August 24, 2014

Q: Does it concern you how sometimes Erik Spoelstra doesn't play his entire hand? I would really like to see some of the younger guys play (i.e., Shabazz Napier and James Ennis), but sometimes Spo's minute distribution is a little tight. And from the little I know about player development, I think I can say that younger players need to actually get time on the court to develop. Do you see this changing any time soon? -- Bryan, Mountain View, Calif.

A: Honestly, I'm not sure this is the time to do it. I think this season will be about (has to be about?) showing they can withstand the loss of LeBron James and remain competitive. It basically is what Micky Arison said in his letter to fans, and what Pat Riley said in his video to fans. Both said this would not be a time for rebuilding ("retooling" is as far as Riley would go). So I think you might sees drips and  drabs of younger players, but I think the core this season will be the starting lineup of Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, with Chris Andersen, Danny Granger and Norris Cole currently setting up as the first three off the bench. The question from there is whether the next set of minutes goes to Udonis Haslem and Reggie Williams/Shawne Williams, or whether those minutes go to the likes of Ennis, Napier, Justin Hamilton or Tyler Johnson. What we're really talking about is whether minutes can be carved out for a young player as ninth or 10th man.

Q: Low first-round pick for two titles? Make that trade every time. -- Sarah.

A: Still, in hindsight it does have to sting to send a second first-round pick to Cleveland so that LeBron James can sign with the Heat for six seasons in 2010, only to see him leave after four, and then have James' Cavaliers be able to use the 2015 first-round pick in the deal that lands Kevin Love.

Q: I'm not sure there ever has been a fan favorite in such a short period of time for the Heat than Chris Andersen. -- Shap.

A: It's gotten to the point where I'm not sure there is another player on the current roster who would attract as much attention as Birdman does at events such as Saturday's appearance at the Dick's Sporting Goods in Coral Springs. It was bedlam in there, with a huge cheer when he sat at his autograph table. (It was, though, a bit disconcerting how many adult Birdman imitators showed up. It practically was a Grizzly Adams convention.)



August 23, 2014

Q: Ira, in your opinion do you believe the Heat have a better roster now than they did when they were facing LeBron James and the Cavaliers before he joined Miami? -- Stefano.

A: That's an intriguing question, one that has to factor in that they still have Chris Bosh as a July 2010 addition, but a question that mostly comes down to what you think of today's Dwyane Wade vs. the Dwyane Wade who played for the Heat in 2009-10. As a matter of comparison, the final game the Heat played before acquiring LeBron was a 96-86 playoff loss to the Celtics on April 27, 2010. In that game, the Heat started Jermaine O'Neal at center, Michael Beasley and Quentin Richardson at forward, and Wade and Carlos Arroyo at guard, with Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony and Dorell Wright as the four reserves off the bench. This season, the Heat are expected to start Bosh at center, Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng at forward, and Wade and Chalmers at guard, with Chris Andersen, Danny Granger, Norris Cole and perhaps Haslem as the first four reserves off the bench. I think you certainly can make an argument for the current roster, if you still believe Wade is an All-Star talent. Remember, in that April 27, 2010 loss to the Celtics, the Heat were able to get 45 minutes, 38 seconds out of Wade.

Q: Are the Heat coaching staff still looking to keep playing Bosh at the five? I know that we all want big things from Bosh, so why not do the best we can to help him succeed by playing him at the four more often? -- Bryan, Mountain View, Calif.

A: Because about the only way, with this roster, that happens if is Birdman plays alongside Bosh, which is possible at times. But I also think that with Bosh starting alongside McRoberts, it won't be so simple to tell which is the power forward and which is the center. Bosh will play like Bosh, no matter the positional designation. The question is who the Heat are going to have banging against the big-muscle centers.

Q: Now that it's public knowledge that Ray Allen's furniture is packed up and wrapped in plastic, can the media catch on to what the public already knows: He is headed to Cleveland. The general manager, LeBron James, already recruited him in the Bahamas. -- Patrick, Hollywood.

A: Oh, everyone has caught on. First Kevin Love, then Ray Allen will arrive. It is why I think James Jones acted too impetuously. I can't fathom him getting many more minutes in Cleveland than in Miami, considering he would be playing with the Cavaliers behind Mike Miller and Allen, in addition to the 3-point shooting of Love.

 


August 22, 2014

Q: Like you point out, fewer than 10 players will get meaningful minutes during the season and only 13 can suit up for a game. With up to 20 candidates before the final cut to 15, some very difficult decisions have to be made on who to keep. Twenty-nine other teams will be vying to be the last one standing, so this year's Heat squad will be about the blood, sweat and tears each member brings to each game during the season. Seeing Dwyane Wade exhibiting true leadership is a great first step. -- William, Miami.

A: And I agree that getting together with Josh McRoberts, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Norris Cole at Indiana University meant plenty. But what might mean more is Dwyane having himself in shape to possibly take on the challenge of playing 82 games, or at least something closer than the 54 he played last season. While leadership inspires confidence, so does having that leader alongside for an overwhelming amount of games. If there is maintenance this coming season, it should be in the form of reduced minutes in games, not outright absences. Of course proper depth on the wing is essentially for such an approach. The last thing the Heat can have is Wade starting sitting out portions of back-to-backs in November. The only exception I'd make there is if Danny Granger returns to a point where he can be a replacement scorer for a complete game.

Q: You keep mentioning that the Heat's biggest need is on the wing, but they don't seem to be pursuing any wing players. Do you think they are going to roll the dice with James Ennis as the backup small forward to start the season? -- Gabe, Portland, Ore.