November 23, 2014
Q: Is Birdman old or disinterested? He hasn't been the same this season. -- Clifford.
A: No, he hasn't, and at times it's very noticeable. I don't think it's a matter of having grown content (at least I would hope that is not the case). Perhaps it's a matter of working back from the rib injury the first week of the season. Perhaps it's being 36. But this team has precious little rim deterrence outside of Chris Andersen, and if he's not playing as a last line of defense, then the Heat often can be defenseless in the middle. But let's face it, the Heat got themselves into a tough position when they basically offered a makeup contract to Andersen for $10 million over two years after he played the previous two seasons at the minimum. In a way, it is similar to the money being spent on Udonis Haslem. The reality is that if Andersen can't offer something in the defensive paint, then the Heat will have to act. I'm not saying it's time to make a move for a Joel Anthony type, but there has to come a time when the Heat make an unemotional, and non-financial, assessment on Andersen. Or, of course, start getting more out of him.
Q: I thought Josh McRoberts was going to bring a "unique" skill set of a big man with excellent passing, outside shooting, as well as being durable. I have not seen any of these yet. I'm not giving up on him so early, but is it time to expect more? -- David, Plantation.
A: Considering he missed all of training camp, then had the blister issue recently, I think he's still trying to find a way, trying to get in rhythm. There was one point during the first half Saturday when he passed up an open 15-foot jumper to instead pass to Andersen for a 15-foot jumper. Another time he passed the ball through his legs and out of bounds between the legs of James Ennis. Look, this might not be the answer you want to hear, but considering what the Heat invested in McRoberts, they have to make it work. The irony is that the Hornets, who face the Heat on Sunday, could dearly use McRoberts as a catalyst, as he was last season in their drive to the playoffs. Instead, the Hornets signed Marvin Williams to replace McRoberts. It was interesting how Erik Spoelstra spoke of wanting to get McRoberts more time on Thursday against the Clippers, then utilized him for only 5:14 against the Magic.
Q: Norris Cole's dislocated middle left finger came while flexing it at LeBron James. -- Richard.
A: Actually, Cole might be among the last players to have that attitude toward LeBron. In fact, he might make sense as potential upgrade to the Cavaliers' backcourt. Oh, and he is represented by LeBron's agent, Rich Paul.
November 22, 2014
Q: Couldn't we start Udonis Haslem at the five for his rebounding and defense and move Chris Bosh back to the four? I think it would really help on the defensive end of the floor. I understand that Pat Riley wants to maximize our cap space for 2016, but if we keep playing this inconsistent, nobody will want to come here to team with a 32-year-old Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts as our starting frontcourt. -- Daniel.
A: The problem with starting Haslem, who I agree might have helped with the Heat's defensive rotations and rebounding against the Clippers, is it is not part of the vision of eventually getting McRoberts alongside Bosh. Until the Heat, and the rest of the league, see what the Heat have with that combination, everything else is moot. By making those the only two players on the roster whose contracts extend beyond the 2016 offseason, Riley basically has gone all-in on their possibilities. If McRoberts-Bosh doesn't work, then the entire plan going forward would be dealt a major setback. That is why Erik Spoelstra has been trying to up McRoberts' minutes. He needs to see how that works before he considering a Plan B or beyond.
Q: Although I am a big fan of the Birdman, this year he has appeared to be a detriment to the Heat. He seems slow, his timing off. His ballhandling has been sloppy. And he hasn't been anywhere near the boards. I tend not to be critical, but I am just not seeing good basketball. Am I wrong? Am I missing something? If he is still injured, he should sit. -- Bruce.
A: Your observation is correct. And that's the risk of paying a player for past service. It's a concern with the way the Heat brought back both Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem. Yes, loyalty goes a long way with this franchise, but this also is what happens when the plan is to take care of a player down the line for previous financial sacrifice. Birdman was the Heat's lone option for rim deterrence against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on Thursday night, and that clearly did not work very well against the Clippers. It will be interesting to see if the Heat try to pace Andersen in a bid to keep him fresh for the games when he is needed most. The reality is there are many questions with the Heat's power rotation, from Haslem and Andersen, to exact what Justin Hamilton actually can provide.
Q: OK, we probably will not win 50 games this season. Patience is necessary. In my perception, when we play with Shabazz Napier on the court, the team shows something different, despite turnovers, something Norris Cole can't add. At this early stage, is there not enough for a starting job and 30 minutes a game at least? -- Rafael, Chapeco, SC, Brazil.
A: I think the Heat might be gravitating toward that possibility. But I also think they still want to get a definitive read on exactly what Norris Cole is, or isn't, capable of achieving. And I think they would like the rest of the league to take note, as well. Look, I've long said an NBA team needs three point guards, and with LeBron James gone as facilitator, that is as true as ever for the Heat. But the question becomes whether Cole could deal with potentially being third-string at the position.
November 21, 2014
Q: I'm tired of everyone pretending it's not over. Dwyane Wade is done. Just retire. It's not that he's old; it's that he's broken. Forget it. -- Johnny.
A: Really? Three weeks into the season, after he misses four games with a sore hamstring? Look, if this is one of those injuries that the Heat keeps minimizing and then Greg Oden doesn't show up until midseason, that's one thing. But he took the same misstep he could have taken at 22, 26 or 30. Players, even young players, miss time with hamstring injuries. It's over when Wade is out so long that all semblance of continuity is lost (although that is getting close). We're talking a week here. And, to be candid, if he can make it back for the weekend's divisional games against the Magic and Hornets, then holding him out against the Clippers is prudent, even with what happened. It might be a new reality for the Heat, but divisional, conference and head-to-head tiebreakers again are part of their big picture. If Wade had been playing poorly when we went down, that would have been one thing. But he had been playing well, with little reason to believe that it can't happen again.
Q: Well, as you had maintained, even in the preseason, this Heat team will go as Wade goes. Without Wade, this team isn't winning any playoff series. Without Wade, this team is not even a playoff team. The Heat need to trade for a shooting guard. -- Martin.