Q: I am really starting to get concerned with Goran Dragic's production. This can't help the Heat in re-signing him. -- Ted.
A: Clearly he is physically beat up, having to carry more of a load than he ever could have anticipated, first when Chris Bosh was lost for the season on the very day he was acquired, then with Wade dealing with multiple bumps and bruises. When you look at so many of the Heat's lineup combinations, you almost feel for the positions Dragic finds himself. And you wonder if he is starting to wonder about hitching his future to Wade, amid the recent issues with that left knee. It's almost as if Dragic and the entire roster need a mental health break at a juncture when there is no time for one.
April 2, 2015
Q: Ira, I know you don't do trade rumors, but humor me. I asked you earlier in the season about the Heat trading Josh McRoberts back to Charlotte for Lance Stephenson and you said McRoberts was starting to play well. Well, he isn't playing at all now. So, sir, I ask you again. -- Randy.
A: Much has changed since then, even beyond McRoberts' knee surgery, foremost the arrival, development and ascension of Hassan Whiteside. And if the plan going forward is to play Whiteside alongside Chris Bosh, then Josh becomes more expendable then he was when you initially asked. The reality is Charlotte has not been the same team since McRoberts was there as the point power forward, and Stephenson has been a bust for the Hornets, often removed from the rotation. But that also creates pause, with Stephenson at $9 million next season and McRoberts at $5.5 million. But with Lance having only one more guaranteed season on his contract, it might be a risk worth considering. With Stephenson, the Heat would get the type of depth behind Luol Deng (provided Deng does not opt out) that they have lacked this season. A power rotation of Whiteside, Bosh, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem, with a rotation at small forward of Deng and Stephenson, plus Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers in the backcourt could be formidable. The Hornets, of course, signed Marvin Williams as a replacement for McRoberts, so it would require some maneuvering on their part, as well.
Q: Ira, four reasons not to re-sign Goran Dragic: 1. He looks exhausted the last few games and his role is going to get bigger as Dwyane Wade ages. 2. He's 28 going on 29. 3. His physical style of play at both ends is conducive to injury. 4. He is going to command $20 million a year, money that should be used on re-signing Whiteside. Am I crazy? -- Raul, Naples.
A: Yes. The ship has sailed when it comes to deciding on whether the re-sign Dragic. The Heat have no other choice, considering they sent a pair of draft picks to the Suns that both could be in the lottery. The Heat have to re-sign Dragic. Anything short of that would make February's trade a disaster. Yes, disaster. And based on the quantum leap the salary cap will make in 2016-17, the Heat, even with a max or near-max deal for Dragic, still should have ample cap space to satisfy Whiteside. The Heat need Dragic to maximize the remaining years Wade has in the league.
Q: Why does Erik Spoelstra insist on starting Henry Walker against bigger teams? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.
A: Because his hands have been tied due to injuries. Many times when Walker has started at power forward it has been because Haslem has been needed as the backup center, due to time missed by Whiteside or Birdman. So many times while lamenting the Heat's rotations and lineups we tend to lose sight of the reality that the Heat's top two options at power forward, Bosh and McRoberts, are both sidelined. Put it this way, it is likely that Henry Walker starts more games this season than he does the balance of his NBA career.
April 1, 2015
Q: When is Luol Deng not hurt? Birdman and Dwyane Wade, too. We have the most injury-prone team I've ever seen. -- Cory.
A: To a degree, that's always a risk you run when you have older players in their 30s. But the reality is that the most serious Heat injuries this season were not because of the age of the roster, but rather Josh McRoberts' knee injury in Phoenix and the blood clots on his lung that Chris Bosh developed. Even Hassan Whiteside's shredded right hand was a freak accident. If Bosh had been available after the All-star break, the likelihood is the Heat would not be in this desperate state when it comes to making the playoffs.
Q: Thirty lineups, just another stat we beat the Cavs at. -- Andrew.
A: Yay? Of course, when you have LeBron James and his play-every-day mentality, it makes the rest of the lineup largely moot. But even this season, LeBron took an extended break in January. The rapid-fire pacing of the schedule is hurting the product. Fortunately, the schedule is something Adam Silver said he would like to address. It's something the players' association should want addressed, as well. To many teams are showing up at less than 100 percent. The Spurs showed on Tuesday night just how good an elite team can be when 100 percent.
Q: Can you help me? I'm trying to figure out which team's I should be rooting for that will help Miami make the playoffs? I'm assuming Boston and Brooklyn, since we own tiebreakers. -- Gary, Port St. Lucie.
A: Exactly, the Heat finished 4-0 against the Nets and 3-1 against the Celtics, so they not only would win the head-to-head tiebreakers against both, but also a potential three-way tie with those two for seeding. Actually, the Heat could be in decent shape in tiebreakers if they win their remaining games against the Pacers and Hornets, since they would close out those season series at 2-2. The problem is any hope of getting up to No. 6, after closing 0-4 against the Bucks. In fact, if the Bucks fade, the Heat also would have trouble in any multiple-team tiebreakers that involve Milwaukee. That could turn into an issue, as well.