September 22, 2019
Q: Ira, the Heat had LeBron James and Chris Bosh locked up before 2010 free agency and Jimmy Butler done at the start this year. Are the new NBA rules going to change 2021? -- Sep.
A: First, it's more a case of increased enforcement, punishments and vigilance of the free-agency process. The rules are still the rules -- you cannot contact a free agent until the start of the NBA negotiating period. That previously had been July 1 before being changed this year to June 30. There now is discussion about further advancing that starting point. The difference now is the league will be auditing randomly selected teams, which could include confiscating cell phones and other messaging means. In regards to the Heat, Dwyane Wade and others, including some inside the Heat, have strongly challenged the notion of the Big Three being locked up in advance. The Cavaliers, in fact, launched their own investigation, with nothing resulting from that process. As for Jimmy Butler, it seems like the Heat simply were utilizing the same playing field this year as the rest of the league, making sure that their deal was concluded at the opening bell, as was the case for most of the league. But when it comes to the Heat's next expected bite into the free-agency apple, likely in 2021, it could be a different experience, taking the league back to those days when recruiting meetings could prove make or break.
Q: The Heat are setting up for quite the G League season? -- Dan.
A: While that's not necessarily the goal of the training-camp roster the Heat have assembled, it is an ancillary benefit. It is possible that the entire Sioux Falls Skyforce roster could come from the Heat's training camp, depending on the approach with the Heat's two-way contracts. In addition to Daryl Macon, Davon Reed, Mychal Mulder, Kyle Alexander, Chris Silva and Jeremiah Martin possibly being funneled from their Heat Exhibit 10 contracts to the Skyforce, the Heat also could add two other two-way players to that mix, as well as possibly assign Duncan Robinson and KZ Okpala for time in Sioux Falls.
Q: Ira, could you tell us how Bam Adebayo, whom I love very much, suddenly became the "cornerstone" of this franchise? -- Masoud, Tucson, Ariz.
A: Simple, because he has bought in to the “cornerstone” approaches and cultures of the franchise, including selfless defense and prioritizing positioning and screening on offense. There have been more talented predecessors, including Hassan Whiteside, but few who have inspired as much confidence at such a young age. I tend to lean toward the side of talent, but the Heat know what they want, certainly with an impressive track record with their approach.
September 21, 2019
Q: Ira, what does it mean that the Heat have filled their camp roster? Can they still change their roster? -- Len.
A: Absolutely. The only thing, the Heat can’t do is much in the way of adjusting their season-opening roster, beyond a trade or the shedding of rookie Kendrick Nunn. Otherwise, because of their standing under a hard cap, which was created by utilizing a sign-and-trade agreement for Jimmy Butler, their regular-season roster basically is set with Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Tyler Herro, Derrick Jones Jr., Meyers Leonard, KZ Okpala, Udonis Haslem, Duncan Robinson, and, most likely, Nunn. Teams can carry up to 15 players during the regular season, but the Heat’s current salaries do not allow for the maximum under the $138.9 million hard-cap team payroll limit. So for the balance of the NBA-maximum 20 players under contract for camp, it’s either one of the Heat’s two two-way contracts (which do not count against the regular-season roster limit) or a possible $50,000 guarantee if they accept an affiliate assignment to the Heat’s G League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. But with no guarantees otherwise in place for Daryl, Macon, Davon Reed, Mychal Mulder, Kyle Alexander, Chris Silva and Jeremiah Martin, the Heat also could cut any of the six at any point to add a different camp candidate.
Q: Both Davon Reed and Mychal Mulder come pretty close to being a very good possible replacement for Rodney McGruder. -- Skip, Tampa
A: Except, as mentioned above, the Heat do not have space for anyone else to be added, unless they first cut Kendrick Nunn. I doubt any of the prospects could move the Heat off of Nunn, considering Kendrick's summer play and the fact that the Heat already have a $150,000 guarantee in place with the guard. And, no, Nunn's deal cannot be converted to a two-way contract.
Q: Hopefully the NBA's new rule will put James Harden's "travelsties" to a stop. -- Jesus.
A: They won’t. That rarely is how it works. Instead, expect the usual number of extra whistles during the preseason and then something close to a return to NBA normalcy during the season. This is a league that still prefers points to whistles. That will be made clear to all involved after the initial preseason crackdown.
September 20, 2019
Q: I hope coming off the bench doesn't alter Justise Winslow's attitude. He's the one who should be coming off the bench. -- Robert.
A: I've long found this one of the most interesting NBA debates, regarding who starts. Coaches, and I'm sure Erik Spoelstra in this case, continue to insist it is an overblown element of the overall equation. Instead, closing roles, or even minutes played, are cited. In both cases, yes, that makes more sense, being trusted to finish or to play significant minutes. And yet it does count to players, is meaningful. As written in this space, it would appear that Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are the only assured starters. For the rest of the roster, it comes down to chemistry and the rotation. Still, the ride has been so up and down for Justise Winslow, largely due to injuries, that there is a confidence element to the equation. For Justise to start, it would mean Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters or Kelly Olynyk being bumped from the first unit. I believe both Kelly and Goran will go with the flow. I'm not sure that would be the case with Dion, particularly with all he has been through to get back to something closer to himself. So if you're Erik Spoelstra and recognize the emotional impact of such a bench role, does it come down to which player can better handle it, or does it come down to which player needs the confidence boost of starting? Stay tuned.
Q: I don't recall in recent memory such an open camp, other than Jimmy Butler, where merit rules without prejudice. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: Nah, there will always be other factors, including contract length and trade possibilities. While no team comes out and confirms showcasing, there is something to be said about trying to unload a bad contract or moving on from a player with a soon-to-expire contract. I do wonder if those factors could prove limiting to Tyler Herro during the earlier stages of the season.
Q: Why is everyone counting out Dion Waiters' ability to bounce back? He's very resilient and he definitely has a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is relevant. Waiter, Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler will make a very nice trio on the perimeter. I'm super excited. -- Curt, Clewiston.
A: And perhaps you should be excited, considering the perimeter versatility of that trio. I’m not sure anyone is “counting out” Dion Waiters. I just think, after all the Heat have been through with Dion, they also are being careful of not counting on too much. If he exceeds those expectations, it would leave the Heat ahead of the game -- and potentially with a chance to challenge for homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
September 19, 2019
Q: If Dion Waiters is stunted aside to the second unit in favor of Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow in the first, he likely loses motivation and remains an albatross with two years left on his contract. And if he’s given a bigger role and succeeds, it’s likely at the expense of either Goran or Justise, who would then be shunted back to a reserve role. Kind of heads you lose, tails you don’t win, isn’t it? -- Max, Vienna, Austria.
A: What this comes down to is prioritizing a roster. Those who matter most are those who getting taken care of first. It all starts in the orbit of Jimmy Butler; you play those who help him play his best. Then it's Bam Adebayo, who clearly stands front and center after the trade of Hassan Whiteside. From there, I would say that Justise Winslow is the next priority, if only to get a complete read on what he can be. And so on. And if that prioritization does not meet Dion Waiters' desires, so be it. He had his chance. As did James Johnson. But at some point, you have to make the main players the main players. At this point, Dion Waiters has to be the best complementary player he can be. Because he's not this team's alpha. And at this point, not its beta, either.
Q: Will the Heat add a 20th player to fill their cap roster? -- Eddie.
A: There is no reason not to, but there also is no requirement to carry the maximum during camp. Actually, the Heat could wind up cutting players late in camp, funnel them to their G League team, and then sign even more with which to do the same. So it is possible there could be more than 20 total players run through this year's camp and preseason.
Q: Does Bam Adebayo get a participation trophy? -- Michael.
A: He got more than that. He helped raise awareness for hunger issues in South Florida and also showed himself to be quite the good sport in the process while playing the foil Kobayashi. Good for him. I don’t think there was a single person who asked for a photo or autograph at Wednesday’s even who didn’t get one. Not a bad choice for one of the faces of this franchise.
September 18, 2019
Q: I'm sorry, Ira, but there really can't be any doubt that Goran Dragic should be the starting point guard and the main ballhandler on this team. He's the best passer and a true point guard. Justise Winslow should be the primary sixth-man, being able to handle the ball at the point or forward positions. Personally, I would like to see him playing at small forward and continue to work on his shot and post play. -- Gabriel, Lakeland.
A: This all comes down to what the end game is with Justise Winslow. Is it to create the most versatile player? Is it to groove him into a specific role for when the Heat reload with stars? Is it to showcase him for a potential trade? Each would come with its own, distinct agenda. But because almost all of those questions come with a long view, his development should not be a case of making the current pieces fit. The current roster, more than likely, is not competing for a championship. So, basically, you prioritize your players in order of importance to future team success. That could (should?) have Justise ahead of Goran Dragic in most permutations. From that perspective, you decide what you want Winslow to accomplish, then chart a course for Goran in the final year of his contract.
Q: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy; Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning; Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh -- each trio got Pat Riley to the mountain top. Jimmy Butler and who and who get Pat Riley back to the mountain top? -- Stuart.
A: The way the NBA is going these days, I think a plus-one will be the limit going forward, with the Heat otherwise having to take several further dramatic steps to add two stars alongside Jimmy Butler in 2021 free agency. So, again, if the Heat go the trade path, does Jimmy Butler-Bradley Beal do it for you, particularly when Beal also might come at the cost of Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow, or both?
Q: I can see it now with Bam Adebayo, "Heat starting center out 6-8 weeks with strained esophagus." -- Nicolas.
A: I doubt Bam Adebayo’s participation in Wednesday’s charity cheeseburger-eating contest will be actual participation, as he noted on Tuesday. Then again, if there is a change of heart, it would be something if he reports to camp at 325, listed for the season’s first exhibition as “DNP-Cholesterol.”
September 17, 2019
Q: The last few years we watched the Pat Riley-Erik Spoelstra Whiteside dance: You are playing as the starting center; no you are not. You are getting more minutes; no you are not. Are we now going to watch the Riley-Spoelstra Goran Dragic-Justise Winslow dance at point guard? Riley: Dragic is playing point guard. Winslow: My plan is to play point guard. Come on. No more dances. Please. Just win. -- Stuart, Miami.
A: I think a lot of people are taking Justise Winslow comments the wrong way. It's more about his confidence about what he can do well. First, Justise was asked Sunday about his desire to play the position. It wasn't a topic he raised. It wasn't a case of attempting to make a statement. Second, the Heat hardly operate with a true point guard, anyway. Just as often, you will see Goran Dragic, even when cast at point guard, start a play by running to a corner to set up for a possible 3-pointer, only then to double back to the ball. It just as easily could be James Johnson, Dion Waiters or now Jimmy Butler advancing the ball as the de facto point guard. Even Bam Adebayo has pushed the ball off a rebound. What Justise said is he would like to be a playmaker. That goal can be achieved in a variety of roles.
Q: I hope it doesn’t become another Minkah Fitzpatrick kerfuffle. Both Fitzpatrick and Justise Winslow are young, talented and versatile, but one was horribly misused. -- Errol.
A: And if Justise Winslow had said he does not want to be a power forward or does not want to be a small forward or does not want to be a shooting guard, then there could be concerns. That is not what he said. He was asked about a preference and expressed it. Again, the Heat often will present lineups and cycle through lineups where the positional delineations are indistinguishable.
Q: Ira, the Heat have Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn as point guards. Why all the talk about Justise Winslow at point guard? Don't you think that Erik Spoelstra should stop experimenting with position-less basketball and define exactly what will be expected from each player? In the past few years the Heat have appeared to be rudderless. Dragic is clearly a better shooter and ballhandler and Nunn appears to be the best point guard prospect we've had in years. I believe the Heat should be crystal clear to Winslow what his role on the team is. -- Julio, Cape Coral.
A: And yet many would contend that both Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn are combo guards. Would it be easier to digest if Justise Winslow had said that he wanted to be the point forward? I’m sure the Heat would have no issue if Justise shows as diversified a skill set at Gianni Antetokounmpo (offered not as a direct comparison, but just for the reality that a point forward can also very much be a playmaker).
September 16, 2019
Q: Justise Winslow should start at the point because of his playmaking/improving offense, etc. But there's a case defensively as well: Someone has to guard the other team's best player. It’s easy to just say Jimmy Butler, but Justise and Jimmy sharing the load on O and D is best for the team. Erik Spoelstra would help Jimmy and the team a lot by starting Winslow alongside him to help with the playmaking and guarding the Kawhi Leonards and Giannis Antetokounmpos of the world. so Jimmy is fresh in the fourth to be clutch. Dion Waiters or Goran Dragic just can’t do that. Jimmy Justise and Bam Adebayo on defense is elite. -- M.J.
A: In theory, it is a sound suggestion. But while the Heat prioritize a defense-first approach, the reality is that it is the offensive end that long has needed addressing. Replacing either Goran Dragic or Dion Waiters with Justise Winslow certainly would upgrade the defense, but at what cost?
Q: If Goran Dragic can accept being a spot-up shooter I could definitely see Justise Winslow and Goran in the backcourt if Dion Waiters isn't looking good. -- Oscar.
A: This is where the debate about the Heat's options at point guard gets interesting. Do you move Goran Dragic into a lesser role to accommodate Justise Winslow's growth? Or do you attempt to maximize the skill sets of all of your players, which would leave Goran as a playmaking scorer? Just because Justise wants to play a certain role, is the priority the prepare him for when the Heat are title contenders, or is the priority to maximize the possibilities of the current roster? At this point, is Justise a better scorer than Goran? A better playmaker? A better ballhandler? Yes, he is a better defender. But the Heat defense has been good enough in recent seasons. It's been the offense that has been the challenge. I'm not sure that reducing Goran's usage rate is the way to address that concern.
Q: Talent is nothing without production. Ask James Johnson how Heat fans view him now compared to before he signed his $60 million contract. Another talented guy who doesn't produce. -- Swanson.
A: It is interesting how James Johnson has been reduced to somewhat of an afterthought this offseason, at least when it has come to debating the Heat’s lineup and rotation. It will be interesting to see during camp and the preseason whether James Johnson is still a thing.
September 15, 2019
Q: I know this is a basketball space, but when I hear the current Minkah Fitzpatrick fiasco, I can't help but think back to Erik Spoelstra and Hassan Whiteside. We have another South Florida professional sports coach clueless as to how to use one of his best players to the point of running the player out of town. I thought good coaching meant putting your players in the best position to succeed. What the heck is going on in this town? -- Andrew, Coral Gables.
A: I believe part of the equation is the relationship between the front office and coaching staff. While Pat Riley often championed Hassan Whiteside's case, he invariably acceded to Erik Spoelstra's preferences. As with the Dolphins' approach with Minkah Fitzpatrick, it came down to a coach's comfort zone. At no point did Pat Riley insist on a set number of minutes or even a set role for Whiteside. So the question becomes who ultimately calls the in-the-moment shots. We've seen plenty of times in sports that certain teams are run from the front office. That hasn't been the case with the Heat, and at least looks like, at the moment, it isn't the case with the Dolphins. The difference is Whiteside now gets the opportunity in Portland to prove the Heat and Spoelstra wrong. Now the issue is whether Fitzpatrick will also gain a similar outside opportunity. Remember, there were plenty of moments, and even seasons, when the Heat/Spoelstra/Riley walked a delicate dance with Whiteside before eventually moving on.
Q: With Jimmy Butler turning 30, it makes the Heat "Prime Time." -- Dan.
A: While, as I noted on Twitter, that Jimmy Butler's Saturday birthday leaves the Heat with four players 30 or older, when also including Udonis Haslem, Goran Dragic and James Johnson, it also points to the dichotomy of this roster, with plenty still left to develop, when also factoring in Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr., Tyler Herro and KZ Okpala as players 23 or younger. In a way, that has the Heat in both win-now and develop-later mode. It will be interesting to therefore see how the minutes are distributed.
Q: Personally, I think the county has gotten greedy, at best, with the arena naming-rights situation. Will not be the least bit surprised to see Micky Arison buy a new piece of property and build a new arena for the Miami Heat to play in. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: I’m not sure such an approach would be set in motion over something as basic as naming rights. But the expiration of the naming rights for AmericanAirlines Arena is a reminder that the facility also is 20 years old. The way teams these days either move on, or at least get massive renovation deals (such as the recent NBA one in Atlanta), it will be interesting to see what the Heat’s next steps are with their home court.
September 14, 2019
Q: I want to respond today to what I guess what we can call, Dion Waiters-versus-Tyler Herro debate, who starts at shooting guard. I may be in the minority with my assessment, but I don't believe starting a rookie over a veteran signifies rebuilding or tanking. Not all veterans make the necessary plays that are required from a veteran. Usually we'll have excuses for that vet and say he has an ankle or hamstring problem after a mistake, but if you put that rookie in that same position, we'll say that is youth and inexperience right there. Yes, there will be rookie mistakes, but analytically speaking an average, non-All-Star veteran will make the same amount of mistakes or more. -- Swanson.
A: I'm not sure about your final conclusion, lacking any type of empirical evidence. But to your greater point, save, perhaps, for a breakout preseason, I just don't see handing such a role to Tyler Herro at the outset. It certainly is not set in stone that Dion Waiters will start, but once Jimmy Butler was signed, this became a live-in-the-moment season. At the moment, Dion is the more NBA-ready player, checking more NBA boxes than Tyler. This has nothing to do with rebuilding or tanking, but rather setting up Tyler to succeed in the long run, rather than force-feeding a starting role. I would be very surprised to see Tyler Herro starting at the start of the season, somewhat surprised if it happens beyond games when the roster is shorthanded. That doesn't mean he won't eventually be a Heat starter, just that he will have to grow into one.
Q: I find it offensive for certain individuals, including executives such as Jerry Colangelo, ripping NBA players for not playing in the FIBA World Cup. Players have the right to rest. How did it go for Heat fans last year with Dragic missing 40-plus games after playing hard in a summer tournament? -- Stuart.
A: Actually, Goran Dragic won EuroBasket two years ago with Slovenia and then emerged as an All-Star that season. Last season, when he took the 2018 offseason off, is when he missed all that time due to injuries. What I do agree with USA Basketball about is players committing to such competitions and then pulling out once the field has already been thinned. I would expect a much more robust representation for the 2020 Olympics, because it is the Olympics.
Q: One last dance for Beasley in Miami? -- Lou.
A: It certainly was odd how it played out for three-time-Heat Michael Beasley with the Pistons, not even needing to be waived in favor of Joe Johnson because he actually had never signed his Detroit deal. But the Heat took care of just about all their roster machinations, including Udonis Haslem, aware of who remained on the market when Beasley still was unsigned. Of course, the Heat will have cap space to add a 15th man come January . . . so there is that.
September 13, 2019
Q: Ira, this Heat team isn't going to make the top teams worry about playing catch-up, but they can set themselves up for a much better season and playoff position if they come out of the gate hard and ready to win the early games. I guess the question is can Erik Spoelstra have the mindset to do that versus the approach of "we are still getting to all know each other." -- Dick.
A: Which is why I asked Goran Dragic whether this feels like a new team, with Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Meyers Leonard and KZ Okpala being added, or an incumbent team, with the rest of last season's roster returning beyond Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade and Josh Richardson. He said there certainly is more than enough for continuity. So while there clearly will be a new leading man, the supporting pieces should mostly be aware of their roles. Ultimately, with all their misses time, can Goran, Dion Waiters and James Johnson seamlessly fall back into Heat comfort zones. That well could dictate the start of the coming season.
Q: Jerry Colangelo clearly made a major error in cutting Bam Adebayo from Team USA. Bam's defensive presence in the middle would have made a big difference in holding Rudy Gobert in check. -- Jack, Boca Raton.
A: That is a bit of oversimplification when it comes to the United States failing to medal at the World Cup in China. Yes, USA Basketball lacked the needed length to battle against Rudy Gobert in the loss to France, but that still remains somewhat of a question with Bam Adebayo, whether he has the length and muscle against the biggest of the NBA's big men. Bam's ability to switch the pick and roll and defend against small players made him the preference in the middle. But that could come at a cost against bulk. I'm not sure that Bam would have been an answer in that loss for USA Basketball. And it will be interesting to see, as a season-long starter, whether opponents attempt to punish Bam similar to what France did in eliminating USA Basketball from medal contention.
Q: Ira, can we please start a campaign now to name the Heat arena "The Kitchen," as in "If you can't stand the Heat . . . "? This is a no-brainer, especially if nobody else gets naming rights. What do we need to do to make this happen? -- Jon.
A: Hmm, so go an appliance-maker involved? Interesting. Or how about a cigar manufacturer and the Heat’s home could be The Humidor. Or DampRid, and then it could be if it’s not the Heat it’s the humidity.
September 12, 2019
Q: Bam Adebayo's $5.1 million extension is one of the best deals in the league. -- Z.F.
A: Generally, the rookie scale produces value across the board . . . until you have to pay. With Bam Adebayo, it means the Heat not only have their starting center under contract at $3.5 million for the coming season, but now at that $5.1 million team option for 2020-21, as well. But there very much will be a price to pay down the road, whether they Heat decide on an extension next summer or to allow it to play out in 2021 free agency. It will be interesting to see where Bam's price point goes, especially in light of the Heat moving on from Hassan Whiteside, with no other legitimate starting option in the middle. Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow both got their extensions before hitting free agency, but the timing with Bam could be interesting if the Heat, indeed, attempt to maximize 2020 free agency. Of course, concerns about cap space also could be moot if the Heat move in advance, perhaps for a player such as Bradley Beal, who would arrive with Bird Rights. Now the question is whether Bam is locked in as a cornerstone, or locked in as a tradeable asset. There are always two ways to look at such developments.
Q: Wade County Arena has a nice ring to it. -- Sean.
A: And yet I'm not sure Dwyane Wade is coming up with $2 million a year (and likely far more) for the naming rights to what currently is AmericanAirlines Arena. In fact, with the Heat issuing a statement that the naming rights are a county matter, it's not as if they will have ultimately say. The real issue remains whether the newly named arena eventually will be located on Wade Way.
Q: Do you think Erik Spoelstra will get credit this year? It seems no matter how bad/injured the roster is, they scratch out a .500 record. -- Jeff.
A: But no matter how bad/injured Heat might (or might not) be this season, with Jimmy Butler (provided he is not among the injured), the expectation is better than .500. So there will be pressure at the start and potentially credit at the finish, depending on where the Heat stand when it is over. While there certainly are not championship expectations, there are expectations of something better than last season -- at minimum.
September 11, 2019
Q: Ira, how could you ask Goran Dragic if he's fighting for his starting position? He hasn't done anything to lose it, and his injury is why the Heat didn't make the playoffs. Jimmy Butler came to play with Dragic. -- Ole.
A: That's not what I asked. What I asked, and what I wrote about, is that so much has changed with the Heat since the end of last season that there are not necessarily any givens in the lineup. Granted, I believe it is more than safe to assume starting roles for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but, otherwise, you certainly could make a case for multiple options at the other three starting spots. And that includes whether the Heat would again give thought to Justise Winslow at point guard. Several factors are in play there, including the reality of Goran Dragic heading into the final season of his contract. To his credit, Goran said he plans to fight for what he wants, but also will be on board with Erik Spoelstra's decisions. Plenty is fluid with the Heat as the team moves toward Jimmy Butler's identity. Basically, just about everyone on the roster is trying out to see how they fit with Jimmy. That is likely where all the decisions will start. So, in the end, the starting lineup may not necessarily be a case of the best five.
Q: Hi, Ira. In no way I'm I arguing against a statue for Dwyane Wade, but what constitutes having that honor? The basis for this question is does Alonzo Mourning deserve a statue? Hall of Famer, champion, gold medalist and made Miami relevant. -- Marc, Arlington, Texas.
A: It's an interesting question, and there has been no comment from the Heat regarding statues, nor, for that matter, anything firm on the date of a Dwyane Wade jersey retirement. But it certainly would make sense for a team with a championship pedigree that is the sole franchise playing in an arena to have some sort of a presence along Biscayne Boulevard. Who knows, maybe they’re waiting for the naming of Wade Way before such a move. The difference between Wade and Alonzo Mourning is two additional championships. I'm sure even Zo appreciates as much.
Q: I'm really surprised that Pat Riley hasn't stepped up to bring in a big-time bench coach. This will put even more pressure on Erik Spoelstra this season to pull off a big-time playoff run. That's what Heat Nation fully expects. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: The move from Juwan Howard, who left to coach at Michigan, to Malik Allen certainly will be worth watching. But with Allen, Dan Craig and Chris Quinn alongside on the bench, Spoelstra has handpicked his support staff, with Octavio De La Grana, and, likely, Anthony Carter behind the bench. If anything, it will be interesting to see if the Heat at some point follow the trend of adding a female to their coaching staff.
September 10, 2019
Q: It will, indeed, be very interesting to see how Erik Spoelstra sets up his second-unit lineups. This is the Achilles heel of this team at the moment. There will be anywhere from two to four unproven players as the backups at this point. It will have Derrick Jones Jr. and Duncan Robinson as the unit’s veterans and Tyler Herro sliding in, as well. Personally, I think they have the makings of a 3-point nightmare for other teams. Plus all the youngsters are pretty athletic, as well. Honestly think both the seeding and how far this team goes in the playoffs is centered on these second-unit players being up or down. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: One of the most overstated debates regarding the NBA is that of the second unit. There is no such thing. This is not like lines in hockey, where players spill out three at a time in that case, or five at a time in the NBA's case. Most team prefer not to go anywhere close to 10 deep. In fact, one of the previous problems with the Heat, particularly with Hassan Whiteside, was the equal opportunity approach with minutes. Players want to play more than half the game -- a lot more. Now, that doesn't mean depth isn't essential. It is, when it comes to injuries or foul trouble. So if we go with a possible starting five of Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, Jimmy Butler, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic, that seemingly would leave Justise Winslow, Tyler Herro and James Johnson as primary reserves, possibly with Derrick Jones Jr. sprinkled in. I'm not sure I see a primary rotation where Duncan Robinson or many, if any, of the others see regular action.
Q: Pat Riley likes length moving the ball. Any chance we see Bam Adebayo develop more into a Lamar Odon type player? Can Bam ever develop to a point forward or point guard? -- Stuart, Miami.
A: While Bam Adebayo certainly can push the ball off a rebound or serve as a fulcrum for the offense at the elbow, casting him as a playmaker seems a bit of a stretch at his age (22) and with his skill set. At this point, with Hassan Whiteside gone, I believe the priority has to be getting Bam to develop into the best possible center. That, at least at the moment, is where his future stands.
Q: Can you please address the elephant in the room. Did the Heat have a tacit agreement with Udonis Haslem when he took less money to join the Big Three that they would take care of him by essentially letting him play with the Heat as long as he wanted? If so, would that violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement, such that this tacit agreement cannot be revealed? -- Andrew, Coral Gables.
A: They did not. And he did not. Because if there was anything along those lines, it assuredly would have been for more than the minimum, which has become Udonis Haslem’s going rate.
September 9, 2019
Q: Dwyane Wade got one of the best retirements ever. Don’t mess it up. -- Dude.
A: And I think it would have been left that way had Dwyane Wade not reiterated in his latest interview, "never say never." To his credit, he took to Twitter on Sunday and stressed that he is finished as a player. But situations also change. And it's not as if Dwyane wasn't a highly productive presence the last time he took the court. So what if a Heat player were to go down late in the season and Jimmy Butler . . . and Udonis Haslem placed a call. Or Pat Riley. Or Nick or Micky Arison. Sports has taught us that "never say never" all too often can eventually ring true. Now, if the Heat go a ahead with the jersey retirement and eventual statue unveiling, then maybe we'll have true finality in both the rafters and in bronze.
Q: Ira, why do you keep referring to Justise Winslow as a prospect when by now he should be a veteran? When does he stop being a prospect? By now he is what he is, a decent but not great player who would not start on most teams. -- Joel.
A: He's 23. Doesn't turn 24 until March. I would hope that any 23-year-old has room for growth, particularly one who lost almost a full season to injury. As it is, even four years in, he has yet to find a definitive position. Perhaps that's due to lack of a definitive positional strength. But perhaps it is due to not being able to take a singular focus. If you are asking whether I believe Justise can continue to improve, I do. It's when a player regresses that you can start asking these types of questions.
Q: Ira, do you think Erik Spoelstra will be held accountable if the Heat underperform? It seems that no matter how terribly they play or his .500 record over the past five years, he appears to be Teflon. -- Julio, Cape Coral.
A: No, once the Arison wallet opened for Jimmy Butler and the Heat accepted a hard cap, it became game on as far as living in the moment. There are expectations this season of something better than last season. And those expectations generally start at the top.
September 8, 2019
Q: I'm certain in the course of human events, there have been many far bigger wastes of $2.6 million than Udonis Haslem. However, paying someone that kind of money for another year of doing nothing, more money in fact than the overwhelming majority of people will earn in their lifetime is a disgrace. Why not just give him the money as some sort of "charitable bonus" and give the roster spot to someone with a future rather than a past. Because $35,135 per minute for nothing in return should be the definition of wasteful abuse. -- Michael, Parkland.
A: And the cost-benefit analysis only figures to continue during camp, especially if one of the younger prospects prove productive. Because, at the moment, there is only way for the Heat, under their hard cap, to make a change to the roster, and that would be to release Kendrick Nunn (which would be difficult to fathom, based on his summer breakout). The Heat, in fact, cannot even add a 15th player to the regular-season roster, because of the cap crunch. Of course, what won't be evident to outsiders, or media, is the impact of Haslem in the locker room or on the practice court, a presence that could allow the staff to maximize the current roster without having to get caught up in any melodrama. Still, every time during camp that Erik Spoelstra comments on progress from the likes of Davon Reed, Jeremiah Martin, Chris Silva and Kyle Alexander (or any other prospect added with the two remaining camp spots), there could be question of what otherwise could have been. And while there still are vacancies for two two-way players, keep in mind that those slots are limited to 45 total days this season in the NBA, counting both practice and games. So it's not as if the Heat will be able to nurture such players for extended periods during season (and perhaps among the reasons why Eric Glass was called upon to coach the Heat's G League affiliate). Udonis Haslem remains beloved in South Florida, but also polarizing when it comes to the Heat's roster composition.
Q: The simplest way to look at the Bol Bol move is this, keep him or re-sign Udonis Haslem. Because that is what it really came down to. Yes, he will be a great 3-point threat if he can stay healthy. He will likely fall into a Kelly Olynyk type player as a big power forward. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: Another comparison of what could have happened in an alternate Heat universe.
Q: We need to get our young players reps and find out what we have. -- Eddie.
A: That remains among the most intriguing elements of this season. The signing of Jimmy Butler at his price point, plus the presence of veterans such as Goran Dragic and James Johnson, have the Heat somewhat in a win-now mode. But there also the developmental aspect when it comes to Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow, Tyler Herro, KZ Okpala and the other camp prospects. How the Heat and Erik Spoelstra balance the approaches with be interesting.
September 7, 2019
Q: Now that Jimmy Butler is back, will he be a Pied Piper and have everyone else following him onto the practice court? -- Carl.
A: Actually, most of his teammates already have been working, or at least have spent time, at AmericanAirlines Arena. That includes Kelly Olynyk, who was forced off the Canadian team for the World Cup by a knee injury during an exhibition. In addition, with the start of the school year, Goran Dragic also is back in South Florida, so that travel aspect also has been addressed. Between the Miami summer pro league, drills with young players since the start of August, and other veterans coming and going, Jimmy basically checks off the last box among players who have checked in. What will be interesting going forward are his interactions with his new teammates, having already had sessions this week alongside Tyler Herro in both Chicago and Miami. While organized, full-scale drilling can't begin until Oct. 1, this is the time when chemistry can be forged. Even if Jimmy is not named a captain, it is imperative, as a go-to player that he emerge with that type of influence in the locker room.
Q; Ira, you let the Heat off the hook when it came to trading the pick to Denver that became Bol Bol. What was the downside? -- Steven.
A: Again, it likely would have been an either/or decision between KZ Okpala and Bol Bol in the second round. So we will know soon enough when it comes to NBA potential. But as another reader pointed out, with the game more free flowing on offense and calling for more switchability on defense, do you want to add another somewhat immobile presence after moving on from Hassan Whiteside? A lure with Okpala, and even some of the younger players trying out, is positional versatility on both ends of the court.
Q: Not even a sniff from Joe Johnson? -- Evan.
A: Been there, seen that done that. It was an uneven run for Joe Johnson with the Heat over the second half of the 2015-16 season and in the playoffs. At this point, would you want Joe Johnson getting minutes at the expense of playing time for Justise Winslow or Tyler Herro? It is a similar story with Mario Chalmers and his bid to also make an NBA return after a Big3 stint. There should be better opportunities for Joe, and better options for the Heat.
September 6, 2019
Q: Ira, I hear all this talk about Bam Adebayo being an undersized center. Unless I'm mistaken, he's the same height (6 feet 10) as our former center and Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning. Both have length and incredible work ethic. I see Bam as more athletic than Zo, but Zo more physical than Bam. With continued work, Bam can become more physical giving him everything Zo had and perhaps more. Am I wrong in my assessment? -- Dave, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Yes, both have been listed at 6-10, with Bam Adebayo actually listed in places as 15 pounds heavier than Alonzo Mourning playing weight of 240. Granted, probably every one of Zo's pounds were muscle, but you certainly could make a comparison in terms of frame. But the thing is, I'm not sure that Alonzo Mourning could thrive in today's game as he did during his time with the Heat. There is so much more switching on the defensive end, so much more need for an outside game that draws respect from the defense. The best basis of comparison would be motor. It is what Erik Spoelstra apparently believed that Hassan Whiteside lacked, at least a consistent motor. If Bam is active in his minutes, then he well could grow into a quality big man, with plenty of time remaining for final assessments against Mourning.
Q: Ira, the Heat should be exploring a Kelly Olynyk trade as soon as camp starts and possibly get a pick for him, rather than lose him for nothing. Does the Heat front office realize there's a very good possibility he walks after the season for more money? -- Gabriel, Lakeland.
A: I believe that Andy Elisburg is aware that Kelly Olynyk has the right to opt out after this season. But you can't run from the present, at least not if you have your sights set on making the playoffs. And even if you want to make an argument that Meyers Leonard can fill the Olynyk role, with his outside shooting, the reality is that Meyers will be a free agent after the coming season. At some point, you have to live in the moment, recognize why you put a group together the way you did. And see if it actually works.
Q: Great to see Goran Dragic back at the arena putting in work. -- Dave.
A: And all the players will arrive in ample time before the start of camp. While the NBA has grown to a year-round news cycle, players also have the right to not be in the gym 27/7/365. Goran Dragic has returned in plenty of time for his preseason physical, pre-camp conditioning work and ample interaction with new teammates. He also is back working out at AmericanAirlines Arena nearly two weeks earlier than Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk would have been if they were participating in the World Cup.
September 5, 2019
Q: To have a lottery talent under a two-way contract is a major win and it's likely only because of Bol Bol's recent health concerns. It is highly unlikely the 2022 second-round pick we traded for yields that quality a player in the future. -- Ed.
A: This was in response to Wednesday's news that Bol Bol had agreed to a two-way contract with the Nuggets. To refresh, Bol was selected out of Oregon at No. 42 in the second round of June's NBA draft with the pick the Heat had previously acquired from the Hawks. In the end, the deal with Denver was indirectly part of the machinations that saw the Heat send three second-round picks to Indiana for the rights to No. 32 pick KZ Okpala, the forward out of Stanford. So when measuring what could have been for the Heat, it ultimately could come down to the superior of the careers between Bol and Okpala. But, again, it is important to recognize that just because the Nuggets saw Bol as a prudent choice at No. 42, it doesn't mean the Heat would have gone in the same direction had they held on to that pick. By all indications, that was not a Heat consideration, since they certainly were positioned to either draft him at No. 32 (instead of Okpala) or trade or purchase an additional pick to preempt Denver's machinations.
Q: Josh Richardson flourished in the Heat's tightly structured system, and I believe Davon Reed might prosper also under similar circumstances. Maybe Miami learned from working with Josh Richardson and stick to using Davon as an ace on defense, who can spread the floor with his outside shot. In the back of my mind perhaps this move is a prelude to moving Meyers Leonard, who also acts as a floor-spacer. I can imagine the defensive capabilities of long-limbed Derrick Jones Jr., Davon Reed, Kyle Alexander, plus Jimmy Butler. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: But, again, the only way, with the current mix, that Davon Reed can get anything more than a two-way contract with the Heat would be for the team to move on from Kendrick Nunn. Although, as you suggest, the trade of a higher-priced player certainly could reset the roster (as well as the math, in regard to the Heat's hard-capped position). Still, with the Heat to free the space for a 15th player at midseason (again, under the current math), it is possible that those auditioning for a two-way contract also could be auditioning for an eventual standard roster spot.
Q: Ira, do you get the feeling that the roster as it stands is the way the regular season will begin or do you get a gut feeling the front office has one more surprise? Also, am I totally crazy or can you see Jimmy Butler having potentially his best season this year? -- Abdiel, Alaska.
A: I believe because of the hard cap that the Heat will, at some point, seek to move into a more manageable position from a payroll perspective. I’m not sure if that happens before camp, during camp, or at some point during the season. And, yes, I believe Jimmy Butler will make every attempt to seize this season as his own.
September 4, 2019
Q: Ira, you wrote in the story on signing Davon Reed that they already had completed their roster. Huh? Why can't they make a trade? -- Mike.
A: They can. What I meant (and thanks for allowing me to clarify) was that based on the Heat position against the hard cap, they have no additional flexibility beyond the current 14 players on the roster with guarantees. The only exception is that they could (but won't) release Kendrick Nunn in favor of another minimum-scale player and still stay below the hard cap. But you are correct, and perhaps even more correct than I was, since it remains likely the Heat will try to trade their way below the luxury tax. And depending on how that is achieved, it very well could open the possibility of adding a 15th player. At worst, the Heat can add a 15th player at midseason and stay below the hard cap, even with the current mix in place. So it might come down to a converting one of their two-way deals into a standard contract at that point, which would allow them to first maximize the 45-day NBA limit on such a deal. I stand (somewhat) corrected. But the bottom line is that, at least at the moment, there is practically no flexibility other than Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Udonis Haslem, Tyler Herro, James Johnson, Derrick Jones Jr., Meyers Leonard, Kendrick Nunn, KZ Okpala, Kelly Olynyk, Duncan Robinson, Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow.
Q: Could the Heat utilize James Johnson in the mold of a Draymond Green at the 5 position? Both have similar skillset being an undersized big with guard skills. Granted the rest of the Heat roster is not comparable to the talent of the Warriors death lineup for Johnson to be anywhere as effective as Green. -- Christopher, Vancouver.
A: In some ways I believe that would be the worst approach with James Johnson for this reason: When James tries to get creative, that often is when we witness the worst part of his game. James Johnson is at his best with the simple pass, the simple shot, the simple play. Putting him as the fulcrum of the offense could be courting chaos. In this case, keep it simple (with) James.
Q: One day in the future the Heat should put up a Statue of Micky Arison, Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade together for the fans to see entering AAA. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: And apparently we now know that it will come with all three in Aladdin outfits.
September 3, 2019
Q: Ira, you and others say that the Heat don't have a big two with only Jimmy Butler considered a "big" something. What about Goran Dragic if he is healthy and returns to All-Star form? The two of them, if they mesh, could be one of the better backcourts in the league. -- Joel, Fort Lauderdale.
A: And perhaps they could. Considering how Dragic-Dion Waiters developed into Seven-11 out of the blue, it could be nothing more than a matter of Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic getting sufficient reps together. That could make it interesting in camp and the preseason to see how/whether the two are paired together, possibly even with Dion Waiters on a different unit.
Q: I don't understand why I've seen a handful of fans definitively say that Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo cannot blossom into stars. Last year, Justise showed tremendous growth: He posted a career high in points per game (with improved efficiency); he proved that his 3-point shot is sustainably improved (he finished at about 38% for the second consecutive year, but with twice the amount of shot attempts per game); he handled the starting point guard role with aplomb (posting close to a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season, along with a career high in assists per game), after spending most of his first three years as a forward; he continued to be a strong rebounder and defender; and he will enter this season at just 23, with only three full seasons of NBA experience under his belt (considering his injury-shortened sophomore campaign). Among current NBA stars, consider that Kawhi Leonard didn't start making a jump in scoring until his age-23 season, then became a 20-plus-point scorer at 24; Jimmy Butler made the jump at 25; Victor Oladipo made the jump to All-Star status at 25; Steph Curry made a huge leap at 24; DeMar DeRozan became a first-time All-Star at 24; Kemba Walker averaged 20 points for the first time at 24, then became an All-Star for the first time at 25. The point is, a lot of stars take time to develop. Not everyone can dominate at 18 or 19, like LeBron James -- that's part of what makes those types of players so special. While I mentioned Justise earlier, Bam Adebayo has shown enough versatility to also be a potential star, and he's only 22. I've said this before, but I think Bam can turn into a more athletic version of Al Horford; Horford holds career averages of 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and about a steal and a block per game. Bam’s per-36 minutes last year: about 14 points, 11 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and about a steal and a block per game. Horford developed his 3-point shot as his career progressed, and didn’t really start shooting threes until his age-29 season. Nevertheless, he was a key component on some overachieving Hawks teams, and a welcomed addition to both the Celtics and 76ers, mostly for his reputation as a great team player. Considering Bam’s solid free-throw percentage (he has a career mark of 72.8% at the stripe), I think he will show off a much-improved mid-range game this year, with improvements in his 3-point shot as the years go on. Regardless, that type of player can help a team make a run to the playoffs, and if surrounded with enough help, perhaps a deep run in the playoffs. Have patience, give these young players time, and let them prove that they can make the jump, before coming to some bored, impatient conclusion. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.,
A: But the same can be said for many players. Among the reasons players are selected in the first round is because the promise is there, that they can grow into something far better, especially players taken beyond the top of the lottery. But the percentage of players who make that jump, such as those you cite, is relatively meager. It certainly does not mean that it can't happen; it just means that there can't be a definitive expectation. All of which is why I believe it is important -- contrary to the opinions expressed by others in this space -- that you provide the canvas for such players, sooner rather than later, to see if it is trending toward improvement. If you are only living in the moment, then you turn to tested veterans. But if you are building toward something, then development has to be part of the equation.
Q: Chris Paul is just a flat out horrible contract for an aged and broken down player. Yes he can still play and has value, just not at anything close to those numbers. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: Which is why the Heat will not do anything regarding Chris Paul until trade terms become favorable enough in their direction. Get enough picks, give it consideration. Otherwise, a dalliance with no end game.
September 2, 2019
Q: I know the defense would struggle a lot around the rim, but would Erik Spoelstra play Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk together? It would allow the team to play five out with shooters all over the floor? We could never do this in the past with Bam Adebayo or Hassan Whiteside anchoring the middle. I know it is highly doubtful that Spoelstra would ever do this, considering the team culture values defense. -- Christopher, Vancouver.
A: What we have not heard, to this point, is any comment from the Heat regarding Meyers Leonard. Because the Heat cannot aggregate Leonard in a trade until Sept. 6 (two months from when he was acquired), perhaps there is an intentional holding pattern. Meyers has been working out at AmericanAirlines Arena, privately expressing a desire to make it work with the Heat. And he certainly could be intriguing. The scenario you mention, provided Meyers remains, would seem a likely possibility, with Meyers, at least at the moment, setting up as the backup center to Bam Adebayo. So it comes down to whether Meyers moves into the middle when Bam goes to the bench, or whether Olynyk takes that role and James Johnson, Derrick Jones Jr. or Justise Winslow is then spotted at the four. As you cite, what Spoelstra probably needs to decide is whether he could make it work defensively, because rim deterrence in that scenario certainly would be minimized.
Q: Will give Pat Riley credit for going after much-needed scoring options this summer. Adding Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn and even KZ Okpala along with keeping Duncan Robinson was a very positive move in the right direction. Current players stepping up to their potential could boost this team to 118 to 120 points easily. I personally believe Erik Spoelstra will need a completely revamped offensive system to maximize this team. Actually looking forward to it. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: Which will make it intriguing to see what Erik Spoelstra has conjured up or will conjure up in the lab. With Hassan Whiteside gone, it will be interesting to see who, if anyone, gets the post.
Q: The Miami Heat are the silver lining (once again) in a city with two major sports teams in full rebuild mode. In Micky Arison, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra We Trust. The Heat are always competitive. Jimmy Butler continues the tradition on Biscayne Boulevard. When does the season start? -- Stuart.
A: Not soon enough when it comes to Dolphins and Marlins fans. And, as you cite, with the Jimmy Butler acquisition, it’s not as if the Heat are viewing this as any sort of gap season or rebuilding or developmental moment. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a concurrent, parallel development program. But the greatest playoff hopes in South Florida among the pro sports teams are the Heat and Panthers, unless you envision some sort of MLS expansion breakthrough.
September 1, 2019
Q: How do you think our supposed "starting" backcourt of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, who are both ball dominant, mesh with another ball dominant star in Jimmy Butler? Based on today's drive-and-kick style of play, it does not seem very efficient to have any two of them stand in the corner while the other has the ball, as none of them are elite, knock-down shooters. -- Christopher, Vancouver.
A: Erik Spoelstra has made clear that his approach is to adopt systems that play to his roster's strengths, be it getting LeBron James in the post during the Big 3 era, getting Dwyane Wade off the ball during that same period, moving Chris Bosh to the 3-point line. So I think it would be safe to assume that an approach is being formulated -- if it hasn't already been formulated -- that would play to the combined strengths of Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, provided management has made it clear that all three will be in place with the Heat for the majority of the season. Part of that could be a staggered approach with the three, essentially having two on the court at all times. The Heat hardly are in position to bypass utilizing any scoring talent on the roster. The upshot of two-in, one-out with Butler, Dragic and Waiters could be more time on the court as a rookie for Tyler Herro as a floor spacer.
Q: Keep in mind that Jimmy Butler has played more than a 67-game season only once, his second year, in 2012-13, off the bench, at that. Would not be surprised to see the new load management theme applied with a 60-game target, so he's fresh for the playoffs. This will also open up even more lineup variations. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: Except for injuries, the Heat have not gone in such a load-management direction to this point, and I'm not sure that will change, especially with no guarantee of playoffs. Now, should the Heat get to a point where a postseason berth becomes apparent, then there could be an adjustment down the road. A team that has missed the playoffs two of the past three years, with only a single playoff-game victory over that span, can't get too cute with playing time. The Heat approach is to make every game matter. I don't see a change in that regard. When you are paying a player nearly $400,000 a game, I'm not sure you want to be putting him off to the side too often.
Q: James Johnson bounce-back season? Keep dreaming. He’s a journeyman. He had the run when he wanted a contract but reverted to the same JJ before he got here, a talented but an extremely passive player, somewhat like a Josh McRoberts 2.0. He just refuses to be aggressive and consistently look for his shot even while being left wide open. That has nothing to do with talent or injuries, but mentality. -- Swann.
A: I agree about the overly passive play. And while you don’t want those wild, drive-to-nowhere forays into the paint, there are plenty of controlled situations where James Johnson can be effective. Again, it’s a matter of getting a player to his best game. And then getting him to maximize those opportunities.
August 31, 2019
Q: Hey, Ira, I agree with your top eight rotation players as the roster currently stands. My question is whether to start Dion Winslow or Goran Dragic at the point. Goran is likely one of the three reliable scorers the Heat have along with Jimmy Butler and Dion Waiters. However, would he be more effective off the bench as a scoring threat with the second unit, not to mention the need to keep him fresh for fourth quarters? Also, Winslow can contribute in so many different ways and can easily play starters minutes. -- David, Venice.
A: Of course, closing time also is defense time when it comes to the Heat under Erik Spoelstra. So I’m not sure that saving Goran Dragic for closing time will necessarily be an emphasis. I would think, at this stage of the team’s development, that maximizing Justise Winslow’s playing time would be a priority, and that he should be given every consideration for a starting role. But that could come in a lineup with Goran if Justise were to open at power forward. If Kelly Olynyk is locked into that role at the four, however, then it would look like an either/or situation in the starting lineup between Goran and Justise . . . unless Dion Waiters were to be the odd man out of the starting five. There is plenty to be said about Dion’s streak scoring off the bench. Granted, convincing Dion of such benefits would be another story.
Q: Ira, do you think the Heat will have a introductory press conference for Jimmy Butler like other teams have had for their new star in town? -- Ed, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Yes. It's become a timing issue. First, Jimmy Butler was on a pre-scheduled international vacation for a month and, then Pat Riley left for a vacation of his own. While Jimmy was back in town briefly a week ago, it now simply is a matter of coming up with a date when both Butler and Riley can be featured on the same podium. I expect that to be done before the team's Sept. 30 media day at AmericanAirlines Arena. But Jimmy already has been forthcoming about the trade and his Heat plans, offering the media all the time requested during a conference call shortly after reaching his four-year agreement with the Heat. I doubt much in the way of sentiment has changed from him or the Heat in the interim.
Q: Right now Jimmy Butler seems to be holding back on developing chemistry with the guys until he knows who will be left after a possible preseason shakeup. In previous summers, it seems bonding started a bit earlier. The Celtics started their togetherness with Team USA, Josh Richardson has been working out with the Philly players, etc. Without Richardson as a leading man, no Hassan Whiteside or Dwyane Wade, this season portends to be very different than previous ones. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: Or it could be that Jimmy Butler has had incredible workloads in previous seasons, particularly under Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls and 'Wolves, and that perhaps he is saving his best for the moments that count the most. Based on what Jimmy stressed during the aforementioned conference call earlier this offseason, he is all in. I would expect him to stress as much again during his formal introduction. And there still is a month left for all the pre-camp bonding needed.
August 30, 2019
Q: If it's an odd-numbered year, Dion Waiters must be showing off his "new" physique on Instagram. Just like he did two summers ago. Do you think his new body can translate into staying healthy and in shape for the entire season? -- David, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Actually, this is his old new body. And perhaps all it took was health to get him back to his pre-injury flexing form. Look, it doesn't matter how Dion Waiters got here. The reality, barring some sort of trick photography, is that he is back, or close to back, to where he stood amid his career-best play. The fact that Dion took to Instagram to note his transformation, if nothing else, is a sign that he acknowledged the needed to transform. This difference this time is he is not entering a contract year, so it's not a matter of showing the physique so someone shows the money. Still, looking good in front of mirrors is one thing. We still need to see the attract-driven -- and high-percentage-finishing -- player we witnessed before the ankle mess.
Q: Dion Waiters has shown the "it" factor for that short stint in his career when he wanted a contract, now you're acting like that's really him. Why would we waste our time and let him start over Tyler Herro? One he’s not better, two he's not better, three he's had his chance. Over. -- Swann.
A: While I'm all for what Tyler Herro showed during summer league, I'm not sure how anyone, at this stage, can consider him a better, or at least more complete, NBA player than Dion Waiters. He certainly has the promise to become that, but the only way he starts ahead of Dion is if the Heat admit they are in full development and rebuilding mode. And if that was the case, it hardly would make sense to have such an investment in Jimmy Butler. A better argument with Tyler might be that his skill set better complements Jimmy. And, with his outside shooting, that could be the case. Down the road. But not immediately.
Q: Much has been discussed in the local media about a trade for a second star. It is my understanding that Bradley Beal could only be acquired if John Wall's contract is included in the deal. I don't think this flies mathematically, for Miami would be stuck with about $100 million on three players only (Beal, Jimmy Butler and Wall) for the next four years, considering Beal’s extension, never mind Wall’s health issues. So that leaves Chris Paul as the possible trade and that really depends on when will OKC accept the fact that they have to throw in a draft pick to make it a viable transaction. -- Joaquin, Coral Gables.
A: The thing is, after moving Hassan Whiteside, if the Heat even want to consider such a move, it would require throwing n Goran Dragic’s expiring contract, which adds a ticking-clock element to the equation. I still think it would require two first-round picks for the Heat to consider Paul, with the Thunder under no pressure for such a move amid their rebuild. As for Beal, I think the Heat would agree to take on Wall, but that also likely would mean the Wizards taking on Dion Waiters and James Johnson. And I’m not sure why that would attract Washington’s attention.
August 29, 2019
Q: Because Goran Dragic's contract expires after this season his value could be the highest closer to the trading deadline. He has to play to be showcased, because he probably is not in Miami’s long-term plans. Dion Waiters has to play, also, for different reasons. He has to show his form is back, and that can still perform at top level. If he performs well, he could be retained for the two years left in his contract, which is moderately priced, or he could be traded in a package deal. -- Joaquin, Coral Gables.
A: Of course, no team will acknowledge showcasing, even when they are. And I'm not sure the Heat have such a luxury, as least as long as they maintain that winning is the priority. Then again, for the Heat to win, they will need the best of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters. And, as you note, if Dion gets all the way back, then his contract becomes more than manageable for its duration. If he doesn't, then the trade value figures to be minimal. The Dragic situation is interesting, because the Heat cited his absence last season as a primary reason for the return to the lottery. In other words, they very much, at least at the end of last season, believed they needed him. Now the question becomes whether another team could need him more when the NBA trading deadline approaches.
Q: I'm focusing on Sept. 6, because of a Meyers Leonard trade-package deal. Necessary and hard decisions are lacking by trying to please everyone to a certain degree. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: First, if the Heat were seeking to move Meyers Leonard in order to alleviate or eliminate their tax bill, that is something that could have been done already. The only trade restriction on Meyers from when he was acquired from Portland on July 6 was that he could not be aggregated in a trade with another Heat player for two months. But there has been nothing in the interim to prevent the Heat from dealing him for a lower-priced player, in a one-for-one trade (or one-for-multiple players). Of course, there also is the matter of the Heat deciding on a back-up center. If Kelly Olynyk starts alongside Bam Adebayo, then Meyers could be the last man standing when it comes to back-up center (assuming Udonis Haslem no longer is a candidate there). So the play ultimately could be to see whether Leonard as backup center is the way to go.
Q: I agree with what was said regarding the Heat all-in with Jimmy Butler and putting guys around him with the same work ethic. However, who fits that mold in today's current NBA? That is why he couldn't get along with so many players from his former team. If you notice, he only got along with older players. That is why you can make a case for Chris Paul and possibly Carmelo Anthony. Could we even get Dwyane Wade to reconsider retirement? -- Bryan, Miami.
A: But despite what previously has been offered in this space, you also have to be forward thinking with Jimmy, as a bridge to what comes next. It’s one thing when you have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Then you go all in with the veteran support of Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Chris Andersen. But the Heat don’t even have a big two at the moment, let alone a Big Three. So you also have to develop, with the hope that, perhaps, you get one more star from within and find one more from elsewhere.
August 28, 2019
Q: Ira, I can't help but think that Mario Chalmers was the end for Jeremy Lin. -- Ott.
A: I'm not sure Feb. 23, 2012 was the end of Linsanity, but it certainly started a reverse clock that ticked down to Jeremy Lin's signing this week in China. Of course, injury certainly had far more to do with it, but it almost was as if Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and the Heat set out to steal Lin's soul amid the hype surrounding the then-Knicks guard. What that night showed was that an elite team was superior to an elite player. It was as if every shining moment of Jeremy Lin's basketball career was inflated into a glorious balloon that burst that night on the floor of AmericanAirlines Arena. Money and opportunity followed, as did last season's championship seat alongside the Raptors, but it was never quite the same after that 1-of-11 nationally televised stumble, an eight-point performance that included eight turnovers (for his part, Chalmers also scored eight points). If you recall, it was after that Knicks 14-point loss that Lin, then 23, said, "I can't remember another game where it was hard to just take dribbles." Lin later would respond with a solid 2016 playoff showing with Charlotte against the Heat, but by then the decline was evident.
Q: Jimmy Butler embodies the Heat mantra, so every player either complements him or doesn't. Forget small-ball, position-less, development, last-dance, potential, world-class shape, ad nauseam contradictory reasons. The Main Thing is Butler as a proverbial sun and planets circling around him: simplicity like Tim Duncan and the Spurs, or Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: Agreed. Considering that the Heat, in essence, gave up Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside and a future first-round pick (to the Clippers, to clear the final needed cap space) for Jimmy Butler, they already have gone all in on him as their featured attraction. So for the rest of the roster the choices are clear: support or step aside. A case can be made for each remaining component of the roster having at least one complementary skill set. The question is whether ego gets in the way of, as you state, the main thing. Erik Spoelstra's approach will be interesting when it comes to emphasizing that reality, considering the previous loyalty to so many on the roster.
Q: Right now the most interesting thing going into camp for me is what will Erik Spoelstra do to improve the offense? Plus, who will step up to provide the much-needed scoring for this team? -- Skip, Tampa.
A: I’m sure the hope is that the offensive improvement comes organically, with the infusion of Jimmy Butler, the drafting of Tyler Herro and the improvement of Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow. But Erik Spoelstra has been known to come into camp with at least one idea from left field. So, we wait.
August 27, 2019
Q: Fully expect Erik Spoelstra to go with a three-guard lineup of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Jimmy Butler. Butler is a natural two, but like Josh Richardson can easily play the three-spot. Plus this is really what Spo has been after for years now. A Rockets, Warriors type backcourt trio. If Dragic and Dion return to form it'll be a really exciting trio, indeed. Maybe with an increase in tempo Spoelstra can minimize the rebound issue a little bit. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: The fascination with small ball has run deep with the Heat for years. But if there truly is the commitment to featuring Bam Adebayo, as appears to be the case, then there will be a limit on the downsizing. Plus, an argument could be made that Kelly Olynyk was one of the Heat's most effective players last season. With that power alignment, you are hardly small, albeit not necessarily bulky, either. As always, the most interesting part of such rotation issues will be whether the Heat can force the lineup alignments, or whether that will be dictated by the opposition. Typically, you adjust to the team with the superior talent. I'm not sure how many times that will be the Heat this season.
Q: Ira, are we falling asleep at the switch? The Lakers were able to get Dwight Howard to take a buyout. Why isn't Pat Riley doing the same? -- Klif.
A: While Pat Riley and his staff seemingly are always on the lookout for the next big thing, at some point you also have to assess whether lateral moves are needed. Beyond that, it's not as if players force buyouts to move merely to a playoff contender. Dwight Howard was never an option for the Heat, as I suspect will be the case when Andre Iguodala gets his buyout from the Grizzlies. With a hard cap, every move leads to another move. The Heat could create some freedom to again dip into the free-agent market, but there first would have to be a trade to allow that to happen. As it is, the Heat bypassed every other option on the free-agent market to re-sign Udonis Haslem.
Q: Erik Spoelstra's decision making with the rotation is questionable, and has been for a long time now. -- Charlie, Fort Lauderdale.
A: To me, questionable rosters and questionable rotations leads to what are perceived as questionable decisions. The Heat, from Pat Riley to Erik Spoelstra, would love to have clear-cut answers. But that is not the case at the moment at power forward, nor in the perimeter rotation. What Spoelstra needs, and what the Heat need, are for players to separate themselves. Few, if anyone on this roster, have made themselves irreplaceable.
August 26, 2019
Q: Let me get this straight, when Erik Spoelstra had both Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic on the bench and had Dion Waiters camping out behind the 3-point line in favor of Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Josh Richardson, the excuse was, "Hey he doesn't have a definitive All-Star on the roster and the Heat have to see what they have in their young players." But now that Miami has a definitive All-Star in Jimmy Butler on the roster, the excuse now is "this team isn’t contending, so all the more reason to see what the young players can do." Look nobody is expecting this team to win a championship, but trying to lay down the groundwork for Erik Spoelstra to choose Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo (two of the most overhyped young players on the roster) to be on the court in moments of truth with Jimmy Butler, over his best players in Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, is just silly. -- Charlie, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Thing is, I can't recall Erik Spoelstra saying he would be doing any of that. What I suggested, and I believe, is that you only can learn about the possibilities of the Heat's younger prospects by playing them. But that doesn't mean, or have to be, the moments of truth. Those have to be merited -- through the course of the season, through the course of games. Closing time is earned, not given. That's the case for the younger prospects; that's the case for the veterans. Handle a roster in that fashion and you should be able to earn the trust and confidence of all.
Q: It'll be rebound by committee this year, so almost every player will be crashing the glass now that they don't have Hassan Whiteside to cover their backs. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard have very few double-figure rebound games under their belts. I think Bam Adebayo will improve to a 10-plus rebound line. That on its own won't be enough. -- Skip, Tampa
A: Which will make it interesting if the Heat go even smaller in the wake of the Hassan Whiteside trade and don't open with Kelly Olynyk at the four. Opening with James Johnson or Justise Winslow at power forward would leave the Heat even further unsized, considering they may well go with a three-guard perimeter rotation of Jimmy Butler, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic.
Q: Where's Goran? -- Mike.
A: Let’s not make this a theme in this space. I wrote about Jimmy Butler being away from the Heat only because of what could be a steep learning curve about South Florida, the Heat culture, his new teammates and the Erik Spoelstra’s system. Goran Dragic has routinely arrived back from Europe about a week before camp without chemistry complications. I don’t expect that to change this season.
August 25, 2019
Q: There are two kinds of Heat fans that I come across. There are the kinds that want Erik Spoelstra to stop being foolish and play his best players, and the kinds that use inaccurate statistics to hype up the young players as something they aren't. People have got to relax and stop hyping up the Justise Winslows, Bam Adebayos, Derrick Jones Jr.'s and Tyler Herros of the world. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing someone use their age as an excuse for why they don't play well, or use the summer league as a means to hype up Tyler Herro a kid who really isn't a little that efficient a shooter. They are below average. -- Reggie, Boston.
A: If the Heat were in contention mode, I would have a greater appreciation of your perspective. But if you are in the process of building toward something, then it's not as much where a player stands at the moment, but rather where (or where not) they're headed. As I've offered ad nauseum in this space, I take three views on players: Can they lead you to the playoff? Can they lead you to title contention? Can they lead you to a championship? Some also would note whether they have the potential to be an All-Star. At the moment, I believe the four you mention can get you to the playoffs. I'm not sure about any of the other criteria. So the ultimate question is how much further can each develop? If you believe that any or all of those you mentioned have maxed out, then, yes, I could appreciate a level of concern. But if you allow for the potential for development, then you have to allow for developmental through playing time. Even if you're not necessarily playing your "best" players.
Q: James Johnson? He’s lucky if he plays. -- Charles.
A: This was in response for insisting James Johnson will be a rotation player this season. I would caution that no matter how the initial rotation shakes out, it is not uncommon for Heat players to re-emerge from the deep freeze. The rotation in October could look far different than the rotation in December or March. But you also can't showcase a player if you don't show him.
Q: I am looking forward to the Miami Heat playing lock-down defense in the final few minutes of close games with Jimmy Butler, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo. Hopefully locking teams up on defense becomes a nice habit leading to Ws. -- Stuart, Miami.
A: And, yet, I do wonder if opponents would attempt to seize on Bam Adebayo with size. At moments of truth, there are plenty of big men who either can score over Bam or through him. Being an active, undersized center might well work through the first 46 minutes. But the moments of truth are what we have to see next.
August 24, 2019
Q: I'm not totally sold on Bradley Beal as a game-changing talent since he and John Wall never made the Wizards bona-fide contenders. I look at Beal as an exact replica of DeMar DeRozan, who only carried the Raptors so far. DeRozan is an excellent player, but Kawhi Leonard is on another level. To me Miami has Jimmy Butler, so the question is who compliments him the best? Beal is another shooting guard. Perhaps Anthony Davis in case LeBron James shows his age and Kyle Kuzma reverts to his draft status. I feel Justise Winslow would benefit from Butler's no-nonsense influence. I feel the best approach is wait until December, when the team has a chance to evaluate where it stands. The Heat already made significant moves, so let's digest those first before proceeding further. Let's count how many new faces: Butler, Meyers Leonard, Tyler Herro, KZ Okpala, Kendrick Nunn. That's a handful already to evaluate. The staff has its hands full finding out as much as possible about them. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: And yet I doubt the Heat would allow the development of others to stand in the way of acquiring a running partner for Jimmy Butler, especially as his contract clicks along at more than $30 million per season. But your point about Bradley Beal is a cogent one, on a pair of levels: First, if you truly believe he is an Alpha, then where would that leave Butler? And, on the other hand, if Beal is something less than a leading man, then why load up at a similar position? And yet, when given the opportunity to play alongside a talented big man such as Karl-Antony Towns, it simply did not work out the way Jimmy envisioned in Minnesota. So, yes, you get elite talent whenever available. But I agree that the fit also must be taken into consideration.
Q: It seems the Heat's roster is set for now, but as the season progresses more players may come available. I could see scenarios where Bradley Beal, Blake Griffin, D'Angelo Russell, and LaMarcus Aldridge are available on the trade market during the season. Who is the most realistic target for the Heat, and if it was up to you, which of those guys would your preferred option (or none of them, instead waiting for free agency in 2021 while keeping your assets)? -- Chris, Gainesville.
A: As mentioned above, it is difficult to wait in light of the money being spent at the moment on Jimmy Butler. And I'm also not sure that any of the names you mentioned will shake free in the short term. But considering there is a history of interest with LaMarcus Aldridge, that could be an intriguing pairing, if the Heat and Spurs could define a price that is right.
Q: If the Heat want something, they will get it, just like Jimmy Butler. -- D.M.
A: If they have the assets. They already are lacking draft assets, especially in light of having to sacrifice yet another first-round pick in order to make the Jimmy Butler math work. So it comes down to how much you are you willing to part with from the group of Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and Tyler Herro? And, of course, how other teams view such assets.
August 23, 2019
Q: Dion Waiters should absolutely be the starter. Tyler Herro should be the No. 7-8 player, without a doubt. Goran Dragic, Waiters, Jimmy Butler, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo looks like the starting lineup, unless Erik Spoelstra opts for Winslow to run the second unit at PG. Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Derrick Jones Jr., Duncan Robinson, Kelly Olynyk represent an excellent 3-point shooting second unit. Well, if Jones can pick up his shooting, that is. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: Except you left out James Johnson, and I don't believe the Heat are willing to move past his possibilities. I also think there is a likelihood of picking up where they left off last season with Kelly Olynyk as the starting power forward. And for all the strides that Derrick Jones Jr. has made, still not sure about penciling him in as a rotation player. Same with Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, even with their summer-league play. I believe the eight certain rotation players are Bam Adebayo, Olynyk, Jimmy Butler, Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic, Winslow, Johnson and Herro. Anything beyond that could be a game-by-game decision.
Q: OK, Ira, time to put on your "Prophet's Hat." Tyler Hero becomes Stephen Curry, Justise Winslow becomes Klay Thompson. Bam Adebayo becomes Draymond Green. It could happen right? So why would we trade these guys? -- Bob, Boca Raton.
A: And I grow hair? (But I digress.) If even one of those predictions comes true, it would likely be even beyond the Heat's wildest hopes. But to your greater point, yes, there is some merit to seeing where this youth leads. The danger there is also waiting too long. In other words, considering you want to sell high, is there more to be mined from Justise Winslow? By contrast, if you felt strongly enough to draft Tyler Herro at No. 13, then you probably want to see where this heads. But to get, you have to give. So part of the process is, as Pat Riley says, developing chips. Ultimately, no player on this team is untradeable.
Q: Hi, Ira. The Heat are certainly going to miss Hassan Whiteside's rebounding, rim protection (not just blocked shots, but more importantly, altered shots), and around the basket scoring. Yes, Hassan was a headache, and you could question his effort, at times, but he was a walking double-double, and at times, a monster. I think he got somewhat of a bad rap last year. We had 48 minutes of high-quality post play between Bam Adebayo and Hassan. And though Meyers Leonard looked really good at the end of the playoffs against Golden State, if that was the true Meyers Leonard, then the team wouldn't have made the trade for Whiteside. -- Matt, Miami.
A: I agree. As a player, Hassan Whiteside was more productive than given credit for. But ultimately that did not outweigh the perceived impact on the team concept. So now we get to see the notion of the sum being greater than the individual parts. Because, yes, there will be plenty to overcome from a statistical standpoint.
August 22, 2019
Q: Waiting for Heat to come up with another player to pair with Jimmy Butler soon. -- Tamisia.
A: It is a wait that could prove ongoing, possibly into next summer or beyond. To reiterate, the Heat currently only have a single means to add a veteran free agent, which would be by releasing Kendrick Nunn. That is not happening. So their free-agent door is closed . . . unless there is an accompanying trade. In other words, in addition to potentially trading for another leading man (should another team find the Heat's assets suitably tempting), the Heat also could open space for a minimum-scale free agent by trading one of their contracts for a players who earns less. The example there could potentially be Meyers Leonard, and sending out his $11.3 million for a player who earns enough less to open a slot for a 15th player. For now, the Jamal Crawfords, J.R. Smiths, and, yes, even Carmelo Anthonys are out of the Heat's reach because of the hard cap in place after the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade with the 76ers. In the end, it could come down to seeing if it can work alongside Goran Dragic, or else possibly flipping Goran at the trading deadline for something else. Or, of course, waiting until next summer . . . or beyond.
Q: After last season, Pat Riley said everyone was available for the right trade. After his reluctance to let go of Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Hero this summer, do you think his position has changed, or would he move those guys for a Bradley Beal? -- Bob, Boca Raton.
A: It all depends on who would be coming in exchange and what therefore would be left. The Heat clearly had limits when it came to taking on Chris Paul's contract. Bradley Beal, however, would be a different story. But there also would have to be enough left to field a competitive unit. So would Beal, Jimmy Butler and filler be enough? In today's Eastern Conference, that certainly could put you in contention for a Top 4 seed.
Q: Pat Riley would have probably asked Kevin Durant to put on 30 pounds and be a low-post player. -- C.J.
A: This was in response to the story about Kyle Alexander and KZ Okpala being bulked up in the Heat’s offseason conditioning program. And perhaps Pat Riley would have insisted on something more from Kevin Durant had he been signed in free agency during the 2016 offseason. The difference is most teams talk about optimizing a player’s possibilities, with the Heat pushing them to do so. It is why the franchise is not for everyone.
August 21, 2019
Q: I think it would've been great if Jimmy Butler had found his way to Miami to get with his fellow Heat teammates for some informal workouts or at least getting to know them just a little, instead of globetrotting. There needs to be bonding, and I think it starts even before training camp, when everybody has to report. I am hoping Butler can somewhat take the place of Dwyane Wade, as far as a leader, mentor and great teammate, that the rest of the players respected and loved, even though off-the-court interests and age didn't make him a peer. I think brotherhood and team bonding had played a large part in the Heat culture, so hopefully it doesn't become Jimmy Butler . . . then the rest of the team. It's up to Butler to make the move, and become one of the guys, while still being their leader. -- Matt, Miami.
A: It truly was a whirlwind with Jimmy. He met with the Heat on June 30 at the start of free agency, signed on July 6, held a media conference call at 11:30 p.m. Eastern that night, and then left for Europe, yet to return to AmericanAirlines Arena. But we also are still six weeks from the start of camp. As long as there is a presence in September, that should be more than enough time for bonding. Now, if he were to walking into the building for the first time on media day, that would be a different story. This, at the moment, would be nothing more than the equivalent of an NFL player getting away for March. The Heat need Jimmy Butler to lead. And leadership includes a degree of bonding beyond the confines of camp. There remains plenty of time for that.
Q: As a Heat fan, I'm excited to see Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow play alongside Jimmy Butler. I hope Tyler Herro will be efficient in his first season. I want Dion Waiters to be consistent in whatever role he plays. He's not going to rescue the Heat. He needs to be more consistent on both ends of the floor. -- Tiffany.
A: The optimal way to maximize court time for Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Dion Waiters would be to play Justise Winslow either at point guard or power forward. If Winslow winds up at the three, then hard decisions will have to be made in the backout. It would be interesting to see the approach by Erik Spoelstra if the choice for quality minutes came down to either Herro or Waiters. It could be, to a degree, similar to the Dolphins' choice between Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Q: Do you agree that Tyler Herro is the best shooter in this rookie class? -- Feth.
A: Pure shooter? Possible not. But the No. 13 pick has to be more than a player who stands in the corner and waits for an occasional shot, more than a specialist. What the Heat need is for Tyler Herro to shoot a quality 3-point percentage among the rookies who are given across-the-board responsibilities.
August 20, 2019
Q: Mario Chalmers came through again this weekend in the Big3. I loved when he hit the shot over Kendrick Perkins in 2012 NBA Finals to secure a Game 4 win in Miami and put the Heat up 3-1. Any chance Mario Chalmers ends up with the Heat? -- Stuart.
A: At this moment, other than the Heat releasing Kendrick Nunn, there isn't room for any veteran, rookie, free agent or any type of player. The 14 players under NBA contract to the Heat essentially have to be the 14 they will take into the season, because of the hard cap put in place by the sign-and-trade agreement for Jimmy Butler. And yet, considering how seemingly every time you turn around the Heat are re-signing Michael Beasley, I've learned never to say never. The problem is that not only has Mario Chalmers had to work his way back from his torn Achilles, he also now is 33. At some point, it just ends, as it has for most of the members of Mario's draft class in 2008, as well as most of the members of the Heat's Big Three championship teams.
Q: It's true, as has been pointed out a number of times recently in "Ask Ira," that Jimmy Butler has never lifted a team to title contention on his own. But neither has Dwyane Wade or Anthony Davis or Kevin Durant. And the list goes on and on. You need two All-Stars and a very solid group of role players to contend. So let's not take Butler down a peg because he hasn't done it on his own. (Besides, he was on a very young Chicago team, and a young and disjointed Minnesota team.) Outside of LeBron James, no one player has carried a team to a conference final, in a long, long, long time. -- Matt, Miami.
A: It is interesting that Jimmy agreed to join the Heat on June 30, signed on July 6, held a media conference call on the night of July 6, and has been gone since, flying overseas that night. What I would say is that it is not yet the point of no return, but it certainly would help to at least have him familiarizing himself with teammates and the Heat staff in September. A full month of acclimating should be more than enough. Showing up on the eve of camp, however, would be a different story. But we certainly are nowhere close to that scenario, nor is there any indication of such an approach. Heck, if I just signed for $141 million, I might get out and see the world, as well.
Q: Video highlights for Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside when they return could be a lot of fun. There's plenty of moments for both of them. As you pointed out, the fan reaction could be wildly different. -- Skip.
A: I’d almost be more curious about the potential divergent reactions than the video productions, themselves, if, indeed, that proves to be the Heat’s approach upon their returns in opposing colors.
August 19, 2019
Q: You hit the nail on the head when you said Jimmy Butler hasn't produced deep playoff runs so far. More than that, Jimmy Baskets has drifted from place to place because he hasn't been given that Main Man role, not in Chi, not in Minny and not in Philly. Does that mean he's not going to be the main man who lifts the Heat to the Top 4 in the East? -- Irv, Boca Raton.
A: Look, it's not as if Erik Spoelstra is, with his words, going to identify his leading man. But he will with his actions, just as he moved from Josh Richardson to Dwyane Wade last season. So some of this will be Jimmy Butler earning trust. But there certainly could be a subtle nudge from Pat Riley and the front office, considering the money spent. Ultimately, it comes down to the confidence of teammates to move off the ball and let Jimmy be the closer. That will make camp, and pre-camp, important. Jimmy basically signed and then headed out on his world tour. The bonding has yet to begin.
Q: What in the world has gotten into Pat Riley, and why all of a sudden has he fallen in love with low-ceiling players like Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr. and Josh Richardson, when he was still here? The NBA is a league based on skill, and nothing drives me more up a wall then listening to him and other Heat fans continue to play the what-if game when it comes to the young players on the roster. They aren't now naturally talented. -- Troy, Orlando.
A: You play the hand you are dealt. And when players exceed their draft pedigree, you encourage further growth. Why wouldn't you maximize what is in place? But are the Heat being delusional? If they were, they wouldn't have gone all-in with Jimmy Butler, at the cost of being hard capped this season. They know the score. The only what-if game is what if they could get yet another leading man? And that could put any or even all of those you mentioned into play.
Q: Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow should be the rescue of the Heat. Erik Spoelstra needs to give Dion Waiters a defined role and leave it at that. -- Tiffany.
A: I don’t see Justise Winslow with enough of an offensive repertoire to be No. 2 scorer on a quality playoff team. And if Goran Dragic comes around, he won’t have to be. But reining in Dion Waiters could prove more difficult than said. I’m still not sure he’s met a shot that he doesn’t believe will drop.
August 18, 2019
Q: Would you agree that Miami's pursuit of Bradley Beal depends on what kind of year Dion Waiters has? I can't explain it, but I have a feeling Dion will surprise and remind a lot of people how dangerous he is. -- Charlie, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Which would be music to the Heat's ears -- and eyes. But it also is a timing issue, if the Wizards get a sense that Bradley Beal isn't planning to stick around, then the Heat might not have long to take measure of Dion Waiters. Yes, I agree that if Dion can get back to his Heat best, then the Heat could have shooting guard asked and answered. But that was such a small sample size, compared to the rest of his injury-riddled Heat tenure. The only way the concerns are alleviated to the point of being comfortable addressing other areas of the roster is for Dion to light it up from the start of the season and to stay lit. At this stage, the question is whether he has that in him. The rhetoric and the social media certainty have been encouraging. But it all is about what happens when the score again matters. In Dion they trust?
Q: They have a leading man in Jimmy Butler. They need a co-star. There isn't one on this team. I'm not as attached to some of these players as some people are. By midseason I'd like to see another trade to max out what we have in Jimmy before the reaper calls. -- Tiffany.
A: But if the belief is that Jimmy Butler is a legitimate leading man, then the Heat actually might have a suitable No. 2 if Goran Dragic returns to his previous All-Star form, after being so limited by injury last season. It would be fascinating to see the Heat approach if Goran re-emerges: A. Consider a new contract at the cost of future cap space? B. Immediately move him when his value is highest, in order to secure future assets?
Q: When does the trade restrictions on Meyers Leonard expire so that he can be included in a trade deal with other players? Right now he makes a lot of sense as a backup for Bam Adebayo. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: Meyers Leonard can be aggregated in a trade with other Heat players starting on Sept. 6, two months from when he was acquired from the Trail Blazers in the Hassan Whiteside trade. But the Heat also were (and remain) free to flip him immediately provided he was not packaged. As an expiring contract at $11.3 million this season, he certainly could have value on the trade market. It also is where the Heat might be able to shave enough salary to get below the luxury tax, in a trade for a player who makes a bit less. To this point, there has been nothing from management or the coaching staff to offer a hint of what the plans might be going forward, not that there is anything wrong with a re-emerging 3-point shooting big man.
August 17, 2019
Q: Dwyane Wade was one of those unique draft choices whose talent level was so great that it lifted his team to championships when he had the right supporting cast. There is no player on the current Heat roster that comes close to that level. We have to stop hoping that a Justise Winslow or a Bam Adebayo will become that player, they won't. Without a transformative free-agent signing we will always be a mediocre team. Would you agree? -- Bob, Boca Raton.
A: Or a transformative trade. Or a transformative draft choice. I access players on three levels: Can they contribute to a playoff team? Can they contribute to a championship team? Can they lift a team to a championship? I believe Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo can meet those first two measurements. I have yet to see from either the ability to be a leading man. So, as stated here so often, it all is about airlifting in a leading man. Is that Jimmy Butler? It would seem that he would have advanced further by now in the playoffs if he was that element. So the dance for the Heat front office is finding a way to keep enough contributors while also establishing a means of adding a leading man. It is why the squandering of some cap space has come into question, from the length of the Dion Waiters and James Johnson contracts, to now having to endure the stretch payments to Ryan Anderson.
Q: Let's admit it: Pat Riley's contracts to James Johnson and Dion Waiters were simply bad buys, what my grandmother used to call "thrown-away money." In both cases, he should have known better. Waiters was ditched by Cleveland and OKC; JJ's a good guy but was past his prime potential from the start. The Heat won't be able to emerge from hole he's dug for the team until 2021, at best. -- Zalman.
A: Actually, I think the Jimmy Butler signing changed that outlook and timing, with a playoff return likely this coming season. And then, if there is a way for Riley to advance the rebuild with a trade, there could be even more in 2020-21. Yes, there was a point when it the outlook appeared limited for the next two seasons. But after the Heat took no salary-cap space and turned it into Butler, I'm not sure that skepticism still should rule the day, no matter how the final two seasons on the contracts of Dion Waiters and James Johnson play out. I actually could see the Heat working around that money, having gained such experience when working around Chris Bosh's money.
Q: Udonis Haslem is no longer useful to us. Why do you continue to waste a roster spot on someone who is no longer a contributor? Loyalty isn't gonna win us rings. Players that can contribute are. -- Key.
A: But leadership is a key component in any success story. So now we get to see whether such leadership can be tangible without playing time. For their part, teammates swore by Udonis Haslem’s presence last season, and that was when Dwyane Wade was still in place to maintain cultural continuity.
August 16, 2019
Q: Wow, three years in a row with big injuries for DeMarcus Cousins. Guess I'm glad it's the Lakers and not the Heat. I actually thought he would have paired up well with Jimmy Butler. Sad to hear about for any player, from the verge of a max contract to major injuries and small paydays. Something like this could spur Bradley Beal to sign his extension with the Wizards. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: And that's why, even with all the cap math that notes that Bradley Beal can earn far more over a similar period if he waits to hit free agency in 2021, there certainly have been ample cautionary tales in recent years of salary never realized, with Isaiah Thomas near or at the top of that list. Not every player is a Kevin Durant, maximizing salary no matter the injury. Draymond Green, in fact, could have earned more in the long run had he waited for next summer's free agency, but the Durant and Klay Thompson injuries certainly were eye openers. And Bradley Beal certainly has witnessed how injuries have derailed the career of John Wall (who fortunately first got paid). Beyond all of that, the Jimmy Butler-to-Heat talk got real only as Jimmy got down to one remaining season on his contract. Bradley Beal has two remaining. That's not to say that the Heat don't take a long view (they certainly did with LeBron James). It's just to say that moments such as the reality of Cousins also come into play along the way.
Q: I feel like, at times, Bam Adebayo gets overlooked with focus on Justise Winslow, but Bam's progression last season was astounding and I believe his ceiling may be even higher. Why doesn't he get more props? -- Klif.
A: Because players who contribute and support, without dominating, rarely do in the NBA. Because few pause during a game to note, "He really held that screen." Because few appreciate a defensive switch on the perimeter that leads to a scoreless possession by the opposition. I'm not sure Bam possesses the skill set to get to an All-Star Game, but there could be All-Defensive notice one day if the totally of his effort is considered. And he could come to be viewed as a top teammate, based on his ability to make those around him better. So there's that.
Q: Should the Heat consider bringing back Luke Babbitt to a small role? -- Marquese, New York.
A: Yes, I checked the time stamp. This, indeed, actually was sent this way this week. The best I can tell, Luke Babbitt had no involvement in playing the game this past season.
August 15, 2019
Q: Ira, what does it say about the Heat if they pulled Kelly Olynyk out of the World Cup because of his knee injury? I read he would only be out for a week. Can they stop their players from playing? -- Cyrus, Toronto.
A: The initial report of it being a minor ailment came before his MRI and evaluation by the Heat's medical staff that confirmed the bone bruise on his right knee. Clearly, this is not anything punitive, but perhaps preventative. As I've stressed in this space, I agree that players are going to play, and therefore risk injury, during the offseason. But once injury enters the equation, then a team, especially when paying a player an eight-figure salary, has every right to step in. As it is, word is the Heat are not certain the Kelly Olynyk will be ready for the start of training camp in late September, so any notion of his return to the Canadian national team might have been moot, anyway. Last season, for example, Derrick Jones Jr. missed over two weeks with a bone bruise on his right knee, then sat out a game with a similar bone bruise on his right knee six weeks later. Sometimes a minor ailment is not minor at all, especially, in this case, when it involved travel half a world away, which also would be half a world from the Heat's training staff.
Q: You made an intriguing observation I haven't thought of. "Heat teammates have raved about playing alongside Bam because of his selfless approach." He has an instinctive talent as a recruiter, a la Dwyane Wade. Bam can relate better to the generation after Wade. This summer's player movement displayed how the newer generation values "experiences" over job security. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: And yet, for all the personality and locker-room presence that Bam Adebayo provides, players want to play alongside those who can help facilitate winning championships. Bam is not there yet. It is another reason why this season is so important, to add further credibility to the roster that Pat Riley is attempting to augment.
Q: Is it possible Erik Spoelstra's approach to coaching the Miami Heat is tired? No fault on either side, it just is. And it isn't fresh and inspiring. Pat Riley once wrote in his book "The Winner Within," you shouldn't coach in the same place for more than five years. Players get used to your motivational tactics. -- Stuart.
A: But the players change. Consider what the Heat looked like five years ago and then consider what the look like now. As for Pat Riley’s tome, it would be interesting to see the approach is he were to put out an updated edition; I’m not sure the NBA is a similar world today. When judging a coach, it should come down to the simple question of this: Does his presence make your team better? With Erik Spoelstra, the Heat continue to believe such is the case.
August 14, 2019
Q: I do think that fans are not looking at the Heat's young core and players in the same way that the Heat organization looks at them. It would be great if one of them became an All-Star, but training and developing a Josh Richardson to a trade asset for a Jimmy Buckets is the goal. Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow have great potential and if showcased this year can really help Miami land another star. -- Paul.
A: And that's the thing: Is the future for Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow with the Heat or as the lures for a Bradley Beal or another potential trade piece? You could put Tyler Herro in that category, as well. Even before there was Josh Richardson for Jimmy Butler, there was the Heat moving off the youth of Caron Butler for Shaquille O'Neal. It will be an interesting balance this season, needing to keep the values of Bam and Justise up for more than just success in the standings. At the moment, including future Heat first-round picks, they stand as the team's most valuable trade commodities.
Q: I'm truly interested in seeing how the coaching staff incorporates all these players who are used to having the ball in their hands (Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Jimmy Butler, Dion Waiters). I find it difficult to envision Miami being able to play more than two of them in a lineup at a time. -- Brett, Miami.
A: Both Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler have had success playing off the ball, so I don't think that will be as much of an issue there. But, as you cite, Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Justise Winslow have all been far better with the ball in their hands. To this point, they rarely have been healthy and available at the same time. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out.
Q: Someone will turn up for Goran Dragic by the February trading deadline. Heat supporters should be patient. This front office will be very interesting to watch between now and the 2021 trade deadline. -- Gabriel, Lakeland.
A: I agree that Goran Dragic could wind up with far greater value to a leading contender than to perhaps a Heat team facing a potential one-and-done playoff run. But it also would be a delicate dance, with most teams operating above or near the cap. That means taking make expiring salaries that approach Goran’s $19.2 million. But taking back a bit less (plus perhaps a draft choice . . . or two), it also could be the means for the Heat to drop below the luxury tax. That also should be a juncture when the Heat will have greater insight into whether Justise Winslow as point-guard-of-the-future is a thing.
August 13, 2019
Q: Well, one thing about the new schedule is a true appreciation of how badly they messed up a creampuff start last year. They surely won’t get that chance this year. If they do well with Jimmy Butler early, it may turn into more TV time later in the year. But why on Earth is the Hawks-Heat a big TV draw? -- Skip, Tampa.
A: Good points. The Heat opened with eight of their first 13 at home last season and mangled it to a 5-8 start. This season, there won't be such an opportunity, with six of the next eight on the road after opening night. Then again, perhaps the homecourt factor, at least in this case, is overstated, considering the Heat went 19-22 at AmericanAirlines Arena last season. It doesn't matter as much about when the Heat's home games come as whether they are won. Another 19-22 at home likely will lead to another lottery result. As for the fascination of a pair of early games against the Hawks being nationally televised? No, I don’t quite get it, either, with all due respect to Trae Young and local prospect John Collins.
Q: James Johnson talks about revival, for him and for Dion Waiters, by which he presumably means renewal of the alpha status expected of them at the start of last year. He doesn't seem to relate to the fact that there's a new alpha in town, one who expects the Heat to be his team, in Jimmy Butler. Sounds like a recipe for dissension, before the first bounce of the ball. Somebody's gotta put things into proportion for JJ and Dion, for whom there's no real possibility of other employment at the moment. -- Max.
A: First, I believe James Johnson and Dion Waiters get that part of the Heat's new math. And based on his recent past, it also is more than likely that Jimmy Butler will make it clear about the calculus going forward. It is why the naming of captains could be particularly intriguing this season.
Q: Would you agree that Jimmy Butler is a max player but not someone who can lead us to a championship? If you need at least two superstars to compete for a title, we aren't even close. -- Bob, Boca Raton.
A: Correct. Which is what makes it interesting how the Heat will continue to make annual $30 million-plus payments to Jimmy Butler as they await the arrival of a running partner. It is why the sneaking suspicion remains that Pat Riley is not done for this season.
August 12, 2019
Q: Saw that Rodney McGruder at the Big3. Was glad to see him back at AmericanAirlines Arena after I though the Heat did him dirty? -- Thomas.
A: The release of Rodney McGruder with two games left last season in order to get under the luxury tax certainly was awkward. But, as it turned out, it's not as if Rodney missed a playoff run with the Heat. Plus, it was apparent even then that the Heat were reluctant to extend the needed $3 million qualifying offer to keep McGruder's rights as a restricted free agent. It turns out that the Clippers went above and beyond, with a three-year, $15 million offer that pays $4.8 million this season. For Rodney, it not only is an awaited payday (the type the Heat seemingly would not offer), but also a chance to contribute to a title contender, in the wake of the Clippers' additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. In the end, Rodney found himself in a good place. Will the Heat come to miss him? That could come down to what they do or do not get out of Dion Waiters, Tyler Herro, Derrick Jones Jr. and perhaps Justise Winslow.
Q: With rebounding now an issue with the loss of Hassan Whiteside, do you think Dwight Howard and his eventual release from the Grizzles could prove to be a match for both parties? And would the Heat flirt with two-waying Kendrick Nunn to do so? Risky, but it seems the only way to get an additional roster spot now because of Udonis Haslem. -- Sly, Philadelphia.
A: First, now that Kendrick Nunn has been guaranteed more than $50,000, he no longer is eligible for a two-way contract. Second, when was the last time Dwight Howard contributed to a winning program? And if the goal for Howard, at this stage in his career is to get into championship contention, then the Heat hardly would appear a fit. Can never say never with Dwight, in light of his career twists, but not sure I could envision a match with the Heat.
Q: There hasn't been much change in front office. Maybe having someone from the outside with no ties or agenda give a perspective that maybe they didn't see? -- Gene, Miami.
A: If this was autocratic rule, I would be more prone to agree. But the one thing I will say about the Heat front office, is that even with Pat Riley ultimately making the decisions, and Andy Elisburg being a final sounding board, there are numerous opinions taken into consideration, from Adam Simon to Eric Amsler to Keith Askins to Erik Spoelstra and on down the line, including, of course, Nick Arison and Micky Arison making sure the dollars make sense. So it’s not as if there has been a single voice making any or all these decisions. And I believe Pat Riley has also been dissuaded on occasions. As the latest round of front-office promotions show, there is a respect for many in the process.
August 11, 2019
Q: Bam Adebayo's dismissal from Team USA was a much-needed reality check for the Miami Heat, especially in trade negotiations. Reluctant to part with its "young core," the gut punch from Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr serves as a reminder that other team's youthful pieces have more talent than Miami's under-25 players. I think a big factor in Pop's decision was that international teams play more zone defense. Adebayo has no 3-point gravity, which makes him primarily a dunker suited for NBA's style of play. I suspect the NBA will see more zone defense this season, which mandates winning NBA teams have outside firepower. The reality check for the Heat is reassessing how far their current talent pool can go. Is Meyers Leonard's 3-point shooting more needed now? Did Miami err in drafting players like Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo, who are known more for athletic ability than scoring acumen? -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
Q: You mean to tell me that Bam Adebayo couldn’t even make Team USA when so many other guys were either declining to join, or backing out at the last minute? Ridiculous! But some Heat fans claim that Bam is supposed to be "better than Hassan Whiteside" and "has a higher ceiling." This proves that he along with the rest of Miami’s young players are overhyped. Pat Riley is making the same mistake with Bam like he did with Josh Richardson. -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.
Q: So Bam Adebayo was cut from the national team. Are we missing something here? Is the Heat's opinion on Bam overrated now that we have an unbiased opinion from Coach Popovich, no less? -- Bob, Boca Raton.
A: . . . and many more similar thoughts that showed up in the in-box Saturday in the wake of the decision by USA Basketball to release Bam Adebayo from the player pool being considered for the World Cup.
First, the fact that Bam even was considered for training camp still is an impressive accomplishment, considering the mostly limited role he has played for the Heat to this point.
So it's sort of like criticizing a team for losing in the playoffs.
There already was an accomplishment achieved.
And there assuredly had to be benefit in working with a staff that includes Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Jay Wright, among others.
The problem for Bam -- which could yet be a concern with the Heat -- is that there wasn't a definitive star to complement on the USA roster. Because that is what Bam Adebayo is, a quality supporting piece. Without a leading man, USA Basketball this time around needed everyone on the court and on the roster to be live in the offense.
Bam isn't there yet.
But that also doesn't mean he can't get there.
At 22, there is plenty of room and time for growth. In many ways, it now is in the hands of the Heat's developmental staff.
Will Bam become an All-Star? I'm not sold on that. Just as I wasn't with Josh Richardson and am not with Justise Winslow.
But if you develop enough quality complementary pieces, it makes it all the easier to complete the challenge when stars eventually arrive.
In the right situation, Bam could have been the right fit for the national team.
Just as he still can be for the Heat.
August 10, 2019
Q: Another "Last Dance" season-long tour, especially for a player who has not contributed on the court regularly, seems like a complete waste of time and a distraction with Udonis Haslem, especially in the first year of the Jimmy Butler era. -- Julio, Cape Coral.
A: Which is part of the reason it also is not going to happen. Udonis Haslem is more than aware of the main thing remaining the main thing for the Heat, which, this season, means further developing young players and creating chemistry with Jimmy Butler. In fact, with Butler joining the team and Dion Waiters moving closer to form, it is possible the Heat will utilize even more smallball lineups this season. And if Udonis Haslem is not playing in the games, I highly doubt he will be creating attention and focus afterward. What this version of the farewell tour likely will come down to are those moments during lopsided games at AmericanAirlines Arena where he can enter to final ovations. If the over-under on total minutes played this season were to be set at 100, the odds seemingly would favor the under. This will not be Dwyane Wade's "One Last Dance" 2.0. I can't fathom Udonis either expecting that or allowing that to happen. What could be most interesting is if all players are healthy, would Udonis be in uniform at the expense of, say, KZ Okpala, Kendrick Nunn or Duncan Robinson? That wasn't an issue last season, with so many injures that it never came down to having more than 13 healthy bodies available.
Q: Rodney McGruder is already the perfect example of a big loss to keep Udonis Haslem. Time will tell with Yante Maten. If Haslem was just any veteran-minimum player, he would have been cut instead of McGruder. He is not. He is a Heat Lifer and very well could be the last of the Lifers on any NBA team. -- Skip.
A: Actually, the Heat would have had to commit to a $3 million qualifying offer to retain McGruder as a restricted free agent, an amount they would not have been able to afford under the hard cap that resulted with the sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler. As it is, Rodney's contract with the Clippers starts at $4.8 million next season, essentially three times Haslem's cap hit. So the either/or with Haslem wouldn't have been with McGruder as it could have been with Yante Maten and his minimum-scale contract.
Q: John Wall tore his Achilles slipping and falling in his home. Players can get injured anywhere. Surely we should be encouraging Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo to get an experience that can make them a better player. -- Daniel.
A: I agree. However, when a player is injured, even with a minor injury, as apparently is the case with Kelly Olynyk and his right knee, that is when I also believe that a team has the right to step in and make sure that continuing on in international competition won’t lead to longer-term consequences. While the prognosis is that Kelly will only miss a single week, I believe the team paying eight figures annually has the right to have a say on the decision going forward.
August 9, 2019
Q: Ira, the Heat need to get Bam Adebayo out of there as soon as possible. Kelly Olynyk already is down with a knee injury with Canada, and now Bam is fighting for his life for a spot on the U.S. team. Took much at risk for the Heat, particularly at the same position. -- Tim.
A: I use to mock, or at least blow off, question like that, noting that players are going to play in the offseason, anyway, be it in organized leagues or in pickup games. I have, however, come around to the concerns from the standpoint that in none of those other offseason endeavors do players push themselves to the max. In this case, though, for Canada to have a legitimate shot in the World Cup to earn an Olympic bid, Kelly Olynyk will have to play a lot and will have to play at peak exertion. Similarly, although somewhat differently, for Bam Adebayo to make it out of USA Basketball camp and on to the national team, he can't be going half speed. And, as you note, the last thing the Heat can afford is to have their starting power rotation drained at not only the start of camp, but also the start of the season. Yes, Goran Dragic not only lifted Slovenia to the EuroBasket championship in 2017 but also went on to an All-Star season with the Heat. But that doesn't mean there wasn't a physical drain along the way. I'm all for national pride and patriotism (if, indeed, sports has something to do with patriotism). But it's not as if there also aren't significant risks for the teams involved. If the NBA truly wanted its best of the best participating in such competitions, it could delay the start of ensuing seasons or even shorten those ensuing seasons. Which it is not doing.
Q: Disappointing to hear Heat fans calling for Udonis Haslem to retire. He's a legend on and off the court, has the heart of a champion and obviously still is respected to the point his teammates want him back, as well. A 17th roster spot is absolutely no reason to complain about. Tell me the last time a bench player beyond the 10th man had a major impact anywhere, much less 17th. UD can stay until 50. -- Marc, Arlington, Texas.
A: It's not as much a matter of immediate impact with such an alternate player, it is the ability to have one more prospect to develop. As with all developmental programs, be it MLB, the NHL or NBA, the more prospects you commit to, the better the odds of seeing one prosper. Now those odds have been reduced. Already, Yante Maten is gone. At the end of camp, so will the rest of the Heat's summer-league prospects.
Q: Considering Udonis Haslem hasn't played in four or five years, do you think the Miami Heat could get the ire of the league office that Haslem is effectively getting paid for his service during the Big Three years. Wink, wink? -- Stuart, Miami.
A: I think if he were named captain of a Carnival ship it would be of greater concern to the league office. It is were a matter of paying players who don’t contribute, then several teams would be guilty.
August 8, 2019
Q: Video coming out of Team USA's training camp shows Bam Adebayo with a very nice short-range shot. He looks quick on his feet. The last time a Heat player had that game and used it was Chris Bosh (it was on full display in the Heat-Bulls playoff series in 2011, when Bosh hit short-range shot after shot in and around the lane and foul line). Bosh then went on to perfect the 3-point shot, which Erik Spoelstra used in the spread offense. Based on the video of short-range shots by Bam, do you see Spoelstra using Bam on offense in that manner? -- Stuart, Miami.
A: Absolutely. That is what the Heat's developmental program, and the work of coaches such as Chris Quinn, Octavio De La Grana and Eric Glass is about -- taking what players bring to the table and then building from there. I'm not sure Bam Adebayo evolves into a 20-point scorer, but he certainly appears capable of moving the scoring needle. And, as you cited with Chris Bosh, once you get the mid-range game down, then it only is a matter of steps before the shots produce three points at a time. What you want to see with a player three years in is the ability and willingness to grow his game. That's exactly what we're seeing with Bam at the moment, which is what makes the process so intriguing.
Q: Ira, does Kelly Olynyk hold any value with his current contract? He seems like a nice complimentary piece that would work on a lot of teams. Other than Goran Dragic, do you see him as the prime movable target at the deadline? -- Gabriel, Lakeland.
A: Actually, I believe there will come a point when the Heat will have to weigh how likely it is that Kelly Olynyk utilizes his opt out next summer. If they believe that will be the case (and it very well could be), then they have to conduct a risk analysis to see if they are capable of bidding on him again as a 2020 free agent, which could come at the cost of 2021 cap space. So, yes, I could see the Heat weighing options that include an Olynyk trade, through no fault of Kelly's.
Q: Udonis Haslem in 2029: "I'm coming back for my 27th season." -- Robert.
A: Which, by then, likely would mean taking on one of Tyler Hansbrough’s offspring. Look, the one thing I took as a positive from Udonis Haslem’s comments Wednesday was his challenge to his teammates to send him out a winner. A winning record and a playoff berth likely will mean a ride into OG sunset.
August 7, 2019
Q: All Heat fans love Udonis Haslem, who's been the spirit and the backbone of the team for years. But as an active player who is not really active? Enough is enough. He takes a roster spot that could be given to a young player, who might -- if not this year then maybe next year or the year after -- actually get real minutes for the Heat. If he's great in the locker room, then make him a coach or give him the kind of figurehead job like the one given another of our Heat heroes, Alonzo Mourning. -- Glen Garry.
A: These are the times I have to step back as someone who believes he has a complete appreciation of the game and defer to those inside the locker room, the courtside huddle, the training room, the executive suite. Because those who spend time in those locations clearly see a value in putting aside one roster spot for Udonis Haslem for seemingly as long as he wants. So perhaps the best way to justify the move as an outsider, regarding a player who saw a combined 74 minutes of action last season, is to address the roster spot being claimed. As it is, a team has access to 17 such spots, when counting the two two-way contracts. Most teams rarely go beyond a 10-player rotation, if even that, and that still leaves seven others to fill in during injuries and other absences. Basically, the Heat believe within those 17 spots that there is ample room for competitiveness, development and . . . leadership. Not just any leader, mind you. But I cannot recall a single NBA player -- other than those who have scuffled with him -- who hasn't been practically reverential when it comes to Udonis. That level of respect is rare. And therefore is treated as such. So I guess this becomes an issue if you believe that 17 (or 16 or 15) aren't enough to provide a competitive nightly effort, or if you believe that a developmental player has been sacrificed, as the Heat once did with Patrick Beverley in favor of Eddie House. So if Yante Maten blossoms elsewhere, then, yes, further inspection of the Haslem move certainly would be warranted.
Q: The Heat should have been doing the same thing that USA Basketball is doing, let Bam Adebayo show his range take advantage of that talent he has. -- Craig.
A: Which they will. It's not as if they are going to tell a player not to maximize his skill set. Bam Adebayo has been trending in this direction with his perimeter game, with all that additional practice making such shots closer to perfect. The Heat never will dissuade players from taking quality shots -- as long as there aren't better shots available at that moment. Bam simply posing the threat should help open the Heat's offense.
Q: Am I the only one that wishes Jeremy Lin was on the Heat? -- John, West Warwick, R.I.
A: Might be. At this point, the Heat not only still have Goran Dragic, but also the freedom to experiment with Justise Winslow and Kendrick Nunn as their other playmakers. I doubt Jeremy Lin would play ahead of either, just as he watched from the bench in Toronto. Now, should there be an injury down the line, that would be a different story.
August 6, 2019
Q: Hi, Ira. Any chance the Heat can make a trade for Chris Paul before the season begins? They'd be better off trying to sign either Vince Carter or Carmelo Anthony, since very few trades are pulled off. I wouldn't mind Dwight Howard coming to the Heat. He is with Grizzlies now, but they're open to trading him. -- Zach.
A: I’m addressing this as much for the players mentioned (Carmelo Anthony, Vince Carter, Dwight Howard) as the notion itself of bringing in a veteran who would expect to play, and the stresses on the rotation it could create. For argument’s sake, let’s assume (again only assuming), a starting lineup of Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, Jimmy Butler, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic. There is no question that Justise Winslow and James Johnson also would be in the mix, as well as every effort to also include the youth of Tyler Herro and Derrick Jones Jr. So you basically are asking whether a veteran added would be content to possibly play as nothing more than a 10th man. Of those you mentioned, Carter certainly has been a willing participant in recent years in any role offered -- but also has agreed to return to the Hawks, making that part of the equation moot. I’m not sure many other veterans would be as content. So, in the end, such a move for such a veteran would come as an interruption of what you otherwise might be moving forward with.
Q: Regarding Bam Adebayo making the final 12-man Team USA cut, I would rather he not go to China. What's best for Team USA may not be best for the Miami Heat. I feel Mission Accomplished by simply spending weeks with Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr & Co. Going into September with them may be overkill, unnecessary and counterproductive. Adebayo played all 82 games last season and if Miami makes the playoffs, he could be in over 90 games this coming season including preseason and postseason. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: I agree that the travel to and from China, as well as within China, for the World Cup would be a concern, let alone the preceding travel for exhibitions. But as far as the actual court time, I am sure it would be rather nominal, based on both the USA roster and the level of competition. If he isn’t in China, he’ll still be playing somewhere. That’s what players do. Especially players in their 20s. The experience could prove invaluable, as could the lessons learned. Still, making the final 12-man cut could be the greater challenge.
Q: Ira, please help me understand. We're not dealing with idiots in the Heat front office. They have to understand this current no man's land of being too bad to compete for titles but too good for high lottery positioning is the worst place you can be as a sports franchise. -- Kevin, Fort Lauderdale.
A: It’s not the worst if you are convinced that there is value in the chase and fighting the good fight. In many ways, the NBA is a league where you pick your moment to seize the moment, as the Heat could be positioned to do in 2021 free agency. But unlike other teams that prefer to bide time and hoard draft picks, the Heat prefer to play it out to a roster’s maximum capability. You can argue all you want the value of lottery picks (and there certainly is value). But this is a team that has dealt so many draft picks that there is no pretense about the approach. So at least there is truth in advertising. Even last season, all but one of the Heat’s 82 regular-season games had meaning in the playoff chase. It’s who they are -- as advertised.
August 5, 2019
Q: I am always optimistic and don't see why James Johnson and Dion Waiters couldn't replicate what they did a couple of years ago. They were hurt most of last year, so why couldn't they be back to before when fully healthy? I have a feeling both will do better this coming season. -- Raffa.
A: And perhaps they will. But there is no denying that doubts have entered the equation. Dion Waiters certainly showed sparks last season as he worked his way back into the starting lineup. But it seemed to go the other way with James Johnson. Now there is the question whether the two will be as prioritized as previously, with Tyler Herro a potential heir apparent to Waiters, and Kelly Olynyk having moved into Johnson's starting role. And that doesn't even get into the high usage percentage anticipated for Jimmy Butler, which should take the ball out of the hands of both Waiters and Johnson more than they had grown used to. In many ways, the Heat are a different world from the one when Waiters and Johnson last were at the top of their Heat games.
Q: Ira, as you've seen this roster grow in the last three, four years with its players, who do you see being the team captains for next season if Udonis Haslem comes back or not -- Goran Dragic, James, Justise Winslow or Jimmy Butler? Players who have that type of leadership responsibilities tend to be more of a role model for young players. -- Ed, Fort Lauderdale.
A: I'm just not sure that Erik Spoelstra wants to step into the politics of stripping the captain's title from players due to the political statement that would make, especially at a time when the leadership of Juwan Howard has been lost from the coaching staff. Now, if Udonis Haslem doesn't come back, then it would be easier to slide in Jimmy Butler as the third captain. But it certainly would seem to be a slap in the faces of Goran Dragic or James Johnson if they are unilaterally stripped of their titles. About the only possibility that would work is if Spoelstra declares a reset, does not name Haslem a captain, even if he does return, and instead says from the outset that Butler is his captain because this is his team. Of course, when the Heat add an anticipated second star at some point, that calculus would be changed again.
Q: Ira, seeing as Dwyane Wade had a pretty good year last season, and because of his relationship with Jimmy Butler, do you think it's possible that he could come back for a playoff run? -- Julio, Cape Coral.
A: On one hand, I think he has too much respect for the game to tarnish the heartfelt sendoff he received last season from fans, players and teams. On the other hand, this league has taught me to never say never. If the Heat were to sustain an injury, have an open roster spot headed into a possible playoff run, then anything could be possible. As Dwyane Wade is showing now with his skills camp for fellow players, it’s not as if he is going to fall too far out of shape. So where I initially would have said of course not, perhaps there could be something in having to lower that jersey from the AmericanAirlines Arena to don one more time. Likely? No. Possible? Again, never say never.
August 4, 2019
Q: The rumor mill is practically chomping at the bit to get Carmelo Anthony on the Heat roster this year. So, Ira, what would you think of Pat Riley reaching out to the Melo camp for a camp-invite contract? He can still sign with anyone, anytime, and the staff can fully evaluate if he'll fit on this team or not. The bigger question is, would he accept an invite? -- Skip, Tampa.
A: At this point, I would tend to believe that Carmelo Anthony would accept any invite from any team -- but not on a make-good contract. So whoever brings him in, it would be with the plan of keeping him through the season -- and playing him. After what happened last season in Houston, and then getting lost in the NBA wilderness, I would believe Carmelo would want at least that level of certainty. When you look at the current Heat mix, an argument certainly could be made for the need for depth at small forward, depending on where you are going to play Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow. But the reality is that with his defensive limitations, Carmelo likely sets up more, at least defensively, as a power forward, and the Heat are loaded there. Plus, under just about any current math, the Heat have room for just one more player because of their hard-capped status. So Carmelo over Udonis Haslem? Carmelo over a youthful prospect? For that matter, Carmelo over a less-dramatic addition, such as Vince Carter? On one hand, a case could be made of the Heat being in developmental mode. On the other hand, with the clock ticking on Butler's contract, perhaps there is something to be said about a stopgap scoring addition until a true running mate can be added down the road. At one point, I would have thought Carmelo to the post-Dwyane Wade Heat was a preposterous notion. Now I'm not quite as skeptical. It comes down to whose minutes he would be taking.
Q: The NBA schedule of marquee games were released and noticed that the Heat have not garnered any interest from the decision makers. I thought a Philly-Miami game would make for better television than Philly-Milwaukee. What gives. -- Bryan.
A: Among the reasons the NBA delays the release of the schedule (which has yet to be finalized for 2019-20) is to allow for all the free-agency and trade dust to settle. Had the Heat traded for either Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul prior to the marquee games being decided, the belief was the Heat not only would have had a Christmas game, but likely a considerable amount of national exposure. The reality, possibly with the exception of the Nuggets (and Nikola Jokic), is just about every other Christmas team has at least two leading men (and, yes, I'm counting Jrue Holiday alongside Zion Williamson). The exception would be the Kawhi-less Raptors, but they are defending champions, after all. Beyond Jimmy Butler, the Heat's No. 2 is . . . ? In fact, if the NBA knew at this time a year ago that Dwyane Wade was coming back, I believe they would have had more national games last season than they likely will get this season. As it is, the Heat will be mostly a South Florida -- and not national -- story this season. As for the Bucks getting national exposure, right now there might not be any player that matches Giannis Antetokounmpo when it comes to intrigue.
Q: Ira, if Bam Adebayo is not guaranteed a spot on the World Cup roster, why bother with their training camp? -- Victor.
A: Because as Bam Adebayo said Friday, such experience is priceless, if only for several days of working under Gregg Popovich. And once you’re in that pipeline, it makes it more likely that future invitations could be in the offing. From a Heat standpoint, there is plenty to be said about Bam being showcased, if only to possibly increase his value going forward, which is why it makes sense to allow him to put in the extra work. Heat teammates have raved about playing alongside Bam because of his selfless approach. Perhaps those on the national team will come to recognize that, as well.
August 3, 2019
Q: I'm glad that the Heat did not do with Kendrick Nunn what they did with Yante Maten. You have to let young players grow, especially when they go undrafted. Now, Ira, we have to get him into the rotation. -- Gio.
A: At this stage, with the guarantee only up to $150,000 at Thursday's deadline, it would not have made any sense not to move forward with Kendrick Nunn. In fact, if the Heat did not pick up that nominal guarantee, I believe several teams would have put in waiver claims to get Kendrick at the league minimum. At the least, Kendrick, through his play at the end of last season in the G League with the Warriors' affiliate, and then in summer league with the Heat, showed he is an NBA player. In fact, I'm not sure at this stage how much more seasoning would be needed in the G League, if the Heat were to carry him past their final cut and then consider an assignment. The question now becomes whether playing will follow, and whether he would actually be able to compete with Dion Waiters and Tyler Herro for minutes. It could come down to whether Justise Winslow is cast as a forward, in which case Kendrick could possibly slot in as the backup point guard. Of course, should the Heat move off one of their backcourt veterans in a trade, it could completely swing the door open. He certainly is a fascinating prospect.
Q: The Heat's "assets" are a bunch of mediocre players that will not take the Heat to the next level. -- Robert.
A: To a degree, I believe the Heat recognize as much. Not in a negative sense, but in the sense that these are players who can help lift teammates, while not necessarily being leading men. Those often are the type of players who could wind up coveted elsewhere, to support the type of talent the Heat do not necessarily have at the moment. If you are asking whether the Heat's 1A to Jimmy Butler is in place, I would agree that is not the case. But it doesn't mean the Heat can't cobble attractive trade packages. Actually, I would argue that the Heat's leading asset, the expiring contract of Goran Dragic, could take the Heat to the next level on the trade market between now at the February NBA trading deadline.
Q: I'm sure Pat Riley thought of Lamar Odom when he saw KZ Okpala and when Riley saw Odom he thought of Magic Johnson. Three future second rounders for KZ? Riley saw something. KZ's only weakness is himself. If they can get him to be more aggressive, he'll be a steal. -- William.
A: I’m not quite ready to go to Lamar Odom or Magic Johnson as the comparison, but KZ Okpala in the open court was the best KZ Okpala at Stanford. The problem was when he got to the part of the court that wasn’t as open. The decision-making still needs plenty of work, which will require plenty of reining in.
August 2, 2019
Q: Tyler Herro has never performed in a single regular-season NBA game, so, as you said, through-the-roof expectations are unfair to him. I was disappointed in his shooting efficiency in summer league. Acing a workout is different than having nine other players on the court. Statistically, he had unremarkable college career in Kentucky. Saying he hustles and has a good handle means he can't shoot as well as advertised. Devin Booker comps are an easy and lazy way to promote Herro, since Tyler Herro hasn't played a single game during regular season. I'd love to be wrong if Herro does turn out to be an All-Star, but Miami fans had very high expectations for Justise Winslow. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: I agree with the rush to judgement on Tyler Herro, especially when based on summer competition. But, to me, the issue is not as much about shooting percentages -- since I believe he will space the floor, if only by reputation. It is the ancillary skills. The Heat have had several equal, or even better, shooters during the Pat Riley era who were unable to find consistent playing time, including Jason Kapono and James Jones, due to deficits elsewhere in their games. If Tyler can show skills beyond shooting (ballhandling, playmaking, defense) then there should be ample opportunity to continue to grow as a scoring threat. So far, he has met expectations, albeit in a pre-draft workout and during summer league. But you can only excel where given the canvas to excel. The fact that he appreciates the need for a defensive contribution is encouraging.
Q: James Johnson must be relieved his name is barely ever mentioned in Heat trade talks. -- William.
A: Look, that contract, at his age, certainly gives pause, with James Johnson to earn $15.3 million this season when he turns 33 and then, with his player option, $16 million in 2020-21, when he turns 34. But I would disagree about J.J. not being mentioned (privately) in talks. It also is a contract limited to two additional seasons, which still could provide cap relief for longer contracts, such as Chris Paul's deal. It will be interesting to see if James is given the opportunity to reclaim his starting role, of if Bam Adebayo-Kelly Olynyk has grown into too much of a thing in the power rotation.
Q: Just getting the feeling that Erik Spoelstra has Duncan Robinson targeted as a Wayne Ellington-type shooter. The Tyler Herro/Duncan Robinson duo could be arc monsters. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: The way this roster is set up, I don’t envision Duncan Robinson as a rotation player. But he certainly could have use as a late-game shooting specialist. I found it interesting last season that the Heat ran a pregame drill where Duncan would be seated on the bench, then be summoned to the scorers’ table, and then be asked to drain an immediate 3-pointer. That could have him somewhat as break open in case of emergency.
August 1, 2019
Q: Ira, Meyers Leonard is the only big that is on the Heat's roster that is tough down in paint and can rim protect. He is the best shooter of all our bigs and is consistent from beyond the 3-point line. Why would the Heat consider trading him? Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk have shown that most bigs in the NBA have an easy time pushing them around under the basket. -- Julio, Cape Coral.
A: I never said the Heat were definitively trading Meyers Leonard, what I said is that his expiring $11.3 million contract is a tradeable asset. The problem in this case is that it is highly unlikely, particularly at this price point, that the Heat would be able to re-sign him going forward, because of cap-space priorities. All of that said, I also have said I could envision Meyers as somewhat of a Kelly Olynyk 2.0, another stretch big to help open the paint for the Heat's slashers. What the Heat most could use is rebounding from Leonard, with someone having to compensate for the boards lost with the trade of Hassan Whiteside.
Q: Now that Dwyane Wade retired from playing, will there be a chance for him to be coaching the team in the near future? He will be a very good coach. -- Nestor, Orange County, Calif.
A: I doubt that will be the direction of choice, at least in the short term, having moved his base to California to be closer to his wife's acting career. With his oldest son a high school senior this season and then starting college in a year, I'm not sure there will be any type of full-time work for Dwyane Wade the next few years, let alone the grind of coaching. What I could see is ongoing work as a Heat ambassador, including playing a role in the team's free-agency recruitments going forward, just as he was so instrumental in swaying Jimmy Butler toward the Heat.
Q: Ira, based on social media and local radio, it appears many fans have become traumatized by major contract signings by the Heat. While I sympathize, it’s much like stock trading: you can't let one bad purchase petrify you from acting going forward. If the Heat have a chance to reasonably acquire another star player, they have to move on it, right? -- Gabriel, Lakeland.
A: Right. But the lesson from Dion Waiters and James Johnson might be to stay out of the mid-tier market. (Although Kelly Olynyk seems to be working out fine.) I believe you will continue to see more teams along the lines of the Lakers’ current model, with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and a bunch of low-cost filler. That certainly would become the case for the Heat if a Bradley Beal deal includes taking on John Wall, or if massive cap space must be cleared for major work in 2021 free agency.