Q: Why does LeBron James suffer cramps when other players do not? Is it diet, lack of fluids or something else? -- Stone, Miami
June 5, 2014
Q: Erik Spoelstra reminds me of the year Jack McKeon took over for Marlins, when every "unconventional" move worked. -- Martin.
A: He certainly has not been afraid to think outside the box. But unlike Trader Jack, the Heat return to these Finals largely intact, save for the amnesty-release loss of Mike Miller. While Spoelstra deserves credit for the unconventional approaches, his players deserve credit for being so accepting, from Chris Bosh's willingness to step out to the perimeter, to Dwyane Wade's willingness to play off the ball, to Mario Chalmers' willingness to play primarily as a spot-up shooter, to LeBron James' willingness to defend all five positions. For that matter, Spoelstra's unconventional approaches succeed because of reserves willing to adapt to ever-changing roles.
Q: This year's Finals will probably be as compelling as any of those old Lakers/Celtics Finals that were played centuries ago. No other Western Conference team could have brought what we expect the Spurs to bring in terms of best vs. best. -- Roland, Portland.
A: (Centuries ago?) Agree. This won't be a case of Scott Brooks' questionable coaching or Russell Westbrook's questionable shot selection. And it won't be a case of Frank Vogel having run his starters into the ground or having neglected his offense. These are two teams and two coaches and two front offices that built toward and for this moment. To a degree, the past eight months have been mere prelude to Spurs-Heat II. Another seven games, please.
Q: The Finals narrative by the media so far has focused on "The Redemption." In actuality, this is Redemption vs. Place in History (to be one of the few teams to Three-peat). I hope the Heat's motivation comes from that and not just from being able to defend their title against a team seeking redemption. -- Neil, Manila.
A: I think the Heat's motivation will come from those who minimized last season's Finals win against the Spurs as a fortuitous and lucky shot from Ray Allen, forgetting that the Heat still had to battle through and win overtime in that Game 6 and then go on to win Game 7. The Heat players said as much during Wednesday's media day.
June 4, 2014
Q: While players are the faces of the franchises, this year's rematch is also between arguably the two best coaches in the NBA. After the meltdown of two very talented teams, in the Pacers and Thunder, in the conference finals, I think the executives will take much more seriously the selection of coaches who tend to be under the fan's radar. -- L.K.
A: And both coaches allow their players to play, to find their way through games, never too rigid that they are unable to adjust. In fact, that's what made last year's Finals so compelling, the rotation adjustments and the style adjustments. Both Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra are quick thinkers at moments of truth (taking Tim Duncan out late in Game 6 was not a mistake, but rather a commitment to staying with a season-long approach), while also able to digest a game and return with a more palatable approach next time out, if needed.
Q: The Spurs play a beautiful game of basketball. They move the ball better than anyone, and were able to make enough adjustments to stop the Thunder attack and Tim Duncan is still, well Tim Duncan, with a great supporting cast. But the Heat play defense way better than the Thunder and can also get to the hoop. This should be a great series. -- Chet.
A: I agree. And it will be all about what transpires on the court, and I'm not talking about blowing in ears or cheap shots. The Spurs' offense is what every team should aspire to, sharing of the ball without regard to who gets the shot, as long as it is the best possible shot. And when the Heat are at their best, they're taking a similar approach. It is difficult to find a villain in this series. As Chris Bosh said, Game 8 of the 2013 Finals starts Thursday. Last year's Finals was a series that deserved an encore.
Q: Who is this year's Mike Miller? -- Adam.
A: Got to tell you, there are few questions that irk Spoelstra more than that one. He positively bristles at the notion of a "Mike Miller role," as if another player can be pigeon-holed into such a contribution. Frankly, I don't know which Heat player is best when shooting while wearing only one shoe. I'd say Rashard Lewis comes closest to the mythical "Mike Miller role." But the reality is that in Game 7 last season, it was Shane Battier who turned himself into Mike Miller, after Miller had turned himself into Shane Battier.