June 29, 2014
Q: Ira, I understand Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem being comfortable enough to commit themselves to the Heat. But that's not the impression I had of LeBron James at the end of the season. Why is everyone so sure he's staying? -- Tony.
A: Because I can't fathom him looking Dwyane and Chris in the eye, encouraging them to opt out, and then relaying a similar message to Udonis . . . only to then walk out on the three. To me, it would be unfathomable. Everyone -- including Pat Riley drafting Shabazz Napier -- did everything for LeBron this past week. Even Napier received a Twitter vote of confidence from LeBron both before and after the draft. LeBron has gone miles to rehabilitate his reputation, has stood front and center in Erik Spoelstra's "Band of Brothers" approach. It would be one thing if he acted independently, with the perfect right to then move on independently. Instead, between vacationing with Ray Allen and James Jones, meeting with his fellow Heat stars, and making a pointed statement about the Heat's draft, he has made himself a co-pilot with Pat Riley in the Heat's offseason. These coming days, and perhaps even weeks, will be filled with drama, but if LeBron James truly is a different person than the one who sat for "The Decision" in July 2010, then this decision is done. Too many have followed his lead in recent days for him to then up and lead elsewhere.
Q: How many premium players might the Heat add with the free $8 million to $10 million they now could have? Will they still have their exceptions (mid-level, mini mid-level, etc.)? -- Brian.
A: They will have their cap space, plus one $2.7 million cap-space exception, with everyone else having to fill in at the minimum, beyond Napier's rookie-scale deal. Basically, expect one significant component to be added, with the Heat then deciding whether that $2.7 million will go to another outsider, or whether it would be used to lure back Ray Allen or Chris Andersen. And I still think there's a chance Norris Cole is moved to create even more space, especially if Kyle Lowry is the free agent added.
Q: I know hindsight is 20/20. But the Big Three opt-ting out really makes getting that extra year for all of them via sign-and-trade back in 2010 a waste. We gave up multiple picks to the Cavs and Raptors, all for nothing. I understand that in the moment, getting the Big Three was pie in the sky and we were gonna do whatever it took. But those picks could have really helped fill voids now and in the future. Nothing replaces young talent at a relatively cheap price, which is what you get with a lot of first-round picks. Just wanted to hear your thoughts. Love the work you do! -- Jason.
A: What it did was allow LeBron and Bosh to work with higher starting salaries, as well as affording long-term security in case of a major injury. But as you surmised, it all was about giving up whatever was needed to get the job done. Just as it was comical back in 2004 when Heat fans were debating whether Caron Butler should be thrown into the Shaquille O'Neal deal . . . would you really have allowed the entire Big Three thing to be aborted over a few middling draft picks? It was the price of thinking outside the box.
June 28, 2014
Q: Ira, I see the Kyle Lowry to the Heat as a done deal was B.S. But the Norris Cole stuff seems to have legs. Does he go if they get another point guard? -- Karl.
A: If the Heat do make a move for Lowry, which certainly will be a consideration when free agency opens Tuesday, it would be a gambit that could come down to the type of salary cap space (if any) the Heat can clear. In that case, clearing Cole's space might be a factor. But remember, the Heat would have to find a landing spot for Cole, and don't have much, if anything, left to sweeten deals. With Shabazz Napier a keeper, I would doubt the Heat would want anything more than a minimum-salary point guard to round out such an equation alongside Lowry. But as became clear Friday, Lowry at the moment is more of an abstract than reality. So Napier, Cole and a minimum-scale veteran (Luke Ridnour) could be where it might wind up. For the Heat, it's all about A-list talent at this stage, with all the other pieces to be addressed afterward.
Q: Hello, Ira. Judging from highlight reels on YouTube, it seems like Shabazz is a shoot-first point guard. Am I wrong? How does that fit with the Heat? -- Jason.
A: As with everyone who jumps aboard, it's about making it fit. But there have been plenty of times, especially when Dwyane Wade sits, when it has been LeBron or bust with end-of-clock offense. Napier, with his creativity, should come in hand in those situations. And his ability to create his own shots should allow teammates to operate in space. As with everything handed to Erik Spoelstra, it's all about finding the right Napier game that meshes with the Big Three game (assuming everyone stays).
Q: It was a surprising deal with Michael Jordan helping Pat Riley get Napier. I guess that jersey in the rafters was good for something, after all. -- Shep.
A: You kidding, after the Hornets helped facilitate the Napier trade, the Jordan jersey is now going alongside the championship banners at AmericanAirlines Arena.
June 27, 2014
Q: Pat Riley, knowing Shabazz Napier is a player LeBron James wanted, traded for him to let LeBron know he would do "whatever it takes" to build a team that suits LeBron. Frankly, I don't see Shabazz as a difference-maker (although who knows?). However, this sends LeBron a signal. Hopefully LeBron re-signs at a good price, so that Riles can get the real pieces in free agency. -- David.