ASK IRA: Does Wade make sense for Heat? Do Heat make sense for Wade?
Sun Sentinel writer Ira Winderman addresses the Heat's issues of the day.


September 25, 2017

Q: I'm not even sure the Heat really need/want Dwyane Wade back, apart from emotional reasons. There are so many good players who need to develop. -- T.O.

A: That's why Pat Riley could be so at ease with his answer to my question Friday about a possible Wade return to the Heat. At the time, there was no actual possibility, with Dwyane still under contract to the Bulls. Now that has changed, and now it will be curious to see the Heat's approach going forward. It could wind up being far less complicated for the Heat if Dwyane instead moves toward a leading contender, which then would not put the Heat in position of having to decide about how to handle a potential Wade return. I never overstate middle-of-the-pack players in the NBA, so don't overstate the complications regarding Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson or Josh Richardson. But the reality is that the Heat have laid out over $140 million in contracts to those three, who, at least at the moment, aren't going anywhere. And that does not even get to the reality that Goran Dragic finally broke out with the Heat after Dwyane's departure. If Dwyane opts to move on to the Cavaliers or Rockets or Thunder, then Riley could simply point to those teams being better positioned for a 35-year-old player seeking a win-now opportunity. However if Dwyane makes it publicly known that a Miami return would be enticing, then it will be interesting to see how the Heat frame whatever would follow. When you bring back Michael Beasley twice, it's not as if you're in any position to balk with Dwyane Wade.

Q: If Wade goes to Cleveland there's no turning back between him and Pat. Choose wisely Wade, your legacy is in Miami. -- Cesar.

A: Except that's not how it works. This coming season is not about the Heat vs. the Cavaliers. It's about the Heat continuing to make strides forward. And to get petty about a franchise icon moving on to the Cavaliers to join LeBron James would only allow LeBron to gain another upper hand. Dwyane's No. 3 will be retired by the Heat regardless of his career path going forward. And from a playing standpoint, there is an opportunity to start in Cleveland that most likely would not be there with the Heat. A year with the Cavaliers actually makes plenty of sense for Dwyane at the moment, other than it meaning spending a year in Cleveland.

Q: Dwyane Wade, Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson? It seems like overkill. -- James

A: And that's not even getting to Rodney McGruder and Justise Winslow as other Heat perimeter options. And it would be overkill. But it also could lead to the thinning of the pack, perhaps with one year of Wade allowing the Heat to move on from Tyler Johnson's contract now and then having a year to reassess Waiters and his higher-tier contract. Look, there also were moments last season where Dwyane Wade could have helped, because he's . . . Dwyane Wade. Again, as with all these questions, Dwyane could make the Heat's decision easier by not having them have to make a decision.

September 24, 2017

Q: Ira, can this Heat team be compared to a version of Pat Riley '90s Knicks teams? I know there's no All-Stars, but Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic could be. -- Ricardo.

A: I'm not sure I would compare Whiteside and Dragic to Patrick Ewing and John Starks. And the styles are completely different, as is the overall approach in the NBA these days. The most pronounced comparison would be having a major roadblock in place -- Jordan's Bull for those Knicks teams, the Warriors and Cavaliers for this Heat team. But if you're asking whether this team can maximize its assets, that certainly is possible, potentially with more interest in regular-season success than the Cavaliers, Raptors and perhaps other East teams viewed as superior. But as I wrote in my Sunday column, the reality is that this roster does not have a player who ever was an All-Star. While Riley pointed out during his Friday media session that there are only 12 All-Stars per conference each year, there isn't even All-Star lineage on this roster. Yes, Whiteside and Dragic certainly could have their moments. And that's the point, that they practically have to rise to something closer to All-Star level for the Heat to become a legitimate East contender. Then again, with Carmelo Anthony dealt to the Thunder, that is another All-Star spot available on the decidedly star-lacking East roster.

Q: We're locking in this team for four, five years of mediocrity. -- Rob.

A: But, again, there was what Pat Riley tossed out there Friday, when he said, "one step away could be a move that could bring a player here. I do think we have the assets for that." The Heat are convinced they have moveable pieces, if needed. When Chris Bosh's salary was still on the cap, the Heat salary scale was skewed to the point that it became difficult to even come up with trade math. Now there are pieces that can be mixed and matched. That, alone, creates options over the next four or five seasons that you cite, in case the current mix can't take the next steps.

Q: I think Cleveland offers Dwyane Wade a bigger role than the Heat if there is a buyout from the Bulls, possibly starting at shooting guard and the opportunity for 18 points per game. But I'm not sure how happy he would be representing that franchise. -- Lex.

A: For now, there is so much in flux around the league that I think Dwyane, if he does get a buyout from Chicago, likely would sit back and analyze his best options. I do wonder, though, if he would be willing to go year-by-year, team-by-team at this stage, winding up like Patrick Ewing did in Seattle and then Orlando. It might make more sense to sit back and take the long view. Or, of course, do what many have done over the years, and simply ease into retirement in Florida.

September 23, 2017

Q: Ira, you buried the lead. When Pat Riley discussed bringing everyone back, he also said he would be willing to trade all of them. -- Pete.

A: That's not exactly how he phrased it. What he said Friday was, "I think we're one step away from being a very good team. One step away could be the collective effort of an ensemble cast of very gifted players or one step away could be a move that could bring a player here. I do think we have the assets for that." Remember, players signed during the offseason cannot be dealt until Dec. 15, at the earliest. That also means the league-wide trade pool is relatively shallow until then. So that gives the Heat, with the NBA's early schedule start, two full months to show the possibilities of this roster. I don't think there are any visions at the moment of, so to speak, flipping this roster. What Riley said was he made long-term investments into these players, but also could realign his portfolio if necessary. The lessons we learned this offseason, with players such as Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Kyrie Irving being moved, is that the biggest deals tend to get done around the draft of during the offseason. So there certainly is ample time for this roster to justify its reason for being.

Q: We need somebody to run the offense when Goran Dragic is not in. If that were Dwyane Wade that would be a huge W. -- Lex.

A: But if you listened to Pat Riley on Friday, he is convinced that there is enough on the roster to handle both the playmaking and defensive challenges at point guard for the time that Dragic is out. Whether you agree or disagree, that also means that anyone added in such a role would reduce such opportunities for those already on the roster, be it Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson or Dion Waiters expanding their games as ballhandlers, or perhaps Justise Winslow attempting to smother opposing point guards defensively with length. To me, that, more than money, is the crux of a Wade reunion (if that even is something Dwyane would consider). Riley's general tone is that the backcourt already is covered with ample options. That, of course, is not to say upgrades wouldn't be welcome. It's just what you consider an upgrade.

Q: All these people whining about sponsors need to catch up with the rest of the world. It's been happening for decades in all other sports. -- Daniel.

A: And the NBA went out of its way to make the uniform patches as unobtrusive as possible. At least for the moment. Because if the revenues for the patches are what Adam Simon has projected, then just imagine the possibilities for entire uniforms, as has been the case now in the WNBA. As long as fans and viewers are more concerned about the players in those uniforms, it is a non-issue.

September 22, 2017

Q: The Bulls are saying they're open to a buyout for Dwyane Wade, but does anyone know if he's open to the Heat? -- Stoney.

A: Dwyane has carefully removed himself from the buyout equation, including an escape into an awaiting vehicle in front of TMZ. With the Bulls expecting a considerable giveback from the $23.8 million Dwyane is due this season, it hardly would make sense for Dwyane to offer any public pronouncement on plans. Obviously the Cavaliers will always make sense because of the LeBron James connection. And the Rockets could make sense because close friend Chris Paul is now in place in Houston, with the possibility of Carmelo Anthony arriving there, as well. Then there is the Los Angeles angle, with Dwyane spending a good deal of time during the offseason extolling the virtues of his home there. Of course, there also is the issue of his children enrolled in school in South Florida and his recent workout at the University of Miami. To a degree, it seems like Dwyane has been linked to just about everywhere but Chicago this offseason. But, again, at what cost would there be a push for a relocation, when it became apparent with his departure from the Heat in July 2016 that this was all about money from the outset? Beyond that, the Heat are about to go to training camp with an abundance of guards, seemingly lacking the ability to create rotation minutes for Rodney McGruder and Wayne Ellington. With the money guaranteed to Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson, should the Heat cut into those minutes as well? Wade in 2018-19 might make more sense for the Heat than in 2017-18.

Q: Miami Heat jersey sales will take a huge hit this year. The NBA has commercials. There's no need for sponsor logos. -- Franky.

A: The versions sold in retail outlets will not include sponsorship patches, save for those sold at the Heat's direct retail outlets. As it is, there is only minimal change between the previous Adidas versions and the new Nike uniforms, so there might not be a rush for replacements, anyway, unless you insist on a Kelly Olynyk or Bam Adebayo version. Still, jerseys with advertisements have become so prevalent in soccer that you almost forget about being a walking billboard amid the desire to be like Messi or Ronaldo. The patches are tiny, and during the action of NBA games it is doubtful they even will be noticeable, let alone obtrusive.

Q: If Hassan Whiteside doesn't make the All-Star team over Dwight Howard and Joel Embiid, Whiteside should be traded for DeMarcus Cousins by the trade deadline -- Aura.

A: Buy you have to remember that there is no specific voting for centers for the All-Star Game, either in the combined fan/player/media vote for starters or the coaches' voting for reserves, merely spots for "frontcourt" players. What has to matter is that Whiteside improves as a player. If he does that, then he should, at the least, be on the cusp of an All-Star invitation. With Howard aging and on the downside, and with Embiid possibly again to be limited in his minutes, I don't believe you are setting the bar that high.

September 21, 2017

Q: Sorry Ira, if Dwyane Wade comes back, Goran Dragic should be the captain over him. Unless, of course, it's part of a banana-boat team. -- Gabriel, Miami.

A: This goes back to my reference of how much of a veteran leader Goran emerged as in Slovenia's run to the EuroBasket championship, as well as Udonis Haslem's limited opportunity to serve as captain while on the court. Now a year removed from the shock of Dwyane's departure, and clearly a different team than during Udonis' prime run as a contributor, it would seem as if Goran deserves the right to lead more than just the offense. Yes, being an NBA captain is largely ceremonial, and it probably is not even a concern of Erik Spoelstra. But as the Heat transition, it would seem like the perfect time to transition to the next level of leadership. This is not about taking away Udonis' captaincy, but rather adding another component, as the Heat have done before, when Chris Bosh was named a tri-captain along with Wade and Haslem in 2015-16. Again, it could get complicated if Dwyane were to return, or if the Heat have trade plans with Goran. But, otherwise, it seems like a natural progression.

Q: Screw ESPN's computer model. The season needs to hurry up and start. I'm sick of the doubters. -- Tammy.

A: Actually, I'm not sure that ESPN's computer analysis is that far off when it comes to a sixth-place projection in the East, although the projection of 42.9 wins might be selling the Heat short. On paper, it is difficult to make argument that the Heat possess more talent than the Cavaliers, Celtics, Raptors, Wizards or Bucks. As for the win total, it took 30-11 over the second half of last season to close at 41-41, with scant little done to augment the roster in the offseason beyond the additions of Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo. This again will come down to chemistry and cohesion, which are not easily inputted into computer or analytical modeling.

Q: If we only had held on to Michael Beasley . . . -- Carter.

A: Look, the one thing Beasley never lacked during any of his Heat tenures was confidence, so it's no surprise to see him forecasting a fifth- or sixth-place finish in the East for the Knicks, as well as a breakout season for himself. That's who he has been since his over-the-top recruitment to Kansas State. And he can flat-out score. But there also is a reason so many teams moved on from him beyond the Heat, such as the Timberwolves, Suns, Rockets and Bucks. And I hope he does well in New York. But as with Derrick Rose last season in New York, it is going to take more than a remnant of the 2008 draft to turn things around.

September 20, 2017

Q: Ira, with the Heat locked into so many contracts over the next few years and approaching the luxury tax, are the dollars there for Justise Winslow? What kind of deal would you anticipate Winslow getting? Should the Heat wait on him to see if he can develop a shot?  Based on last year he was more a liability than an asset as indicated by the Heat's play in the second half of the season. -- Joel.

A: That is why Tuesday's move essentially was a no-brainer for the Heat, picking up Justise's $3.5 million option for 2018-19, rather than having to make a decision about him in 2018 free agency. What the Heat did was basically buy another tryout year for pennies on the dollar. Justise will now be subject to a $4.7 million qualifying offer in the 2019 offseason, which the Heat undoubtedly will extend and then see what transpires in free agency. Then it will get interesting. In 2019-20, Hassan Whiteside is in line to earn $27 million in his option year, Goran Dragic $19.2 million in his option year, Tyler Johnson $19.2 million in his option year, James Johnson $15.3 million, Dion Waiters $12.1 million, Kelly Olynyk $11.7 million and Josh Richardson $10.1 million. So, yes, something likely would have to give by then. That's what these next two seasons will be about, to see who and what fits. If Winslow emerges, as Pat Riley once projected, as the Heat's starting small forward of the future, than the necessary salary and roster accommodations will be made. But if Justise stands eighth among those players, then anything beyond Richardson-type money could be in question, at least from the Heat. That two-year clock essentially begins . . . now.

Q: I wish we would've had Devin Booker instead of Justise Winslow. -- Gago.

A: But then there might never have been Waiters Island along the glistening shores of Biscayne Bay.

Q: Ira, Goran Dragic, without a doubt, not arguably, but without any doubts, played for Slovenia with his heart and passion. After all, playing for foreign club is much different than paying for your home country, homeland, mother land, where you were born and grew up in and will return to someday to spend your retirement and be buried there. It was obvious that he played with a sense of nationality and pride for his country, with the "Slovenian blood" running through his veins. Now, all that said, do you think Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley can motivate and push him to play the same way when the season begins and continue until his contract is up?  -- Masoud, Tucson, Ariz.

A: Getting beyond where Goran might be buried, he already has shown that exact type of passion with the Heat, playing through shattered teeth and a bludgeoned eye. The difference is Goran was the accepted leader of the Slovenia national team from the get-go. When he arrived to the Heat, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh already were in place, let alone the presence of Udonis Haslem. I agree that Goran's leadership can rise to another level -- if allowed. Because of that, I would name him co-captain this season along with Udonis Haslem. As it is, there well could be nights this season when Udonis is not in uniform. I believe having a captain actively involved with the game would allow Goran to resemble something closer to what we saw with his national team on the way to the EuroBasket championship. (The one caveat could be if the Heat have a sense that Dwyane Wade might return this season, in which case in might be wiser awkward with Wade back and Dragic a captain.)

September 19, 2017

Q: Does the team believe that Kelly Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside can co-exist on the floor for long stretches? I assume they do, or else they've paid a high price for Olynyk to be a backup center. The situation at the power forward spot still has me puzzled. James Johnson has rarely been a starter. I assume they would continue to bring him off the bench in the same role that saw him flourish last year? -- Ben, Kansas City.

A: I am sure that the very discussion of specific positions would have Erik Spoelstra gnashing his teeth. The certainly is the case with James Johnson, whose role as a forward could have him as much ballhandler and post defender. As for Olynyk, there is no way the Heat would have paid a $50 million free-agent price tag for a backup center. So when that move was made, it had to be made with the thought of a game that aligns alongside Hassan. Now, that doesn't mean he has to start, but what it likely means is that in the Heat's power rotation, you could see 96 minutes split nightly between Whiteside, Olynyk and Johnson. Plus, there also could be times when James Johnson is cast at small forward, perhaps opening the door for minutes for Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow in a power role. It could come down to the opposition's approach, as well. I certainly could see James Johnson defending Carmelo Anthony at the four. I'm not sure that could be the case with Olynyk. And that could be the rub -- Olynyk's time could be a factor of how many teams, particularly in the East, continue to play with something resembling a classic power forward.

Q: Ira wouldn't you agree that Goran Dragic winning the gold medal for Slovenia at EuroBasket is similar to when Dwyane Wade won gold for the U.S. back in '08 and is this a sign that Goran will have a big year? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.,

A: I'm not sure that you can equate one motivational moment to another. It still comes down to the quality of the team. But it was hard to watch EuroBasket and not come away with a sense that he is as dialed in as ever. The next few weeks will be the ultimate challenge for the Heat's therapy team to get Goran's body realigned with the NBA schedule. What I see is a player coming back as far more of a leader. Could a captaincy be in his future?

Q: Absent internal development, the Heat lack the assets to acquire or lure a mega-star. Justise Winslow's development is our best shot. -- Daniel.

A: It's interesting, we're almost at a stage where Winslow fascination has reached the point of what was Beasley intrigue. To a degree the cases are similar, lottery picks viewed as potential breakout stars who have yet to break out. Remember, Beasley was gone after two seasons, to clear the salary-cap space needed for Mike Miller. But also remember that Justise is only 21, with plenty of room for growth. The hope is that, in the end, there is more stability to Justise's career than Beasley's. I would say that is a safe bet.

September 18, 2017

Q: Goran Dragic has to keep the beard when he comes back. -- A.F.

A: And hopefully keep the flex, as well (who knew those muscles were there?). Until he went down with his cramps Sunday, he was every bit of the international star he always has been, as well as the player who was third-team All-NBA with the Suns. If there were any doubts about what Goran could and can be, go back and watch his inspired play at EuroBasket these past three weeks. But also appreciate that he is best when he has the ball in his hands, which is why the chemistry was never perfect with Dwyane Wade, and why it is important that Dion Waiters remain somewhat deferential in their backcourt pairing. Still, seeing Goran taking treatment on the bench at the end of Sunday's championship-game victory over Serbia was somewhat disconcerting. The good thing is that it was only cramps. The bad part is that also is a sign of fatigue. While the regular season doesn't open until Oct. 18, it will be interesting to see the approach Erik Spoelstra takes during training camp and the preseason. Fortunately, the Heat return almost intact, so getting in sync with teammates shouldn't be an issue whenever he steps back in.

Q:  Ira, who is your guess for Heat breakout player of the year. -- Gabriel, Miami.

A: I'm going with Justise Winslow, because Erik Spoelstra has a way of finding a game to maximize a player's skill set, and the Heat very much would like to make this work with Justise. Two summers ago, it was Pat Riley coming out and saying that he envisioned Justise as the Heat's starting small forward of the future. This past offseason, Riley took particular umbrage to the suggestion that the Heat might put Justise into a trade. In other words, Riley wants to make this work. If you recall, two seasons ago, when Justise was having difficulty finding his offense, Spoelstra started running him along the baseline, and all of a sudden the points were there. I'm not saying Justise will be the Heat's leading scorer or anything close, but in terms of where he stood prior to last season's injury, I believe, with health, he remains a player who could yet be molded into someone with considerable upside.

Q: Ira, let's imagine this scenario: It is the very last game of the next season and Dion Waiters has appeared in 69 games. Now, he is either hurt and unable to play, or Erik Spoelstra is going with a totally different lineup that night. What is going to take place?  -- Masoud, Tucson, Ariz.

A: As I wrote yesterday, getting Dion to his 70-game bonus threshold is not a concern  if he remains mostly healthy. You certainly can spot in for a sequence in a game to make sure he hits that total. And that is money that the Heat want to play. The contract was written that way only to also have the cap space for James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Wayne Ellington. More problematic could be getting Kelly's 1,700 minutes if he misses injury time along the way. That, by contrast, is not simply spotting a player in a game and then removing him to avoid injury risk. But September is probably a bit too premature to concern yourself with either.

September 17, 2017

Q: Do more teams do bonuses like the Heat did with Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk? Sounds good, and hopefully will keep the players engaged and ready throughout the year. -- Douglas.

A: On the face of it, there certainly appears little downside in paying players for actually playing, which is the case with Dion's $1.1 million bonus for appearing in at least 70 games, after playing only 46 last season, or incentivizing Olynyk with a bonus for playing at least 1,700 minutes. It also allowed the Heat, by shifting salary to bonuses, to find a way to fit in the contracts of James Johnson, Waiters, Olynyk and Wayne Ellington this offseason. And there certainly is no issue with Johnson's conditioning bonus. But when it comes to statistical minimums, that's where it could get touchy. For example, what if Dion needs time off to be fresh for the playoffs, but also is chasing that bonus? Or what if the Heat medical staff suggests additional time off for an injury that puts Dion's bonus in doubt? As for Olynyk, what if the Heat find rotation combinations that limit his minutes? What it does is potentially put Erik Spoelstra in a tough spot, with priorities that differ from management trying to get players paid. And that's what this is all about. The Heat want to pay the bonuses; they want players to know that the shifting of salary had nothing to do with scrimping. And it's something they want players to agree to down the road, by showing the payoffs will come. So now the meters begin, the countdown to 70 games and to 1,700 minutes.

Q: If Goran Dragic becomes the Eurobasket MVP, how does this affect his game? Do you think it'll bring some confidence like Dion Waiters got last season? -- Ricardo. Pindorama, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

A: I'm not sure that Goran has ever lacked for confidence (but I'm also not sure that any player can reach a Waiters Island level of confidence). From afar, it appears the EuroBasket experienced, advancing to Sunday's title game against Serbia has rejuvenated Goran. And once you get a taste of success, you usually want more. Goran never had to prove himself to Slovenia. But with the Heat about to pay off the first of two first-round picks to the Suns from the 2015 acquisition of Goran, this would be the perfect time to show that it was a price worth the cost. Goran has grown during his time with the Heat, but EuroBasket has shown that even at 31, the growth continues.

Q: Why do I have the feeling that Miami is going to give some unknown player a $200 million contract like the Wizards did? Insane. -- Willy.

A: If you are talking about John Wall's $170 million deal, I hardly would call him an "unknown." As for Otto Porter's $104 million contract, I agree it was a bit extravagant (albeit forced by the Nets' offer sheet). As for Pat Riley being willing to spend, yes, he would have gone all-in for Gordon Hayward, and likely will in the future for someone at the top off a free-agency class. But, for now, he has topped out at Hassan Whiteside's four-year, $98 million deal. Yes, the Heat have a lot of mid-size contracts. But they also have a lot of mid-tier talent. So the pay scale seems to make sense.

September 16, 2017

Q: Miami is becoming a team with a high payroll. It seems a little much for a team who will fight for the last playoff spot. -- Hanuk.

A: Getting beyond a potential playoff spot, as well as the reality that teams such as Golden State and Cleveland are in completely different salary stratospheres, I believe that is where you get in trouble, when you look at the sum, rather than the parts. In this case, the focus had to be singular, on whether Josh Richardson, at $42 million over four seasons, was a value move. I find this part of the equation, considering his youth, hard to argue. Now, if you want to talk about going out four years with James Johnson or the investment in Kelly Olynyk, or even taking on the structure of Tyler Johnson's contract, those certainly are reasonable debating points. In fact, of all the moves the Heat made this offseason, this might have been the most efficient from a team standpoint. As to your greater point, yes, if the ultimate upside of this roster is a No. 8 seed, then I would agree it would be fair to question the dollars spent, and the players themselves. Almost to a man, this roster asked for the opportunity to prove how competitive it could be. Now comes the time to justify the payout with a payoff. Getting at least to No. 6 would be a reasonable starting point, if only to avoid the Celtics or Cavaliers in the first round. Challenge the Wizards or Raptors for a playoff seed and it could prove to be money well spent.

Q: Do even average players merit max contract extensions? I like Josh Richardson, I just don't understand how everyone gets $10 million a year now. -- Javier.

A: First, this was nothing close to a maximum extension, at $42 million over four seasons. Again, Josh's extension starts at $9.3 million next summer, when the full mid-level exception will be $8.7 million. So it basically is a mid-level deal. Taken further, next summer's salary cap is expected to fall at about $108 million. So divide that by 15 players and you wind up with an average salary of $7.2 million. So what it really is is an extension that starts just above the average salary. So my counter would be: Is Josh Richardson an average NBA player, or even one just slightly above average?

Q: Playing for his country stands above anything else for Goran Dragic, which is how it should be. He'll be fit when he gets back to the circus. -- Kevin.

A: And you certainly can see the pride as he heads into Sunday's EuroBasket championship game. Now, if the Heat were to start meaningful games upon his return, then there would be concerns. But the Heat do not play for real until their Oct. 18 season opener in Orlando. Beyond that, Goran has already demonstrated reliable chemistry with just about everyone he will be playing alongside this season, save for Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo. If this was a year ago, with so many newcomers, then something could be said for maximizing camp and preseason reps with rotation players. But it's not as if Dion Waiters, James Johnson or Wayne Ellington have to learn where Goran likes the ball or where he likes them. Whenever Goran is rested and ready, he merely needs to get back to what he offered over the second half of last season.

September 15, 2017

Q: Goran Dragic is playing for the love of his country. He's been the MVP of the tournament so far. -- Asier.

A: The joy was undeniable with Goran both on the court in Thursday's semifinal victory over Spain at EuroBasket, as well as during his postgame media session. And you also can see his emergence as a leader, taking so many of Slovenia's young players under his wing. Goran certainly has shown similar passion during his time in the NBA, but what EuroBasket shows is that if the Heat get to the playoffs, they will have a point guard who is ready for the moment and appreciates any and all possibilities. On another level, what has made Slovenia's 8-0 run at EuroBasket so impressive is that they are playing the very type of ensemble style that made the Heat so efficient during the 30-11 run over the second half of last season. Whatever toll EuroBasket might take on Goran, it also will pay dividends of rekindled basketball passion for The Dragon. That was undeniable as he was flexing Thursday in Istanbul.

Q: I told you we are winning this championship. I'm taking my Miami Heat Jersey No. 7 and flying to Istanbul. Trade up and draft Luka Doncic next summer -- Toni.

A: Considering the Heat traded next June's first-round pick in the 2015 deal for Goran Dragic (unless it is among the first seven selections) to the Suns, the Heat likely will continue to be limited to a sole Slovenian. The passion for the game from the Slovenian team and its fans has become infectious over these past two weeks. And, yes, Doncic has the makings of something very special, as Goran told us last season as he was preparing to return to the national team for one final time. I also remember Goran talking about the challenges of Slovenia's opening-round group in Finland, and look at where they are now, one victory from the most unlikely of European championships.

Q: All due respect to Micky Arison and the Miami Heat. -- Tim.

A: Rhetoric is one thing, but stepping up with the cash when needed is another. Thursday's announcement of a potential $10 million in relief effort was a major commitment at a time when this community needs one. So is the Heat's pet rescue that will have Udonis Haslem and Erik Spoelstra working in concert with the Warriors and their staff. It is a comforting ending to a brutal week.

September 14, 2017

Q: The Heat are going all-in on homegrown talent. Nice. I like it. -- Brandon.

A: In today's NBA economy, Josh Richardson's four-year, $42 million extension that will kick in starting in 2018-19 practically is a bargain, that salary putting him seventh on the Heat 2018-19 payroll, as it now stands. In other words, it's not as if the Heat have created pressure to play him in a featured role to justify the extension. In fact, even with limited cap space around the league in 2018, I'm not sure that Richardson didn't sell himself short. He is a two-way talent with considerable upside. The move was particularly prudent from the Heat's perspective because of their lack of upcoming draft picks, with a pair of first-rounders still due to the Suns from the Goran Dragic trade, and every second-round pick dealt until 2022. Pat Riley stressed at his July media session that the focus has to be on growth from within, citing Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Richardson, which is why you can be assured that the Heat's next move will  be picking up Winslow's 2018-19 option before that deadline at the start of the season. I like the move with Richardson from a Heat perspective. And, again, as with many of their offseason moves, it creates another chip that always could be put into play going forward, need be.

Q: Good move for the Heat. I bet Josh will become an All-Star. Don't bother telling me any different. -- P.F.

A: But I will, anyway. The Heat certainly intend on featuring Dion Waiters (and Dion Waiters certainly intends on featuring Dion Waiters). Plus, Goran Dragic already is making statements in EuroBasket. And there still is that $50 million contract for Tyler Johnson that has to be justified. So I'm not sure that a player who won't necessarily be spotlighted by the Heat will receive anything close to All-Star-level exposure. But that Heat also don't need that. From any of their players. What they need is to continue the ensemble approach that proved so efficient over the second half of last season.

Q: Josh Richardson basically got a five-year, $43.5 million contract, since he gets $1.5 million this year. An $8.7 million average isn't bad at all. -- Swerve.

A: What it is in today's NBA is mid-level money. And I believe it is safe to say that on just about any free-agent market, Josh Richardson is, at the least, a mid-level talent. It also shows the value you can derive with second-round picks. Fortunately for the Heat and their dealing of so many recent second-round picks, they stand poised to receive similar, if not better, value from the contract they hold with Rodney McGruder. Deals such as these offset some of the questions with the deals for James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters.

September 13, 2017

Q: Erik Spoelstra should give Goran Dragic an extra week off. -- Toni.

A: Considering that Goran now will be playing with Slovenia in EuroBasket through Sunday (either in the championship or third-place game) in Turkey, then first returning home and packing up before heading to South Florida for the Sept. 26 start of Heat training camp, I am sure that the Heat coaching and training staff already have contingencies in place to ease the rapid transition. To me, camp or even the preseason aren't the issue, but rather the reality that the NBA season has been moved up this year, with the Heat playing for real on Oct. 18. That will leave Dragic with a one-month turnaround. And that has to be a concern. Expect to see plenty of Larry Drew II, Derrick Walton Jr., Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson running the point during preseason. The counter is that Goran will arrive in game shape for a team that absolutely has to avoid a repeat of last season's awful start. He has looked very, very good at EuroBasket, including against some high-level competition. Thursday's semifinal against Spain and Ricky Rubio should be particularly intriguing.

Q: Is it just me or do you think winning Tuesday against Latvia meant something to Goran, knowing Kristaps Porzingis was the reason he didn't make the playoffs, so he got him back -- Timmy.

A: Of all of Goran's driving factors, I doubt a late-season Heat loss to the Knicks and Porzingis was what fueled him while wearing Slovenia's national colors. Goran's sense of national pride has been evident from the moment his team first took the court in Finland for the opening round of EuroBasket. Knowing that this will be his final run with the national team has provided all the fuel required. And I'm not sure, as Erik Spoelstra noted, that any single loss kept the Heat from the playoffs -- more like starting 11-30.

Q: Without superstars, it comes down to high energy, collective effort. That is how the Heat accomplished 30-11 in the second half of last season. -- P.F.

A: But it's one thing to do it when some teams are tanking for the lottery, some teams are resting for the playoffs, and some teams aren't taking you seriously after an 11-30 first half of the season. As sustained as 30-11 was, it also wasn't enough to make the playoffs in a league where 16 of the 30 teams do just that. Yes, you can still make the playoffs without a superstar, or even an All-Star, but it also means no one on the roster taking nights off. That's a grueling way to succeed, when a superstar isn't there for the heavy lifting. That's also the road the Heat have chosen. So what will be the biggest game of the season for the Heat? Whichever game is next on their schedule.

September 12, 2017

Q: If Justise Winslow isn't able to beat out Rodney McGruder and Josh Richardson with ease, why are we keeping him? He has more talent than both of them put together. If he can't use that talent and beat out the 40th pick in the same draft as him and a former D-League player, we don't need him. At some point having talent is meaningless if you go long enough without utilizing it, and we're almost at that point for Justise. -- Nico, Charlotte.

A: But starting isn't about having your five best players on the court. It's about chemistry. And with James Johnson so integral to the Heat's success over last season's final 41 games, and with 3-point shooting so essential to the starting group, it could be that Justise winds up best paired with Kelly Olynyk in a second unit. It is interesting that we haven't heard anything about a Richardson extension at a time the Heat have to decide about the next stage of Winslow's contract, as if weighing those two options collectively. Nonetheless, I believe the Heat continue to take a long view with Winslow, which has to be the approach with a 21-year-old.

Q: Let's play the what-if game: If the Heat struggle out of the gate once again, let's say not because of talent but because of injuries like last year, does Pat Riley get impatient? Does he begin trading his pieces off come trade deadline or let them play it out like last time with the hopes we would still have a better chance at a final playoff spot because of more bad teams this year? -- Karl, Fort Myers.

A: First, if we're playing the what-if game, then what if the Heat get off to a solid start, could Riley then look to move spare parts for yet another component for the moment? (Sorry, but had to go there, in fairness, since we don't know how the season will start.) As to your point, yes, with the commitment to Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside during contract years over the past two seasons, I believe there will be an expectation of satisfactory early results -- or else all bets will be off. The patience came over the second half of last season. But there is a statute of limitations when it comes to the eventual goal of consistent victory.

Q: Hassan Whiteside has led the league in blocks and rebounding, yet he is still not consistently ranked as a top-five center in the NBA. What can Hassan improve upon, in order for him to be considered one of the NBA's best centers? Is his lack of recognition a matter of his team's success (or lack thereof, with Hassan as leading man), or is there still work to be done as far as his personal game is concerned? -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: First, based on the Heat's ensemble approach, I'm not sure the Heat necessarily want Hassan chasing individual recognition. What he needs, more than any factor, is consistency, game to game, quarter to quarter, minute to minute. If the best of Hassan turns into more than a sometimes thing, then I believe his rating among the league's limited pool of elite centers will rise organically. What there can't be, as there still have been, are those moments during games when Heat fans wonder, "What's going on with Hassan?"

September 11, 2017

Q: I know its early and Erik Spoelstra never sets a rotation, but could you see him putting Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic together? Could you image the terror that lineup would cause defensively if Winslow improves his shot and Bam is free to switch and roam around the perimeter? -- Ricky, Dallas.

A: Could Spoelstra get to it at some point? Certainly. The Heat utilized upwards of 250 five-player combinations last season. But what I can tell you is there will be no starting lineup without Dion Waiters, not for what the Heat invested in the offseason. Then there is the Adebayo portion of the equation. While he set up as a rotation player before the Kelly Olynyk acquisition, I'm not sure that still is the case. The Heat played Willie Reed nominally last season, to the point where he became a free-agency afterthought. There possibly are at least 10 players ahead of Adebayo in the Heat rotation at this point, when counting Whiteside, James Johnson, Winslow, Dragic, Waiters, Olynyk, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and perhaps Rodney McGruder and Wayne Ellington.

Q: Why do people even think Dwyane Wade would be a good fit here? The Heat have 75 shooting guards. Goran Dragic, Wade and Dion Waiters can't play together. -- Ivan.

A: Actually, part of the issue is whether Wade and Dragic can play together, in light of how Goran finally flourished last season in the wake of Dwyane's free-agency departure last summer. If Dwyane were to return, I am sure that Erik Spoelstra would find a way to make it work, with Dwyane still a productive presence. But, again, all of this remains speculation, with Wade still under contract and therefore under Bulls control.

Q: With all the talks of this roster, trades, Dwyane Wade's potential buyout, etc. one thing I have yet to see addressed are the new Nike uniforms for the Heat. Obviously, that is a minor concern in comparison, but with teams already releasing Classic Edition uniforms, I'm anxious to see what is in store. Any idea on when those will be released? Thanks. -- A.J. Des Moines, Iowa.

A: I've been told part of the reason for the delay could be the decision on whether to release an advertising patch with the release of the jerseys, which will include a throwback version to the team's inaugural season in 1988-89. First-round pick Bam Adebayo already has been photographed during the rookie symposium in one of this coming season's uniforms, which is almost identical to what the Heat wore last season.

September 10, 2017

Q: Ira, based on your educated guess, where would Dwyane Wade end up after his probable buyout: Miami or Cleveland? -- Masoud, Tucson.

A: To me it becomes a factor of . . . when. If Cleveland winds up getting solid play from Derrick Rose and Jeff Green, and if Isaiah Thomas is back earlier rather than later in the season, then I think you have to consider chemistry before making a move. Plus, I'm not sure at this stage that playing as a fourth-string guard would be Wade's preference. By contrast, if the Cavaliers prove to need additional backcourt support, perhaps if Iman Shumpert is traded, then that is a different story. The timing of when Wade is set free from the Bulls, if at all, likely will play a significant factor in his landing spot. Similarly, if the Heat are in contention when/if Wade is bought out by the Bulls, then do you look at him further bolstering the core, or compromising the core? "When" matters in this case.

Q: The only positive for Miami that I can see with Dwyane Wade is Wade helps Dion Waiters improve in certain areas of his game. -- Willy.

A: And we already know that Dion has said he would embrace a Wade return. Plus, recall that it was Wade who took Justise Winslow aside during Winslow's rookie season to tutor him on undersized post-up play. Still, I can't see Dwyane, after a productive season last season, settling into a Udonis Haslem type of role solely as a non-playing uniformed mentor.

Q: Miami needs to move on from Dwyane Wade. They're not competing for a championship. Let the young players develop. -- J.B.

A: And that's the question: Is there a need for development of young players? Are Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson who they are going to be going forward, or are minutes critical to their development? The same could be said for Rodney McGruder, or even Justise Winslow on the wing. In other words, could you carve out 18 to 20 minutes a game for Dwyane Wade without retarding the development of your potential longer-term components? In other words, it is the rare case where a team has to prioritize sentimentality.

September 9, 2017

Q: All the buyout talk with Dwyane Wade doesn't make sense unless it happens soon. -- Morris.

A: While it would be nothing like had Kyrie Irving reported to Cavaliers camp, it certainly will be awkward to have a 35-year-old impending Hall of Famer report to a rebuilding team with eyes more on the future than the present. But, again, it all comes down to how much either the Bulls or Wade are willing to concede to end their $23.8 million 2017-18 relationship. And usually when it comes to a battle of wills in the NBA, it become a protracted battle. Still, Dwyane did acknowledge during his appearance at the Hall of Fame that his goal is to be in a competitive state as his career winds down. So that begs the question of whether the Heat would be deemed to be in such a state. We know that there is considerable distance between the Cavaliers, Warriors and the rest of the league. And there is a next tier that includes the Rockets, Spurs and perhaps even Celtics and Timberwolves before you reach the Heat's tier. So for all the considerations about a clean career finish in South Florida, it is possible that other locations could prove more desirable. But he also said that if there is not another championship moment, there also is a feeling of contentment having won three and been to five finals. Basically, in light of these latest comments, it is hard to fathom Dwyane finishing the season in Chicago. So until a move is made and a new landing spot is decided, a Wade reunion in South Florida certainly will remain a legitimate source of discussion.

Q: Wade will head to Miami on his last year when he's ready to retire. Until then, he's making more stops on other teams. -- P.F.

A: And based on the aforementioned comments about playing for a contender, you're probably right, with friends such as LeBron James and Chris Paul better positioned in 2017-18 for a title run. But I do believe that if there is another stop before a Miami return that it will somewhat tarnish his image as South Florida's own, as was the case with Dan Marino (and even Udonis Haslem). The irony is that if Dwyane does return in 2017-18 (or later) for a final go-round with the Heat, it could come in the roster spot currently being held by his close friend Haslem.

Q: I'm buying tickets to Istanbul for the EuroBasket finals. This will be a historic tournament for Goran Dragic and Slovenia, mark my words. -- Tony.

A: Considering how Goran and his national team went 5-0 during pool play, in a pool that also included France and Greece, I would not downplay at least a run to the tournament's Final Four. Next up on Saturday is a Ukraine team that lacks a single NBA player. After that, it could be Kristaps Porzingis and Latvia in the quarterfinals, or Nikola Vucevic and Montenegro. From there you're talking about a semifinal that could be against Spain, Turkey or Germany. I do wonder if the Heat have mixed feelings, since a run to the championship game will keep Goran involved until Sept. 17, with Heat camp opening Sept. 26.

September 8, 2017

Q: Am I the only one who thinks Cleveland got better and Boston not so much? Healthy Isaiah Thomas is on par with Kyrie Irving. You add Derrick Rose who's better than Deron Williams, and you add Jae Crowder and Jeff Green, whereas Boston took a step backwards. Like I said, I.T. and Kyrie are equal, but you lose Avery Bradley and Crowder. My whole purpose to that is pretty much saying, I believe Miami can actually be as high as No. 2 in the East as we've had Washington's number lately and Toronto has lost an edge. I like our chances against Cleveland if it came to that. -- Marc, Grand Prairie, Texas.

A: But you failed to mention Gordon Hayward with the Celtics (perhaps selective Heat amnesia?). I agree that Cleveland has not lost much, if any, ground, provided Isaiah Thomas doesn't miss the season's most important games. And I believe Derrick Rose will be better with the Cavs than the Knicks. I also agree about the added benefits with Jae Crowder, but am not sure that Jeff Green still is even a thing in today's NBA. As for your Heat optimism, I agree that Washington might be getting too much hype for a team that has created a Big Three of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter (should a trio like that even be considered a Big Three?). And Toronto is basically the same as it ever was, a team that goes as far as DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry take it. Still, with LeBron-Isaiah, Hayward-Kyrie and Wall-Beal, does the Heat even have a single player better than any of the top two on any of those three teams?

Q: Ira, anyone on the Heat that might pry that Brooklyn pick from the Cavs? Are we sure we're in a win-now mode? They sure are. -- Jason.

A: The unprotected Nets 2018 first-round pick that Cleveland acquired in the Irving trade was the reason that deal got done. There is no way that the Cavaliers do anything with that pick until they find out if LeBron is staying beyond this season. If he offers those words, then, yes, I could see Cleveland moving that pick. I'm not sure, though, that anyone on the Heat roster short of Hassan Whiteside would allow the Heat to even enter such a discussion. For now, that draft pick is the key for Cleveland to potentially salvaging a LeBron-less future.

Q: Stop with the trade-Hassan Whiteside questions. He's not going anywhere. People just don't seem to get it. -- Robert.

A: Nor has it been suggested anywhere that the Heat ever have put Hassan into play since he signed his four-year, $98 million contract in the 2016 offseason. But when so many big names have been dangled out there, such as Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving, you have to recognize that it often takes a star to get a star. So if you're asking if Hassan essentially holds a no-trade clause, I wouldn't go that far. In Pat Riley's word, everyone has a price.

September 7, 2017

Q: Larry Drew II is like the Eddie House of the exhibition season. -- Steve.

A: You mean the Eddie House the Heat once kept on their roster in place of Patrick Beverley? I doubt that happens this time around, Drew earning a roster spot ahead of one of the Heat's developing players. But the signing makes sense for training camp considering how deep into EuroBasket that Goran Dragic will be playing, now at least until three weeks before training camp, with Slovenia having advanced to Saturday's start of that knockout round, in the round of 16. Extra bodies for training camp are good, although I still would expect the Heat to continue to experiment with Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson at the point during the six exhibitions. The commitment to Drew, as much as anything, is a commitment to those who have committed themselves to the Heat organization, as Drew has with his stints with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. When it comes to roster longshots, Larry would appear as much a longshot as any of the 18 currently on the Heat camp roster.

Q: The Heat's two-way contracts will come in handier than believed, because a week off for weary 30-year-olds Goran Dragic and James Johnson comes in handy. This gives maybe extra week to completely heal. -- Leonard, Charlotte.

A: I'm not sure that necessarily will be the approach with the Heat's two two-way contracts, with one already going to Derrick Walton Jr. and the other likely to go to 3-point specialist Matt Williams Jr. I believe the emphasis there will be on development, likely with the work to come with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. But by already having young, developmental players in the pipeline, it makes it easier to carry other veterans on the roster, such as Udonis Haslem. I do, however, believe that both of the Heat's two-way players, whoever they turn out to be, will receive all or close to all of the 45 allowed days on the Heat's NBA roster, if only to allow them to maximize their earning potential and show future two-way players that the Heat are willing to go to the maximum $275,000 for such deals.

Q: Why is it so hard to believe that a team that's run well from top to bottom, full of talent and starting to come into its own like Dion Waiters, a guy who I think is going to be a breakout star, can't go for it all? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.

A: Because NBA success is measured partly off an 82-game full-season sample size, not just 41 games, but mostly by the ability to thrive in the playoffs. That is something we still don't know about this roster. It is why a playoff berth would have been so meaningful last season and has to be added to the equation this season. We know this roster can succeed over a 41-game regular-season span. But, for the moment, that's all we know.

September 6, 2017

Q: What would it take to make this Heat team a contender in the Eastern Conference? Hassan Whiteside becoming a legitimate All-Star and All-Defensive player? One of the Heat's young players -- Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, etc. -- emerging as a legitimate star? Goran Dragic taking his game to another level? Or are the Heat simply capped at being a middling team? -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: By contender, I'll assume you mean playoff contender, because this team, as built, certainly could challenge for an upper playoff seed based on the regular-season commitment shown over last season's final three months. To your point, I believe it has to be what it has been since the 2015 and '16 offseasons: greatness, sustained greatness, by Whiteside and Dragic, getting the Heat back to a center-point guard combination similar to what the Heat offered with Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. Yes, James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk are being paid considerable wages, but I believe their prime function is to complement Whiteside and Dragic. So what you're really asking is about the upside of Whiteside and Dragic. Dragic has already shown the ability to play at an All-NBA level and this summer is looking sharp at EuroBasket. So the ball may be in Hassan's court.

Q: Ira, while I agree that we must see improvement from Justise Winslow this season, those saying he must have a breakout year or he's a bust need to pipe down. Look for incremental improvements. He's coming off an injury and he just turned 21 in March. Compare that to James Johnson, who only now just realized his potential in his 30s. Relax people.  -- Gabriel, Miami.

A: Justise certainly has moved into "most polarizing" territory with the Heat's fan base, but I believe that is more a function of being drafted at No. 10, with the Heat lacking the draft resources to continually restock in that manner. Even the Warriors -- with no disrespect toward Zaza Pachulia -- don't have All-Stars at every position. What you want to field, however, at least is NBA-level talent at every starting position, with minimal flaws. Because that's what the NBA is all about, seizing upon opponents' weaknesses. The less Justise gives opponents to "seize," the better off the Heat will be, and the quieter the skeptics will be.

Q: I ain't even worried about Cavs now. -- Dacota.

A: I get the feeling there will be a similar impression around the league during the regular season, which has been of only nominal interest to LeBron James even before the Kyrie Irving trade.  But the Cavs will be -- and with LeBron always have been -- a different playoff team. Not only could I seed Cleveland finish No. 2 in the East during the regular season, I could see the Cavs potentially fall to No. 3 or No. 4, particularly depending on the health of Isaiah Thomas. But I guarantee that if you polled the other teams at season's end about which team they would least prefer to play on the playoffs, it would be Cleveland.

September 5, 2017

Q: Do sportswriters, media commentators, bloggers and "experts" unfairly create reputations, good and bad, that brand a player's career? Many think we should have picked Devin Booker, not Justise Winslow. But Booker, the 3-point wonder, shot a mediocre .363 from 3, ranking him in a tie for 87th in the NBA. Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Luke Babbitt were better, and Booker is a poor defensive player. This last year virtually the Heat's entire roster were branded as misfits, castoffs and middling journeymen but despite a great finish stretch last season are picked to post virtually the same record this year. My point is too much is vested in star saviors and too quickly we cycle through players with unrealized upsides because the wise men say so. The Heat seem to have a reputation for bucking popular opinion and doing it their own way. -- Jack, Fort Myers.

A: As often is the case, what tends to become imprinted in memory are an athlete's best moments, not necessarily the overall body of work. So, in this case, you're talking about a player who scored 70 points in an NBA game -- 70! (It was, of course, in a loss, but that easily becomes glossed over.) Again, when the Heat were drafting in 2015, they had Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and greater concerns than a pure scorer. What I can't do is sit here and tell you that Justise Winslow is better than Devin Booker. What I can say is that at 21 and with only 1 1/2 seasons of NBA experience, there still is plenty of time and room for Justise to emerge as something greater than we've seen at this point. What has to come first, though, is the point you raise, the ceasing of comparison to other players. That part of the equation doesn't and can't matter. We're not redrafting 2015, not going back knowing the eventual fates with Wade and Bosh. So, instead, ask this question: Which player is more likely to contribute to a playoff contender -- Justise Winslow or Devin Booker? That essential answer is one we still lack.

Q: Rodney Stuckey? -- Ryan, Atlanta.

A: Yes, I've seen where the free-agent guard is taking visits in search of a 2017-18 landing spot, most likely at the NBA minimum salary or a piece of a team's exception (both of which the Heat still maintain). But keep in mind that Stuckey is now 31, having been sidelined last season by foot and knee issues, waived in March by the Pacers and unclaimed since. Usually such players are seeking landing spots where they can play themselves back into a steady salary. I'm not sure there would be such an opportunity on the Heat's guard-heavy roster. Basically, I'd counter with this: Would you rather, this season, see Rodney Stuckey on the court for the Heat, or Rodney McGruder or Wayne Ellington?

Q: "If a video-game ranking impacts your NBA play, then you're probably not cut out for this line of work. And if you're going to stress about video games as an NBA player . . . then switch to Madden or FIFA." That quote is like saying if grades in college stress you out, then you're not cut out for college, and find another line of work. Take up a line of work where there is no stress and you never get ranked, rated or receive grades on your skill level. Settle for lowest lifestyle possible, so as to never have to worry ever again about people judging you. Simulations are neutral: depends how a person uses them.  NBA2K18 is neutral: depends how the player perceives their ratings. The wise player uses the ratings on how to help the team win games, e.g. improving shot selection, or knowing the opponent's weaknesses and exploiting them. I don't agree the statement that ratings or grades have no place in a professional's career, and have professionals totally ignore them because it would stress them out. Doctors, lawyers, movies get rated on their performances all the time. Ratings give a gauge of a professional's strengths and weaknesses, which he could use to improve his level of performance. The player chooses how to use the rating system: the system itself can be used or abused. -- Leonard, Charlotte.

A: I never said that metrics and analytics aren't significant in how a player is evaluated. They are. And teams spend hundreds of thousands on such studies (and on employees charged with producing such metrics). Those proprietary analytics are shared directly (and confidentially) with the players. And those matter -- a lot. Not some sit-in-your-underwear-and-play-video-game ratings. The next NBA executive who says video-game ratings are part of their player evaluations will soon be known as a former NBA executive. Yes, NASA types, doctors, professionals get rated by significant analytics and metrics. But I doubt those studies include Mario and Wario.

September 4, 2017

Q: As a longtime Heat observer, it struck me that the most under-appreciated aspect of last season's turnaround was the outside shooting of Wayne Ellington. I think he really helped Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters by spreading the floor and distracting defenders with his constant motion. -- Scott, Palmetto Bay.

A: But he also got those opportunities because of the injuries and lost time for Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and even Dion. So if you are putting aside minutes in the perimeter rotation for Goran Dragic, Dion, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow, what does that leave for Wayne? And that's not even getting to any potential minutes for Rodney McGruder. I would expect Wayne to be considered a specialist by Erik Spoelstra, with his unique skill set. So the question becomes how much time can there be in a rotation for a specialist? One answer could be more minutes for Winslow in the power rotation, but that could mean few for Bam Adebayo, when also considering power-rotation minutes needed for Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk.

Q: I am dumbfounded. It doesn't make sense to me. If it makes sense to you, Ira, please clarify: "The Heat paid the Mavericks $5.1 million to take Josh McRoberts off their hands, at the cost of absorbing center A.J. Hammons' $1.3 million 2017-18 salary." They paid near the equivalent of McRoberts's salary to Billionaire Mark Cuban to get rid of the guy, when he finally was healthy and a 7-footer. Why not keep the man and pay this money to him and have this tall and smart guy on your roster? Paying his salary, but not have him!? This is in addition to paying 1.3 million to Hammons, whom they will never use. --Masoud, Tuscon, Ariz.

A: The simple answer rests in the question above: Had the Heat not unloaded Josh's salary, they would not have been able to retain Wayne Ellington. Yes, they probably could have "stretched" Josh by this past Thursday's deadline and tinkered with the contracts of Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk to make that math work, but sometimes you have to move forward. As listed above, if Justise Winslow plays more in the power rotation -- along with Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Olynyk and Bam Adebayo -- where would the minutes have been for McRoberts, anyway?

Q: Why are people obsessed with making this team out to be more than it is? A fun, competitive team, but stop expecting a Finals trip. Enjoy it. -- Gabriel, Miami

A: I don't think anyone is doing that. And without landing a star in the offseason, I think just making the playoffs would be a satisfying result for just about all involved. And that will be essential when getting a read on whether the games of James Johnson, Dion Waiters and others on the roster translate into the postseason.

September 3, 2017

Q: Hi, Ira. I'll be honest with you as a long-time season-ticket holder, it is do or die for Justise Winslow. This year for me will define whether he is a star or just a 3-and-D guy or maybe not even that. The problem is we have a similar player already in James Johnson who is exhibiting star-like potential. Will Winslow fade into Erik Spoelstra's bench if he cannot hit a three? -- Jeremy, Miami.

A: Erik Spoelstra often talks about finding the right game for a player, as in to create a role that maximizes a skill set. By now the Heat know what Winslow is, or at least what he could be. So an argument could be made that the challenge now belongs as much to Spoelstra as Winslow. Could, for example, Justise be utilized as more of a roll man alongside an outside-shooting big man, perhaps Kelly Olynyk or James Johnson? Or might he get back to the style that had him playing along the baseline, to compensate for his lack of outside shooting? Winslow's level of success could come down to Spoelstra finding the needed complementary lineup combinations. It will be interesting to see the syllabus and Spoelstra School.  

Q: It seems like Goran Dragic is getting better with age. -- A.B.

A: And yet, while Goran followed up his opening 30-point performance in EuroBasket against Poland with a 29-point effort Saturday against host Finland, it was curious how in his postgame media session he said that he was limited to five second-half points because of tired legs. That's the last thing you want to hear in early September when training camp opens at the end of the month.

Q: NBA2K may be only a video game, but it's a reality check some players refuse to accept. -- Leonard, Charlotte.

A: I really, really hope not. If a video-game ranking impacts your NBA play, then you're probably not cut out for this line of work. And if you're going to stress about video games as an NBA player . . . then switch to Madden or FIFA.

September 2, 2017

Q: Tony Allen, Beno Udrih or Deron Williams could be nice and cheap pick-ups for the Heat. Same for David Lee, Mike Dunleavy and Boris Diaw -- M.G.

A: This came in response to my posting of the list of the top unsigned free agents. Those players, of course, are unsigned for a reason, most because they are well into the backstretch of their careers. On one hand, it would not surprise me for the Heat to take advantage of the desperation of those situations to see if one of the aforementioned names, or perhaps another unsigned free agent, is willing to sign for the minimum. On the other hand, such a move would require the Heat to eat a degree of guaranteed money, be it the partial guarantee for Okaro White or the full minimum-scale salary of A.J. Hammons (a player I'm still not sure fills more of a need than one already served: easing the offloading of Josh McRoberts). The thing is, for such a veteran to sign for the minimum would mean trying to revive a career, and I'm not sure that the minutes would be there for players such as Lee, Dunleavy or Diaw. The exception (yes, I know, I've gone here before) would be at point guard, where I'm still not sold on the Heat having an alternative for the games that Goran Dragic might miss. (And, yes, one of the workout videos posted recently by Beno Udrih showed him working out in Miami.)

Q: When are we going to start making real moves and start being relevant? -- Luis.

A: The next time, I think, the Heat go all-in is when they truly believe there is a path to the NBA Finals. For now, I think you sit back and see how things shake out in Cleveland and Boston. If LeBron James departs in the offseason, then everything changes for the Cavaliers. And for all the talent amassed by the Celtics, will they lose the defensive grit that made them so effective last season? Until then (although I'm sure the Heat would never articulate this), I think the goal is to try push into the conference top four and therefore get homecourt advantage in at least one round of the playoffs. I believe the Heat already think they are capable of such a goal with this roster. At worst, try to at least get to the No. 6 seed to avoid the Cavaliers and Celtics in the first round.

Q: I can't blame Kyrie Irving. It was time for him to move on for better or worse. -- P.F.

A: And yet watching Friday's press conference in Boston, it was as if Kyrie was saying he felt smothered in Cleveland alongside LeBron James. It got me to wonder whether others felt that way alongside LeBron with the Heat, or whether that was the difference between how Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra handled the situation in Miami compared to what Dan Gilbert orchestrated (or failed to orchestrate) in Cleveland.

September 1, 2017

Q: EuroBasket is better than people know, fast and physical, a lot of 3-poiners anywhere. Good for The Dragon. -- Jack.

A: Look, I'm never going to overstate scoring 30 points against the Polish national team to anything close to NBA competition, but Goran Dragic looked good in Slovenia's tournament-opening victory in EuroBasket (for those asking, ESPN is streaming the games online). The one thing about Goran is that when he plays, he goes hard. All the time. The hope has to be that he does not arrive to camp worn down, with only a two-week turnaround to the start of camp should Slovenia make it to the final stages. I do believe that is why it is important the Heat have other options at point guard for drill work during camp and exhibitions. Derrick Walton Jr. could help in that regard, as will Tyler Johnson. But I do wonder if the Heat will attempt to play Josh Richardson more often at small forward going forward than the experimentation at point guard. As for Dragic, the early-round schedule for Slovenia is relatively tame, save for the opening-round games against France and Green. Host Finland is up next on Saturday.

Q: That 2020 second-round pick via Miami that Boston sent to Cleveland to complete the Kyrie Irving trade will probably be like around 50th in the draft, equivalent to a bag of chips. -- P.F.

A: I'm not so sure, since that would mean having one of the 10 best records in the NBA in 2019-20. Remember, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic have player options for the 2019 offseason. And by then the Heat will have had to make decisions on Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and Rodney McGruder. So I'm not sure what it might look like then, with the Heat's 2018 first-round pick also due to the Suns. Plus, there is the question of Pat Riley's long-term stewardship. But it also is moot, since the Heat dealt that pick in 2015 to Boston. As it is, the Heat have operated under the belief that they can identify and develop undrafted talent, with a solid history in that regard.

Q: Does the Lakers' $500,000 tampering fine make it easier for the Heat to sign Paul George next summer? -- Sean.

A: First, the Heat likely will not have the salary-cap means for such a move (although plenty could change in that regard, if needed). But, no, the NBA's tampering sanction did not also include a ban on George-Lakers negotiations going forward. So we'll first have to see how the season plays out for George in Oklahoma City. But even with that fine, the Lakers remain a frontrunner to lure George during 2018 free agency, particularly if it comes at LeBron James' behest as a plus-one.

August 31, 2017

Q: Next summer, LeBron James, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook and Zach LaVine are all free-agents. But Pat Riley is selling "culture" over superstars. If LeBron and Paul George wanted to come to Miami next summer, Pat Riley would have a hard time trying to trade Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk. -- Aura.

A: First, Pat has shown that when there is an obtainable asset, he plans for the future. There was a reason the Heat had all that cap space in the 2010 offseason when James and Chris Bosh jumped aboard. And it's not as if the Heat went into this summer unaware of what could be available next summer. But there also has to be a common-sense, risk-reward assessment, not to put a team on hold because of what might happen. LeBron looks like an either-or decision with the Cavaliers or Lakers. George sure looks headed to the Lakers, unless the Thunder can change his mind. To hold cap space for next summer would have meant doing nothing with Waiters and Johnson, who assuredly would have received multiyear deals elsewhere. So he acted in the moment. And yet, based  on some of the Heat's remarkable maneuvering, including avoid the repeater luxury tax, I'm not sure there is any team better equipped to get itself out of a box if the right move comes along. Because I'm not sure there is a single "untradeable" contract on this roster. Especially if those players play up to their contracts.

Q: This roster is middle of the road. Not a contender at all. -- Ed.

A: Here's one thing about "the road." In order to get to the top you have to pass through the middle along the way. For a team that missed the playoffs last season and two of the past three years, for a team that had to deal with three seasons of uncertainty with Chris Bosh, "middle of the road" would be a good place to start, getting back to the playoffs, perhaps contending for homecourt in the first round, but at least avoiding Boston and Cleveland in the first round. And this hardly is a forever roster. Based on option decisions by Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, this team could undergo a massive makeover as soon as the 2019 offseason.

Q: For those players who didn't get their 2K rating as high as they wanted, they will just have to work that much harder on the court. Simple as that. -- P.F.

A: Now that is a scary thought, that NBA players, earning countless millions and with responsibilities to teammates, could actually prioritize video-game rankings during actual games. I'm not sure, even as players lament such ratings, whether it ever conceivably could reach that point. I would love to be a fly on the wall for the first player to walk into Pat Riley's Bayfront office grousing about his lack of opportunities to increase his 2K rating. Then again, I'm not sure I would want to be on that wall when Pat's head explodes.

August 30, 2017

Q: Bet the over. -- Steve.

Q: Definitely taking the over. -- Samuel.

Q: Easy $$. 50plus wins. -- Stephen.

Q: Over, easily. We are so slept on. -- B-Mac.

Q: Where can I bet the over? -- T.J.

Q: Take the over. -- Phil.

Q: NBA is in for a rude awakening, that's all I'm gonna say. -- J.Z.

A: These were among the responses to the Tuesday release of the 2017-18 NBA over-under totals for regular-season victories by the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, with the Heat coming in at 43 1/2. While that would represent a net gain on last season's 41-41 record, there also was the matter of the 30-11 record over the second half of last season, with much of last season's roster to return. On one hand, the total, based on the rest of Westgate's projections, would place the Heat at No. 6 in the East, which likely would mean avoiding Cleveland and Boston in the first round of the playoffs. On the other hand, if the record proves to only be 43-39 or 44-38, I believe that would be quite a letdown that, for lack of a better phrase other than to borrow from Dion Waiters, would not exactly be what would be expected for a team that bet on its returning roster and doubled down. And yet, I know better than to doubt the wise guys, with the range of somewhere between 42 and 45 seeming about right for the coming season, with all due respect with those with visions of something closer to 50.

Q: Pat Riley might draw the line, but he has a giant eraser. -- Daniel.

A: This came in response to Tuesday's post, which began with a question of whether the Heat have gone all-in with this roster, with further tinkering unlikely. To that extent, I think you put it well. While Pat Riley tends to put great faith and trust in his rosters, he also tends to look above his players' heads to see who also is entering the room, as the Heat did when Kyrie Irving hit the market. While it doesn't look like another big fish is about to float by, Riley tends to keep his net within arm's reach, with the best of the free-agent market now down to the likes of Tony Allen, Shabazz Muhammad and David Lee.

Q: Great news for Heat that Goran Dragic is retiring from international competition. The older he gets, he doesn't need that season prep. -- Pat.

A: Except he was at his best from the start of the season after last summer's work with the Slovenian national team, so we have to see how he comes out of EuroBasket next month. But you are probably right, that at 31 year-round basketball is probably not the optimal approach. Then again, the Heat soon could have to make a decision about his durability and longevity, with Goran eligible for free agency in the 2019 offseason, if he opts out of the final season of his contract.

August 29, 2017

Q: Why are Heat fans obsessed with trades now? All we wanted was to keep the team together and try to continue last season's second-half success, and now we're constantly trying to come up with trade scenarios. -- David, Boynton Beach.

A: Because that's what front-office types are charged to do, to seek out any and all possibilities and give them consideration. Anything short of that would be dereliction of duty. So when Kyrie Irving came on the market, any responsible executive had to ask whether there was the possibility to make his team better. Even the same with Carmelo Anthony. Most of the time the answer is no. But then you see trades like the one that sent Paul George to Oklahoma City and it makes you wonder whether your team could have/should have trumped such an offer. As the Celtics showed, a team's allegiance has to be to the team and perhaps the fan base. Because for as much as Heat fans may have taken to the possibilities of Don Waiters, James Johnson and last season's core, the objective for teams, just as it has to be for players, is to improve and evolve. That's why you have to keep an open mind. That's not being "obsessed." It's being "aware."

Q: People please stop the Tyler Johnson hate. Last summer once Dwyane Wade flew the coop, signing Tyler Johnson became priority No. 1 for Pat Riley. And he got his man at a price that may seem high, but spread out over the period is not bad at all. T.J. is a superb combo guard and a great and valuable catalyst who is under-appreciated. He also still has more room to grow. To me he is like a bouncier Manu Ginobili and he can be a key element in this team if he blossoms beyond skeptics' visions. -- Tito, Miami.

A: I'm not sure there has been a more polarizing Heat player in recent years, but what I am sure is it is all about the contract. What would quiet any ongoing concern? If this Heat roster, as constructed, can prove it can endure as a successful group for the next three seasons. Then there would be no concern about Tyler's looming cap hits. What don't agree with is the notion that Tyler should be dealt simply to lose his 2018-19 and '19-20 cap numbers. That is too severe considering what the team put into his development.

Q: Should Udonis Haslem's jersey be retired before Dwyane Wade's? -- Marc, Grand Prairie, Texas.

A: Logically, no. But it could become a factor of how long each continues to play, with Dwyane likely to play more coming seasons. It also could be a factor of whether Dwyane opts to play for multiple other teams than the Dolphins, which might lessen ties, although that did not prove to necessarily be the case with Jason Taylor, with those stops with the Redskins and Jets. In a way, I was surprised that Shaquille O'Neal's jersey was retired before Dwyane's. Again, timing is the factor, including how long Pat Riley remains in the front office.

August 28, 2017

Q: Ira, I have a feeling Pat Riley intended what we are witnessing with the Heat, a young healthy core of players with tremendous upside and believe it or not more continuity (time playing together) than both top Eastern Conference contenders: Boston and Cleveland. Riley also picked up some fabulous talent from Boston in Kelly Olynyk and now Jordan Mickey. I don't want to be too optimistic but it feels like the Heat are poised to be in the top four teams along with Toronto, Cleveland and Boston and with a young core of players in the mold of Golden State playing together. We're talking crazy upside potential, maybe top two. -- Alejandro, Mexico City.

A: I wouldn't go that far, only because if this was the ultimate end game there wouldn't have been such a over-the-top pitch for Gordon Hayward. And I'm also not ready to go as far as calling Kelly Olynyk as a "fabulous" talent, let alone Jordan Mickey. But, putting all of that aside, there is plenty to be said about continuity. As Tyler Johnson said, Pat Riley stood committed to this core at last season's trading deadline, so now might be the time for his players to repay that trust. The good thing for you is that we should know by the Heat's Dec. 9 visit to Mexico City whether this team can pick up where it left off last season.

Q: Any chance we can convince the Cavaliers to swap Iman Shumpert for Tyler Johnson? They have a better chance of trading his contract when it balloons with the allure of picks and other assets they have. -- Bryan, Kissimmee.

A: Keep in mind that Shumpert also has an $11 million player option for 2018-19, in addition to this coming season's $10.3 million salary. So you're basically talking about a deal that is a year shorter than Tyler's. Cleveland, by contrast, might be looking for salary relief after this season should LeBron James leave, so I'm not sure they would want to get caught with Tyler's balloon payments, which could put the Cavaliers' luxury tax into the stratosphere is LeBron stays. I do, however, agree, that Tyler's salary structure puts him more at risk for a trade than if it had been a flat $12.5 million for each of the four seasons.

Q: Ira, the addition of Jordan Mickey might mean a trade package is brewing with the possibility of a potential Dwyane Wade buyout. -- Luchey.

A: No, I believe the Mickey signing was a standalone move, the Heat finding someone intriguing enough to guarantee the minimum salary. Plus, it’s not as if the Heat have much else tradable in their power rotation, perhaps with the exception of A.J. Hammons, who appears superfluous at the moment.

August 27, 2017

Q: Ira, Dallas didn't blink with Nerlens Noel and now has him back for one year at $4.1 million. Shouldn't the Heat have done the same with Tyler Johnson last summer? -- Chris.

A: Apples and oranges. There was so much cap space available in the 2016 offseason, that there was no way Johnson was going to go without an offer sheet, which proved to be the case for Noel this summer. Keep in mind, as well, that the Mavericks reportedly offered Noel $70 million over four seasons at the start of free agency, $20 million more than Johnson received in his offer sheet from the Nets. As a bunch of free agents learned this summer, this 2017 free-agent market is nothing like the 2016 market. The Heat had to make a call whether Johnson was worth $50 million over four seasons, or lose him for nothing in return. What should not and cannot be overlooked is that Tyler Johnson is an essential component of a rotation for a Heat team that has put itself in win-now mode. If he players up to the totality of his contract, it becomes a win-win investment for both sides.

Q: Caron Butler and Ray Allen, among other NBA players, came out this past week and talked about the hypocrisy when it comes to the standard players are held to regarding team loyalty. You have to admit the Celtics trading Isaiah Thomas is shocking.  This guy single handily carried the Celtics. Maybe the Celtics will get hit with a new curse of the Bambino. -- Stuart.

A: Which is why it is important for outsiders (and perhaps even insiders) not to get caught up in the notion of team "family." Caron Butler was with the Heat just two seasons before he was dealt in the Shaquille O'Neal deal (and Lamar Odom only one). Ray Allen faced the possibility of being traded by the Celtics before he moved on to the Heat. And yet fans want their teams to win more than they are concerned about the future addresses of their players. If a general manager isn't looking to create the best possible roster, then he is not doing his job. The Celtics thought they were better with Kyrie Irving than Isaiah Thomas. Those are the decisions executives have to make. But don't sell "family" when constantly mulling divorce options.

Q: The Heat could possibly have a lot of lucrative pieces come the trade deadline or even next offseason. Keep an eye on LaMarcus Aldridge as the Spurs risk losing their disgruntled star for nothing.  -- Gabriel, Miami.

A: But mostly keep an eye on if this team, kept largely intact, can pick up where it left off during the second half of last season. That will go a long way toward determining whether moves, either in season or next offseason will be needed. The Heat more than bet on Dion Waiters and doubled down. They essentially did it with the entire roster.

August 26, 2017

Q: Ira, this year should be very revealing about what we really have in terms of championship material.  You are correct that stars make the difference and we simply don’t know if we have any potential players of star capabilities.  It will take this year to determine what is needed to make the jump to championship contender, although a couple of playoff round wins is certainly not out of the question. So 2017-18 should be an exciting year as well as a year of just getting better and closer to championship level. -- Dick, Rhode Island.

A: And yet, if the Heat find out they don't have enough, it's not as if they possesses the means to reopen a star search, considering they will be capped out for at least the next two seasons, and without a first-round pick in one of them. To reiterate a position I already have taken, the Heat made their statement about star talent when they extended that $98 million contract to Hassan Whiteside last summer. If he is not, well, great, then there might not be much that the remainder of the roster can do to compensate. And the Heat also went almost all-in this offseason with the deals to James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk, with the hope that at least one makes additional strides forward over the four years of their contracts. I'm just not sure that there are going to be many more bites at the apple of the levels of Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Just as the Heat move the ball to create prime scoring opportunities, this roster, itself, will have to try to go from good to better to best.

Q: The Knicks are still looking to trade Carmelo Anthony and the Heat still don't have a star. So why not put two and two together? -- Martin.

A: Because Carmelo still has that no-trade clause and certainly is not looking to see if he can get to a team that might (or might not) win a first-round series. That, more than anything else, is your starting (and, likely, ending) point. Then it comes down to the common sense of the Heat moving toward a player of that age, who already has struggled with the notion of leading man. For all that might have been acceptable to part with for Kyrie Irving, this is a completely different situation. Basically, Carmelo makes as little sense for the Heat as they do for him, to the point where it's not even worth addressing the needed math.

Q: Hey Ira, if Dwyane Wade is bought out and decides to come back to Miami, what is the long-term outlook, salary-cap wise? He obviously won't be playing for the mid-level every year. How do the Heat find the space to keep him long term, and what do you think his value will be in the open market as a 2018 free agent? -- Alain.

A: The available numbers essentially already are in place. The maximum this season would be the $4.3 million mid-level, with anything moving forward likely at the minimum. With the Heat lacking a 2018 first-round pick and already, as mentioned above, capped out for next summer, I couldn't see them spending their 2018 mid-level for another guard. So, in a way, any potential Heat salaries for Dwyane basically are locked in.

August 25, 2017

Q: Ira, Cleveland fans burn LeBron James' jersey when he leaves Cleveland for the Heat and he says nothing. Now that he sees they are burning the jerseys of Gordon Hayward and his new teammate Isaiah Thomas and he speaks up? -- Len.

A: First, thanks for the question, because it's something I believe needs to be addressed, albeit not for the reason you cite. Yes, I saw LeBron's Twitter tirade about his perception of the way Hayward and Thomas have been treated in the wake of their departures. But I also thought it brought way, way, way too much attention to the subject. Just because one or two random supposed fans post something on social media doesn't mean you have to deliver the attention they crave. There was absolutely no coordinated, organized statement being made. Instead of just turning away from the blatant attempt for attention, the response to the "jersey burnings" just fueled the next round of nitwits. Hayward never hid the possibilities of a potential departure. Thomas was traded. And you know what? Everyone was fine by it, had moved on, with the exception of a few attention-seeking fools who got the exact attention they were hoping for. In some cases, with such a scant minority, there is nothing wrong with turning the other way, just as television cameras don't show fans who run onto the court/field during games. Nothing to see here, folks.

Q: If Dwyane Wade joins Cleveland what would that make of his legacy? Does it put Dan Marino ahead in people's minds? -- Asier.

A: First, I sort of wish all of this Wade speculation would be tabled until Dwyane requests a Bulls buyout, if that, indeed, is what he actually wants. But yes, if Wade moving on turns out to be more than moving back to his hometown, then I do think it changes the view and hierarchy of South Florida's most beloved sports personalities.

Q: Is there a way to restructure Tyler Johnson's contract to add seasons to the length of the contract so as to lower the amount per season? There is always contract restructuring going on in the NFL and MLB, but I haven't heard about it in the NBA.  -- Chadwick, Boynton Beach.

A: No, unlike in other sports, you cannot restructure NBA contracts, only extend (but without the advantage of averaging out the remaining seasons). So it will remain Tyler with a salary of $5.9 million for this upcoming season and then salaries and cap hits of $19.2 million for both 2018-19 and '19-20.

August 24, 2017

Q: Just a guess but after being sandbagged by LeBron James, pressured by Chris Bosh to keep playing him at the risk of another year pushing back the medical waiver, and Dwyane Wade's fit about being respected, are we looking at the coming of age of player power? Luol Deng and Joe Johnson jumped ship after the Heat restored their value. Now Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are strong-arming their way out of contracts and Otto Porter and Isaiah Thomas are demanding max money or they walk. Gosh, it seems as if Pat Riley has said, "Enough. I want a team who will be happy to stay put, be grateful for small fortunes, play together and for each other and play hard without the drama." Is that too much to ask? Stability counts for a lot. We have struggled through more than our share of chemistry issues. Let's play ball and have fun.  -- Jack, Fort Myers.

A: I think Pat not only would have taken the drama associated with the acquisition of a top-tier player but would have embraced it, just as he did with Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O'Neal and even LeBron. He knows what it takes to win big in this league. Now, if you're asking me whether he has reset his values? To a degree, I believe he realizes that more and more has moved out of teams' hands, that even the best planning can leave a team short on the free-agent market. So, yes, he embraces team play, selflessness and minimal drama. But it has yet to be shown that solid ensemble play can take you deep into the playoffs. Actually, I think what matter in this case is how fans will embrace this team, and whether a solid night's effort will be enough. Way, way, way too much has been made about LeBron, Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving getting away. In each case, they got away from 29 other teams, as well. But it seems like every time a star doesn't land in Miami, it's as if some of the light flickers out on the Heat. I'm not sure that is fair. At least until the games begin again.

Q: Ira, I believe that Jordan Mickey could be the Hassan Whiteside of 2017-18 for the Miami Heat, meaning that he could break out after being a bench warmer to start his career. Mickey averaged 20.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League. What do you think about Mickey's potential as a member of the Miami Heat? -- Ziggy, St. Petersburg.

A: Actually, I'm wondering if he could possibly claim the roster spot held by Okaro White, considering the Heat have guaranteed Mickey's entire 2017-18 salary, while only a third of White's salary is currently guaranteed. Granted, at the moment there are roster spots for both, but if someone else emerges or is acquired, it could get interesting. As it is, it still is difficult to get a read on the Heat's plans with A.J. Hammons, who hardly was overwhelming at the Las Vegas summer league. Now, if you're talking about consistent playing time for Mickey, he could find himself in a similar situation as in Boston. At the moment, it appears unlikely that he would crack the top 10.

Q: The best situation for the Heat would be for Dwyane Wade to make a pit stop in Cleveland this upcoming season before relocating to the Heat next summer.  It would give the Heat a chance to better evaluate our existing guard talent. I hope D-Wade returns, but if he comes too soon we may not get the read we need on players like Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, and even Dion Waiters, as keepers or not.  This is a pivotal season to assess if this team is closer to the 11-30 group or the 30-11 group, and that may be easier done without D-Wade. -- Dave, Reading, Pa.

A: Well put. But the real question should be whether Dwyane can offer more than some of those players at the moment. In other words, putting aside salary, if the Heat are in win-now mode, and that appears to be the case, then the goal has to be to field the best possible lineups. So the question, if/when Dwyane receives a buyout, should be whether his presence in the rotation ahead of one of the aforementioned players makes the Heat a better team. If it does, then it should mesh with the mandate of Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley.

August 23, 2017

Q: Long term, the Kyrie Irving trade means that Boston will be the team to beat in the East. The Heat don't have anything to compete yet. -- Marcelo.

A: Based on their stash of draft picks and the acquisition of a relatively young Gordon Hayward, the Celtics looked like the post-LeBron James future of the Eastern Conference long before Tuesday's acquisition of Irving. But that said, I'm  not sure you ever build a team based on the competition. It's one thing, when you get to the cusp of title contention to address a particular need. But until then, you have to find your own way, play to your strengths. For the Heat, that advantage appears to be Hassan Whiteside, and it is time to see just how far (or not) that can take you. The Celtics, in fact, still could be challenged with their rebounding and interior defense. That will make the Heat's matchups with the Celtics this season particularly intriguing. Because Boston is only going to get better, even with that 2018 Nets first-round pick going to the Cavaliers. And if the Heat can't find an advantage now, the challenge only figures to grow.

Q: I think this trade could make both teams worse. Somehow Pat Riley was waiting this out. -- T.O.

A: I'm not sure "worse" is the proper perspective, merely different. Boston is in the midst of a dramatic turnover, and the loss of the defense of Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley could be a real issue (I wonder if the Celtics knew then what they know now, if they would have still made the Bradley deal). As for Cleveland, it comes down to whether last season was a magical ride for Isaiah Thomas or something that can be sustained. Then again, it could come down to how invested LeBron remains in the Cavaliers. Still, with all the chemistry issues to be addressed, these remain the top two teams in the East. Toronto, Washington and Milwaukee don't seem close.

Q: Kyrie has got his mind set on South Beach in two years. I don't know what magic Danny Ainge has to get him to re- sign. -- R.G.

A: So you're saying we're looking at yet another round of Riley vs. Ainge? The "magic" that Ainge has is two seasons to convince Irving that this is a core he can growth with, win with, and star with. Two years in the NBA is a pretty good head start. And there is no guarantee that the Heat even will have the available cap space, if needed. At the moment, nothing about the Irving trade has anything to do with the 2019-20 Heat.

August 22, 2017

Q: Considering the Heat's lack of depth at small forward, is it possible that the Heat start James Johnson there, with Kelly Olynyk at power forward? This would give the Heat a big lineup, in a league that is becoming smaller, but it would also provide spacing and four players with playmaking ability. Justise could then bring energy off the bench, along with Tyler Johnson.  -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: At this stage, the only lineup spots seemingly locked in are Hassan Whiteside at center, Goran Dragic at point guard and Dion Waiters at shooting guard. Power forward could be Johnson or Olynyk, and small forward could be everything from Justise Winslow to Rodney McGruder to perhaps James Johnson. As the Heat have show in recent seasons, the starting lineup at the start of the season doesn't always even make it through the first month. Overall chemistry of the rotation is what matters most, and James Johnson at either starting spot could compromise his chemistry with Tyler Johnson. Plus, if the Heat are attempting to re-instill confidence in Winslow, then a starting spot might be the best approach. But if you think I can sit here in August and offer a window in Erik Spoelstra's rotations, well, that isn't happening. And I'd bet if you'd ask Spoelstra that the best you would get is a wry grin.

Q: What do John Crotty, Alonzo Mourning, Keith Askins, Shane Battier, Chris Quinn and Juwan Howard all have in common? They are all on the Heat staff and they all wore the Heat uniform. With few draft picks in coming years and promising players waiting in the wings to develop (which the Heat have had great success with in recent years) why can't the Heat buy out Haslem midseason (like Dwyane Wade may be) and add him to the staff, opening a valuable roster spot to keep fresh talent in the pipeline? If we are doing well, go after a veteran and if not promote a rising, young and promising star. Depth is a counter balance for lack of superstar power. -- Jack, Fort Myers.

A: And they certainly could . . . if they need to. And that could come down to injuries. At the moment of truth, say if a pair of big men go down, does Erik Spoelstra have the faith to play Haslem for extended minutes? And if he does, what will the results be? For now, with Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, and perhaps even Jordan Mickey, the Heat appear to have the power rotation covered, as well as ample depth on the wing. It's when that depth gets exposed that the Heat could reach a moment of truth. For now, I still believe that Haslem offers more to the mix than, say, A.J. Hammons. But in February? Or March? That could come down to potential other options available.

Q: Are we looking to trade Hassan Whiteside in the long term? We are loaded in the frontcourt. If Bam Adebayo or Jordan Mickey breaks out, we can trade for picks.  -- Mannix.

A: I'm always amused by fans' fascination with trades, that there seemingly always is someone out there perceived as better than what is in place. Since losing Alonzo Mourning (and Shaquille O'Neal), the Heat have been in search of the very skill set -- a unique skill set -- that Whiteside provides. The only thought at the moment should be how to maximize that skill set, instead of a quest for the next big thing.

August 21, 2017

Q: Why would the Heat cut into their cap space to sign Jordan Mickey? Now they have even less if someone else becomes available. -- Joel.

A: Actually, that is not how it works at this stage for the Heat. Teams are allowed at any point to sign players at the veteran minimum, which for Mickey, with his NBA tenure, is $1.5 million. The Heat already are over the salary cap and also well below the luxury tax, so the signing also does not impact those aspects. As was the case before the signing, the Heat still retain their $4.3 million mid-level exception. That has not changed because of the agreement with Mickey that formally was announced Sunday by the Heat.

Q: Thanks to the overpriced Gordon Hayward, the Heat were able to add Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Mickey without Miami giving up any of its last season's roster. -- P.F.

A: But the NBA, where only five play at a time, remains a league of quality over quantity. It is why the Heat first start big annually before cycling down to the rest of their roster. Face it, if the Heat were able to sign Gordon Hayward they likely would have turned away from Dion Waiters or James Johnson, or possibly both. And likely been better for it. Quality depth can carry you a long way during the regular season. But in the playoffs, it still comes down to elite-level talent making the difference when opponents are taking away your bread-and-butter offense. The Heat right now have a bunch of nice players. But do they have anything close to elite? Which leads us to . . .

Q: The maturation of Hassan Whiteside is great to see. I see him having a nice, impactful year, maybe not All-Star caliber but impactful from a team standpoint. -- Douglas.

A: That is the very least that should be expected from a team's highest-paid player. The good news is Hassan has been a regular in the weight room this offseason and has been getting ample court time. The next step, as mentioned frequently in this space, has to be more of an 82-game motor, fewer nights when the energy isn't there. For all of the depth of this Heat roster, the drop-off at center, with no disrespect to the youthful potential of Bam Adebayo, might be as severe as any position. What the Heat need from Whiteside are 38 to 40 quality minutes -- every night.

August 20, 2017

Q: It seems like the Heat's move to pick up Jordan Mickey is really about developing another trade asset. Based on the way the game is played today (expected probability value of shooting threes vs. twos) big men are relatively less valuable (over time) in today's NBA to shooters and slashers. That said, maybe it is easier to develop a big man and move him quickly for other value or use in a trade.  What say you regarding the pickup of Jordan Mickey, another big man, for the Heat in a position-less basketball game? -- Stuart.

A: First, never overstate 15th men, which is where Jordan would stand at the moment. With where the Heat stand against the cap and the tax, it's not as if another minimum salary impacts either. The one thing the Heat scouting staff continually stresses is that even when they don't draft a player, they utilize all the previous information accumulated in case there is an opportunity to revisit the possibilities down the road. In this case, though, it does seem a bit curious that another athletic shot-blocker would be added when the Heat already have Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo, and when Willie Reed considered his opportunities behind those two so limited that he instead took a minimum salary elsewhere. So could the Heat be stocking up in preparation for a possible trade? Perhaps. But it would appear that, at the least, Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk, Adebayo, James Johnson and perhaps even Udonis Haslem would be ahead of Mickey in the Heat power rotation. Then again, perhaps the Heat see stretch-four possibilities, having moved on from Luke Babbitt. We'll see when the laboratory opens during training camp.

Q: Could you see the Heat turning to a rebuild if the season starts slow by trading Hassan Whiteside for young players (maybe Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown)? -- Mark, Orlando.

A: No, and it has nothing to do with this roster or what's out there. By dealing their 2018 and 2021 first-round picks to the Suns for Goran Dragic, the Heat essentially committed themselves to this moment. It is difficult to commit yourselves to a rebuild when two of your next four first-round picks are headed elsewhere. To me, if Whiteside is not a foundational piece, then does this team even have a foundation going forward?

Q: Udonis Haslem is worth every penny and the roster spot when considering he's protecting and motivating the Heat's $100 million player investment. -- P.F.

A: But isn't that what coaches and the front office are there to do? That's the flip side of counting Udonis toward the 15-play roster limit. That will make it interesting to see how the coaching staff utilizes Udonis, or whether he is active on game nights, when only 13 can dress. Right now, you have to figure that 12 of those active spots would go to Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder and possibly Okaro White. So that could leave one uniform left to be placed at a locker, and we haven't even gotten to A.J. Hammons or Jordan Mickey.

August 19, 2017

Q: Ira, now you have your answer about the Heat bringing back Udonis Haslem. His teammates love him. -- Pete.

A: I have to say it would have been surprising if any other Heat player was voted Best Teammate in the poll by the National Basketball Players Association. Teammates respect James Johnson, appreciate Goran Dragic, enjoy Hassan Whiteside and marvel at Dion Waiters. But the admiration for Haslem has been universal. Even this offseason, he has become a staple among the big men, often working with Whiteside and Bam Adebayo. As I've written this offseason, holding a roster spot for a seldom-used player previously had been a risky proposition when it came to impeding  the development process. But with the advent of two-way contracts, teams now have additional avenues to handle that aspect. It is curious, however, that the Heat have added yet another element to their power rotation in Jordan Mickey. Counting Whiteside, Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk and perhaps A.J. Hammons, it will be interesting to see if the Heat dare have Haslem out of uniform on some game nights.

Q: LeBron James; Instagram is mostly of him in a gym. Every Hassan Whiteside Instagram is about video games. That's not the way you become an All-Star. -- R.G.

A: First, when it comes to Hassan, go to Snapchat, that's where the real action is. And if you have followed him this offseason, there have been numerous videos of his late-night workouts on the practice court at AmericanAirlines Arena, as well as sessions in the weight rooms with Heat trainers Bill Foran and Eric Foran. And as long as that remains the priority there is nothing wrong with youthful fun, as well. For Whiteside, it's video games, solving the murders of parakeets and making sure the fish are fed. For LeBron, it's high-stakes entertainment ventures. To each his own.

Q: Ira, do you honestly believe Pat Riley will take Dwyane Wade back? -- Masoud, Tucson, Ariz.

A: Actually, I think more to the point would be whether Wade would take Pat back. Dwyane was the one put off by Riley's lack of attentiveness during 2016 free agency. Ultimately, if there is a buyout, I certainly could see fences mended on both sides.

August 18, 2017

Q: Hi Ira, long-time reader, first time poster from Brisbane Australia. My question is about my all-time favorite player, Dwayne Wade. There is a lot of concern out there about our backup point guard. Most are calling for us to use our last roster spot on one. I know Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson can make plays, but they are not playmakers. There is also the speculation that we are saving our last roster spot and $4.3 million mid-level exception for Dwayne when he is eventually bought out (hopefully sooner rather than later). To me, this makes perfect sense (as long as Wade is OK with a backup role, but finishes games in the best five). Dwayne entered the league as a combo guard playing point. He could finish his career in Miami the same way it started, playing the ball handler/distributor, if you will. He would only have to defend bench players mostly and he wouldn't even have to defend their first- or second-best bench players a s Josh and Tyler would do that. He would have protection even if he played bad defense, with Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside back there. He will also have a bunch of shooters surrounding him to open up his lanes. Does this not make sense? -- Joel.

A: When considering players, teams often make lists of the pros and cons. You did a capable job of delineating the positives, with logic that is difficult to dispute. But the other side of the equation comes down to carving out minutes for such a Wade return. As if is, the Heat have Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters under significant contracts as their starters. They have Tyler Johnson heading into two high-rent seasons as their third guard.  Then there is Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder and Wayne Ellington. So you would have to somehow thin out that portion of the rotation. Then there are chemistry issues, with Goran clearly at ease alongside Dion. And when you mention Dwyane as playing in a closing unit, who sits? Do you go without Hassan Whiteside? Do you take the ball out of James Johnson's hands? Does that mean Dion doesn't get the last shot? And are we back to Goran being parked in the corner in such a situation? You certainly could make an argument that Dwyane's resume dictates ultimate respect in such situations. But this is not 2006 or even 2013. That's why I wonder if Heat management and the coaching staff don't privately hope this is not something they will have to consider as the roster attempts to pick up where it left off last season. Then again, ESPN walked back from its initial mention of a sooner-rather-than-later Bulls resolution with Dwyane. So for all we know, this could be tabled for a good, long while.

Q: How about a three-guard lineup of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Dwyane Wade, and then go with the two bigs Kelly Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside? -- Jesse.

A: And do what with James Johnson? And just give up on Justise Winslow? Look, Dwyane has a solid year last season and certainly could help a win-now team, perhaps someone like Houston or Cleveland, to at least contend for a title. But unless you believe Dwyane would push the Heat into title contention, would you want to walk away from inspecting the pieces that could be significant when the Heat actually move into true contention, possibly at a time when LeBron James no longer is with the Cavaliers?

Q: If LeBron James wins one more championship with all this nonsense going on he'll be a lucky man. -- R.L.A.

A: Or does he realize he is not going to win another one, so he is better off avoiding nasty winters and instead seizing the Hollywood moment with his business ventures? The Cavaliers have provided the NBA with the best summer theater. But if this turns into more than summer stock, the next act could be as engrossing as anything during the regular season, as well.

August 17, 2017

Q: Anything on the news about the Bulls buying out Dwyane Wade sooner rather than later? -- Asier.

A: There is nothing new because there is no news. Yes, the expectation is the Bulls will be terrible and that there will be little need for Dwyane eventually in Chicago, as delineated in the ESPN article. But this is not a this-week, this-month or, likely, anytime-soon story. This is Chicago first making sure that Zach LaVine is good to go and then making sure a representative team can be fielded in Dwyane's absence. Then, and only then, can talks of a buyout begin. And even then, it takes two parties for an agreement to be reached. First, how much would be Bulls expect Dwyane to forgo to get out of the last year of his Bulls contact? Then, in the middle of the school year, would Dwyane want to relocate (his only previous relocation came in the offseason)? Beyond that, what could be the potential landing spots should a buyout result? That's heady stuff for August (or even September or October). And yet, the Heat have yet to spend their $4.3 million exception, so there is that salary buffer. And Heat players from Dion Waiters to Hassan Whiteside have come out embracing such a reunion, with Whiteside making his feelings known on Twitter on Wednesday.

Q: LeBron James should have never left Miami. They would have been able to get past San Antonio again. -- Dacota.

A: It's probably time to move past 2014. But there is a significant difference when it comes to LeBron in Cleveland. With the Heat, the exit was sudden, but there were not months of speculation about LeBron's future (weeks maybe, but not months). That was in sharp contrast to how it played out with the Cavaliers in 2010, before he moved on to the Heat. and how it looks like it will again with Cleveland amid this latest LeBron speculation. When the speculation begins in August (actually earlier) it is going to test teammates, the coaching staff and management there for months on end. And that could be miserable. And that also is someone else's problem. Because while I believe a Dwyane Wade return to the Heat is within the realm, I find a Heat reunion with LeBron to be highly unlikely based on the way the parting went down. Then again, perhaps the entire Banana Boat bunch (or at least most of them) migrate to Los Angeles.

Q: Can you just tell us Miami is not interested in trading for Kyrie Irving so we can be quiet please. -- S.T.

A: I cannot. And with all that is swirling amid the Cavaliers, I would not rule out any possibility. That is one hot mess right now. It also makes you realize why Kyrie wants out. He either has to deal with a season of LeBron speculation or could be left with the remnants of what LeBron possibly leaves behind. That's why the most credible speculation has linked Kyrie to stable front offices and coaching staffs. And those are boxes the Heat have checked off for years.

August 16, 2017

Q: Can you predict who will be representing the Heat in the All-Star Game this upcoming season? I think we can get three this year in Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside. -- Justin, Brooklyn.

A: With the talent drain from the Eastern Conference -- with Paul George going to Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, Paul Millsap to Denver and possibly Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony to somewhere else in the West -- there certainly could be openings for new blood in the All-Star Game. But three All-Stars? I'd say that coming off a 41-41 season, one All-Star would be a breakthrough from this Heat roster that does not have a single player with All-Star Game experience. It will be interesting to see if Whiteside, with his wildly popular social-media appeal, could possibly make himself a factor in the fan voting. Otherwise, with coaches voting for reserves, it will be interesting to see if the appreciation for James Johnson's two-way game translates into that balloting. For now, I'd say the chances of the Heat getting an All-Star would be in this order: 1. Whiteside, 2. Dragic, 3. Waiters, 4. James Johnson.

Q: If the Cavaliers feel LeBron James is going to leave why not just move him now? It sure helps him from a PR perspective if he is dealt. -- Julian,

A: For the same reason the Cavaliers weren't proactive in 2010 or the Heat in 2014. If there is the mere chance that LeBron will stay then you cannot preemptively risk running him off. LeBron knows how to play this game, to get what he wants now, and get where he wants to be in the future. If LeBron leaves, then the franchise can cast itself as a victim, "smiling faces with hidden agendas" and comic cans and all.

Q: Ira, how has the turned NBA into an all-year sport? The season ended in April for the Heat but here we are still talking basketball in mid-August? -- Douglas.

A: From the timing of the scheduling release (which was broken into two release dates) to the new awards show to the staging of summer-league playoffs, the NBA has learned well from the NFL's year-round model. And the talk will remain ongoing likely right up to the late-September start of training camps, with the remainder of the free-agent class yet to be resolved. As it is, players such as Nerlens Noel. Tony Allen, Shabazz Muhammad, Nikola Mirotic and David Lee still have yet to find 2017-18 landing spots.

August 15, 2017

Q: You really think there is a conflict between Heat and Panthers home games? I don't think anyone who goes to a hockey game in Florida is because they have no other option. -- R.G.

A: My thought is there could be more cooperation between the teams for South Florida fans passionate about both winter-sport teams than the 14 head-to-head home-game conflicts this season. Consider that in the markets where the NBA and NHL team plays in the same arena there is never a direct conflict (even if there are some day-night doubleheaders with the teams). And we're talking about a lot of cities in that situation, including New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Toronto, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Dallas, and, now, this coming season, Detroit. That's more than a third of the NBA that never has a direct home-game conflict with the city's NHL team. Then again there probably is nothing more that South Florida fans would want to deal with than a conflict of home playoff games.

Q: Ira, how does a team go from 30-11 over the second half of the season to just nine national-television games and only one on TNT? Did Charles Barkley do the scheduling? -- Bruce.

A: I'm not sure that you can ever say a .500 team is shortchanged when it comes to national games. Generally, if you miss the playoffs the preceding season, you're not exactly viewed as ready for prime time. Among the lesser teams that get national games tend to be those that feature star talent. Remember, no player on the current Heat roster has ever made the All-Star Game. Then again, much of what fueled the Heat last season was the chip on their shoulders after the 11-30 start. So don't be surprised if the players are made well aware of being limited to one TNT appearance and just four on ESPN. But remember, just as national games were peeled from the Heat's schedule last season, they also can be added if the Heat continue to make noise and pick up where they left off. To me, the starkest element of the schedule is the run of 11 of 14 on the road in November that includes a six-game trip and a four-game trip. Survival, more than exposure, will be the factor there.

Q: When do tickets go on sale? -- Justin.

A: The Heat announced Monday that individual game tickets will go on sale Sept. 15. I do have to admit that amid all the griping about the cost of tickets for prime games and the inability to sometimes affordably get into the building, the offer of a season ticket for $599 did attract my attention. For those who missed it, per the Heat, "Heat Bounce Pass is a 400 Level annual mobile pass that will give fans access to all 2017-18 pre and regular season home games (44) for the fan-friendly price of $599. Heat Bounce Pass is the cheapest way to enjoy an entire season of live Heat basketball. Heat Bounce Pass can be purchased online and tickets are delivered directly to the purchaser's smart phone. For a limited time, purchasers will receive $100 in upgrade credit that be used to upgrade the ticket location for select games." Yes, I know there still is parking and other costs involved in attending a game, but that does break down to $13.61 a ticket per game.

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