at two-guard for energy off the bench. Heck, that team could win Eastern Conference, barring injuries at playoff time. Mario Chalmers/Shabazz Napier would be OK backup, as would Chris Andersen. Emulate Atlanta, and I think they might beat the Hawks out for one year, maybe two. But as always the key is Wade: He'd have to play at about the same level as he did this year and last. As great as he is, he's underrated. This is a guy who ranks among the Top 15 players of all-time, maybe the top dozen. The only active guys working on better careers than Wade are LeBron James and Kevin Durant, well, maybe Anthony Davis, too, but he's just starting out. If Wade were in L.A,. and Bryant in Miami, the situation would be reversed. They've been equally great, though Wade seems much more committed to defense and team chemistry, and is therefore, in my opinion, better, even though Bryant receives far more national attention.-- Dave.
A: I think what these Eastern Conference playoffs have shown is that you don't have to make much of a leap to get into the Top 4 in the East next season, especially when you consider that the Raptors were in the Top 4 this season. Of course, true contention in the East would require more as long as LeBron is with the Cavaliers. But based on how this postseason has played out, I think there's a lot of comfort throughout the East that a rapid revival is possible.
May 9, 2015