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ASK IRA: Will McRoberts remain rotation-worthy against bigger opponents?
Sun Sentinel writer Ira Winderman addresses the Heat's issues of the day.


November 30, 2015

Q: Hello, Ira. For most of the season, Justise Winslow has been the first sub off of the Heat's bench for Chris Bosh, which moves, Luol Deng to power forward. And, when Bosh is in with the second unit, Josh McRoberts is usually at the four with Bosh at center. Can Miami be successful with this substitution pattern against the big men of OKC or the Cavs? I really can't see Bosh/Deng/McRoberts being able to keep any of the power forwards on either team from dominating the boards or being able to successfully defend them without fouling in the paint. "Position-less" is the Heat's motto but there are times when a team has to be able to match up.-- Nikki.

A: I'd say at 10-5 you keep going with what is working until proven otherwise. And if you're going to have McRoberts in your rotation, then you have to trust him defensively to defend his position. As with so much of what is going on with the Heat now, including the rotations, it's all about seeing what works, and what doesn't. So if McRoberts winds up having to match up against the physical likes of a Nick Collison or Anderson Varejao, it's better to see in December and January how it plays out, with enough time to evolve from there, if necessary. Basically, McRoberts will show with his play whether the Heat have to upsize to the likes of Chris Andersen or Amar'e Stoudemire.

Q: Luol Deng has played well in his minutes, and Gerald Green has been good, too. The situation is a luxury for the Heat. -- Kwame.

A: That's what quality depth can do for you. The Heat are set with Green and Justise Winslow behind Deng and Dwyane Wade. Tyler Johnson also has offered quality minutes in reserve for Goran Dragic. But as the above question suggests, there remains question about the quality of the depth in the power rotation. That's why it is important to define on both ends of the court what the Heat have in McRoberts.

Q: Do you think the Heat need a better overall offensive approach to the game to compete with the elite teams? I was surprised to hear Dwyane Wade say the team was basically freelancing on offense in Detroit. We have yet to see the integration of the Heat players as a cohesive unit on offense. Maybe it's the approach?   -- Stuart.

A: I believe there are so many players with contrasting styles that Erik Spoelstra still is trying to find a happy medium. I also think the loss to the Pistons opened the eyes to the roster about how bad it could look if there wasn't a better team concept on offense. As Chris Bosh said, positives may yet come out of what was the Heat's most negative experience of the season to this point.

November 29, 2015

Q: To win at the highest level, we need Gerald Green and Hassan Whiteside to be great. Can we count on both of them in the playoffs? -- D.B.

A: Actually, to win at the highest level, you need Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to be great. What you need from Whiteside and Green is enough consistency and reliability to deliver Wade and Bosh to a point where they can be difference-makers, sort of like the formula that proved so successful Friday night in New York. They might not want to hear it, especially Hassan, but, for the moment, Green and Whiteside are complementary players. Hassan certainly could have gotten the ball more Friday, and an argument could be made that he should have gotten the ball more. But if he can provide rebounds and blocked shots, and if Green can score when no one else is scoring, then Wade and Bosh can make, as Erik Spoelstra noted, championship-level plays at championship-level moments. Eventually, Whiteside will have to be a leading man, and there certainly will be games when injuries cast Green in a featured role. But for now, the investment in this season is in Bosh and Wade (which continues to raise the question of Goran Dragic's precise role).

Q: You do realize that Gerald Green's contract is ending this summer, right? -- Martin.

A: Yes, and I've received similar comments from others about the Heat putting so much of a playing-time investment in players they might not (or will not) be able to re-sign in the offseason. Certainly Luol Deng figures to fall into that group, as well. But this also is a franchise living in the moment, one that has dealt away a majority of its future draft picks. What the commitment to Green shows is that the next veteran who accepts a minimal free-agent contract also has the opportunity to be cast in a featured role the next time around. Sure there is a risk of reviving a career and then losing a player to a higher bid. It has happened numerous times to the Heat over the years, most notably with Anthony Mason. But the one thing that should be appreciated about the Heat is they live in the moment, let the future take care of itself (remember the Heat were playing to win at the end of last season, were trying, desperately, to make the playoffs, which would have meant no Justise Winslow).

Q: Who needs Mario Chalmers when we have young, fresh legs in our new rookies? Let's get it. -- Patricia.

A: Even with the way Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson have been playing, there still could be an argument that additional depth in the perimeter rotation wouldn't be a bad thing. You know at some point that Dwyane Wade is going to miss more than a game or two during a stretch. Of course, the key is finding players who can be content with otherwise going without playing time for extended stretches, something that likely would not have sat well with Chalmers if he had been asked to play in a Josh Richardson- (or even Beno Udrih-)type role. 

November 28, 2015

Q: Here are my top three reasons why Gerald Green should be the starter over Luol Deng (contingent on him playing defense like he did against Carmelo Anthony): 1) Adds athleticism, especially on the break which helps Goran Dragic's game. 2) Better 3-point threat, which gives you spacing. 3) Can be unstoppable when having a hot hand. -- Freddie, Miami.

A: Should we now be expecting a Top 3 list after every game? Your reasoning is sound and solid. But if there is a continuum after Luol Deng, I think it is more likely to be Justise Winslow, and be next season. Yes, Gerald was terrific on Friday night. But even with his enduring defense Friday, he's still about instant offense. And let's not sell Deng short, he was efficient in his minutes in Monday's home blowout of the Knicks. The Heat are still better with Deng in their rotation. And, for now, the best way to utilize Luol is as a starter.

Q: After Friday's game, Gerald Green said: "My main goal is defense. Offense, for me, is going to come easy." Dwayne Wade basically said the same after the game. In his postgame interview, Erik Spoelstra used the term "lunch-pail guy" (when will the Heat have lunch-pail giveaway night?) more than a few times, making reference to the attitude and hard work needed to play defense. We all know what happens when a Heat team plays lockdown defense. Should the rest of the league be worried? -- Stuart.

A: Worried? I think most worry in the NBA is reserved for the Warriors, Spurs and perhaps Cavaliers. Instead, the Heat should be comforted. Defense basically is their comfort food, the thing that can carry them through uneven performances by players or even the entire offense, which still has its rough edges. Hassan Whiteside was a perfect example Friday; he couldn't score, but he never stopped with the effort off the boards and with his blocked shots.

Q: The Knicks . . . ah ha, ha, ha, ha. This is not the same rival. Now the Heat never lose to the Knicks. Ah ha, ha, ha, ha. -- Stephen.

A: Actually, even with these past two performances against the Heat, you can see growth in what New York is trying to do. They're a lot better than last season. But they clearly still need more pieces. The falloff between their starting lineup and their bench is severe. And as with Wade at times, you can see age catching up to Carmelo Anthony. He can't do it alone anymore.

November 27, 2015

Q: Has Dwyane Wade become a ball-stopper? I've noticed how the Heat really want to space the court and try to run. But I have also noticed that once Wade catches the ball, he is shooting, and awful shots at that. When he is on the court, the Heat almost always use the whole shot clock and are having to force their shots. Shouldn't he be adapting to Goran Dragic rather than Dragic to him? -- Cesar.

A: This is the crossroads where the Heat find themselves, having a Hall of Fame guard who is on the back nine of his career and a point guard whose moment is now. That makes this a time when a coach or someone in the front office has to find a happy medium that keeps Wade engaged while also exploring new directions. There are many things that Dwyane Wade is doing well in the halfcourt, including his chemistry with Hassan Whiteside. But the Heat also need to explore Dragic's possibilities, without him having to force his own issue. It's a delicate matter, but also why NBA coaches and executives earn the big bucks. The Heat put this mix together, now the coaching staff owes it to the roster to do more to make it work.

Q: As much as I like Goran Dragic, even after his early-season malaise, watching Reggie Jackson confirms what I conveyed to you prior to last season's trade deadline: The Heat should have made a better effort to acquire this poor-man's Russell Westbrook. Hassan Whiteside and Reggie Jackson, at 26 and 25 years old, respectively, could have entered the prime of their careers in Miami uniforms, and given the team a young, dynamic one-two punch. -- Rich, West Palm Beach.

A: Except Reggie also is a point guard, much like Westbrook, who dominates the ball. And that could have created a power struggle in the backcourt with Wade, even more than what the Heat are enduring with the Wade-Dragic relationship. So much of this comes down to the Heat believing (or at least creating the appearance of believing) that Wade remains a dominant backcourt contributor. To have gone in the direction of Jackson would have been to minimize expectations from Wade. Was that an error in judgment? This season will offer that answer.

Q: The bench needs help. They need a sixth-man who can come in, score, and provide some threes. Should the Heat re-explore a Jamal Crawford trade? Beno Udrih, Chris Andersen and even Udonis Haslem could all be sent out. -- Gabriel, Denver.

A: The Heat basically addressed the Jamal Crawford issue when they signed Gerald Green to do many of the things you listed as assets for Crawford. It is far too early to bail on Green, and Wednesday's start against the Pistons just might be the jumpstart that Gerald needed. To bring in Crawford also would mean pushing Tyler Johnson down in the rotation, something the Heat already made a point to avoid with the trade of Mario Chalmers to the Grizzlies.

November 26, 2015

Q: This was the type of game/test that I wanted to see our Heat in and they failed miserably. It's only one bad game, which could occur for any team, but I think it's evident that the Heat's offense has a long way to go before being considered serious contenders in the East. A lot of times they force-feed Dwyane Wade, which is the wrong approach for this team. There are too many forced jump shots. There are too many jump shots taken for a team whose skill set is not shooting. There definitely is not enough of a focus of getting to the line. There is no urgency. Realistically, I still think Miami is a shooter away from being a serious contender. But until then, they need to either change their offensive philosophy or be more conscious of playing to their strengths. Also, I'm the biggest Wade fan, love him but I think it's evident in games when his motor is low like in this game. His body language and effort were horrible. I've seen it before. He needs to step up as a leader and play team ball. Leading through effort and grit goes a long way with inspiring his team. I know you preach patience and time, but eventually this team will run out of excuses. What do you think Ira? -- Joel.

A: The problem with the Heat's home-intensive early schedule was how it might lull them into complacency. I think that was part of it Wednesday, not being on the road for nearly three weeks, for the first time in eight games having someone rooting against them. And I agree that when a team comes out flat, that is particularly when you want your leader to step forward. I think this was a case of Dwyane allowing missed shots to define his night. Next up is Madison Square Garden on Friday night, where the Heat have few friends. They need to be more cohesive on both ends, so when the opposition starts hitting a few shots, they don't allow it to end their night. This was a concern-causing loss, no doubt.

Q: Ira, why go with Gerald Green in the starting lineup when he's still trying to adjust to being back in the bench rotation? The last time the Heat changed their lineup Josh Richardson started in place of Dwyane Wade so Justise Winslow didn't have to change his role. -- Dennis.

A: Because the Heat's flexibility at small forward is limited and it would have been a bit of a stretch to have asked Richardson to guard Marcus Morris on Wednesday night. With Winslow and Tyler Johnson as the first two wings off the bench, I don't think moving Green into the starting lineup is as disruptive to the overall starting lineup as it would have been starting Winslow in place of Wade in that game against the Jazz. Plus, I think by starting Green it's a sort of vote of confidence, as he works his way back from his absence and suspension. I think more than who started in place of Deng on Wednesday night, it shows the continued imbalance of this roster, with limited options at small forward but with so many big men who don't play, when factoring in Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen, Amar'e Stoudemire, and even Jarnell Stokes, the power forward acquired in the Mario Chalmers trade who now is in the D-League. Of all that went wrong Wednesday, I don't think Green deserved much of the blame.

Q: It seems that Goran Dragic has to find his role all by himself, very similar to Kevin Love last season with Cleveland. I would have expected more from the Heat. -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.

A: I believe it is an ongoing process, with the Heat trying to find a comfort zone for Goran, just as it took weeks, and it could be argued months, for LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to find their places during the Big Three era. What matters most at the moment is being able to stay above water in the standings while sorting out the nuances of a very tricky lineup permutation. In the end, Spoelstra's adjustments paid off for LeBron, Bosh and Wade, so I think you have to allow sufficient time at the drawing board. Goran actually played well at the start of Wednesday's game, before it all began to unravel.

November 25, 2015

Q: Do you think at the pace that Hassan Whiteside is playing that he would be the starting center at the All-Star Game for the Eastern Conference or would it Andre Drummond? -- Victor.

A: Fans vote for three "frontcourt" starters in each conference, so LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are locks for two of those berths, based on their popularity. Then there is the remarkable season that Paul George is having, as well the popularity of the Cavaliers that could fuel Kevin Love's chances. I think the All-Star chances for any center in the East could come down to the coaches' voting for the seven reserves. You could make an argument that no player in the Eastern Conference, and I'm including LeBron in this, is having as much of an impact on both ends of the floor as Hassan. Based on their current level of play, I'd say both Hassan and Drummond are deserving of the All-Star Game, at least as reserves. But it's also early, and the standings are far from being sorted out like they will be when the coaches select their reserves in late January. What could limit Hassan (and Drummond) in the fan vote could be the lack of national exposure on TNT and ESPN, where you'll be seeing plenty of the Cavaliers and LeBron. But Hassan Whiteside at the moment is playing at an All-Star level and he certainly has the opportunity to make another statement Wednesday against Drummond and the Pistons.

Q: Whiteside should be getting way more than eight shots, Ira. Period. -- Dallas, Staten Island.

A: But if you've been watching lately, you will notice the swarm of defenders that crowd the paint as soon as he touches the ball. He now is getting the respect of a scorer, and the accompanying double- and triple-teams. That means prudence with the ball, and perhaps more plays like his assist to a cutting Luol Deng in Monday's victory over the Knicks. Hassan's best scoring chances remain second-chance opportunities and center-lane runs in transition. He doesn't necessarily need to be fed the ball. Much of what he does can be as simple as getting the ball himself.

Q: Is it possible Goran Dragic's struggles early this season are related to the vastly improved play of Tyler Johnson? -- Rodney, Sarasota.

A: Goran is not the type of player who is looking over his shoulder. And Tyler is in no way ready to be cast as an NBA starting point guard. In fact, playing Goran alongside Tyler could be part of the solution, with both able to play with high motors and get out in transition. I think you'll be seeing more Goran/Tyler as Erik Spoelstra sorts through his rotations, with that duo possibly able to get more out of Dragic than the opening Wade/Dragic alignment.

November 24, 2015

Q: Justise Winslow's on-ball defense is absurd. -- Rogo.

A: He's like a pitbull out there, embracing the biggest challenges as if it's just another ACC opponent at Duke. Between his chase-down block in Monday's second period and his no-ground-given approach against Carmelo Anthony, it's hard to believe that he not only is just a rookie, but that he also is only 19. I can't recall another player drafted by the Heat who came in with such a bulldog mentality on the defensive end. One of the joys of watching him in person is seeing the attention he pays to his off-the-ball defense, anticipating the next screen or cut. His basketball IQ is what has allowed him to defend both bigger and quicker opponents. It's a shame there isn't a Rookie All-Defensive Team. He otherwise would have a first-team spot locked up. He was plus-28 Monday night despite only scoring seven points. And yet he didn't have a steal and only had one blocked shot. He just doesn't let you score.

Q: With Hassan Whiteside dominating the paint like he has, if he is able to keep the blocks coming at a four-per-game rate like he has so far, he should win Defensive Player of the Year. What do you think? -- Ricardo, San Antonio.

A: I think it's safe to cast him as the front-runner at the moment. I don't see a clear perimeter front-runner for the award, so it could come down to the chase for the blocked-shots title, perhaps between Hassan and Rudy Gobert. But it also is still very, very early in the season to be discussing year-end awards. Generally, the top teams tend to load up on the awards, so if Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland remains in a tier of their own, then I would think Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James would also receive strong consideration.

Q: The Eastern Conference is now better than the Western Conference. How does this impact the Heat this year and in free agency next year? -- Andy, Coral Gables.

A: I'm not willing to go that far, to call the East superior. What I will say is the East has far more competitive teams than in recent years. It seems that beyond the 76ers and Nets, everyone in the East is a playoff contender. What it means this season is that it should take at least a .500 record, and likely more, to make the playoffs in the East, and that there will be very, very "cruise" games on the schedule, especially on the road. I still think it remains more likely that the Western Conference will produce the eventual NBA champion (a relatively easy deduction, considering the Warriors play in the Western Conference). As far as free agency, I'm not sure the rise of the East will have any great impact, considering players hardly were fleeing from the Western Conference despite the difficulty in making it through the playoffs there in recent seasons.

November 23, 2015

Q: What is it about Goran Dragic that warrants the big bucks? Basketball is about two non-teachable skills that you recruit: speed and quickness. Tyler Johnson has those. Dragic? No. Phoenix realized that he wasn't a Steve Nash, hence they went for speed and quickness in Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. So what do you do with a slow guy with no hops in a fast-and-quick league? What can he do? -- Jay, Miami.

A: He can do what he did in Phoenix in approaching All-Star level and what he did with the Heat at the end of last season. What the Heat paid Goran in the offseason would have been offered elsewhere if the Heat did not step forward. And I have a hard time believing that after a single offseason that all Dragic had going for him last season suddenly is gone. To me, the current issue with Goran is not about speed, quickness or system. It's about confidence. He seems to have none with his shot. When the shot starts coming around, I think the confidence will extend throughout his game. And to me, the greatest concern if it doesn't work out is not the money spent, but rather the draft choices expended in the trade. That's where the greatest pain could be realized.

Q: How great is Dwayne Wade? Let's take a minute to smell the roses! Wade is now in the top 50 in all-time scorers in the NBA; and he managed to accomplish this and still hand his team over to LeBron James for four years. -- Stuart.

A: Third-best shooting guard of all-time behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant? That's the way it looks like his career is headed. And he still is efficient, as games such as Saturday show. And I do believe there could yet be another entire chapter, in a Manu Ginobili-type role somewhere down the not-so-distant road.

Q: How long do teams keep trying the Hack-A-Whiteside strategy? -- Bryan, Mountain View, Calif.

A: Until he starts making over 60 percent of his foul shots and perhaps even 70. It is a way for opponents to not only to take Hassan off his game, but also the entire Heat offensive flow. It's not quite like calling a timeout to stop another team's momentum, but it can have that type of impact when utilized judiciously. So for this season, it looks like it is here to stay, as much for being a means of taking the ball out of the hands of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat's other scorers.

November 22, 2015

Q: It was a big mistake by Erik Spoelstra taking Hassan Whiteside out for the fourth quarter against the 76ers. He was making most of his free throws. -- Alberto.

A: You are correct that he was making them. But the Heat also won the game. And it could be argued that by intentionally fouling Hassan while in the lead, the 76ers created their own demise. But for Spoelstra there is more to it than that. By sending Whiteside to the line, the opposition takes the ball out of everyone else's hands in the Heat's offense. That, in turn, can get players out of rhythm when it comes to their turn to score. I think Erik still is sorting through the approach, just like coaches have previously with Shaquille O'Neal, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Josh Smith and others. It also is why I believe the NBA has to address the approach, It not only ruins the flow of the game, it takes the crowd out of the game. Getting fans excited it what the NBA should be about, not turning games into foul-shooting contests, as if some type of carnival game. Based on the fact that the Heat know this likely will continue, I would expect Spoelstra to formulate a specific program on how he plans to attack the scheme going forward. For the moment, Hack-a-Hassan is still in its formative stages for those considering the measure and for the Heat considering counter-measures.

Q: Josh McRoberts had one OK game and Spoelstra keeps playing him. Why does he do that? -- Rene.

A: Right now the Heat bench very much remains a work in progress. McRoberts still is finding his way and Gerald Green appears to have lost his way on offense (his biggest play of the night Saturday arguably was a fourth-quarter blocked shot). And then you have Amar'e Stoudemire, who went from a key Thursday performance to inactive on Saturday. Plus there are Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen who never play. I'm not sure the Heat second unit will look the same in February as it does now.

Q: When will the patience run out with Goran Dragic? -- Vanessa.

A: I might be in the minority, but I still think it's too early. Goran played well at the end of last season after he was acquired from the Suns, and I find it hard to believe he simply has lost his game. Confidence can come and go in games, during weeks and even during months. We're still not a full month into this. And it's not as if there is a definitive better option among the mix the Heat have in place, unless you want to cast Dwyane Wade in a full-time role as a point guard. The best part of this rough patch for Dragic is it is coming with the Heat still winning. That should allow for more patience.

November 21, 2015

Q: I think that the Heat's lack of consistent 3-point shooting will be their Achilles heel especially come the playoffs.  Your thoughts? -- Joel.

A: A reasonable point. But it's possible that Tyler Johnson and/or Gerald Green could eventually fill that need. And Chris Bosh certainly can make a three as needed, something Goran Dragic also has shown prior to this latest funk. What still remains to be determined is whether Josh McRoberts can reemerge as the 3-point threat he was in Charlotte. And don't rule out the possibility of picking up a 3-point specialist, especially if the Heat thin out their roster in the name of luxury-tax savings.

Q: With what we are paying Dwyane Wade and how he is playing why would we even consider having him come off the bench? -- Ariel.

A: That was not the point, or at least the immediate point, I was making on WQAM with Joe Rose earlier this week. The conversation was about how to extend Dwyane's career and maximize his value going forward, and the example I used was Manu Ginobili with the Spurs. Right now, it's not as if the Heat have a definitive replacement, anyway. But it's about the idea that if Dwyane signs a long-term contract this coming offseason, then it behooves the Heat to consider how to maximize Wade's longevity. As the Spurs have shown with Manu as their sixth man, such a role gets a star player on the court against reserves and limits his minutes early in games so he can be fresh when it truly matters. I think it makes sense for Pat Riley or Micky Arison to have that discussion with Dwyane at some point down the road. Repeat, down the road. But it doesn't have to be right now.

Q: I've read here and elsewhere that part of Goran Dragic's struggles with Heat are due to Dwyane Wade dominating the ball and playing more like a combo guard than a true point guard, which also negatively affects the pick-and-roll with Chris Bosh (not to mention Hassan Whiteside). Can Wade play with a true point and a dominant big man? Then I think back to 2006 when Wade played with Jason Williams and Gary Payton at point and Shaquille O'Neal at center. Sure, the team relied on Wade as the dominant offensive weapon, but they had two legitimate point guards who played point and deferred scoring to Wade and Shaq. I have confidence he can make it work with Dragic as a pure point guard if he wants. -- David

A: That also was a decade ago. Dwyane's game has changed dramatically since then. You're basically asking him to turn back the clock. There's a lot of muscle memory at play here. The reality is Dwyane was at his best in Thursday's second period, when he was playing alongside Tyler Johnson, with Johnson playing off the ball at the time.

November 20, 2015

Q: Although there's merit in potentially having Dwyane Wade come off the bench in a Manu Ginobili-type role, I think there's possibly a better move to be made. I would have Goran Dragic exit the game midway through the first quarter, much like Chris Bosh, to be replaced by Tyler Johnson. Then I would have him join the second unit with Chris, with either Gerald Green at shooting guard, or Johnson if he proves to have a hot hand. The second group (really a hybrid) spaces the floor more and plays at a faster pace than the first unit, both of which plays to Goran's strengths. Additionally, he wouldn't have to play off the ball as much as he does playing with Dwyane, and has a more open lane when driving to the basket with Hassan Whiteside not on the floor. This is where I see his game coming to life, though Erik Spoelstra still has to find a way to get the most out of him while playing with the first unit, if Miami is really going to make noise in the conference. -- Matt.

A: You make an interesting proposal, and there certainly have to be better ways to utilize Goran. But your final point might be your most cogent: The Heat have to find a way to make their best players fit. That means Dragic-with-Wade as much as you suggest the benefits of Dragic without Wade. But much of this also rests with Goran, and with Goran regaining confidence in his shot. He has to make shots to be successful. And for the Heat to be successful.

Q: Everyone is seemingly just fine that Josh McRoberts had as many points as all the Heat fans watching in the arena and at home, that his lack of scoring is a constant theme, and that he isn't even a stat-sheet-stuffer. Are we at the place where nothing in the scoring department is to be expected (yet it is satisfactory) from McRoberts for the minutes he gets? -- Nikki.

A: I would say this, the Heat's bench, which created so much enthusiasm earlier in the season, is at somewhat of a crossroads. Other than Tyler Johnson and Justise Winslow, there are no sure things in the second unit, now that McRoberts has tailed off and now that Gerald Green again is trying to find his way. I do believe the Heat need to find more consistency from that group, and that could mean McRoberts taking more shots and Green possibly fewer. The Heat have only played one back-to-back set, have barely been out on the road. The time for needed depth is coming. And that means it's time for someone other than Winslow and Johnson to step up consistently.

Q: You don't treat your future franchise player like a scrub and sit him 12 minutes because of foul trouble. Hassan Whiteside was mismanaged in the first half Thursday by Erik Spoelstra. -- Jose.

A: But you do if you think your future franchise player won't be the same while playing in foul trouble. And that proved to be the case, with Whiteside timid with his play after returning in the second period following those two early fouls. That also is part of the growth equation for Hassan, to appreciate that he gets six fouls, and that if he stops being aggressive he could leave the middle as exposed as when he is not in there. Actually, with the way Amar'e Stoudemire played in Hassan's absence, I could appreciate Spoelstra's approach. With Whiteside there still is plenty to work through, with Hassan yet to play a single season's worth of NBA games to this stage of his career. So Tuesday he learned from the intentional fouls off the ball, and Thursday the lesson was of early foul trouble. What mattered most was how Whiteside came out of his shell in the third period and still make it a productive night. It was curious, though, how he wasn't given a follow-up opportunity in the fourth quarter as the Kings closed the gap.

November 19, 2015

Q: The Hassan Whiteside free-throw issue is a real problem. Play him in closing minutes and it hurts you. Bench him in closing minutes and it hurts you. Have they tried a shooting coach? -- Wolf, Miami.

A: First, let's not overreact because of one game. The game against the Timberwolves was a perfect storm of Hassan almost being too dominant for his own good and Hassan being off with his free throws. It's almost as if Whiteside forced Sam Mitchell's hand. It was obvious to almost everyone involved that it was the logical next step for Minnesota during that fourth quarter. Many other dominant centers with similar issues have carved out All-Star careers and now Erik Spoelstra must come up with a plan of response when it happens again. The good news was Hassan was back in the gym on Wednesday, while the rest of his teammates had the day off. The most basic math is that as long as a player can make half his free throws, the hack-a-someone strategy generally does not succeed (unless the opposition has great 3-point shooters who can make it a 3-for-1 equation). Tuesday, it was almost as if the Heat were caught off guard by Minnesota's approach. That's the part that can't happen again.

Q: The bench play was simply horrible against Minnesota. Gerald Green has to now realize it isn't about him jacking up shots. He has to move the ball. -- Bev.

A: But for him, that's exactly what it's about and who he is and why the Heat signed him. That's who Gerald Green is and to muzzle him is to minimize his potential contributions. What you need is someone to pick up the scoring when Gerald is off with his game, and to make that decision before it is too late. The thought is that the alternate scorer on the second unit would be Tyler Johnson, but he also struggled Tuesday. This bench will work if either Green or Johnson is scoring. When neither can get their offense going, that's when you're going to see bench performances like Tuesday's.

Q: Sometimes it is tough being a Heat fan. You shoot free throws with every foul with nine minutes left in the Minnesota game and you don't take advantage of it. Your two best players end the game 0-0 from the line? Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh stood and watched as Andrew Wiggins showed them how to draw fouls. -- Patrick, Hollywood.

A: I noticed that, as well, and it was disturbing. The Heat got into the bonus with 9:16 to play in Tuesday's loss. From there, they attempted nine free throws the balance of the game, and four of those were from intentional, off-the-ball fouls on Whiteside. While Whiteside was dominant in the paint, there wasn't much in the way of attacking basketball from the wings. Justise Winslow had a few such moments, but there weren't enough from the Heat's athletes such as Wade, Johnson and Green. That has to change. Such "bonus" moments have to be seized.

November 18, 2015

Q: They're going to trade Chris Andersen. It doesn't make sense to sit him this much. -- Mike.

Q: Birdman never should be inactive unless he is injured. He is better than Udonis Haslem and Amar'e Stoudemire. Period. -- Jose.

A: To the first question: You must might be right, although it would seem that a potential suitor would first want to see Chris in action before committing to taking on his salary. To the second question, I agree that Birdman has shown more than Stoudemire and Haslem when it comes to meriting playing time as a backup to Hassan Whiteside, should one be needed (or as an injury replacement, for that matter). But as the Mario Chalmers trade has shown, there is more in play with the Heat's maneuvering than talent. The luxury tax continues to loom, with the Heat still positioned to become the first team into the "repeater" tax. I'm not sure that Andersen necessarily can be dealt without taking some salary back in return. So there could yet be a third move, beyond Chalmers and Birdman, to potentially get safely under the tax. In other words, don't rush out to buy those Beno Udrih jerseys (if there yet are such things). It has become clear that Erik Spoelstra is developing a nine-player comfort zone, one that doesn't include much in the way of centers.

Q: I have been watching Memphis games and Mario Chalmers has been instrumental in their winning the last three games. Is he playing out of his mind or is this an indictment on Erik Spoelstra? Double-digit free-throw attempts the last two games and 29 points against the Thunder. Where was this guy? -- Patrick, Hollywood.

A: I don't think it is a Spoelstra issue. I think playing alongside Dwyane Wade is a challenge, because he can dominate the ball. That is something that Goran Dragic currently is working through. The best option alongside Wade is a player who is a spot-up shooter, and that never has been Chalmers' comfort zone (or Dragic's). So I think, as with so many chemistry issues, it comes down to a matter of fit. Mario seems to have found his in Memphis. Now Goran needs to find his with the Heat, with Wednesday certainly an encouraging step in that direction.

Q: Ira, don't you think the Heat should give Tyler Johnson a multi-year, high-end deal and keep him for good before he exits and finds a home elsewhere? -- Masoud, Tucson, Ariz.

A: First, the Heat can't do anything with Tyler's contract this season because of his lack of tenure and their lack of cap space. It also doesn't matter. Johnson falls into one of the unique classifications in the collective-bargaining agreement where he is all but assured of returning to the Heat next season at a figure close to the league's average salary, as part of both his Early Bird Rights and his standing under the Gilberts Arenas Rule. There is no need to get into specifics with those arcane classifications, other than Johnson is practically locked into a Heat return at about $7 million next season as long as he proves worthy of at least such a figure. There is plenty to sweat with this roster going forward, including Hassan Whiteside. But you can probably go ahead and get your kid a Tyler Johnson jersey without having to worry about buying a replacement next season. 

November 17, 2015

Q: I listened to your appearance on Big O's show on WQAM.  If Kevin Durant has any inkling at all of coming to Miami, it would be to play with Hassan Whiteside, not to replace him. As for those who are antsy about paying Whiteside $22.5 million a year starting next season, ask yourselves this question: If the Heat sign Whiteside and he underperforms, or if the Heat decide to let him go, isn't the outcome still the same, no championship contender? For all the difficult decisions Pat Riley has made in his 20 years as Heat Czar, this isn't one of them. -- Rich, West Palm Beach.

A: You make an interesting point about having to be all-in with Hassan, because 7-footers with his skill set don't come along very often and if you are going to take a risk with a maximum contract, at least make it on a dominant big man. But if you do go all-in for Whiteside, because, as you point out, he could be critical for a championship contender, it also limits your flexibility. So with your win-or-bust thinking, is it enough to have a lineup of Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Justise Winslow, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic? Since that probably would be what you would begin with during the next phase, with Whiteside as a max player.

Q: Why do you think it is that every point guard under Erik Spoelstra who's made a name for himself prior to playing for Miami comes here and ends up looking like a shell of himself? The ones who leave Miami go off and put up better numbers than we saw from them during their stay here. Even Dragic is now looking like a shell of himself, and so far Mario Chalmers is looking like one of heck of a backup point guard in Memphis. Shabazz Napier is doing better in Orlando. -- Ben.

A: I'm not sure you can make such blanket statements, since Dragic played well for Spoelstra after his arrival last season and we are only two weeks into this season. And Chalmers is just three games into his Memphis tenure. What I would say is that another common bond during the Spoelstra era has been the presence of Dwyane Wade at shooting guard. And that requires a different type of point guard, particularly one willing to defer a degree of his ballhandling. I'm not sure a point guard ever can put up huge numbers alongside Wade. That doesn't mean those who have played alongside him or under Spoelstra have been failures.

Q: It's funny, the Eastern Conference is doing better than the Western Conference so far. -- Roger.

A: It's still early, very early, barely 10 percent into the season. But I think there are far fewer dogs in the East this season than recent seasons (no offense to dogs intended). Beyond the 76ers and perhaps the Nets, just about every team offers a degree of a challenge, especially on their home court. It looks like it actually will take a winning record to make the playoffs in the East this season. As it should.

November 16, 2015

Q: Even if other teams suffer injuries to players in their power rotations, there will be cheaper options than Chris Andersen.  I think Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg will be dogged in their pursuit of escaping the repeater tax, but I think it's going to be difficult shedding Birdman's contract (as well as those of Beno Udrih or Jarnell Stokes), even as we draw nearer to the February trade deadline. Do you concur? -- Rich,

A: But, remember, a team acquiring Birdman's contract also would be acquiring Andersen's Bird Rights (ironic, eh?), which potentially could help that team in the offseason with a sign-and-trade. I can't see the Heat simply stopping when it comes to the attempt to avoid becoming the first team to enter the "repeater" luxury tax. I just don't see Micky Arison wanting to be the first owner to break such ground. The problem for the Heat is they have three big men who barely play, in Birdman, Amar'e Stoudemire and Udonis Haslem. Yet, because of numerous reasons, dealing any would be difficult. And it certainly does not appear that dealing Josh McRoberts is even a consideration at this juncture. A possible remedy could be dealing Luol Deng for a player who earns enough less to drop the Heat below the tax. But it's early. The tax is not computed until season's end.

Q: Ira, I stand corrected. McRoberts did not lose athleticism and he's taking the ball aggressively to the hoop. Even when he gets his shot blocked, that's a good sign. He is being aggressive. And his passing is Globetrotter-esque! -- Raul, Naples.

A: I relayed your apologies to Josh, but he said he would prefer a handwritten note. (Actually, what Josh needed was time, time to get his rhythm, stamina and motor back after missing so much time following the foot surgery that preceded his arrival to the Heat and then his season-ending knee surgery last December. This basically has been the first time Heat fans have been able to see the real Josh McRoberts.)

Q: Do you think the Heat only bring this energy at home in front of their crowds, or can they muster it on the road? -- Andy, Hialeah.

A: For now, holding court at home is the only thing that matters, with the next four at AmericanAirlines Arena, against the Timberwolves, Kings, 76ers and Knicks, beginning Tuesday night. Win those four and there will be plenty of energy to take on the road on the trip to Detroit and New York that follows . . . before the Heat then open a four-game homestand (albeit against the more-difficult slate of Boston, Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Washington).

November 15, 2015

Q: With the story coming out about Pat Riley asking LaMarcus Aldridge last summer to take the Heat's mid-level exception for a year and cash in with the Heat the following year, do you think it is out of the realm of possibility he'd take a similar approach to Hassan Whiteside with an Early Bird contract for a year? Could Pat really convince him to take a smaller contract for a year, get Dwyane Wade to take a smaller contract, utilize the remaining space in 2016, and then use Bird Rights to resign both in 2017? -- Chris, Miami.

A: I can't fathom Hassan, after all he has been through in his climb to this stage, that Hassan would leave $80 million on the table to take one season at around $7 million and hope he doesn't get hurt of backslide. No, you can't count on him going for the cash, from the Heat or elsewhere, even with Riley's power of persuasion. And when you talk about a "smaller" contract for Wade, you're probably still talking at least with a $10 million starting point. If Whiteside goes for cap space and is retained by the Heat, their other options in free agency figure to be limited. If Riley talks Whiteside into waiting for a season for his payday, then anything could be possible.

Q: Why do you always answer in such practical terms and always counsel the long-term view when impulsive roster changes and radical rotation moves would be so much more exciting? We, the modestly informed and marginally experienced, keep coming up with these brilliant and inspired recommendations only to have our fragile egos crushed with your incisive and time-tested insights, albeit in the most diplomatic and compassionate manner? -- Jack, Fort Myers.

A: And for that I truly apologize. So go ahead and trade Goran Dragic for a first-round pick, Udonis Haslem for luxury-tax savings and then put together a package for Carmelo Anthony involving Dwyane Wade. For once, you can move freely without worrying about facts, cap, tax or reality. (We now rejoin regular programming already in progress . . . )

Q: Goran Dragic needs to get involved and contributing from a points perspective 
To do this, we have to see more and more Dragic and Chris Bosh pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.

A: But there is a second part of that equation, the Bosh aspect. Chris has been playing very well and I'm not sure how much you want to change his offensive package at this stage. I could see Erik Spoelstra attempt to get Dragic involved in a more athletic unit as the game goes on, something the return of Gerald Green and the emergence of Tyler Johnson could help facilitate.

November 14, 2015

Q: Shouldn't we be looking towards trading Luol Deng? Justise Winslow has been the better defender between both. And even with Deng being the better shooter, his numbers are only slightly better than Winslow's, and that's probably because Deng plays significantly more. If Goran Dragic does return to form, then Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Gerald Green, Tyler Johnson and Dwyane Wade really make the production Deng brings replaceable. We all know we only got him to help defend LeBron James because we weren't expecting a defender like Winslow in South Beach anytime soon. Deng and Andersen might possibly be the trade that gets us one more shooter, or gets us a first-round pick back  -- Ben.

A: First, with just about everything you and so many others have brought up amid this 6-3 start: It's only been nine games and six of them have been at home. The Heat haven't proven anything yet. And nine games is way too small a sample size to make franchise-altering decisions. There will be ample time for that. Now is not that time. Luol Deng is a time-tested asset who can help position the Heat for where it wants to and needs to go. That is not to say that some of your points, in fact many, aren't valid. And there could be value in moving Luol before he hits free agency. But two weeks into November is not the time to make a move you could come to regret later. Luol Deng might not be a leading man for the Heat, but he still means more at the moment than Mario Chalmers did when he was moved.

Q: This roster is now built to move Dwyane Wade into the Manu Ginobili role and win a title. Now. -- Jose.

A: A title? Can't go that far. But I do see a time, perhaps sooner than some anticipated, when it could make a lot of sense for Wade to move into such a role. The question becomes who within the Heat can massage the situation in Miami as well as Gregg Popovich has in San Antonio? Many of Wade's skills would work well with a second unit, and that, as with Manu, would not preclude by any stretch playing him during crunch time. Such a move, as with Ginobili, in fact, could have Wade fresher for the game's biggest moments. You point is valid, if not your conclusion.

Q: I have come to appreciate Erik Spoelstra's innovative way of replacing an absent starter not with the sixth, seventh or eighth man, but with a non-rotation player to keep the rest of the rotation intact. The usual routine by most teams  is to put in the sixth or seven man as the starter. -- Martin.

A: It's interesting, but just about all the media members who were waiting in the locker room for the Heat lineup announcement assumed it would be Josh Richardson. Spoelstra has been consistent with such an approach. It certainly paid dividends at the start Thursday with Richardson and at the close with Tyler Johnson. But I'm still not sure that if Gerald Green was available that he wouldn't have been the replacement starter.

November 13, 2015

Q: Was Thursday's game what the Heat are going to look like in the post-Wade era? -- Adam.

A: First, this is not the time to write off Dwyane, not with what he had to deal with Thursday. But if you are asking whether an athletic team of young players, a savvy veteran leader in Chris Bosh and an inside menace in Hassan Whiteside could be a blueprint going forward, yes, I think you and the Heat might be on to something. This team is well positioned for Wade to move into a Manu Ginobili role whenever that time is ready. That is why you need strong leaders like Gregg Popovich or Pat Riley, to ease such transitions. But that's not about now. Not about this moment. For the moment, what the Heat are showing is that they have several players you would want to go into battle with, from Tyler Johnson to Justise Winslow, plus savvy veterans regaining their legs, in Bosh and Josh McRoberts. It is an intriguing mix that put together and impressive effort Thursday. They have deserved these next four days off.

Q: Chris Bosh drove to the basket more Thursday than he did in the last five years combined. It was great passion from Bosh. -- Stuart.

A: We have seen this before from Chris, when others have been out and he's been able to step forward. It is a role he still relishes going back to his Toronto days. For all the sacrifice he has made, when there are moments such as Thursday, when Wade is out, he seizes them. He actually forced some shots, as well, some that weren't in the Heat's best interest. But that also is what leading men get to do. I will say this, though, Chris has fit well with just about every player on this roster, thriving with both the first and second units. That is what has been most impressive recently.

Q: The Mario Chalmers trade really tested the Heat with Wade out. This team is a lot of fun to watch They just have keep the ball moving and good things happen. -- Chet.

A: It got a little harrowing at the end Thursday, but I agree that it was a pleasant step forward. Even Beno Udrih finished plus-11 in his time on the court, with Josh Richardson also finishing ahead of the game in plus-minus. This team plays hard, which almost always makes it fun. 

November 12, 2015

Q: I'm sure the Heat don't have the assets to pull it off, but I know Pat Riley has to be looking at the DeMarcus Cousins-Kings situation. -- Daniel.

A: I'm sure he is, because he looks at all situations. Except. Except the Heat already have Hassan Whiteside at center and Chris Bosh at power forward. However, there is one scenario, and perhaps only one scenario, where consideration of a Whiteside trade might make sense for the Heat (humor me here, if you will): Because the Heat will have to put aside salary-cap space for Whiteside, it could complicate the rest of their moves this summer. With a trade for Cousins, who already is under contract going forward, cap space wouldn't be a consideration and it could be easier to make the rest of their moves work, from Dwyane Wade to Tyler Johnson to even utilizing various exceptions, including their trade exceptions. So if you trade Whiteside and, say, Luol Deng (plus some filler), for Cousins, then there would be little to sweat next summer in free agency. Of course, then you wouldn't have Whiteside. Still, with all the Kings are going through, such a trade might be appealing. But is Cousins truly a Riley-style player? Look, it's just a theory, but cap space could be tricky for the Heat next summer. Going into free agency with the cap closer to full or even full could make it easier to use Bird Rights, Early Bird Rights and the like the top off the roster. So it comes down to this: Roll the dice with Whiteside in July, or try to lock up a quality piece in advance. Cousins is under contract for $15.9 million this season and then $17 million and $18 million each of the next two seasons.

Q: Say what you want about Mario Chalmers, but he stepped up in Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals, when LeBron James was out with a cramp, to hit a big shot (sets up Mike Miller's Game 5 and makes LeBron's Game 6 in Eastern Conference finals in Boston relevant) over Kendrick Perkins to virtually insure that LeBron James would win his first NBA title.  OKC pulls Game 4 out and that series could have gone the other way with a 2-2 tie and the next two out of three in Oklahoma City. Even though there are many talented players, not many have the guts to take it down the middle with 1:20 to go and shoot over a Kendrick Perkins. -- Stuart.

A: Which is why there will be an emotional video tribute during one of the first timeouts during the Heat's Dec. 13 home game against the Grizzlies at AmericanAirlines Arena. Chalmers was a significant component to the most significant era of Heat basketball. He deserves the warmest of welcomes at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Q: Is Chris Bosh playing with the second unit for long stretches of the game "Bosh time"? Kind of like LeBron had "LeBron time" with the second unit? In my opinion it should be Bosh time all the time. The offense should run through Bosh. -- Yunasi, Miami Beach.

A: And it mostly does. What it shows, more than anything, is that Bosh, even for a scorer, is also a complementary piece who complements almost any player on the roster.

November 11, 2015

Q: Did you believe Pat Riley when he said that the Mario Chalmers trade was not because of the luxury tax but to give the younger players in the roster a chance to play? Or is this part of his bigger plan to be flexible so that he can have a chance at Kevin Durant? -- Bryan, Davie.

A: What happened Tuesday has absolutely nothing to do with 2016 free agency or Kevin Durant. Nothing that happened Tuesday in any way impacted cap space for next summer. It is the same whether the deal was or was not made. And after questioning Pat Riley, this becomes a case where you can explain the moves two ways and be right in both contexts: 1. This was a move that helps deliver tax relief while also opening time for younger players at the position. 2. This is a trade that opens up time for younger players at the position while also delivering tax relief. So what we're really debating is the impetus/intent for the move, even though the end result is the same in both cases: younger players getting an opportunity and tax relief realized. The greater question is this: Is a team bent in winning, one that's living in the moment, better off having Mario Chalmers coming off the bench or Tyler Johnson/Josh Richardson? For all of the platitudes Tuesday from the Heat regarding Beno Udrih, this trade has nothing to do with him other than believing he is a player who could be content going without playing time for extended stretches (sort of a James Jones/Udonis Haslem of point guards).

Q: What was the feelings of the players about the Rio trade? Did they seem upset the way LeBron James was when Mike Miller was traded? -- Michael, Miami.

A: The reaction was purely emotional, that a teammate and friend was moving on. Very few players are like LeBron, where they synthesize all the ramifications of a personnel move and deliberate whether they would have done otherwise. The players that remained after LeBron left largely are still here because of a trust factor with Pat Riley. So they trust that Riley has done right by them, while expressing their enduring allegiance to Chalmers.

Q: Do you think Miami uses the $2 million trade exception they received from the Chalmers trade so we can get another player? -- Mark, Toronto.

A: I tend to discount the exception, because if this trade was made for luxury-tax purposes, then why expose the differential gained in the deal to the tax? Of course, if the Heat insist the trade wasn't because of tax reasons, then there is no reason not to spend it if a player on the current roster doesn't pan out, perhaps one of the two acquired in the Chalmers deal. The reality is once you utilize cap space in an offseason, your trade exceptions are extinguished. And since the Heat will have to use cap space next summer to retain Hassan Whiteside, this is an exception that likely will exist only in theory.

November 10, 2015

Q: Hi, Ira. My question pertains to Goran Dragic. I was super excited when we got him, let me just say that. Anyways, something is seriously off. From the first seven games this season, the only time Dragic looks great is when he is attacking on a one-man fastbreak. Then he almost always scores. Other than that, he looks like a point guard who has no idea what he's doing and just spots up. There is something wrong with Goran Dragic. No, there is something wrong with our style of play. Some people blame it on Dwyane Wade. I don’t know. Maybe he's just not aggressive. Is that coaching? Because even Mario Chalmers looks more aggressive. I can't figure it out, but 12 points per game is unacceptable with his contract. We will only be a contender if Dragic looks like he did in Phoenix two years ago. Thoughts? -- Damian, New York.

A: You get a player out of a slump by playing to his strengths. Goran's strength, at least in the halfcourt, is running a relentless series of pick and rolls. For all the talk of the Chris Bosh-Goran Dragic pick-and-roll, how often have you seen the Heat run it this season? And the teams that committed to the pick-and-roll game run it multiple times on the same possession. If you want a player to play like a star, to play to his pay grade, you have to treat him like a star, treat him like someone at his pay grade. You can, of course, go to great lengths only for a limited number of players. But you always go to great lengths for your leading men. So, ultimately, where does Dragic rate in the Heat's hierarchy?

Q: Does anyone have Ray Allen's phone number? I think he would put the cherry on top of the cake with this roster. His outside shooting right now would make this a very dangerous team. What say you? -- Mike, Fort Lauderdale.

A: I'd ask: And play him ahead of who in the rotation? Would you want him taking minutes from Justise Winslow? From Tyler Johnson? From Gerald Green when he returns? If Mario Chalmers is dealt and if Tyler Johnson proves capable of playing point guard, then you could make a case for creating playing time. But you also would be putting Josh Richardson on hold for a year.

Q: When can the lobbying begin to have Tyler Johnson in the dunk contest? -- Sergio.

A: The league tends to go for players with broader appeal, emerging stars or high draft picks, not undrafted free agents from the Class of 2014. It's not as if Tyler has been cast in the type of role that offers prime exposure. And at the very start of the season, it was the dunking of Gerald Green that was drawing most of the attention. Plus, it's not as if the Heat are being featured in as many nationally televised games as before.

November 9, 2015

Q: Can the Heat add another to replace Gerald Green and still keep him. I'd hate to see him go considering the way he had been playing. Prayers to him. -- Steve.

A: Unlike baseball and football with their various disabled, reserve and long-term injury lists, the NBA has a 15-man roster limit, and that's it (unless a team has several longer-term injuries, in which case short-term roster additions can be made). With 14 available players, the Heat are not in position for roster relief from the NBA. And if the Heat were to release Green (with no such indication at the moment), he would immediately be free to be signed by any team (and since he is on a veteran-minimum contract, could be claimed on waivers by any team). This is why the NBA allows for 15-player rosters, with only 13 players on the active list for each game. In the case of long-term injuries, such as the one Josh McRoberts sustained last season or even Chris Bosh's illness last season, it is not unusual for players to be designated as inactive for weeks or even months on end. So figure on Green being listed nightly on the Heat's inactive list until this situation is resolved.

Q: How come we haven't seen Amar'e Stoudemire? -- Brian.

A: This is the theory here: When the Heat added Stoudemire it was not as crystal clear as it is now about how smaller, quicker, faster has become the dominant approach in this season's NBA. So now not only is Stoudemire viewed as a liability at this pace, but Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem also have become spectators, with Erik Spoelstra limiting his power rotation to Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts. I'm not sure having six power players is the way to go with today's NBA rosters, which is why we've seen Andersen and Stoudemire inactive on the nights Green had been available.

Q: Ira, with Justise Winslow's quick progress, do you think Luol Deng's time with the Heat will be short-lived? -- Freddie.

A: I'm not sure that's a short-term concern (unless the Heat opt to move Deng for luxury-tax relief). But it could solve a problem in the offseason, when there likely won't be free-agency money for Deng if the Heat hope to re-sign Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade. I think Justise is more heir apparent than near-future replacement.

November 8, 2015

Q: That was awful. Dwyane Wade goes hero ball on a night where he can't hit a shot. The ball sticks. Goran Dragic disappears . . . I don't get it. Why do they run the final play for a guy who didn't score in the second half and who is historically a terrible 3-point shooter? -- Andrew, Miami.

A: Why indeed? I tried to ask Erik Spoelstra about the call after the game (the team had Saturday off), but he only would go as far as to say that there were multiple options on that set. Still, not only did Wade take that final shot, it's not as if the Heat set him up with a clean look. In a perfect world, that becomes a teaching point. But you could also argue that such a situation is not a time for decoys, and that there are better options on the roster, with no disrespect to Dwyane. For all the accolades that will be celebrated when he is inducted in Springfield, including his ability to make game-winning shots, converting 3-point shots at any juncture during games will not be one of them. This is something Erik Spoelstra has to finesse going forward. But as long as Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Mario Chalmers, Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng, Tyler Johnson and even Gerald Green are on the roster, there will be better 3-point options in that situation.

Q: For my money, the worst shot of the season so far is Wade walking the ball up, not passing to anyone, and taking and missing an ill-advised quick shot. Can anyone get through to him that that would have been a good time to play team ball and not play hero? -- Patrick, Hollywood.

A: I think with any star, the confidence level will lead to one or two of those per game. But with the Heat preaching team ball and ball movement, each of those possessions is a possession that creates doubt about whether the commitment to the system is complete. It's one thing f Wade is on a roll, as he was a night earlier in Minnesota. That's when teammates appreciate the hot hand. But when others have it going, like Bosh did on Friday night, to turn your back on them is almost insulting, no matter the stature. Especially when you're a team captain. It is one of the more, if not most, challenging aspects of Erik Spoelstra's job,

Q: There's a lot of times Erik Spoelstra has had Justise Winslow just standing around. There's also a lot of times Hassan Whiteside is just standing around, even when he's not in foul trouble, especially in that third quarter against Indiana. I don't know what's going on here, but can someone please tell Spoelstra to make it stop? This looks terrible. -- Dallas, Staten Island.

A: It does and it did. The rhetoric coming out of the Heat locker room and heard on the Heat practice court has been impressive, the commitment to team play, sharing the ball, moving the ball. Putting it into practice is another matter. And, as you note, when players don't get to touch the ball, aren't engaged in the process, they tend to float and their game tends to wane. November is way too early for waning.

November 7, 2015

Q: Why is Dwyane Wade taking that shot at the end? That couldn't have been what Erik Spoelstra called. And Chris Bosh was open. Maybe have Wade inbound. -- Martin.

A: You got me, but that's part of the delicate balance in working with a longtime All-Star whose confidence sometimes exceeds his range. Let's face it, when it comes to higher-percentage options in that situation, you're probably talking about Bosh, Goran Dragic, Mario Chalmers, Luol Deng, maybe ever Tyler Johnson. But how do you script your franchise's all-time best player out of that situation? As always, Spoelstra said there were multiple levels to the final play. But he also declined to specify whether Wade was a check-down option. But the reality is this: The Heat will be in that situation several other times this season, and the play has to go to a player with the skill set to make that play. Yes, Wade can make that play. But he shouldn't have to be expected to make the play. It is the rare case with Wade's overall skill set where it is something that others do better. Others on this team, on this roster.

Q: I think that Josh McRoberts is the obvious choice for a trade to clear luxury-tax space. Watching his early-career film, he has lost athleticism from injuries and refuses to take open shots, forcing passes to players who are covered. The league knows he won't shoot so they back off and take away the passing lanes. -- Raul, Naples.

A: I think it's a bit too early to be at a crossroads with Josh, considering he missed almost all of last season. And he actually looked very good in his minutes Friday. I think the "loss of athleticism" you reference could instead be a player needing time to regain that athleticism after so much time off. He certainly was moving better Friday, and more aggressive. The question might be whether McRoberts fits with the components on the second unit, or whether he might be better rotated with the starters. He did, after all, play particularly well in his minutes Friday with Bosh. That's why you have to sit back, to a degree, and see how things shake out, at least for a month, and probably longer. There is a reason the trade deadline is not until late February. And even then, keep in mind that Josh has two more seasons left on his contract, and that most teams are not looking to take on long-term salary in advance of next summer's free agency and the free agency of 2017.

Q: Why were the Pacers wearing the high-school-gym-teacher look? It was like the Miami Heat against the Indiana Gym Teachers? -- Will.

A: Look, I appreciate the appeal of "Hoosiers" and what the Pacers were trying to accomplish with their "Hickory" jerseys on Friday night. But the NBA is its own brand and it seems a bit odd that the league would have a team brand itself beyond the NBA. I'm not a fashion critic, but it almost always seems like mismatched shorts and jerseys, like the Pacers wore Friday and the Hawks wore previously this season, rarely work on this level. My son once had a basketball coach who insisted his players wear "a proper sock." That's sort of what the Pacers evoked on Friday night.

November 6, 2015

Q: Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson got the Heat's tally up to 15 points for the bench. That's what we need, consistent guys. -- Brian.

A: At the start of the season, it appeared the story of the Heat's youth might have been Winslow and second-round pick Josh Richardson. Instead, Tyler Johnson has created an impressive one-two defensive punch with Winslow, with the two practically a lockdown combination, something not expected from such youth. It will be interesting to see if the two will get continued opportunities when Mario Chalmers gets back, like they did in Thursday's victory in Minnesota, or, for that matter, what might happen if Gerald Green gets back on the floor. While Winslow has the pedigree for what he has accomplished, Johnson has been practically a revelation. And while 15 points might not sound like a lot from a tandem, if they can provide that and their defensive contributions, it should have the Heat at a net gain. Of course, keeping Johnson upright for consistent minutes might be another story.

Q: We need to see what we have in Amar'e Stoudemire. -- Nadir.

A: That has been one of the most curious aspects of the Heat's depth. It was interesting in Minnesota how Erik Spoelstra essentially only rotated Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh at center, never turning to Stoudemire, Chris Andersen or Udonis Haslem while the game was in the balance. For as much as the Heat have been likened to a power team, Spoelstra's preference has been to maximize his perimeter options. There have been a times when Stoudemire might have entered, but I'm wondering if the pace of some of these games is simply beyond what Spoelstra believes is logical for Stoudemire at this stage of his career.

Q: Any shot farther than halfcourt should not hurt field-goal percentage. Guys would always let it fly. -- Paul.

A: That actually was a topic of discussion at the press table when Dwyane Wade let it fly with his heave and converted from beyond midcourt at the end of the first half Thursday. In a league that embraces dynamic plays, your thought is correct. But I would take it further: Any shot beyond the 3-point line with two or fewer seconds left in any of the first three periods should not count against a player's shooting percentage. It would be like in hockey when an empty-net goal does not count against a goalie's goals-against percentage. I think you shouldn't limit it to halfcourt, because I'd hate to see guys stop there just so it wouldn't impact their percentage. There is nothing like a buzzer-beater in basketball. So, yes, change the rule, and then we might get more moments like Thursday, instead of player who first waits for the buzzer (and, yes, we know that is exactly what some players do).

November 5, 2015

Q: Ira, please help me understand why it is so difficult for the Heat to consistently grasp and successfully employ the idea that moving the ball produces wins? The Spurs of Gregg Popovich have proven this for years. It's the key to the Warriors' success and helped Steph Curry become an MVP. And the Hawks bought in last year and rode ball movement to the East's best record and a season sweep of the Heat. The Hawks schooled the Heat again Tuesday night. Sure, Dwyane Wade had a migraine, Gerald Green was a scratch, and the Heat shot horribly. But that has nothing to do with them embracing the simplest of basketball's most basic tenets: ball movement never slumps. In fact, it's the great neutralizer on offense for teams like the Hest who are older and unable to run with younger opponents night every night. On top of that, even when LeBron James was here and isolation ball was the Heat norm, the Heat's most dominant wins came on the nights they moved the ball, and their losses came when they didn't. What gives? -- Terry, Knoxville, Tenn.

A: You are correct that the Heat halfcourt offense at times becomes beyond stagnant. But ball movement, real ball movement, takes commitment, game-long commitment, not just for a possession or two before players go back to what is easiest. While it is a successful approach, it also is an arduous approach, one that requires constant movement by the players as well as the ball. Right now, this team has too many ball-stoppers. It is one thing to talk about moving the ball, another to do it. For the moment, the Heat remain more a bunch of individuals than a team, at least when playing in the halfcourt. That, to a degree is odd, because it's also the style the majority of players seemingly would prefer to play.

Q: What's up with Chris Bosh? Is it more his passiveness and willingness to hang at the 3-point line, or the Heat offense where basically four men stand around watching the player with the ball? -- Jerrell.

A: It's almost as if Hassan Whiteside has pushed him out of the post. Or has made Chris comfortable with being out of the post. Perhaps it simply is Chris working his way back into the physical part of the game after being out for so long. But Chris Bosh is far too efficient of a mid-post player to be standing at the top of the circle. The Heat either have to get those pick-and-rolls working, or have to find a way to accommodate Bosh in the mid-post while also playing Whiteside in the post.

Q: The good news from the Atlanta game is that Goran Dragic came out of his slump and scored like he is able to. But I wonder if it's because Atlanta plays a different style that led to a faster pace game that worked to Dragic benefit. I hope his offensive gains continue because right now he seems out of place. -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.

A: This goes back to the first question above. If Goran is involved and engaged, he is a far more efficient player, particularly in the halfcourt. How do you get him involved and engaged? By moving the ball. By getting players to move. Basically, Goran will be as active as his teammates allow. Or don't.

November 4, 2015

Q: Chalmers is a "sell him when he's hot" type player. He will revert to unreliable for stretches. He always does. -- Juan.

A: Look, there are a wide variety of opinions on Mario, but let's not lose sight that he was the point guard on a team that went to four consecutive NBA Finals and won two championships. While he was a complementary player on those teams, he still complemented. So I think the question now, in view of the Heat's advantages gained by potentially avoiding the "repeater" luxury tax, is: Can this team succeed at a similar level without Chalmers on the roster and without another player brought in to replace him? Yes, I think Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson can work as reserve point guards. But what about those nights when Goran Dragic is not available? (And there will be nights like that.) Do the Heat have anyone they can comfortably slide into the starting lineup with Dragic out if Chalmers is not on the roster? Mario Chalmers works with the current mix. But with the Heat, it's always been about championship aspirations. So is this Heat team a championship contender? Or is it better to get below the luxury tax to better position the Heat for when they again truly will be championship contenders? Ultimately, that should frame the question of whether to deal Chalmers (and someone else to get below the tax).

Q: Do you think it's clear already that the Heat signed damaged goods in Amar'e Stoudemire? Watching him play, he looks completely shot. -- Brian.

A: There are no bargains in the NBA. There is a reason Amar'e came so cheap this year and Danny Granger did last year. The hope is to make something out of someone who used to be someone. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't. The key is to make the determination early enough that you can move on to Plan B, if that is possible.

Q: It's impressive how much Hassan Whiteside has matured as a player. He doesn't panic, and I love how his game has improved offensively. -- Chet.

A: And now he's doing it on both blocks, as he did in the first quarter against the Hawks, taking advantage of his upgraded hook shot. To be candid, I question why the Heat didn't get the ball to him even more, and play him even more, since he kept the fouls down.

November 3, 2015

Q: Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside. We need to see more of them in a lineup. Will that trio get consistent minutes or will the revolving door continue? -- Dennis, Pembroke Pines.

A: It certainly is an energetic and defensive-minded group, but it's awfully young to consistently be put in decisive situations. Then there is the matter of how you would round out that group, and whether it would be as simple as those three with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Although Luol Deng sat at the finish on Sunday against the Rockets, it is far too early to write him off as a late-game stopper. What the three you mentioned, and particularly the emergence of Winslow and Johnson in such situations, does, is give Erik Spoelstra additional options. As for the "revolving door" you mention, I hope it continues to revolve, as the Heat continue to evolve. This is when you want to explore all possibilities and all combinations. What worked Sunday against the Dwight Howard-less Rockets won't necessarily work against other combinations. These early weeks of the season are all about building a file for when the final decisions come with much more at stake. So revolve, evolve and then eventually resolve and solve.

Q: I think no one should play more than 30 minutes. That could prove beneficial for the late-season push and playoffs. -- Karl.

A: I think it is impossible to stick with such an approach when factoring in back-to-backs, hot hands, injuries and matchups. There is plenty of merit to developing depth, but to have a blanket policy about minutes would seem to be more of an encumbrance than a benefit. Play players the minutes that they earn, and hope that plenty of players earn minutes. Then move forward from there.

Q: The season is still very young but already we're seeing Mario Chalmers playing his tail off and at a very high level, as if to state, "Look elsewhere to save money."  Seriously, I don’t see how they can afford to lose him, as he gives them another attacking guard who can finish in traffic with his scoop shots under the rim. He's also obviously in the best shape of his career, so kudos to Super Mario for his hard work and effort. -- Brian, Fort Lauderdale.

A: And, yet, one has to wonder if the Heat at the moment are experimenting to see if they can survive without Chris Andersen, and perhaps later see if success is possible without Chalmers. The luxury tax does not have to be accounted for until season's end. And the punitive aspects of the tax aren't simply going to vanish because Chalmers and perhaps Birdman are playing well.

November 2, 2015

Q: I guess there is a method to his madness.  The last game I was screaming as to why Erik Spoelstra had most of the first unit benched, but now I see what he is creating. It seems that by him doing what he is doing, teams will have a tougher time preparing for the Heat because anyone can be on the floor at any time. I think this is going to work incredibly well. Also, I think the Heat will soon have no choice but to put Winslow as a starter. -- Javier.

A: I'm not sure either of your propositions are on point, although I thought Spoelstra was during Sunday's game. I think he simply is sorting through his wealth of options to see what works. I mean, Tyler Johnson? Didn't see that coming. On the other hand, Spoelstra was quick to realize that Sunday's game was not one for Amar'e Stoudemire and Josh McRoberts and did not try to force the issue. As for Winslow, he's working well with the second unit. Actually, what Sunday was about was that there are no "units." It was more mix and match until he hit upon the right combination, the closing combination, a combination that very much could vary night to night.

Q: Spoelstra finally earned his check Sunday night. He stuck with what was working after trial and error. -- Dap.

A: Exactly. Just as Hubie Brown told me for the column I wrote Sunday, what he did with his platoon system was give his players the opportunity to determine who should be the closers, based on their play. In this case, Mario Chalmers and Johnson were among those who stepped forward. He also showed enough faith to stick with Chris Bosh, with Bosh rewarding that faith. This is a roster that will give Spoelstra plenty of options this season. I guess you could equate him to someone playing daily fantasy, with his choices coming from the 15 players on his roster and the 13 on the nightly active roster.

Q: Justise Winslow has gotten offensively more aggressive each game so far, now looking to score more each time he's out there.  -- Ben.

A: More than that, he looks like someone who fits, not backing down from challenges, whether it was LeBron James on Friday night in Cleveland or Houston's James Harden on Sunday. The moments not only don't seem too big, but he appears to be the rare 19 year old who relishes them, almost anxious for even more responsibility. 

November 1, 2015

Q: I still don't see the importance of Josh McRoberts on this team. Yes, he's a great passer but he and Justise Winslow are essentially the same player on the offensive end of the court, with Winslow only to get better at it as he gets more seasoned. If a player is not an offensive threat, then he should be a great defender and/or a tenacious rebounder. But McRoberts is not necessarily either of those. When Gerald Green is off with his shot, that second unit right now will be 1-on-4 on the offensive side of the court, and, very quickly, will prove to be not good enough to contend. -- Nikki.

A: I agree about the lack of threats in the second unit, and how it places way too much of a scoring burden on Green, who in the first two games, alone, showed the erratic nature of his offense. I think that's why they're trying to force-feed Amar'e Stoudemire in what that group, to provide some inside-outside scoring balance, something you wouldn't have with Chris Andersen (although Birdman's defense certainly would be welcome, and could become necessary, with that second group). McRoberts has to make himself more of a scoring option, has to at least present the threat. I wouldn't call Winslow and McRoberts the same player, with one in the perimeter rotation and the other in the power rotation, but I agree with your premise that the Heat's second unit can became easy to defend, which allows opponents to conserve energy on the defensive end and therefore play with more gusto on the offensive end.

Q: Why does Dwyane Wade insist on playing both point guard and shooting guard when Goran Dragic is on the floor? And, more importantly, why do Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley let him? Of the two, Wade is clearly the better shooting guard, but equally clear is that Dragic is the better point guard. If the plan was to let Wade play both positions we should have saved the draft picks and not traded for Dragic. -- Andrew, Coral Gables.

A: Because old habits are hard to break, especially when they became re-ingrained during the first half of last season, when the Heat's only options at point guard were Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier. Basically, there was little reason for Dwyane not to try to do it all in the backcourt for most of last season. So, just as many on the Heat have to do with this season's reshuffled mix, Dwyane again will have to adjust. The one thing he has shown over his career, particularly as the Big Three came around, is he has the ability to do just that. It is early in the Wade-Dragic partnership. If it's still uneven at midseason, when they've basically had the equivalent of a full season together, then I'd be more concerned about the chemistry.

Q: So LeBron James is getting injections in his back and ESPN is reporting that his back could be a problem the rest of his career. Maybe the Heat benefited by his departure, forcing them to trade for Goran Dragic, find Hassan Whiteside and be bad enough to draft Justise Winslow. Maybe he was LeGift that keeps on giving. -- Steve, Plantation.

A: You can say may things about LeBron's "gifts," but having a team be better off in the wake of his departure is not one of them. As LeBron showed in Friday's victory over the Heat. Plenty of athletes have succeeded while dealing with NBA mid-life ailments, and with back issues. Yes, it probably will get harder for LeBron physically as his career continues, but he practically remains a golden ticket to the Eastern Conference championship and once again has his team as a championship favorite. But there also is something to be said about how the Heat, only a year removed from LeBron's departure, having been able to regroup. 

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