A: I think it comes down to the lack of a suitable alternative, with all due respect to Toney Douglas, who largely has played his minutes at shooting guard amid Wade's absences. I agree that if Wade had been available more often, there might have been less of a need for a secondary ballhandler. The difference among the players you mentioned being benched is that there have been numerous alternatives for Spoelstra at forward. At guard? Not so many. The hope now is that Cole can repeat last year's playoff success, or at least come close.
A: Yes, the Heat have their first-round pick this year, with their 2015 first-round pick likely going to the Cavaliers to close out the 2010 sign-and-trade for LeBron James. Because you cannot trade successive future first-round picks, the Heat, by rule, have to exercise a pick in the draft. That doesn't mean, however, that they can't pick for someone else or immediately deal their selected player. Based on the current standings, the Heat should select somewhere in the range of No. 25.
April 15, 2014
Q: Ira, this is what bothers me: "It was out of our control at some point." Erik Spoelstra said it after Monday's game, I think when he was telling you why he sat LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But that had nothing to do with Indiana winning on Sunday. That had to do with the Heat letting it get out of control. Why didn't anyone call him on that? -- Steven.
A: Because after Saturday's loss in Atlanta and then watching the Pacers step up at the finish Sunday against the Thunder, I think the Heat completely turned off the standings and turned their attention to the start of the playoffs. But the reality is the Heat allowed it to get out of their control, with all those awful losses to terrible teams, from the 76ers to the Jazz to the Kings to the Celtics (twice). That's why they're not the No. 1 seed in the East and why their final record is so pedestrian, not the time Dwyane Wade has missed, not resting players, not calls that didn't go their way at the end against the Timberwolves and Nets. No, it was because, at times, the Heat seemingly couldn't be bothered with lesser challenges. The good news is there will not be any sub-.500 teams in the Heat's playoff bracket. There also will no longer be time for excuses. "Control" was ceded a while back. Now they have to regain it.
Q: I know the playoffs start a new slate, first team to get 16 wins. But the Heat seem a step off this year. Kevin Durant is a little better than LeBron James. The Heat have lost too many games to sub-.500 teams and their rotations on defense seem a step slow. Bosh and Norris Cole are exhausted. Wade missed a third of the season. The Heat haven't been able to get any flow into this season, just like the two times the Heat seized first place from the Pacers only to lose and give it back. The Heat's season is defined by being a step behind. Something is off this year. I hope the Heat can overcome these habits in May and June. -- Stuart.
A: As Spoelstra has said all season, each journey is different. This one certainly has been, although I don't know if it's what Spoelstra had in mind.
Q: I'm very interested in what Wade's contract will be in the future. The Heat cannot afford to pay him like a Top 15 player. -- Karl.
A: They might not have any choice. Remember, Dwyane has an early-termination option after this season and a player option after the 2014-15 season. So if he does nothing, he earns $20 million-plus each of the next two seasons, with the Heat having no recourse but to pay that salary. NBA salaries cannot be restructured unless a player opts out, completely wiping out the salary and renegotiating anew. So, at this point, Dwyane holds all the cards.
April 14, 2014
Q: The Heat have stunk for over a month. Why would anyone think that they can win it all this year? -- Joel.
A: Their previous playoff body of work? The fact that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have lost one playoff series during their four seasons together? The fact that with Wade back, players such as Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers won't be asked to do as much as they have with Wade missing a third of the season? The fact that James tends to lift his game to another level in the playoffs? The fact that their first three rounds of the playoff will be in the Eastern Conference. That's why.
Q: I'm surprised you haven't focused on the Cavaliers-LeBron comparisons with the current Heat. -- Alan.
A: A reasonable point. And with Wade out for so long, there were too many times when LeBron tried to self-will things, resulting in predictable offense and a lack of ball movement. But let's face it, he signed up to play in a dual-wing alignment with Wade, something they only now can get back to. It will be interesting to see if LeBron can flip the switch in the playoffs, or whether Wade has been out so long that LeBron has grown set in his old ways. The start of the playoffs for the Heat will be a fascinating study in how much continuity (or the lack thereof) from the regular season truly matters.
Q: You see this all the time when you bring a star athlete back. Jameer Nelson (after Courtney Lee played great and Orlando was on a roll) in the NBA Finals against Lakers; Alonzo Mourning (after he was out for almost the entire regular season) replacing Anthony Mason against Charlotte in the playoffs years ago. It ruins the flow. Let Wade come in as the sixth man for a few games in the playoffs. -- Stuart.