A: That's the thing. All the conjecture of LeBron leaving has to come with a Part B: Where would he instead go? Cleveland, as you point out, has turned into a disaster. Carmelo Anthony seems more likely to leave New York than having someone join him there (and the Knicks lack the cap space). The Lakers, for reasons difficult to comprehend, have gone all in with Kobe Bryant. What would make the most sense if LeBron were to leave would be the Clippers and his best friend Chris Paul, but that would require a sign-and-trade, something Pat Riley would have to be strongly coerced into.
A: My thoughts are you wait until after the Feb. 20 trading deadline, under after the March 1 buyout deadline for playoff eligibility and then you cherry-pick at the minimum, if there is someone out there worthwhile. And there will be, because there always is.
February 4, 2014
Q: A 13-year Heat fan here. I can't wait for this year's preseason to end! Bring on May and the Pacers already! -- Monte, Anchorage.
A: It certainly has been a struggle pushing past these relatively meaningless games. I mean the Pistons the day after returning from New York and the day before leaving on a six-game trip? Motivation understandably can be in short supply at times such as these. The Heat showed as much on Monday night, often resorting to the exotic just to keep their interest and then blowing a large portion of their lead late against Detroit. I think this upcoming trip will do a better job of holding their attention, with challenges against the Clippers, Suns, Warriors, Mavericks and Thunder.
Q: I cannot get a solid answer for how come Michael Beasley's play time is so schizophrenic? The general response is, "His defense cannot be trusted." Can you please provide specifics of why Beasley does not play yet Ray Allen logs heavy minutes? -- Shawn, Cooper City.
A: Because Ray has produced during the biggest of minutes over his career, so no matter what precedes those moments, there is confidence that he will be up to the ultimate challenge. Michael has yet to reach such a stage, let alone produce at that level. But there have been struggles this season from Ray, so it will be interesting to see how Erik Spoelstra approaches Allen's role going forward. That said, citing Ray's defense is not exactly a reason why Beasley should play instead. Michael will remain a situational player, which, to a degree, is all Greg Oden is at this stage, as well.
Q: Ira, I think the Heat are struggling with their identity because unlike the past four years when they were built to beat the Western Conference, this year they are being built to compete with Indiana. Do you agree? -- Roger, Miami.
A: I don't think the Heat are "built" with anyone in mind. Teams that are in chase mode are the ones with such blueprints, not teams that already have found championship success. Beyond that, the Heat hardly underwent an overhaul this past offseason. This is the same core as the past two seasons, confident that if they lineup up theirs they still can beat yours, no matter what the Pacers or any other opponent have done.
February 3, 2014
Q: I loved the lineup changes and the fact that Erik Spoelstra kept the lineup shortened (eight guys) in New York. He needs to keep the most active guys out there and continue riding hot hands. The curse of deep teams is finding time for everyone, but the solution is not finding time for everyone. Easy as that. -- George, Toronto.
A: Except what about the concern of burning players out? It's one thing to play eight (until garbage time) when you've have the previous two days off, as well as the next. But it's another matter when you're playing a back-to-back or four games in five nights. A few minutes for Michael Beasley or Greg Oden wouldn't have dramatically changed the equation in New York. But your point about continuity and rhythm is valid. Still, concerns remain, especially in the wake of Ray Allen's recent play, as to whether Ray is the answer as the lone true wing off the bench in the primary rotation.
Q: Birdman is all heart, so much fun to watch him compete. -- Chet.
A: Chris Andersen's hustle has been infectious and proved essential amid Chris Bosh's scoring struggles Saturday in New York. But that's another concern, whether Bird, at his age, is capable of the type of big minutes required if Erik Spoelstra continues to play him in tandem with Bosh. What remains to be seen is how Andersen holds up against beefy, legitimate centers, such as Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan and Andrew Bogut in coming games. Asking him to bang in the post for extended stretches might be asking too much.
Q: I wish Heat would stop all of those cutesy passes and just play fundamental. -- Martin.
A: I one-thousand-percent agree, but it also is part of what makes this team what it is. The one bid by Dwyane Wade to go off the backboard to LeBron James, when Wade was open for a layup, completely threw off LeBron to the point where he struggled just to get a shot away. But it is those very plays that also keep the Heat interested during this slog through the regular season. The thought is that the spark provided by such plays compensates for some of the nonsensical turnovers that also can result.