December 8, 2014
Q: I can't help but think that we wasted our cap money by overpaying for Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and Danny Granger. I believe the money spent could have gotten us a couple of quality contributors that would have made a big difference in our ability to compete. Lance Stephenson and Andre Blatche perhaps? Better interior and perimeter defense, rebounding and outside shooting. Loyalty begins with giving the fans who pay the bills the best product possible. -- Dave.
A: The reality is that the Heat did a lot of borrowing against the future during the four seasons they went to the NBA Finals, which the fans seemed to relish, no matter the cost in future dollars. With Birdman, two seasons at the minimum and two at the Early Bird seasons on this latest contract essentially equate to the $4 million a season his play had dictated. With Haslem, it has been a steady push of money into the future. As for Granger, it seems like a typical NBA gamble with damaged goods, hoping for the best. The reality is this would not have been the mix had it been clear at the start of free agency that LeBron James was leaving. Instead, the Heat were left to deal with charred remains. The only way this works going forward is if Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts prove those investments to have been prudent. Each is a unique player, and those adjustments are going to require time and additional continuity.
Q: Ira, can we stop anyone's guards? -- James.
A: Not point guards. And that's a concern, because while Shabazz Napier may be many things with his youthful promise, being a lockdown point guard is not one of them. Norris Cole previously had some postseason moments that created promise as a defensive stopper, but he has appeared to regress in that regard. And Mario Chalmers is more about going for steals than straight-up defense, something this team cannot afford with its lack of deterrence at the rim.
Q: Ira, Haslem came back and the Heat rebounded. Coincidence? -- Howard.
A: Now the decision for Erik Spoelstra is to decide how much those rebounds matter, as opposed to having another scorer on the court, or even more length when Birdman comes back. I didn't understand why Justin Hamilton had been playing ahead of Haslem, but stretching the floor apparently was a priority. Now it has to be rebounding and defense, which could open the door again for Haslem.
December 7, 2014
Q: How long before the Heat go back to traditional basketball? Without LeBron James, Shane Battier, there are no other players who can play small ball. Josh McRoberts looks nothing like the player we saw last April in the playoffs. -- Stuart.
A: The question is whether the Heat are failing because of the system, because of the personnel or because of effort. If it's the last of those three, then there likely is no answer. And there are times when it looks that way. A team that previously could turn it on at will no longer has the personnel (or person) who can do that. The system certainly was exposed by the Spurs during last season's NBA Finals, but that also was during a week that Gregg Popovich said his team played at its ultimate level. The reality is teams with far less talent or coaching also are carving apart the Heat this season. I think personnel has a lot to do with it, with dismal play at point guard. The hope has to be that when Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts are on the court together, the Heat will have enough to at least attempt to compensate for other deficiencies. The reality is that the depth is lacking. So far this season there have been Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and huge question marks.
Q: Friday night was truly painful. I tried to convince my dad this team is worth watching for its scrappiness. That only worked for the first 10 games. -- Diego.
A: The reality is that if it doesn't improve during this five-game trip, I think you are going to see major drop-offs in attendance and interest when the Heat return home to play eight of nine starting next Sunday. And that will be one of the most important stretches of the season for the Heat. The performances this past week against the Wizards and Bucks were disgraceful. It would be difficult to find any fan who could stomach a double dose of that.
Q: If it’s all about the cap space and available free agents for 2016-17, maybe the Heat are just buying time with what they have, with a couple of possible tweaks involving young, inexpensive prospects for now. Of course, I'm hoping the Heat find away to put a competitive team on the floor that can at least go past the first round, but no one knows what Pat Riley has planed. It's tough to go from last year to this year. -- Chet.
A: I think the Heat's major work came this past offseason, and it will be difficult to find any other path than working through this with McRoberts, Deng and Danny Granger. Given considerable cap space to work with in July once LeBron left, Pat Riley decided that those three, plus Mario Chalmers was the best way to go with that cap space. Now it likely will come down to those players providing a payoff. Otherwise, the Heat's options are limited.
December 6, 2014
Q: Please tell me the Lance Stephenson trade rumors are just fabricated stories. He cannot be a member of the Heat. -- Andy.
A: Well, at least not until Dec. 15, the first day he is eligible to be traded. With Stephenson's $9 million salary, it would take a package of Josh McRoberts and Mario Chalmers from the Heat to make it work. And the Hornets then likely would want to unload the $7 million salary of Marvin Williams, the player they signed to replace McRoberts. To your greater point, there has been nothing tangible about such a deal. But an argument could be made that the Hornets dearly miss McRoberts, while Stephenson's skill set fits some of what the Heat lack in their perimeter rotation. But I still think the Heat want to first explore the possibilities of McRoberts and Danny Granger, and I'm not sure Michael Jordan would want to bail so quickly on one of his first marquee free-agent acquisitions beyond Al Jefferson. But this Heat roster still doesn't have much outside of Wade when it comes to creating offense when the offense stalls. That became evident Friday against the Bucks.