ASK IRA: Did Heat pay enough attention to free-agent market?
Q: What if Pat Riley had worked behind the scenes to orchestrate a trade involving something like Deng, Josh McRoberts and Chalmers for Kevin Love? -- Jason, Miami Lakes.

A: OK, hopefully for the final time this offseason, let me again explain: Players signed in the offseason cannot be dealt before Dec. 15, with the exception of draft picks. So Chris Bosh, McRoberts, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, Deng, Danny Granger, Dwyane Wade, Chalmers and others aren't going anywhere before then. It's why the Heat are extremely limited when it comes to trade chips beyond, perhaps, Norris Cole and Justin Hamilton, the only players who were under contract to the team at the start of the offseason. Don't blame Riley; blame the collective-bargaining agreement. Besides, Minnesota got a heck of a package for Love in Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young, one the Heat were in no position to match, CBA restrictions of otherwise.

Q: Considering the Heat's weakness is at point guard, don't they have to explore Rajon Rondo if the Celtics consider moving him, perhaps something with Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole? -- Humberto.

A: When it comes to trade possibilities with Chalmers and other Heat assets, see the above. But beyond whether the Celtics would be willing to wait until Dec. 15 (and they just might, since there would be so much more available to trade for), it's not as if the Heat have many chips to put into play even then. Remember, the Heat's 2015 first-round pick is headed to the 76ers provided it is not among the first 10. That would mean the Heat could not include a first-round pick in any deal that's for earlier than 2017 (and even then there could be strings attached). And it's not as if the Heat have the type of young prospects that intrigue, such as the Cavaliers had for the Love deal.

Q: Recently, you mentioned Pat Riley's winning-or-misery perspective. One of the more enjoyable seasons in Miami Heat history was the team (2003-2004 season) the Heat had the year before Shaq came to Miami, with Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Eddie Jones, Dwayne Wade, Rafer Alston. The Heat won 18 of their last 19 games and there was a Friday night game in March against the Dallas Mavericks when Alston hit a 3-pointer with .5 seconds left in overtime to win the game. There was pandemonium and joy at AmericanAirlines Arena. Sheer joy and happiness. The Heat beat New Orleans in the playoffs, but lost to Indiana in the second round. Fans talked about the Miami Heat all summer. There will be plenty more exciting and fun nights at the AAA. -- S.R.

A: I remember Rafer's shot and that season. The difference is the Heat weren't yet a championship team at that stage. What the Heat need to convey this coming season is the type of charisma of that team. Basically, Bosh, McRoberts and others have to become embraceable. (It could be a bit tougher with Deng, who has an opt out after this season, with fans perhaps reluctant to bond with a player who soon could be gone, especially in light of James' departure.)



August 31, 2014

Q: Now the Clippers and Spurs, in addition to the Cavs (so called "elite teams"), are showing interest in signing Ray Allen. I hope Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and their Heat teammates have a great season and make the Miami Heat an elite team. Somehow I remember that the minute Ray Allen came on the court for the Miami Heat last season, the opposing teams went right at Ray on defense, which contributed to the Heat's fall off on defense. -- Stuart.

A: But he also gave the Heat the single greatest moment in franchise history. The difference between LeBron James leaving and Dwyane Wade staying is that Ray already has shifted between teams, so it's not as if there is a definitive loyalty either to a certain team or certain town. Having already played in Seattle, Milwaukee, Boston and Miami, it's not as if another team would damage his legacy. And frankly, he likely could have more impact elsewhere. As for his defense, much of that was offset by attracting the attention of the opposition on offense, no matter his 3-point percentage. No matter how this ends with the Heat, he should always be remembered fondly for what he allowed the franchise to achieve.

Q: I'm not going to debate Shannon Brown with you, because I can't remember seeing him last season. But I do know he has the same contract as Rodney Stuckey. So did someone fall asleep at the switch? -- Bertram.

A: First there is the issue of guaranteed money, with Brown reportedly getting none, as opposed to the guarantee offered Stuckey by the Pacers. But I agree that with the Heat out of the luxury tax, that such minimal funding no longer should be an overriding concern. The difference is Stuckey saw an opportunity to move into the Pacers' starting lineup, in the wake of Lance Stephenson's departure to the Hornets, likely making him more amenable to such a salary in Indiana. With the Heat, he would have lined up no better than a backcourt reserve. What I would say is that if Pat Riley knew LeBron James was leaving, I think you would have seen a significantly different approach to the Heat's offseason.

Q: Is there a chance Wade could return to his prime form? He isn't that old, right? -- Joe, Tallahassee.

A: He turns 33 in January, which is not exactly young for a player whose game is based on explosion. Basically this is when we will see how much Kobe Bryant, how much defiance to age, Wade has in him.



August 30, 2014

Q: Nothing this summer has given me any real hope we have a shot. -- Robert.

A: A shot at what? At a championship? At a return to the NBA Finals? At a competitive season? At compelling basketball on most nights? Look, this is where, for all he has accomplished as a coach and executive, I blame Pat Riley for his trite winning-or-misery perspective. If a championship is the only acceptable result, I suggest taking in a movie on game nights. One team wins a championship, so the other 29 don't have "a shot"? Yes, the NBA is as predictable as any league when it comes to forecasting the last teams standing, and it hardly was prophetic to predict the Heat, Pacers, Spurs and Thunder as last season's final four. But I would go the other way when it comes to a feeling of doom. Plenty of other teams would cash out after losing a player like LeBron James. The Heat instead circled back to Luol Deng and then went out and spent as much as any team this offseason. What the Heat have "a shot" with this coming season is being competitive in every regular-season game and being a tough out in the playoffs. There are worse ways to spend at least six months of your time.

Q: I will agree with your positive outlook on the breakup as soon as I see another player wearing Heat jersey No. 6 this coming season. Such action would be a clear message that, yes, we, too, see it as a mutually satisfactory four-year relationship that ran its course, that we enjoyed it while it lasted, now you got your No. 23 back and we got our No. 6 back. No harm done; all good. Can you ask my fellow readers where their heart is on the get-No. 6-back ballot? -- Ari, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

A: You just did. I'm just not sure anyone would want to be the next Heat player to wear No. 6, at least this soon after LeBron's departure. (And I still think, when numbers are retired down the road, when the parties have moved on, that the numbers of LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal still aren't eventually retired by the Heat.)

Q: Any possibility of Danny Granger coming back as anything close to the All-Star he once was? The Heat have one of the best training staffs. Granger could become a major component to this team off the bench. -- Gabriel, Miami.