Q: Nobody seems willing to confront this issue with Dwyane Wade. He's scoring, but not in the third quarters. The Heat will continue to play lousy in the third as long as Wade appears disinterested in scoring. Expecting to make it up in the fourth won't cut it. I'm afraid James Harden was right when he complained that Wade was picked over him in player ratings before last season. This game should have showcased Wade's dominance, but it showed the reverse. Harden puts out on every play. -- Alan.
A: As a captain, more should be expected from Wade. That's part of the deal. It's why he's a captain, while Chris Bosh isn't. And accepting good as good enough can't be tolerated, and shouldn't. I do think that after the past four seasons, Wade is exhausted, perhaps more mentally than physically. But for the Heat to go anywhere from here, they are going to need four-quarter, two-way Wade. I am sure he believes he remains up to the task. But it's about more than scoring. Far more than scoring. Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant score. But their teams are at a place the Heat aren't expected to be . . . but will be if it only is about points for Wade, or anyone else on the team.
January 3, 2015
Q: A team that has Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Birdman, Luol Deng, Danny Granger playing so badly? A lot of NBA teams would like to have this core. Someone has to step up. We are too good of a franchise for this to be happening. -- Leon, Miami.
A: Let's first distill your premise to Wade, Bosh, Deng. That, alone, should be enough. Plenty of quality teams succeed with less. While Erik Spoelstra calls it a "consistency" issue, I think it's more about a "commitment" issue. How committed is this team to playing the right way for 48 minutes, without shortcuts? It could be as simple as Wade and Bosh being satisfied, sated and exhausted from what the previous four seasons delivered. This team has had stretches during games when it still has the look of a contender, consistently building double-digit leads. And then, during those same games, the attention to details wanes. And while Wade, Bosh and Deng are in place, there isn't enough of a margin for error for one bad period every game. The margin of error previously known as LeBron James is gone. This is about being able to sustain for 48 minutes. And that's about having the commitment to sustain and do it the right way for 48 minutes, even if it's not the easiest way. What the Heat have to resolve is the lack of resolve.
Q: The Heat will not improve until Erik Spoelstra utilizes his players to their full potential. A good coach adapts his system to his players' strengths. Couple that with sophisticated Xs and Os on offense and defense, along with impactful in-game adjustments, and you end up with a competitive team, something like my favorite Heat team, the 2003 team (remember that team didn't have a superstar, but still gave you a reason to watch every night, no matter the opponent). A team's ability to compete begins with its coach. I'm not taking championships, but just compete. -- Javier, Miami.
A: And at times you see it, like when Spoelstra ran plays for Luol Deng in the victory over the Cavaliers. And at times there is way too much freelance on both ends of the court. Managing players is another, equally significant, component. This is a different mix. "The Heat Way" has to be flexible. Spoelstra wants this team to run; it is not running. Yes, rebounding is part of it, but so is getting players to buy in.
Q: Is it the coaching? Is it the players? Is it apathy? Boy they are tough to watch. -- Juan.
A: They are. It's as desperation requires more effort than some are willing to provide. And make no mistake, with this record and the upcoming schedule, these are desperate times.
January 2, 2015
Q: I get the feeling that Erik Spoelstra is holding onto the past and not playing to his team. Shabazz Napier played the point with more confidence and with an edge. Chris Bosh needs to get the ball more in the post, not outside for jumpers. The vaunted, hectic gambling defense is a thing of the past. With Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen in the middle, we need to funnel players to the last line of defense. -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.
A: All good points. And your last point shows specifically how a changing roster has created the need for a change in approach. If the Heat are going to stay with Birdman as the starting center and with Whiteside off the bench for extended minutes, then they do, for the first time, have an opportunity to funnel penetrators into shot blockers. This is a different roster, with different players and without LeBron James. That has created a transition period. But you are correct that you can't play the same style with different players, especially when you still have the quality of Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng. So if this is it, if this is the lineup and the rotation that Erik Spoelstra is going to utilize going forward, then the entire system should be built or rebuilt accordingly.
Q: I don't understand why the Heat don't address the problem. It's very simple: They have the worst point guard play in the NBA. The forwards are good. The shooting guard is good. The center position is passable in a league with only three or four quality centers. Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers are not going to get any better. -- Guy, Juno Beach.
A: OK, for a moment let's get past the play at point guard (we'll get back to that below). The question that should be getting asked is this: How does a team with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng have this record? Forget, for a moment, about who is playing center or point guard. We're not debating whether the Heat are championships contenders. But how can a team with Bosh, Wade and Deng be fighting for its playoff life? That is what is most confounding.
Q: We probably have the worst point guard play in the league, but it seems like they're always on the floor together. Why? -- Dallas, Staten Island, N.Y.
A: Because there isn't a backup shooting guard on the roster. Bring back Shannon Brown? Ricky Davis? Kevin Edwards?
January 1, 2015
Q: Let me say it, Dwayne Wade is trying too hard to be LeBron James. The offense is too stagnant at times with him dribbling to the 'nth degree. This team is not good enough to rebound from this type of play. -- Leon, Miami.
A: Spot on. The Heat have been opening games playing fluid offense that has gotten a variety of players involved. Then Dwyane gets going, and then he makes himself the focus of the offense. Actually, I disagree with one element of your take: Dwyane is not necessarily "dribbling to the 'nth degree." In fact, part of the problem is that he comes down and quickly starts jacking shots. That's what Carmelo Anthony does. That's not what the Heat need Wade to be. Of course, this also is something that has to be handled with the highest degree of tact by the coaching staff. And it's also not necessarily solely on Dwyane, considering he has had to become the de facto point guard because of the awful play of the Heat's point guards. But even Wednesday, Luol Deng was posting up, and the Heat were running offense out of that option. And if you want Chris Bosh to get into the post, you have to get him into the post and work the ball out of those sets. The issue is not Wade getting 20 shots, like he did Wednesday. And it's not as if he is playing solely as a ball-stopper, with seven assists and just one turnover Wednesday. But this Heat offense has to become more equal opportunity with Deng, Bosh and now even Danny Granger. Get more players involved on that end and there could be a better response on the other end.
Q: The question has to be asked: Is this season exposing Erik Spoelstra's flaws? -- Faye.
A: Look, it's not as if he hasn't tried anything and everything when it has come to his rotations and lineups. And even in the losses, there have been moments where the Heat have looked good. Take this stretch of four losses in five games: The Heat led the 76ers by 23; the Heat rallied from 19 down to within one against the Grizzlies; and the Heat blew second-half double-digit leads against the Magic and Pacers. So in each game, the Heat offered extended stretches of success. So does it come down to not having enough depth to sustain (which would be an issue with Pat Riley)? Does it come down to too tight of a rotation? Or does it come down to a system/strategy that the opposition eventually is able to overcome/solve? The Spoelstra issue could be whether the Heat are too predictable.
Q: Watching Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole hurts. I would like to see one of them move on. I have never been a fan of having both of them on the floor together. -- Chet.
A: That's a good point. They never should be on the court together, and the reality is that the Heat are most efficient when Wade is handling. What they need is a defensive guard, so Wade can facilitate more. Norris has appeared to have lost all confidence, and Mario might continue to have too much. It's gotten to the point where opposing point guards are ball-hawking the Heat's point guards with impunity. I have no idea what's happened with Cole's handle.