October 19, 2014
Q: So it seems that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh want to see Shabazz Napier get playing time, too. When can Pat Riley work out a trade for Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole? It would be a shame to lose Cole. -- Chet.
A: There is plenty of room on this roster for three point guards, something I think most teams prefer (and readers to this space know for years that I've supported). There is no need to get rid of anyone, with plenty of space on this roster for all three, especially with Chalmers taking regular rotations, at least in the preseason, at shooting guard. But there is something about Napier when it comes to having the "it" factor. I know it's cliche, but the kid is a winner and carries himself on the court as someone who is comfortable no matter the pressure or surroundings. I'm not sure he will be a classically consistent scorer, but he has shown time and again the ability to step up to the moment, with his late 3-pointer against the Warriors another of those moments, albeit an exhibition moment. He also has shown a somewhat Wade-like ability to get to the foul line this preseason (although it will be curious to see if he gets those calls against veterans during the regular season). I'm not sure the Heat expected to utilize Napier as a rotation player at the outset of the preseason, but I think some of that thinking might have to change. He again made you notice Saturday.
Q: Forget the James Ennis comparison to Michael Beasley. I'd like to be more positive. How about Ennis being Kawhi Leonard? Leonard came into the league with little fanfare, but is an athletic, hard working, and quietly emerging star. -- Jason, Miami Lakes.
A: I think the style are different, in so far as Leonard tends to blend in, while Ennis lets you know he is there from the moment he enters, with his relentless energy. While Leonard has stepped into the Spurs' starting lineup, I think Ennis is better suited, at least at this stage, to serve as a caffeinated boost of energy off the bench. It is impressive to scan the list of rookie leaders during the preseason and see Ennis' name up there with so many high draft picks. It has been a while since the Heat have had such fury that could be added to the mix in the midst of a game. Ennis has helped make the preseason something close to actual fun.
Q: The kids look better than the rotation players. -- George.
A: That is not unusual during the preseason. They're playing for jobs. The rotation players still are preparing for the upcoming 82-game grind. But I also think it is important that the Heat get in at least one dress rehearsal before the start of the regular season, and I think that will come Tuesday in the home preseason finale, a game that is being nationally televised by TNT. Then the Heat can address any final issues with the final composition of the roster during the exhibition finale next Saturday in Memphis.
October 18, 2014
Q: Ira, what does it tell you when Mario Chalmers is the best the Heat can do at shooting guard behind Dwyane Wade? -- Art.
A: It tells me that it's the third week in October, which makes it the best time for a team to experiment. Do I think Chalmers is best utilized in such a role? No. The Heat already are playing small. But I also don't see how the option is shaping up during the closed portions of Heat practices. If Norris Cole is being given starts because the Heat believe he is the team's best option in that role, fine. But it almost seems like the preseason rotation is being set up for the purpose of evaluating Chalmers as a two-guard. All of that said, Chalmers played well at the two on Friday night in Kansas City. Still, it would have been preferable to have a more traditional option as a reserve to Dwyane Wade at the two, as well.
Q: To be honest, I'm not paying much attention to the Heat preseason. The bottom line is that until the Heat as newly constituted (i.e., with a healthy Josh McRoberts in the starting lineup) are a go, we have no clue what the "new" Heat will look like. Additionally, there seems to be flux in the starting point guard position. Provided McRoberts is in the starting lineup on opening night, it will take patience and a few weeks at the minimum before we see a consistent rotation, aka the new Heat. -- Bob.
A: And I actually believe the two could be intertwined. With McRoberts known for his ball movement and passing, the Heat might not need as much of a traditional point guard as they do now in McRoberts' absence. Actually, I agree that McRoberts' style will be a shock to the Heat's system. The concern is how long it takes for the Heat to adjust to one of the most unique power forwards in the NBA. For that matter, the Heat also might have to compensate on the boards, with McRoberts not known as much for his rebounding as some of the others who have been getting minutes in his place. Adjusting to a player like McRoberts is exactly what the preseason is for, a luxury the Heat have forfeited because of his offseason toe surgery.
Q: My guess is that Pat Riley might trim the roster soon and pick up one of the 100 players waived by the other teams that looked promising in the preseason but didn't fit with their current team. Then in December, he might after someone like Al Horford. In other words, Riley is keeping a sharp eye on available talent to tweak the squad a bit in order to strengthen glaring soft spots. -- Leonard.
A: I'm not so certain of the second part. Yes, I think the Heat very much will consider players released elsewhere at the cut-down deadline, in light of their lack of quality depth on the wing. But I'm not sure Riley would be willing to venture a major move during the season, considering all he did in negotiating flexibility into contracts this summer in order to have free-agency flexibility in 2016. Just like he did with his 2010 free-agency plan that netted LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, I think he might bypass moves in intervening years at incremental gains. It's looking like 2016 or bust for the next generation of Heat. In the interim, it could be a case of biding time.
October 17, 2014
Q: Dwyane Wade is easily leading the team in assists this preseason. Now, obviously there has been a bit of rotating at the point guard position, but it's not like Wade has been playing 30 minutes a game. Is this an indication of who the main facilitator will be for the team in the regular season? -- Bongumusa, South Africa.