8:11 AM EDT, October 1, 2014
October 1, 2014
Q: Probably don't want to dwell on the past too much, but seeing your recent article regarding the Mike Miller amnesty got me thinking: What if they had used the amnesty clause on Joel Anthony instead? Of course, they eventually dumped Anthony anyways, but maybe if he had been amnestied, and Miller had stayed healthy, things might have turned out very differently. -- Adrian.
Q: Yes, in hindsight it was a mistake to amnesty Miller. But at the time he was always injured and the Heat needed flexibility thanks to the CBA that Dan Gilbert voted for. So he should really blame the Cavaliers owner. -- Yunasi.
A: It is a story with many angles and twists, including the reality that Mike not only was braced for his amnesty release in 2013, but expected it as early as 2012, putting his home on the market at that point. And his injury history was a concern, and a reality. If you remember, his people put it out there after his 2013 amnesty release that he might need back surgery, which, ironically, apparently was done to scare off the Cavaliers at the time. But it also seems a bit disingenuous for the Heat to now turn on the #HeatLifer campaign in the wake of what happened with Mike. It certainly wasn't that the Heat didn't have roster space for him. And #HeatLifer certainly didn't save Joel Anthony. Look, revisionist history, like catch phrases, are not what it's about at this stage. It's about what comes next. What happened with LeBron James and Mike Miller is history. It's what the Heat make of their future, and that is about more than #HeatLife or #HeatNation hashtags. Those are for the marketing division. What matters most is the basketball.
Q: Ira, love the new title photo of "Ask Ira"! My question is, Wade said maybe last year or two years ago that three rings was all he wanted when he entered the league and the rest would be "icing on the cake." Do you think he still has that fire in him that he certainly lacked in the Finals, or will he just play hard but not sacrifice for something he sees as just a bonus? Thanks. -- James, Fort Lauderdale.
A: First, it's funny how the new photo distorts things to make it look like I don't have hair, but that's another story. As for your question, I don't think it has anything to do with "fire" or "sacrifice" with Wade. I think it comes down to whether the body is willing. Dwyane certainly could not have wanted to go out like he did last season. And I think he has visions of offering reminders of what he once was. The question now is whether he still has it in him. We'll know soon enough.
Q: Will the Miami Heat coaching staff and organization catalyze on James Ennis' skills and experience? I am looking forward to enjoying the excitement of his game. Is it time the Heat organization develops their own LeBron James? I would be very disappointed if Ennis spends most of his time on the bench wasting his great talent and skills. -- Stefanie, Margate.
A: First of all, I think you need to step back from any LeBron comparisons or anything about "great talents and skills" for a former second-round pick yet to play his first NBA game. James is still very raw, even with his seasoning in Australia, and further seasoning in the NBA Development League might be one answer. If Danny Granger is ready for the start of the regular season, then the Heat probably will not see a need to fast track James. He has promise, but at the moment, that's all.
September 30, 2014
Q: Do you think that the Heat have enough depth going into the season to beat big-name teams like the Cavaliers or the Bulls in the postseason? -- Joseph, Plantation.
A: This is where the Heat and I disagree, and, to a degree, I hope that I'm wrong, that enough of the players added to the mix pan out and that a Shawne Williams or Reggie Williams or Shannon Brown offer unexpected surprise. The Heat's way of thinking is that Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger have been added, and that those moves are part of bolstering the depth. My thought is that it will take at least two of those players, if even possible, to offset most of what was lost with the loss of LeBron James. Deng is rock solid, but I don't consider him part of the "depth." And considering McRoberts likely will start, I don't consider him part of the depth, either. Look, I'm not overstating what was lost. Michael Beasley and Greg Oden did not contribute when it mattered. Nor for that matter did James Jones, Rashard Lewis or Toney Douglas get much of a chance. Shane Battier dropped off to the point where he recognized that retirement was the proper reality. And even Ray Allen dropped off enough to consider stepping away from the game, as well. But Dwyane Wade is a year older, and Chris Andersen turned 36 in July. So an argument could be made that even more depth is needed than last season. Again, whether it's the minimum-scale journeymen I mentioned or perhaps some of the kids -- like James Ennis, Justin Hamilton or Shabazz Napier -- there certainly is the possibility of an infusion of quality depth. That is what the next month, and beyond, is about.
Q: What are the concerns with Granger and McRoberts recuperating from surgery this offseason? Will this affect the chemistry and most importantly will they be ready to go when the preseason begins? -- Adrian, Las Vegas.
A: Any time a player comes off surgery, no matter how supposedly minor, it always is a concern. And this just makes it harder to weave players into a new system, to develop needed chemistry in advance of the season. The Heat tend to be cautious with such matters, so I'd expect the regular season to be more of a goal than the preseason. The Heat need McRoberts (toe surgery) and Granger (a knee scope) to be productive. And with the Heat's place in the East so tenuous, every regular-season game figures to matter.
Q: Do you think the Heat will keep three point guards all season? I don't see the organization keeping Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier, especially if Napier transitions to the game well. -- Dale, Sunrise.
A: First, you're talking to someone who for years has championed -- mostly unsuccessfully -- the Heat carrying three point guards. I think it only makes sense, now more than ever, without LeBron James' ballhandling to compensate. It also could come down to how much the Heat utilize Chalmers at shooting guard. But I think that is overstated, since Erik Spoelstra previously often had played Chalmers and Cole in tandem. And if Napier develops, it finally would give the Heat additional trade chips that can be put into play. I think it's important that all three prove capable of contributing to this reshuffled Heat mix.
September 29, 2014
Q: Hi, Ira. From your card, who among the 20 will make the final 15 before the season starts? It seems like everyone taken to camp are good scorers. -- Romeo.
A: To me, the roster locks going in is the probable starting lineup of Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Chris Bosh, and among the reserves you can write in pen the names of Chris Andersen, Danny Granger, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, Shabazz Napier and James Ennis. So that's 11 out of the maximum 15 right there. Then I'd go the other way, with players essentially being set up for cuts and seasoning with the Heat's NBA Development League, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, with that group likely to include Tyler Johnson, Khem Birch, Andre Dawkins and Shawn Jones. So that leaves five remaining players for four spots, with the math possibly being as simple as cutting Chris Johnson and keeping Shawne Williams, Reggie Williams, Justin Hamilton and Shannon Brown. All of that said, the younger prospects still have a chance to make a camp statement, and based on what sets up as the end of the roster, I think it is highly possibly the Heat eventually consider players cut by other teams or those still lingering on the free-agent list. What you are seeing in this training camp might not be what you get.
Q: The Heat should get a rebounder and defensive big man like Reggie Evans or Kenneth Faried if they want to continue Bosh's outside offense. -- Jed.
A: First, the Heat don't have anything close to what it would take to land Faried. Beyond that, the league largely has moved beyond physical fours who have little offensive ability and don't have to be defended. If there is the need for a bodyguard in the power rotation, it is likely that Birdman or Haslem would get that call.
Q: Do the Heat appear more relaxed with all the media in Cleveland instead? -- Mark.
A: For most, it's just another training camp, just one without a mass media scrum surrounding the game's premier player after each practice. But Wade and Bosh do seem more at ease with the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. Of course the flip side is if the losses start piling up, then there can't be the excuse of, "Don't worry, we still have LeBron."
September 28, 2014
Q: One of the recent articles in the Sun Sentinel on Chris Bosh's new role as the focal point of the Heat's offense talked about Chris bringing back his post-up game from his days in Toronto. In fact, Chris was quoted as saying in the article, everyone on the Heat knew LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were our post-up players the last four years. What I don't understand is why during the prior four years (The Big Three era) Chris Bosh's post-up play couldn't be incorporated into the Heat's offense? Wouldn't that have given the Heat more options on offense? Maybe the Heat go 72-10 four years in a row and win four championships (exaggerating). If the Heat are paying Bosh $118 million and his post-up play is good enough to be the focal point now, surely it was good enough to use the last four years? Not sure why the Heat couldn't incorporate more of Bosh post play. The fans basically screamed for it. And in the first year of the Big Three, Bosh playing a mid-range game was super effective against Bulls and Celtics in the playoffs. -- Stuart.
A: Because after that first Big Three year, Erik Spoelstra went back to the drawing the board, to find a way to maximize the game of all three players. So LeBron went into the post more often and Wade was put on the move toward the rim, with his off-the-ball cuts. That meant sacrifice for Bosh, and consecutive championships in 2012 and '13. I believe regardless of LeBron's free-agency decision there would have been changes anyway, based on the decline of Wade's game. Most likely Bosh would have returned at least to the mid-post, which is probably the best way to take advantage of both his post play and his face-up game. Bosh made the Heat better before; he'll make them better again.
Q: The Wade of 2010 with this group makes us an instant contender. The Wade of 2014, regardless of how he plays this season, just can't lift a team to the same heights. -- Matt.
A: But it won't be either. Wade isn't 28, like he was in 2010. And he isn't playing the type of complementary role like he did last season. Erik Spoelstra consistently talks about evolving. Yet to be determined is what Wade 4.0 (rookie point guard, 2006 championship leader, 2010-14 supporting player) will look like.
Q: Why are you still reporting about LeBron? Let it go, move on. It's the Heat and the real fans that matter. -- Juan, Miami.
A: Because LeBron still is a huge part of the Heat's history, and if he says something related to his Heat tenure, it is as germane as Shaquille O'Neal discussing his Heat departure or Mike Miller talking about being amnestied. What (I hope) we'll be hearing less about his LeBron's hairline. Yes, it's time to move forward, but there is a past that also can't be erased, nor should it be.
September 27, 2014
Q: Ira, let's say the season goes on well and Miami wins or comes close to winning it all, and I know it's a bit of a longshot, but let's say the basketball gods are with us. If Luol Deng and Danny Granger this season return to All-Star form, would the Heat re-up on their contracts in order to keep them both, or go out in search of another big-star name? -- Larocque, Miami.
A: The reality is that so much of this team is a rental team, players other than Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts, including the two you mentioned, and many more, on contracts that allow them to opt out after the coming season. The Heat clearly have placed a priority on being a player in 2016 free agency, when the salary cap is expected to rise exponentially. So yes, there is a chance that any player (perhaps other than Wade) who has a breakout season and an opt-out could bolt next summer. I still believe the Heat would keep their focus on 2016 free agency. Then again, this is what makes sports these days so confounding, that on the eve of the 2014-15 season, some already are wondering about the 2015 offseason and beyond. For now, it should be about savoring the moment. Whatever it may bring.
Q: Ira, Chris Bosh said at media day that he's the man. Dwyane Wade didn't say it. What does that say about Bosh and Wade? -- Ellie, Fort Lauderdale.
A: First, I don't think Chris was nearly as strong in his comments, only saying that he is ready and willing to embrace such a challenge, and that he appreciates how much more could be needed with LeBron James gone. Dwyane, by contrast, has a self-confidence of what he hads been and what he could be again. I think it's more a matter of their approach to the interviews than anything. But the reality is that in the NBA it takes an inside-outside game, and Bosh has to be the inside game and Wade has to be the perimeter game. So who has to be 'The Man' of what remains of the Big Three? Both Bosh and Wade, or else it doesn't work.
Q: No lies, "Ask Ira" is the first piece of news I read every morning. I've been a Heat fan since day one and have followed your work for over 20 years. Without trying to blow smoke up your you know what, I think you have more insight on the Heat than anyone outside the organization and I'm curious to know what your gut is telling you if you had to pick one player on the roster you expect to be the biggest surprise this season and a second player you expect to be the biggest disappointment. Thanks for taking the time to interact with all of us daily. I know there are many of us in Heat Nation that don't know how to start a morning without a cup of coffee and a quick "Ask Ira" read! -- Michael, Miami.
A: First of all, thank you. Second, perhaps you might want to start your morning reading with something a bit more substantive, like real news from the real world. Anyway, I'm not going to go into "biggest disappointment" at the moment, because the start of a season should be about optimism. The biggest surprise would be Dwyane Wade being able to play more than 70 games, or Danny Granger returning to something close to his previous All-Star form.
September 26, 2014
Q: Hey Ira, I'm a big Dwyane Wade fan and believe he can still produce at a high level. Chris Bosh is one of the most underrated players in the league. That being said, I believe they had four years with the best player in the world and got comfortable in taking the backseat. I don't see how they will have bounce-back years now having the best perimeter defender defending Dwyane and Bosh most likely attracting double-teams. Not having LeBron James be the focal point of defense will make their life a lot harder and I believe tough times for the Heat are ahead. What do you think we can expect out of our two superstars? -- Ahmed, Montreal.
A: You raise cogent points. It has been a while since the opposing defensive stopper keyed on Wade, and nearly as long since Bosh took consistent pounding in the paint while on offense. But the greater point is whether the two are up to the work level they endured before teaming up with James, now that each is four years older. Pride goes a long way, and both have been more than aware of the doubters. I think it will come down to whether both mind and body are willing when it comes to going LeBron-less. They surely will say the right things; the next eight months or so will tell the actual story.
Q: Very good video breakdown of the new Heat staff and players alike, but I think you left out Shannon Brown. Who will he back up? -- Pete.
A: I don't know. Talking to some around the Heat, it seems like Shannon is given a legitimate shot not only to make the team, but possibly crack the back end of the rotation. Part of that will come down to how Shabazz Napier develops. But part of it will be Brown finding his place. He could emerge as the primary backup to Wade at shooting guard. Or, with his defensive tenacity, he might just emerge as the defensive stopper the Heat have lacked at point guard. You're right, Shannon should not be overlooked.
Q: Ira, great material during the offseason to keep us fans interested. What say you about Mickael Pietrus at a minimum salary? You say we need wing defenders. Here you have it. -- Howard, Palm City.
A: If you're a regular to this space, you know I've been championing the likes of Andray Blatche, Wayne Ellington, Jordan Crawford and Ramon Sessions all offseason. If the Heat truly are attempting to remain in contention, as Pat Riley and Micky Arison have vowed, then I'd still think that been-there, done-that types have merit. Yes, Pietrus intrigues. But the Heat appear to have moved in a different direction.
September 25, 2014
Q: Given the Heat's need for youth, athleticism and players who can create their own shot, I am shocked we gave up on Michael Beasley. Plus he was a fan favorite, a minimum salary and Pat Riley has a motivation for loyalty and "making things work." Will we ever know specifically why the Heat lost complete faith in Michael? -- Stone, New York.
A: I don't think there is any deep mystery, nor has any specific incident come to light. I think it was part of a bigger picture of remodeling the outskirts of the roster with those with a fresher outlook. Ultimately, it came down to what Beasley can do, what the Heat thought they needed, and the maturity level they desired from such a role. There are many players in this league who can score, but also many not good enough to stay on the court because of the rest of their games. Michael ultimately fell into that group for the Heat.
Q: A Rajon Rondo-Dwyane Wade backcourt would be a game changer for the team. Mario Chalmers is definitely a chip, but finding other chips for a doable deal is problematic. Let's see if Riley can somehow work his magic without weakening the current roster. But a Rondo-Wade combo would elevate the Heat to legitimate contenders. -- Colin, Miami.
Q: Chalmers is selling his condo in Miami and Rondo just bought a condo in Miami. Let's see what happens after Dec. 15th. -- Evan, Miami.
Q: Rondo and Ray Allen having had issues in Boston may be the reason the Heat didn't welcome back Allen. -- Jose, Miami.
A: Ooh, a triple-header of Rondo question (because there's nothing like trade rumors). I am among those who do not believe Rondo has a long-term future in Boston, not with the group Brad Stevens has in place. And I do believe the Celtics can secure a quality haul in return. But based on what Danny Ainge would be seeking, even with his cordial relationship with Riley, I don't see a match. The Celtics would want quality draft picks and young talent in return; the Heat have precious little of either.
Q: Four years back at the start of free agency, when no one dreamed we'd have a snowball's chance of a Big Three, it was all about pairing Chris Bosh with Wade and building around them. Yes, Bosh has played differently from his Toronto days and Wade has battled injuries, but I still see the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, with a team that will be fun to watch. Love LeBron James, but hated when the ball was stuck in his hands and four players just watched. I'm excited to see movement basketball. -- Brian.
A: Even though LeBron waited until a day later to make his Decision in 2010, I don't think there ever was a chance of Wade and Bosh playing in South Florida without LeBron. But we now will get to see what they could have done in his void. For as stagnant as things might have grown at times, none of that blame belongs to LeBron, considering his ability to score against multiple defenders. And while there will now be a need for greater ball movement, there also has to be a greater willingness. Should the ball stick with Wade or Bosh it will be much more of an issue than when it stuck with James.
September 24, 2014
Q: Has there been a Chris Bosh sighting? I don't think the guy has been on a basketball court since the season ended? -- Raffa.
A: First, Chris has been back in town and has been working at AmericanAirlines Arena. But any player who went through the grind the Heat endured these past four seasons deserves all the time off he could muster. Ditto for Dwyane Wade. Ditto for LeBron James in his new reality. While much is made about teams bonding during September workouts, there is plenty of time for that during a month of camp, a preseason trip to Brazil, and then the grind of the regular season. And that said, "bonding" also can be overrated. What this Heat team needs to do is coalesce on the court during structured practices in Erik Spoelstra's system. With so many newcomers, including two new starters, in Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng, structured teaching sessions will be essential. This team simply can't play the same style on offense or defense with LeBron gone. Now even the holdovers have to assume additional responsibilities, while the newcomers have to see how they can fit. Chris has put in more than enough court time since July 2010. I'm not sure that the film work and study sessions won't be just as essential for this reworked roster.
Q: If Atlanta were to have a down year this season, would a deal of Josh McRoberts, Norris Cole and a first-rounder (can add in benchwarmers to make money work) be enough to get Paul Millsap's expiring contract at the deadline, looking way ahead? He would fit in perfectly next to Chris Bosh. -- Khalid.
A: So might be the case with McRoberts and Bosh. Actually, it's probably a good thing that virtually the entire roster can't be traded until Dec. 15 (save for Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shabazz Napier), because it will allow ample time to see what works. (Under the collective-bargaining agreement, players signed in the offseason cannot be traded until Dec. 15.) And for all the strides Millsap has made, in both Utah and Atlanta, McRoberts is as intriguing as any of the Heat's newcomers. It will be interesting to see how Spoelstra utilizes his game.
Q: With Andray Blatche, Wayne Ellington and Ramon Sessions gone, it looks like what you see is what you get, as far as the basic roster being set. (I don't see anybody left out there that's going to provide an upgrade, at least at this time.) While I thought all three could've made Miami's bench stronger, there were reasons all were available so late in free agency. I think Pat Riley is trying to strike a balance here, with one eye on this season, and the other on 2016. He has invited an interesting, and in some cases intriguing, group of young players to camp. If that youth develops over the next couple of years, it will make us a much richer team, with the addition of several "name" free agents in 2016. And it's also quite possible that Riley believes the likes of James Ennis, Shabazz Napier and Tyler Johnson, have more possible upside this year than what's been available in free agency. We could get lucky if one or more of the younger players can contribute significant minutes in 2014-15. My remaining concern is the lack of a quality veteran to back up Wade, simply because of Wade's recent history of injuries or need to limit the number of games played, or at least minutes per game played. Recent history tells us that Wade is not going to be able to play 35 minutes a game, or upwards of 75 games. So who fills the gap? Outside of that, you have to trust the moves Riley has made this off season. -- Matt.
A: If backup shooting guard is your lone concern, then Riley must have done plenty right. The one thing about Riley is he tends to embrace certain young players and will do almost anything to try to make it work. We saw that with Chris Quinn and could see that with some of this year's prospects. I think it would mean plenty to Riley to have another longshot who turns into a contributor, or to possibly revive the careers of one of the journeyman veterans he has brought in. But I would add two other areas of current roster need: A rim-protector beyond Chris Andersen, whose minutes have to be limited at his age; and a lockdown defender at point guard, with a chance that Shannon Brown could fill such a role.
September 23, 2014
Q: Dwayne Wade is my favorite player by far in the NBA, so I might be biased. But even with Chris Bosh getting his new contract, I am still convinced Dwayne is the best player the Heat have. I'm not ready to write him off. At worst, he is the second-best shooting guard in the NBA. But I still consider him the best, considering Kobe Bryant hasn't played in two seasons and then there's James Harden's thoughtlessness on defense. Seeing him break down in the Finals last season was depressing; but he is D-Wade. His basketball IQ hasn't disappeared, even if his athleticism is in a decline. I'm wondering: Do you think this upcoming season he will at least come back a 23-5-5 guy? -- Hanif, Pembroke Pines.
A: I do believe there has been a rush to cast Dwyane as some sort of has-been, an over-the-hill player. Yes, he did not look like himself during the NBA Finals against the Spurs. Then again, what Heat player did? And before that, there was a solid series against the Pacers and steady regular-season numbers. The issue is not the numbers Wade might go for, but rather whether can he produce them consistently, within the Heat's new system, while being available far more often than last season. If Wade again misses a third of the regular season, he also forfeits his place among the game's elite as his position. In order to be a top-tier contributor, you have to be available to contribute.
Q: So it's basically Emeka Okafor after he gets healthy or nothing? -- Blake.
A: It's difficult, without confirmation from the Heat front office, to assess how these latter stages of free agency played out. But it could be as simple as not being able to offer the money the Kings offered Ramon Sessions, being like every other NBA team in bypassing Andray Blatche, and not being able to offer the clear path to playing time that the Lakers could offer Wayne Ellington. Or it could be a belief in having enough in Danny Granger, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier, Shannon Brown, Shawne Williams, Reggie Williams, James Ennis and Justin Hamilton in reserve.
Q: Is this too simple: If each of the returning veterans from last season's Heat team increases his productivity on both sides of the court by five percent with last season as baseline, the negative impact of losing LeBron James significantly diminishes and Heat acquit themselves well? Is that too much to ask? -- Gary, Miami.
A: No, but it is a bit simplistic, because there also is limited upside with many of the incumbent players on the roster. I don't think overcoming the loss of LeBron is as much about incumbent players stepping up as it is about proving prudent with the choices of Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger as replacements. If those three players contribute at a level close to their maximum, then the Heat will find themselves with a highly competitive roster.
September 22, 2014
Q: Udonis Haslem appears to be the type of player who keeps himself in top shape. And he's not ancient, just now approaching the age where skills start to diminish. He may no longer be at a stage where he can be a starter, counted on to play 25 to 30 minutes full force. But I would think he's more than capable of playing 15-plus good minutes. And I believe with LeBron James gone that he'll be less hesitant to shoot. And we know he can still rebound, and play defense, though his days of effectively guarding the opposing team's center, for long stretches, may be nearing the end. -- Matt.
A: The playing style and roster in recent years did not exactly set up well for Haslem, especially with LeBron able to provide many of the intangibles previously provided by Udonis. Also, Haslem has lacked lift since his foot injury, a Lisfranc fracture, in Memphis four years ago. It will be curious to see how much, or how little, Haslem plays, considering Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Chris Andersen all set up ahead of him in the power rotation. In the end, it likely will come down to Haslem's ability to defend opposing centers, in the way he stepped up against Roy Hibbert. With Andersen getting on in years, Haslem and Birdman could essentially function as co-backup centers, especially if Haslem also can provide a return of a reliable jumper to draw opposing big men from the paint.
Q: I am concerned the Heat are going to make Bosh do too much. And with the Heat offensively challenged, without a lot of players on the current roster who can create their own shot, the Heat will play it close to the vest. -- Stuart.
A: To be honest, with Bosh's new contract, the expectations should be commensurate with the salary. Now it's time for Chris to prove his worth, including being more of an inside force. For the past four seasons, Bosh has noted, correctly, that he merely has been doing what has been asked. And to his credit, he did develop a reliable 3-point shot. Where the Heat will replace LeBron's offense has to start with Bosh. It is far more likely to get a significant uptick in his scoring that asking for a commensurate increase from Dwyane Wade.
Q: I say take a chance on Andrew Bynum. As much as the Heat need more of an impact player, Emeka Okafor looks like a longshot and Andray Blatche has signed in China. We have been in rehabilitation process before, why stop now? He would have the most upside amongst the rest of the available big men. -- Lester, Tampa.
A: That essentially is what the Heat tried last season with Greg Oden, and that didn't exactly work out well. No, if the Heat are going to add a center, it has to be one ready, and willing, to defend opposing centers, with enough agility to fit into the Heat's system. They don't need Greg Oden II.
September 21, 2014
Q: Was Miami's offer for Andray Blatche that bad that he instead signed in China? -- Mike.
A: The fact that both Jordan Crawford and Andray Blatche opted for China says plenty about the level of interest from the NBA. Granted, the money in China can be better than the NBA minimum, but a guaranteed minimum deal possibly would have lured one or both. Then there's Ramon Sessions, who got two years guaranteed from the Kings, above the minimum. To a degree, all three reached the point of being "names," instead of being viewed as rotation players. That surprises me with Blatche, who appeared to have his moments in Brooklyn. Keep in mind that those who sign in China can return to the NBA in March, so this chapter might not yet be fully closed. But with their commitment to 19 for training camp, it likely will take a rotation player for the Heat to offer guaranteed money.
Q: So Heat fans lose LeBron James, Pat Riley signs Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and a few D-League players. As a fan I was hoping for somewhat of a consolation prize, something for us Heat fans to be excited about. -- Bruno, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Whoa. That Riley was able go to back to Deng at such a late stage of free agency and close that deal is plenty to be excited about. No, he's not LeBron, but he makes you better on both sides of the floor. He cares about being a team player, defending, doing the little things. And I think the Danny Ferry episode will make him even more driven this season. If it was just Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, I could appreciate if there was overwhelming post-LeBron disappointment. But among all of this summer's free agents, outside of Carmelo Anthony, I don't think the Heat could have gotten a better replacement player for LeBron than Deng.
Q: It's good to see Chris Quinn getting a shot at coaching. He was a good spot-up shooter. Other than that, well those were some rough years. Just seeing a guy with a limited skill set, with so much drive and love for the game being able to stay involved with the most-talented players in the world is inspirational. -- Tony, Reno.
A: It is another case of Heat loyalty. What I like most about the hiring is that it comes attached to a D-League element, that Chris also will assist with player development there. In the wake of the loss of James, the reality is the Heat have to get back to player development.
September 20, 2014
Q: I've heard you comment a number of times that the Heat don't have any wing players except Dwyane Wade who can take their man off the dribble. That may be true, but who outside of Wade and LeBron James could last year? And as poor, or questionable, as the Heat bench appears to be, especially at the perimeter positions, who did we have last year, excluding Ray Allen? Where are we really weaker? We lost marginal players, such as Rashard Lewis (and replaced him with Danny Granger, which is a worthy swap, even if Granger is diminished). Michael Beasley? He rarely played. James Jones? He rarely played. Shane Battier? He was shot. So as much as this bench has question marks all over it, it's not like we were loaded last year. -- Matt.
A: You sort of answered your own question. Not replacing Allen is an issue, especially with LeBron already lost for nothing in return. The question isn't whether Granger can offer more than Lewis, it's whether Granger or any of the reserves can offer as much as Allen offered the previous two seasons. The falloff of the bench has a lot to do with the loss of Allen. And, of course, ground also has to be gained across the board because of the loss of LeBron. For now, there are plenty of unknowns, although there also is hope with James Ennis and Shabazz Napier.
Q: Let's see, there are three spots open and Andray Blatche, Wayne Ellington and Ramon Sessions still are available. What are they waiting on? -- Joe.
A: First, there are two parts of the equation, including what the remaining free agents want and where they want to be. Guaranteed money (and the amount of that money) and playing time factor into the decisions. It is probably safe to say that a non-guaranteed, make-good offer is not going to cut it with most tenured veterans. Beyond that, it comes down to what Pat Riley and his staff already think about what is in place. As has been chronicled in this space, an argument could be made that the Heat are settled with their first eight, when factoring in Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng, Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Chris Andersen, Danny Granger and Norris Cole, and that group already includes three newcomers. So it could come down to the degree of change that is deemed prudent. All of that said, yes, I would take all three, and worry about development consequences later.
Q: Is LeBron's new hairline a free agent? -- Ben.
A: This is among the (very few) reasons why LeBron won't be missed. Now I can get back to worrying about my own hair plugs.
September 19, 2014
Q: Ira, I've been a fan of Dwyane Wade's since his college years. I've watched every single game that he's played in since joining the Heat organization, so I've witnessed the passion and drive he has for the game. Having said that, I refuse to believe that a player with Wade's drive and passion can have such a drastic drop-off in his game since the 2012 season, when he gave the reins to LeBron James. I'm thinking it had a lot to do with taking a back seat to LeBron, which led to the decrease in work ethic in the offseason. Your thoughts. -- Bismark, Miami.
A: Based on the way the Heat have restructured in the wake of James' departure, it is apparent the Heat's hope is the same as your hope, that a more dominant role will rekindle a more dominant game. But the reality is that explosive players are never quite as explosive as they age. For Wade to return to close to his previous level, I do agree that it will take maximum effort far more often than was on display last season, especially what was offered in the Finals.
Q: Ira, why every time someone writes in saying the Heat will be fine without LeBron James do you say, "Um, no, not when that player is LeBron James." Well LeBron is not God. If you remember correctly, Chris Bosh was involved in some of the biggest plays of the playoffs last year and the year before, both on offense and defense. Common, LeBron didn't help us win a championship last year. -- Gary, Delray Beach.
A: What I've been saying is that it is difficult to achieve similar results once you roster is stripped of the best player in the game. Believe me, plenty have written in with similar sentiments, and then there is this, below . . .
Q: Ira, I'm really disappointed in the shots Heat fans are taking at LeBron now that he's no longer here to carry the Heat. Wow, what short memories. Does no one remember watching D-Wade in the Finals, who couldn't have gotten past you? Or the Chris Bosh who followed up going scoreless in Game 7 of the 2013 Finals with almost as bad a performance for the whole of the five games of the 2014 Finals. LeBron carried that team on his back, and I for one will always remember the incredible four years I spent watching him play here. -- Eugene, Lake Worth.
A: So this, along with the question above, essentially make 2014-15 a season of Wade and Bosh showing how much they needed or relied on LeBron these past four seasons. Both Dwyane and Chris are in position to make considerable statements of their own this season.
September 18, 2014
Q: Watch, Michael Beasley will become a superstar under Gregg Popovich. -- D.T.
A: You have to credit the Spurs with their thoroughness, and it's difficult to believe that there isn't an NBA team than couldn't use Beasley's streak scoring. I'd include the Heat on that list, but they clearly have moved on, and at least offered the opportunity to return last season. But you're right, from Boris Diaw to Stephen Jackson, those who couldn't make it work elsewhere found a way to make it work in San Antonio. Then again, perhaps that's what the Heat are thinking with their reclamation projects such as Shawne Williams, Reggie Williams and Shannon Brown, that they can do with those three what the Spurs have done with so many supposedly finished (not in a good way) products. What Popovich won't tolerate are distractions, something Beasley has to avoid being if he has hopes of resurfacing anywhere.
Q: Chris Quinn is back. Take that Shaq! -- Vlad.
A: Of course, after Shaq came out with the comments in 2008, about never having gone to Miami to play with the likes of Chris, he amended them to clarify that he meant that Quinn simply didn't draw enough defensive attention. Whatever. It is curious how the Heat never had a spot for Tim Hardaway on their coaching staff, but then opened one for Quinn. Hardaway said the lack of perceived opportunity is among the reasons he took a job on Stan Van Gundy's staff in Detroit for the coming season, leaving his Heat scouting position open for Bob McAdoo to fill. Quinn was always well liked as a Heat teammate, including by Heat holdovers Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem.
Q: Chris Bosh has said he wants to take the lead on this next Heat team and Birdman wants to move on without LeBron James, not to mention Mario Chalmers who claims Heat nation is still here. I think we're out to prove a point, that the Heat mentality of leadership and perseverance is bigger than any single player. -- Matt, Antigua.
A: Um, no, it's not, not when LeBron James was that player. But it will take that type of drive to push forward in James' absence. If players felt snubbed and want to use it as fuel, all the better.
September 17, 2014
Q: Injuries and other unforeseen factors can have an impact on the roster during the entire season. Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem may not be able to put in the minutes they did before, as they age. Danny Granger and Dwyane Wade have a history of injury issues. Shabazz Napier, James Ennis, Shawne Williams, Shannon Brown are unknown fits within the Heat system and how Erik Spoelstra views them. -- Oscar, Miami.
A: Points all reasonably made. And I wholeheartedly agree that the Heat's bench presents serious concerns. As with the Dolphins, there simply are too many significant positions with too much questionable depth Again, there still is time before the start of the season (and something that still can be handled early in the season) to address those concerns. But the wing depth hardly is overwhelming, and Birdman stands as the only proven rim deterrence. Of course, it also is possible that options emerge in camp, such as James Ennis, which might be why the Heat don't want to overload the roster with veterans on guarantees. I get that. But there also is enough capable depth still available to ease some of those concerns, be it Andray Blatche, Ramon Sessions, Jordan Crawford or Wayne Ellington. When the Heat searched for answers last offseason, they did not sign Michael Beasley until Sept. 11, and in previous years went even later to sign contributors, including Gary Payton, a move they made on Sept. 22, 2005. So there still is time.
Q: Justin Hamilton seems to be forgotten, yet he is the quintessential stretch five. He shot 33 percent from 3-point land and 74 percent around the basket. Hamilton is far from perfect, but every player has their flaws that the team has to deal with. Of the returning players, he is one of the best shooters. -- Evan, Miami.
A: And therefore intriguing, which could be among the reasons the Heat might already see enough in a power rotation that is headed by Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem. In recent years, the Heat simply have not gone very deep in their power rotation. The question becomes whether small ball still will work in the void of LeBron James holding things to together. Hamilton deserves an extended camp look, but has to rebound and show something on defense, as well.
Q: Ira, if you had to predict today the Heat's position in the East's standings where do you see them? -- Joel.
A: I see them fighting with Toronto and maybe Charlotte for the No. 4 seed in the East, behind Cleveland, Chicago and Washington. My greatest unknown is Brooklyn, with that a matter of where Deron Williams and Brook Lopez stand in their comebacks.
September 16, 2014
Q: The good thing about training camp this year, unlike other years, is the competition for spots nine through 15. Let's hope we find an Ike Austin, Anthony Mason or John Starks in this group. And money will not be the deciding factor. -- Ray, Miami.
A: While Pat Riley has had his success in both New York and Miami when it comes to finding diamonds in the rough, I don't think there are nearly as many spots up for grabs in camp as you suggest. And money does matter, because it always does, even if just for having tangible trade chips. Definites for the roster are the projected starting lineup of Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng, Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade. Also seemingly locked in are Chris Andersen, Norris Cole, Danny Granger, Udonis Haslem and Shabazz Napier. And you'd have to figure that the Heat would want to go with James Ennis longer that just training camp (even if it means sending him out for seasoning to the D-League). So that's 11 roster spots accounted for (when farming out players to the Sioux Falls Skyforce, those spots count against the NBA roster). From there, I agree that it could be wide open (but also believe that at least one more proven veteran will be added, a player likely to account for a roster spot, as well). Handicapping from there, Justin Hamilton might have an edge because of his time with the team and height. The Heat clearly saw something in NBA veterans Shawne Williams and Reggie Williams, as well, signing both before the likes of Shannon Brown. And remember, teams do not have to open the season with the maximum of 15 players (although because of the Heat's position outside of the luxury tax, there is absolutely no reason for them not to make such expenditures).
Q: Does Pat Riley not know that Jordan Crawford, Wayne Ellington and Andray Blatche are still out there? -- Bruno, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Not only does/did he know that, but he apparently always knew they still would be available this late in the offseason, making it more of a buyers' market for teams to dictate such additions on their own terms. As stated above, I still see the Heat adding the type of veteran who essentially would become a lock to make their roster.
Q: Is there any chance for Kevin Garnett to go to Miami for the veteran minimum? -- Charles.
A: No. If Kevin Garnett plays this season, it would have to be for the Nets, unless they trade him or agree to waive him to get him to more of a contender. The Heat have neither the cap space nor the championship odds to entice a move toward K.G.
September 15, 2014
Q: Please Ira, please explain to me why Mario Chalmers continues to start for this team? What am I not seeing? He would be a backup on most teams and we need someone that can create, penetrate and finish more than ever at the point-guard spot. -- Patrick, Miami.
A: And yet, if you're going to have criticism of Chalmers, I think it should come on the other end. Mario is fine on the offensive end, and should have the opportunity to open up his offensive game with LeBron James gone. I have no issue with Chalmers on that end. It's on the other end, where containment is a major issue, that concerns are legitimate. Starting Chalmers is not a concern; it's who the Heat can play at point guard defensively at the ends of close games. Two seasons ago, that was Norris Cole in the playoffs. Finding someone to stop opposing point guards is the greatest concern at the position. And that's not a challenge, at his age, that should be added to Dwyane Wade's responsibilities.
Q: Do we need another Joel Anthony type? -- Faye.
A: Yes. This team has precious little rim deterrence beyond Chris Andersen, and Birdman is moving closer to a limited-minutes stage of his career. With concerns such as the above with Chalmers at point guard, it is essential the Heat be able to offer a second line of defense that's something more than Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem stepping in to take charges. Whether Khem Birch is NBA ready is another story. Based on the way the Finals played out, I'm not sure that the Heat didn't actually miss Anthony as a defensive deterrent.
Q: If the TV deal does increase the cap and max as significantly as some expect, paying Bosh $23 million per year may be a relative bargain come 2016, if the max hits that $30 million-$35 million per-year range. -- Andrew, Miami.
A: A legitimate point, but only if Chris can return to the all-around presence he was in Toronto. Whether the max is $30 million or $20 million, you can't be spending that type of money on a player whose contribution have been as limited as Bosh's in recent seasons.
September 14, 2014
Q: Is there anyone on the roster now other than Dwyane Wade who can break down a defense and penetrate to the basket? Last season too often it was LeBron James-or-bust with Wade out of the lineup. Their roster remains built for small ball, but without the workhorse to make it work. -- Jason, Los Angeles.
A: I agree with your analysis. Yes, I appreciate in the wake of the NBA Finals against San Antonio how everyone is pointing to the Spurs' success in playing a five-man game. But I also know for years that just about every coach has preached such an approach (just as every coach says at the start of camp that their team will run). The reality is that invariably you wind up needing isolation scores, when the defense pushes you late in the clock and you have to have one player getting it done on his own. During the Finals, Wade could not beat his man off the dribble, which put that much more pressure on an all-or-nothing LeBron approach. Now Wade has to produce in such a role, with the apparent hope that Danny Granger can provide some of that off the bench, as well. Lament all you want the tendency of NBA teams to lapse into one-on-one play, but sometimes the defenses are so good at blowing up set plays that one-on-one becomes the only option as the clock winds down.
Q: So now there are reports saying the racial slur on Luol Deng came from a scouting report from the Cavs. So LeBron left a first-class organization for a clown show? -- Julio.
A: Actually yes, which is why the Cavaliers will have the entire roster enter out of a Volkswagen Beetle at midcourt this coming season during pregame introductions. The reality is the Cavaliers positively bumbled their way through the past four seasons, doing just about everything wrong, from botched drafts to the NBA's worst combined record over that span, even as they were trying to make the playoffs. Another reality is that LeBron is bigger than the game, and changes everything with his presence, no matter what transpired while he was away. Incompetence + LeBron = championship contention. It just does.
Q: Bring back Beasley. -- Patricia,
A: At this point, your request might be more about the NBA as a whole than the Heat. The irony is last season hardly was a failure for Michael with the Heat.
September 13, 2014Q: How will the Luol Deng situation affect the locker room? Will it make Heat rally together to form a more cohesive unit? He has proved to be a true positive influence able to handle adversity! -- Adrian, Miami.
A: First, I don't think that's necessarily Luol's locker-room personality. Plus, even when LeBron James was the center of attention, Erik Spoelstra kept Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem as the two co-captains, and I certainly don't expect that to change. What I do expect to change is Chris Bosh's voice. As the highest-paid player on the team (a distinction he previously shared with James) and holding the longest contract on the team, his voice has to resonate more than it has during the past four seasons. I still expect Haslem to be the emotional leader, and I still expect Wade to offer championship perspective. But I think it's Bosh who has to set more of a tone. As for Deng, it's difficult to establish a leadership role while holding a two-year contract that allows you, because of an option clause, to become a free agent as soon as next summer. While Deng was brought in for several reasons, I'm not sure emerging as a leader was one of them. But, as you note, the last few weeks just might have changed that equation.
Q: Danny Ferry is an NBA "Untouchable." Given his pedigree, particularly his father, Bob Ferry, you will see, and already have seen (Commissioner Adam Silver) the NBA Establishment circle the wagons around him. Nepotism is alive and strong in the NBA! -- Paul.
A: I can't fathom any new majority owner of the Hawks keeping him on. It would have been like the Clippers retaining Donald Sterling as a consultant (Shelly Sterling as No. 1 fan is a different story). Whether his comments lead to the result, or whether it is the impending ownership change, Ferry appears to be involved in a lose-lose proposition. (And based on the way the audio of the Hawks' in-house evaluation session was released, I'm not sure many would want to work alongside anyone in the current Atlanta ownership regime. To a degree, it makes you appreciate the lockdown that Pat Riley/Micky Arison have in place.)
Q: Andray Blatche. Andray Blatche. Andray Blatche. Why is it so hard for the Heat to make this happen Ira? This guy can play and needs to be the starter next to Chris Bosh at center, so Chris can be his old self at power forward. -- Joe, Birmingham, Ala.
A: I guess "Andray Blatche. Andray Blatche. Andray Blatche." is this September's version of what "Michael Beasley. Michael Beasley. Michael Beasley." was during last season.
September 12, 2014
Q: Ira, I listened to the Danny Ferry tape and don't know how he said what he said and wanted to pay Luol Deng the same, or more, than the Heat spent. No wonder the best he could do was re-sign Elton Brand. -- Susan.
A: First, what was available on the tape was just a portion of the hour-long evaluation session. And except for the "African" comment, part of any scouting report is to present the pluses and minuses, and to make sure the negatives are expressed to ownership before the money is spent and the second-guessing begins. While the racial component of the evaluation cannot be overlooked -- whether intentional or misguided -- what becomes overwhelmingly clear is the dysfunction of the Hawks' ownership and management. Assuming the conversation wasn't illegally taped, how any team can allow something that sensitive to become public in recorded form is remarkable. If I'm Adam Silver, after the now-necessary investigation into the comments themselves, the next step has to be getting the entire Hawks ownership in a room and reading them the riot act. Of course, with these Hawks owners, somebody probably will be taping that, as well.
Q: Ira, stop keep putting Andray Blatche's name out there. If Pat Riley wanted him, he would have had him. There isn't anyone knocking down the door. -- Owen.
A: I'm putting it out there only as a reference point of what's left among big men on the market, for a team that clearly has such a void. I'm not saying there aren't blemishes or that there aren't off-court concerns. But I have a hard time believing Nazr Mohammed or Ryan Hollins are better than what the Heat already have in their power rotation with Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams. I think you could make an argument that Blatche would upgrade that group. Whether Blatche would want to be the fourth player in a team's power rotation is another story.
Q: Chris Bosh will be a beast. Josh McRoberts will surprise. Luol Deng will fill in. Dwyane Wade will be healthy (I hope). Go Heat. -- Yunasi.
A: Luol Deng will do more than "fill in." And Dwyane Wade has to be healthy. A lot of factors that were masked by LeBron James will come under greater inspection this season. To a degree, there will be a greater breadth of focus on the roster this coming season.
September 11, 2014
Q: Regardless of future moves, now is the time for the players to get to know each other's quirks and what the coaching staff expects of them. With only seven weeks before the season starts, there is a lot to do to establish a comfort zone between everyone. A missed pass or blown assignment is often due to players not reading each other's intentions correctly. That takes time and bonding. -- Dean, Miami
A: I agree. To a point. This also is a time for players to clear their minds one final time before training camp, be it Dwyane Wade's honeymoon or Chris Bosh taking in Fashion Week in New York. While I do agree that this will be more of a teaching camp than during recent seasons, with so many newcomers, it also will be a camp with far fewer distractions than previous years. The trip to Brazil will help with bonding, but that time probably could have been put to better use on the practice court at AmericanAirlines Arena. So, to your point, while there will be a greater need for bonding and teaching, there also will be less time having to deal with the distractions that came with being the NBA's ultimate target with the NBA's ultimate player. I think the exhale will do some of the returning players good. Being the chased can grow exhausting, as can playing in the shadow of the player who casts the longest shadow in the game.
Q: Do you think the Heat will be able to sign Zoran Dragic? -- Justin, Pembroke Pines.
A: No, not with being limited to offering only the veteran minimum and with Goran Dragic's brother having a significant buyout clause in his contract in Spain. If it happens with the skilled shooting guard, it would be more likely in the offseason, when the Heat will have greater funds at their disposal.
Q: The Heat still need someone who can rebound. Why hasn't this been addressed? -- Scott.
A: Chris Bosh can rebound, and will have to. Josh McRoberts can rebound, and will be needed to. Luol Deng can rebound, and that is part of his allure in replacing LeBron James. Dwyane Wade used to rebound, and the hope is he will again. The real question is whether the Heat have the needed height to get the one rebound they have to get at the end of a close game. And that is a matter that remains unresolved. I agree.
September 10, 2014
Q: Ira, I was wondering why you list Norris Cole as your trading chip instead of Mario Chalmers? Is it because Norris has more worth on the trade market, or do you think Chalmers is a better fit for the Heat long term? -- Juan, Denver.
A: Cole is the only proven quantity on this roster who can be dealt before Dec. 15 (players signed in the offseason cannot be traded until then). This is not a matter of taking sides between Chalmers or Cole, nor is there even such a need. In fact, if you're asking what point guard could have the greatest impact on the Heat's personnel flexibility, an argument could be made that it's Shabazz Napier. Should Napier be able to move past his summer-league shooting struggles and prove NBA ready early on, it would give the Heat the flexibility to either thin their situation at point guard to address greater needs, or allow Chalmers to potentially emerge as a candidate for additional time at shooting guard.
Q: Ira, I don't know if Danny Ferry's comments about Luol Deng will get Deng fired up to play Atlanta this season, but I wonder what Erik Spoelstra's "brotherhood " speech will be before that game, like when LeBron James went back to play Cleveland or Chris Bosh to Toronto. -- Matt.
A: First, it remains to be seen what the fallout will be for Ferry. Beyond that, I think this is far too delicate a situation for Spoelstra or anyone in the Heat organization to turn into a rallying cry. This is not a case of proving something to management of a team that bypassed or shortchanged a former player; this is something that transcends pregame speeches. I would expect the Heat to downplay any Deng angle going into games against the Hawks. What will matter in those games against Atlanta is that they are against a division rival, and winning the Southeast no longer is a given for the Heat, in the absence of LeBron James.
Q: If the Heat start the season at four wins and 20 losses do you see them trading away several of their old players? -- Luis, Miami.
A: Um, yeah, that's not happening. They have the comfort of playing Philadelphia, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Orlando early in the schedule, and plenty of other favorable matchups. Plus, with Ray Allen not expected back and Shane Battier having retired, it's not as if there are many, if any, "old" players beyond, say, Chris Andersen. I think this staff and front office will keep these players well apprised of what many are saying about them and I would expect statements to be made early in the season.
September 9, 2014
Q: So is there no room for Wayne Ellington at this point? Looking at the fact that he's young, plays D, is a great 3-point shooter and is a guard that can play behind Dwyane Wade seems like more than enough of a reason to waive one of the non-guaranteed contracts. -- Bryant, Mountain View, Calif.
A: Hey, give me Wayne Ellington, Andray Blatche and Ramon Sessions and I'll have no trouble making the cuts to get down to the maximum 15 by the Oct. 29 season opener. There still is plenty of flexibility with this roster, and the luxury tax will not be a factor this season.
Q: Ira, I was going over the Heat's roster again on-line. I may be crazy but I think they are Top 4 in the East and one or two moves away from being a championship contender. -- Jose, Coral Gables.
A: I think the "one or two moves away" portion of the offseason is over. The Heat are not in position for game-changing moves, at least until the majority of the roster becomes trade eligible on Dec. 15. But all of that said, you certain can make a reasoned argument for the Heat contending for one of the top four spots in the East. I'd put Cleveland and Chicago in a top tier of their own, then could see the Heat at least contending for the third or fourth seeds in a group that includes Washington and Toronto (Charlotte certainly could push into that group, as well). What still has me wondering is what the possibilities would have been like had the Heat retained LeBron James and added Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger to the mix. But it's probably time to move on in that regard.
Q: So Dwyane Wade is on safari on his honeymoon three weeks before the start of camp? Is that what you want from your co-captain? -- Al.
A: First, I never begrudge anyone time away from work with Gabrielle Union. Beyond that, it is not unusual for players, or even coaches, to get away from what will be at least eight months of near constant work. What matters is the type of shape players are in when they return. This is Dwyane's time. Soon it will be the Heat's. For the moment, he only needs to be on his own clock.
September 8, 2014
Q: Ryan Hollins and Nazr Mohammed couldn't get off the bench for their teams last season, so why would the Heat think they could help them this season? -- Art.
A: This is the time of the offseason when teams run free-agency leftovers through workouts just to see if there is anything left, from both the player and the market. At this stage, we're talking possible 15th men, players who could provide a veteran option if other offseason moves don't work out. We're essentially talking practice players, mentors. Of what's left on the free-agency market about the only players I would still consider potential contributors (beyond restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, who is out of reach) are Andray Blatche, Ramon Sessions, Ray Allen, Emeka Okafor, Jordan Crawford, Wayne Ellington and, yes, Michael Beasley.
Q: Some of the offseason signings don't make sense to me. Signing Shawne Williams in lieu of Michael Beasley seems bizarre. Beasley showed a maturity to his offensive game last year. He could take his man off the dribble, drive the lane, hit the midrange jumper, as well as the three. Now, Erik Spoelstra /Pat Riley may not have been thrilled with his defense, but then they sign the likes of Reggie Williams, who is infamous for notoriously bad defense. -- Matt.
A: I always come back to this: Teams see things in practice, in the locker room and even during offseason workouts that we don't. So it really comes down to the faith, or lack thereof, in those making such judgments.
Q: I love watching the James Ennis highlights on YouTube. He reminds me of a young Gerald Wallace. Is a player like Ennis better off riding the pine on the Heat roster, scoring 25 a night in the D-League, or playing overseas again? -- Beau, Wellington.
A: Overseas is not an option with the guaranteed money the Heat have already committed. I suspect the Heat will decide during camp whether he can be part of the season-opening rotation or whether he would be better off getting seasoning in the D-League. It could come down to who is named coach of the Sioux Falls Skyforce and how much of an imprint there is there from the Heat coaching staff.
September 7, 2014Q: What are the chances Miami signs Andray Blatche? -- Marshall.
A: If it were up to me (and it never is), it would be a no-brainer. Frankly, I think a lot of it would be up to Blatche, a willingness to buy into the Heat system and accept a minimal contract. Even that tweet that came out at the World Cup, saying Blatche was returning to Miami to negotiate . . . there is nothing to negotiate, at least with the Heat. The minimum is all they have to offer. I would be shocked if the Heat would allow a guarantee to get in the way. But you do have to wonder about Blatche being forced to wait this late in the process, whether there isn't more at play than salary or role.
Q: I'm not trying to reminiscence here, but why would the Heat pass on Leandro Barbosa, especially the way he has been playing in the World Cup? -- Bruno, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Word is Barbosa received a full guarantee from the Warriors, while the Heat got Shannon Brown to come to camp without a guarantee. Again, I can appreciate in previous seasons, when the Heat were deep into the luxury tax, how they would want to avoid guarantees. But with the tax not in play at this point, I would hope the Heat's decisions are about more than minimal guarantees, and are more about skill. I can't see how the Heat wouldn't be better with Blatche/Barbosa than, say, Shawne Williams/Shannon Brown. But it's Pat Riley's opinion and Micky Arison's money that matter most.
Q: Maybe I'm a bit off, but I am not so thrilled about these next two seasons. But come 2016, I am. With so many top free agents plus a new television contract with much larger cap room, the Heat will be in position for two top free agents and Chris Bosh's $22 million won't be that high. How would a Kevin Durant-Bosh-Joakim Noah core look? Or a Chris Paul-Bosh-Dwight Howard? Dwyane Wade will retire by then. -- Martin.
A: Dwyane isn't retiring as long as there is money to be made. As for your greater point, I absolutely hate -- and I mean hate -- how the NBA has made acceptable willing away two years of your fandom in the hope of something better. It's practically criminal that some teams are allowed to operate that way. A lot can happen in two years . . . or nothing. Think about how Houston gave up Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin on a whim this offseason. . . for nothing in return. And think about how the Bulls previously thought they might get Wade or Bosh in 2010 and then Carmelo Anthony this offseason. It's almost the NBA's opiate, this wait-for-coming-years tease. No, I'll take living in the moment anytime.
September 6, 2014Q: Everyone seems to have written Danny Granger off, but Granger still has an All-Star pedigree, with maybe a little left in the tank. -- Claudia, Miami.
A: While there is no doubt that Dwyane Wade's return to form is the key for the re-imagined Heat, Granger stands as the newcomer who could provide the greatest unexpected boost. Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng are known quantities; they do what they do and they do it efficiently, if not spectacularly. But Granger not so long ago was a player opponents game-planned against. Clearly much has changed in the intervening months, with the way he was flipped between the Pacers, 76ers and Clippers, and then how he was available for such a minimal salary. But he already is at AmericanAirlines Arena working out, seemingly committed to rebuilding his career. While it's a double-edged sword, with so many Heat players holding out-opts after the current season, it also could be a source for extreme motivation, particularly with Granger.
Q: I completely agree Heat will provide a lot of entertainment value this year. Imagine fans of the 76ers, Magic, Jazz, who have no shot. Last year was a one-trick pony with LeBron James. It's going to seem strange having Jason Jackson interview somebody else after the game. Last year the Heat almost mailed in some games, but this year the entire team knows they will have step up their intensity. I am a big believer that fans don't want to see old retreads (except Birdman), but new faces that have star potential. The storylines this year will be more fascinating. -- Susan, Miami.
A: As regular readers of this space have seen in the past few weeks, there have been plenty of offerings like this. And that says plenty about a fan base willing to stand by its team. But my question is whether the enthusiasm will be there if the competitiveness is there but not the desired win total. There was a time when a gritty 42-40 or 44-38 Heat team was all that was required. I'm not sure the Heat, or their fans, would be willing to be in that place any time soon.
Q: Say it ain't so! "Can Do" McAdoo is no longer coaching. Bob McAdoo on the bench always seemed like a calming influence, a familiar face full of confidence. McAdoo is basketball royalty. As a player he was up there with Dr. J and Michael Jordan. Rumor has it he can still beat most of the players on the Heat in a game of H-O-R-S-E. Maybe he could be the Heat's shooting coach? -- Stuart.
A: Well, at least players won't be losing as much money in shooting games now. Now his scouting job is to find players who can score like he could, which won't be easy.
September 5, 2014
Q: This season promises to be an exciting one for the Heat with returning players taking on a different set of responsibilities and the new additions looking to get minutes. As you pointed out, the chemistry of this year's team is unknown. The Andre Dawkins and Khem Birch signings maybe were done with an eye to see how the expanded squad shakes out until Dec. 15, when Pat Riley has some chips to trade and the coaches have a better idea of how the wing players (Shabazz Napier, Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers) perform. The deal Kevin Durant signed with Nike puts coaches such as Erik Spoelstra on the hot seat, because some players may want a lot of minutes to stuff the stat sheet, while coaches realize limiting time and having a strong bench wins games. Durant has not won a ring yet gets big bucks. This year, Spoelstra has the pieces to create a winning bench, even though by definition undrafted players have major flaws. I hope the reserves turn out better than Michael Beasley and Greg Oden, who had so much promise. -- Justin, Miami.
A: Whew. All I know is that going into camp, coaches almost always talk about prospects and grooming them for the future, and yet, at the moments of truth, when it comes to making final cuts and setting rotations, they almost always go with the proven quantities. It will be interesting to see if youth can prevail against the likes of Shannon Brown, Shawne Williams, Reggie Williams and, when it comes to playing time, perhaps even Udonis Haslem.
Q: With the signing of Epke Udoh and now Greg Stiemsma elsewhere, are the Heat running out of options with what's left in free agency? -- Lester, Miami.
A: It all comes down to what you think of Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem and Justin Hamilton. If you believe a free agent would slot in ahead of at least two of those players, then you can make an argument. But aside from Andray Blatche, it's not as if there have been any big men out there who clearly would supplant what the Heat already have in place.
Q: Why is it that fans think every other GM in the league is stupid and would take the Heat's trash for their best player? It's incredible to me that fans just don't think these proposed trades through. What if the Heat were on the other side of the trade, would the Heat do the trade? -- Michael.
A: Put it this way, I just got one that suggested the Suns would get Rajon Rondo from the Celtics, the Heat would get Erik Bledsoe from the Suns, and the Celtics would get Chalmers and Cole from the Heat. Somehow, I figure Danny Ainge would think otherwise. Of course, it would be a heck of a STFU II if Riley could pull that one off.
September 4, 2014
Q: Do the Heat's coaching reassignments and Keith Smart potentially joining the team mean that Erik Spoelstra is finally outgrowing Pat Riley and finding his own way? -- Anthony.
A: I think Erik has already found his own way. I also think, to a degree, that became an issue, with Spoelstra taking a most un-Riley approach with his aggressive defensive schemes. While Riley's teams never gambled as much on defense, Riley's teams almost always had a rim protector, be it Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning or Shaquille O'Neal. I don't think the staffing issue is one of Spoelstra vs. Riley. It's more of creating the same type of comfort zone that Riley has with his assistants while coaching. While the shift obviously impacts Ron Rothstein and Bob McAdoo, this hardly changes the direction of the team or the overall dynamic with the front office.
Q: Do you think that after December 15 there is a chance the Heat could put Danny Granger and Luol Deng together in a package deal? By then, Granger might become viewed as a prospect that can pay off and Deng already is a good scorer and defender. The Heat could potentially get something good for the both of them. -- Ezio, Miami.
A: Or, even better, the two could thrive as a one-two punch at small forward and give the Heat what they need from the position and in the wing rotation. Deng is a known quantity; when healthy, he has proven his ability to contribute on a playoff team. If Granger comes around -- and that's a huge "if" -- then many of the concerns about the Heat's depth will be alleviated. Signing Granger and Deng wasn't about setting them up as trade chips, it was about providing more quality depth to the perimeter rotation than had been in place. I highly doubt the Heat are looking at Dec. 15 (the first day players signed in the offseason can be moved) as some sort of target date. If there is a trade then, it likely would be if Granger is unable to produce, more than if he again is able to thrive.
Q: The Heat should retire Giancarlo Stanton's number. -- Q.
A: But that might make Michael Jordan and Dan Marino jealous. Then again, Pat Riley might have more of a chance of keeping Stanton in South Florida than Jeffrey Loria.
September 3, 2014
Q: I believe Chris Bosh's ability to be the go-to player the Heat need will depend on him playing power forward more consistently, where he excels. Any indications from this roster and potential signings that is a possibility? -- Jonathan, Miami.
A: No. There is no one the Heat have signed or likely can sign who would be better than having Josh McRoberts and Bosh playing together with the starters. As it is, those are the only two players on the current roster under contract for more than two years. Chris Andersen has too much mileage to play starter's minutes, and even if Andray Blatche could be signed, he sets up more as offense off the bench. But it will be intriguing to see how the Bosh/McRoberts dynamic plays out during camp and whether the needed chemistry is there. The possibilities are intriguing.
Q: Ira, you write about Andre Dawkins and Khem Birch as if they are someone the other teams let get away. If either makes the 15-man roster, then Pat Riley hasn't done his job. -- Rich.
A: Look, this time of year isn't just about filling out the rotation, or perhaps even filling out the final 15-player roster. Remember, the Heat also have an NBDL team to stock after final NBA cuts are made. A year ago, the Heat convinced Justin Hamilton and Larry Drew III to go from training camp to Sioux Falls. That could be what some of these recent signings are about, an expression of confidence or hope for down the road.
Q: Ira, is there more to the change in assistant coaches than simply, "it's normal change"? Those coaches were part of the four consecutive NBA Finals appearances these past four years and on the surface there seemed to be a lot of in-game collaboration between them and Erik Spoelstra. -- C.C., Key Biscayne.
A: I think the only reason the Heat's reassignment of Ron Rothstein and Bob McAdoo has become a story is because how loyal the Heat have been to their staffs over the years. Coaching staffs evolve, especially when a team transitions to another coach. To a degree, this simply is bench evolution catching up with Spoelstra's tenure.
September 2, 2014
Q: Wayne Ellington is a career 38-percent 3-point shooter. The Heat need help spreading the floor. To me, signing him is a no-brainer. Otherwise you rely on Mario Chalmers? C'mon. -- Martin.
A: Totally agree. Which also is why patience is so important throughout this process, because players do tend to shake free. The difference between this and, say, Shannon Brown, is the Heat should not think twice when it comes to a guarantee. If that's what it takes to land Ellington, provided he can be signed at the veteran minimum, then that's what the Heat need to do, allowing the roster and rotation to shake out during camp. It's one thing to count dollars while a tax team, but a completely different situation in the Heat's new, post-LeBron James reality.
Q: At this point wouldn't Ekpe Udoh or Andray Blatche be a better option than Nazr Mohammed? -- Bryan, Mountain View, Calif.
A: I don't know about Udoh, because I simply haven't seen enough. But the way Blatche has looked at the World Cup, of course he would be preferable. But it's also a matter of the commitment the Heat would be willing to take in terms of role. For example, with Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts starting, and with Chris Andersen brought back on a two-year, $10 million deal, would there be enough of a role there for Blatche to embrace? Otherwise, I don't see how he wouldn't help. Add Blatche and Ellington and I don't think there would be nearly as much concern about a drop off with the Heat bench if Ray Allen doesn't return.
Q: Ira, do you have any background info on the changes to the Heat's coaching staff? I understand the staff is "evolving," but why and in what direction? Thanks. -- Ricardo, Miami.
A: Basically, in Erik Spoelstra's direction, that after six years as head coach, he has earned the right to determine his own staff, not have Pat Riley dictate that decision from the front office. This is not about Ron Rothstein or Bob McAdoo; this is about Spoelstra's comfort of "his" people in "his" huddle. It is extremely rare to have had a staff, as the Heat did with Rothstein and McAdoo, that transitions through three different head coaches.
September 1, 2014
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.)
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