A: Even if they win a title? Even if Wade creates more memorable moments in the playoffs? Even if he is strong enough with those knees to climb into another double-decker bus for a championship parade? It might sound overly simplistic, but this is new ground for the NBA, giving a player a considerable portion of the regular season off and seeing if he can recapture past glory in the playoffs. In other words, you don't know until you know. What, for example, if the Lakers can maximize Kobe Bryant's playoff prospects by pacing him through a season (provided there is enough talent alongside to actually get the Lakers into the playoffs)? There are many ways to keep LeBron happy beyond the highly improbable notion of somehow creating room for Carmelo. Rest assured, Pat Riley knows them all.
A: It does seem that we're getting closer to the point of having to decide whether Greg is an every-game presence. Then again, perhaps Spoelstra already knows. Perhaps Oden is an every-Pacers-game presence, only.
February 17, 2014
Q: There was all this talk at this year's NBA All-Star Game about the youth movement happening in the NBA, so many young guys on the All-Star Teams. And with this year's NBA draft, there is another crop of young players/stars ready to enter the league. Yet the Heat have won championships with their stars along with timely role play from the likes of Ray Allen, Gary Payton, Jason Williams and other vets over the years. Do you see Pat Riley embracing the youth movement in 2014-15 or sticking to his pattern of loading up in vets? -- Stuart.
A: As long as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are back, it will be about fortifying with ready-to-contribute veterans, likely replacements for Shane Battier, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, and, possibly, Allen. But it also depends how those three come back. And if it's simply by bypassing their opt-outs, then I think it's imperative to at least consider youth, with the Heat holding a first-round pick this coming June and well as the rights to 2013 second-round pick James Ennis.
Q: Mario Chalmers is a unique player that I would say needs the Heat as much as the Heat need him. I don't think he would start on most teams. Do you think that will ultimately work in the Heat's favor in this offseason free agency? -- Dave, Plantation.
A: To a degree, beyond what happens with the Big Three, which clearly is another realm, Mario could be a litmus test to how much the Heat will be impacted by the luxury tax. We've already seen the approach with Mike Miller when it came to the tax. While Chalmers holds a far more significant role with the Heat than Miller held, he still is an ancillary player. So will the Heat pay for anyone beyond LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? Chalmers' free agency could answer that question.
Q: Will Toney Douglas be with the Heat by the end of the week? -- Arthur.
A: I would think if the Heat would want to clear a roster spot, and realize tax savings in the process, they would attempt to make a move with Douglas or Roger Mason Jr. Of course, they simply could waive one of the two later on if a player comes available from the March 1 buyout deadline, although that would mean taking on even more salary.
February 16, 2014
Q: Ira, Dwyane Wade will not opt out and will be the next Kobe Bryant, burying the Heat down the face of the Earth. -- Leo.
A: "The face of the Earth." Really? So his $20 million contract will be like some sort of molten lava? First of all, we've not sure how the Heat or Dwyane are going to play it. While there can be no pre-arranged deal regarding an opt-out and a new, more-palatable deal from a team standpoint, such wink-wink negotiations go on all the time. But you are correct, you cannot have a player sitting out games at $240,000 a pop. It is a legitimate issue in this salary-cap, luxury-tax world of the NBA. The difference is Kobe's new deal was signed after he starting going south. When the Heat signed Dwyane to this deal, Wade was at the peak of his productivity.
Q: I don't believe the Pacers are as good as everybody thinks they are. The one thing I can give them is that they play good defense, but their rise has benefited from a decline of other teams in the East and the only reason why they have had any sniff of the Heat is because the Heat Big Three has never been fully healthy. -- J.J., Tampa.
A: No, the Pacers are legit and their record is about far more than beating up on the patsies of the East. I've said this several times recently and I firmly believe it: For the Heat to beat the Pacers, Dwyane Wade has to be better than Lance Stephenson. I'm not sure anyone can say that at this moment with total conviction.
Q: With the Heat in the middle of a road trip, why wouldn't the Big Three have flown home for a few days and then made it to New Orleans in time for the All-Star Game? -- Dennis.
A: Because under NBA rules, players who participate in Sunday's All-Star Game must also participate in the Friday media session and the Saturday practice. But LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Wade also relish the exposure and marketing opportunities. They want to be there for the entire weekend. What gets me is how players complain about the lack of time off during All-Star Weekend and then run themselves ragged between promotional and marketing events.