April 17, 2014
Q: Not only did Jason Kidd throw soda on the court to get a timeout this season, he coached his team into tanking a few games at the end of the season. I hope the Heat send the Nets packing this season. I hope The Big Three are taking note, because Kidd and the Nets (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Company) are basically sending a message that they want to play the Heat. Mason Plumlee, I think LeBron will block a few of your shots! -- Stuart.
Q: Pat Riley in the past has talked about how after a number of years coaching the same players the coach's message stops getting through to the players. Do you think that might be happening now between Erik Spoelstra and his players? Also I admire Spoelstra's calm, respectful, professional approach to coaching but do you think that it might be time for a more fiery, in-your-face approach with this group? -- Joel.
A: I don't think these players would react well to a fiery; they have enough pressure on them already due to expectations. But I do agree that any message can become tiresome when repeated often enough. What really matters, though, and what only should matter, is whether that message is the correct one, whether the players believe in the system and the approach. I do think there have been times when Spoelstra's creativity has had some questioning the direction. But success trumps all, which is why Gregg Popovich has endured in San Antonio.
Q: Sorry, I know it's playoff time, but I can't help but look ahead. One of the things that no one seems to address about this coming summer is the flexibility Miami "should" have with Wade on restructuring a long-term deal. I know he holds all the cards with the ability to opt in for two more years at $20 million plus, but let's play that out. What is he getting on the free-agent market in the summer of 2016 if he opts in twice? He missed almost 30 games this season. Even if he could still command a 3-year, $30 million deal in 2016 (and that seems generous given his age and health), he'd basically be making $70 million over those five years. So why not just re-sign for a 5-year, $70 million deal this summer? That would make him only a $14 million cap hit for the Heat (much improved from $20 million), and give him the guarantee now of those extra three years. At his age and health, I would think that would be enticing for Wade. -- Mike.
A: The problem is the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement has an "Over-36" rule to combat exactly what you are suggesting, deferring money to a date when the player is less likely to be worth that money. Basically, money earned after 36 on that type of contract is earned in full, but the hit in early years against the salary cap and luxury tax is higher than it otherwise would be. Wade turned 32 in January, so the math is not as favorable as in your example when it comes to the tax or the cap. Now, it Wade were to bypass his early-termination option and take a four-year deal, it would be the best of all worlds for the Heat.
April 16, 2014
Q: It's comical how some fans are blaming Erik Spoelstra for everything that has gone wrong. This is on the players and injuries (can't control that). But perspective people, it's just a seeding . . . all is not lost yet (so we hope). The real season starts this weekend. Also, is it really on Spo that Norris Cole regressed this season? That Mario Chalmers still can't turn the corner to that next level of a veteran consistent point guard? That Dwyane Wade was injured? That Chris Bosh all of sudden became a Euro Big man (well, maybe he could have coached that differently)? That Greg Oden did not live up to his billing? That Caron Butler chose Oklahoma City instead of Miami? That LeBron James is running on fumes since he has had to fill in for Wade's role and Mike Miller's? Just an odd season. -- Julio.
A: To a degree, some of that definitely is on the staff, unless you can accept that players such as Cole and Chalmers have maxed out their talent (which certainly could be a possibility). Developing players very much is part of coaching them. But you are correct that there also have been several factors beyond the staff's control. The only thing that matters now is making things as right as possible for the playoffs. Two months of quality play and all would be forgotten. Otherwise, the inspection would go even beyond what you have mentioned. And yet, if the goal was to have the Heat right and ready for the start of the playoffs, then that ultimate goal ultimately might have been achieved. We'll see.
Q: Here's another Norris Cole email for you. Why is it that Cole seems immune from falling out of the rotation, unlike guys like Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley? It seems that everyone one else who falls out of the rotation and gets back in comes back refreshed and ends up breaking out of slumps. Maybe that's what Cole needed. A team with LeBron and Wade should not even need Cole to play all the backup minutes at point guard, never mind the minutes Cole plays next to Mario Chalmers. -- Adrian.
A: I think it comes down to the lack of a suitable alternative, with all due respect to Toney Douglas, who largely has played his minutes at shooting guard amid Wade's absences. I agree that if Wade had been available more often, there might have been less of a need for a secondary ballhandler. The difference among the players you mentioned being benched is that there have been numerous alternatives for Spoelstra at forward. At guard? Not so many. The hope now is that Cole can repeat last year's playoff success, or at least come close.
Q: Do we have a draft pick this year? It seems like a very deep draft class, with potential and underclassmen. -- Julio.
A: Yes, the Heat have their first-round pick this year, with their 2015 first-round pick likely going to the Cavaliers to close out the 2010 sign-and-trade for LeBron James. Because you cannot trade successive future first-round picks, the Heat, by rule, have to exercise a pick in the draft. That doesn't mean, however, that they can't pick for someone else or immediately deal their selected player. Based on the current standings, the Heat should select somewhere in the range of No. 25.
April 15, 2014
Q: Ira, this is what bothers me: "It was out of our control at some point." Erik Spoelstra said it after Monday's game, I think when he was telling you why he sat LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But that had nothing to do with Indiana winning on Sunday. That had to do with the Heat letting it get out of control. Why didn't anyone call him on that? -- Steven.
A: Because after Saturday's loss in Atlanta and then watching the Pacers step up at the finish Sunday against the Thunder, I think the Heat completely turned off the standings and turned their attention to the start of the playoffs. But the reality is the Heat allowed it to get out of their control, with all those awful losses to terrible teams, from the 76ers to the Jazz to the Kings to the Celtics (twice). That's why they're not the No. 1 seed in the East and why their final record is so pedestrian, not the time Dwyane Wade has missed, not resting players, not calls that didn't go their way at the end against the Timberwolves and Nets. No, it was because, at times, the Heat seemingly couldn't be bothered with lesser challenges. The good news is there will not be any sub-.500 teams in the Heat's playoff bracket. There also will no longer be time for excuses. "Control" was ceded a while back. Now they have to regain it.