A: Look, the Heat experienced some pretty impressive highs with Mario. And he had some especially meaningful moments in the playoffs in recent years. Now, whether that means he's being paid for past services is another story. On this team, with this roster, the point guard has to inspire confidence, which appears to be dangerously lacking from Mario in seemingly every aspect but his bravado. And you raise a reasonable point, since the Heat did not exactly have a surplus of money after signing Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. If Mario does not start, if he does not play starter's minutes, then it is a contract that reasonably creates doubts. But it's also the second week of October, and even the rotation, itself, remains unsettled. Perhaps when Josh McRoberts is around to facilitate more, Mario could ease into more of a scoring role. And we're still not sure whether Dwyane Wade won't eventually move back to more of a ball-control mode.
Q: Shabazz Napier should have passed more to James Ennis in Tuesday's overtime. Ennis can create a shot. Napier looks like he is going to have a hard time in the NBA. And just like the "Ask Ira" question Wednesday, the Heat need some young bruisers. I told you they will make Chris Bosh do too much. He can't score, trap like mad and get rebounds. The Heat need fresh legs and young rebounders, otherwise it will be a long, long, long season. -- Stuart.
A: I agree about Napier seemingly having limited upside at the moment, someone who might benefit from D-League time to see what he can do in the pro game. As for the power rotation, the hope is how it might look with McRoberts, who at least gives you additional size and length. Who knows, Udonis Haslem might actually yet have a chance with this rotation?
Q: Where is the ball movement? There are moments where some want to be LeBron James. Erik Spoelstra has to do a better job. -- Farid.
A: Ball movement comes out of cohesion. And cohesion comes out of repetitions. There simply has not been a lot of time together with this group, especially in game settings. And McRoberts being out after his toe surgery doesn't make it any easier. The small forward is new, the power forward is new, and apparently there now could also be a new starting point guard. And that doesn't even get into working Danny Granger into a sixth-man role. There are a lot of moving parts in play, which is going to limit ball movement for the moment.
October 8, 2014
Q: As predicted, Luol Deng will be terrific, however the Heat have no answer under the basket. This is not a surprise, but an enigma. -- Chet.
A: Deng certainly had his moments in his home preseason debut Tuesday, sort of what was expected, considering his career-long consistency, save for being briefly exiled last season to Cleveland. The Heat did take more of a defensive stance in the post once Chris Andersen entered, and he did show some unexpected hop in his step. I think Josh McRoberts will help address some of the toughness concerns once he returns from his offseason toe surgery. But you're right, there remains little in the way of rim deterrence beyond Birdman. The Heat also appeared to have trouble getting in the rim on offense, save for the late play of James Ennis. And I'm still not sure Dwyane Wade can consistently get to the rim at this stage.
Q: The cold, hard fact of not having LeBron James (or Ray Allen) on the floor has to affect Erik Spoelstra more than he lets on. When he reaches into his hat, like a magician, the hat is empty and there is no rabbit to pull out. Spoelstra will have an adjustment period, as well, because a four-year habit is hard to break, no matter how easy it looks on paper. -- Leonard, Aventura.
A: Oh, it never looked easy going into this season. You don't lose the best player in the game for no one in return and just pick up where you left off. In that respect, I respect Spoelstra for stressing that this will be a completely different experience, essentially having to work from a new starting point (and new starting point guard?. Not only has the roster changed, but so have so many of the roles for those who return. That's what makes this month important, and why the trip to Brazil has to be about more than bonding. Spoelstra got the Heat to the playoff in Michael Beasley's rookie season; he's good at finding ways to make things work. Now he will have to find new ways.
Q: The massive salary pop because of the new television contract will impact how players play, since it reduces the monetary value of a championship. Not many players will emulate Tim Duncan's reduced-stat model; not getting the maximum contract leaves too much money on table. Danny Granger, Luol Deng and Dwyane Wade have huge motivation to succeed again, before it's too late. -- Jay.
A: I agree that you might start seeing players chase the money, considering how much of it will be out there in 2016. But chasing victories usually proves more rewarding in the eyes of those offering the contracts. There are few better places to be in a contract offseason than coming off a solid playoff run.
October 7, 2014
Q: I'm a little confused. The new NBA television deal will have an influx of revenue. In 2016, the top NBA players may become available via free agency. But the CBA can't be renegotiated until 2017. So in 2016 teams and players will still be operating under the current CBA. So why would top free agents want to leave in 2016? Am I missing something here? -- Yunasi.
A: To a degree, this all remains a work in progress. If someone is willing to give the NBA an obscene amount of money for broadcast and digital rights (as ESPN and Turner did to keep Fox and NBC out of the picture), then you don't pause and said, 'Hold on, let us figure out how to spend it all." Instead, there is plenty of work that will need to go into processing 2016 free agency and then the opt-out clauses that both the league and union have in 2017 with the collective-bargaining agreement. I spoke to one NBA part-owner Monday and he told me that just as Adam Silver acted well in advance of the broadcast deadlines, he's likely to come up with a solution in advance of the CBA re-opener date. For now, players will try to get their money in and 2016 and deal with CBA fallout afterward. In fact, if the NBA is willing to remove the individual maximum salary, it could be something that is done in advance of 2017. And with all this money, I couldn't envision the league even daring tying to make inroads with a hard cap. The bottom line is the cap will be going up exponentially in 2016, which makes it the perfect time for a cash grab by free agents, no matter the working agreement in place. Figure on a salary cap as much as $20 million more than the one in place.
Q: I'm just wondering about Ray Allen still not having made up his mind yet on what he will do. He was one of the few who played well in last year's Finals. Do the Heat have any interest in him coming back to Miami? I think he would a good addition for the Heat's 3-point shooting off the bench. He can score in other ways also. What do you think? -- Gary, Delray Beach.
A: I think the Heat in the offseason identified the players they were going to bring back, and then tried to freshen the balance of the roster. I don't see Ray coming back, and I'm not sure he would have wanted to. I think he sits back, continues to evaluate his mindset and then sees if there is a team where he would fit and could contend. Otherwise, he simply can start his clock for induction into Springfield.