ASK IRA: Has Bosh's game drifted too far outside?
A: First of all, this isn't a democracy. Erik Spoelstra plays  who he feels most comfortable with. And, let's face it, Rashard Lewis' play has been comforting in recent games, plus he has big-game pedigree from his time with the Magic. This isn't as much about Beasley as about better options. It was telling, however, postgame in Milwaukee, when Spoelstra said of Lewis, "I feel very secure with Rashard in the lineup, because we can play our game. But he's a pro. He keeps himself ready. He does the things that we need on both ends. He's a heady defensive player, gets in the right spots, and offensively, he's very smart. There's a flow to our game when he's in there. He certainly hasn't hurt himself." While he wasn't speaking about Beasley, it was clear there is greater comfort with Lewis. And that's if either winds up playing, anyway, once the regulars return and the rotation again is whole.

Q: Ira, they should give Justin Hamilton some minutes to see what he's capable of doing. -- John

A: Not with Udonis Haslem regaining his way, and with Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen playing well. Justin was brought back with an eye toward the future, which is why the Heat made sure to add a team option for next season with certain guarantee dates. Remember, Greg Oden's contract is expiring and Birdman can opt out, so the Heat covered themselves in the middle. But I can't fathom, other than giving players time off late in the season when locked into seeding, Justin getting much in the way of playing time. That is why he was sent to the D-League last weekend for a couple of games of seasoning.


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Q: I am not asking this because Evan Turner hit two big shots the other night against the Heat.  But why was it OK for the 76ers to basically dump talent at the trading deadline to the point where they are no longer  competitive (Spencer Hawes gone and Evan Turner traded for nothing in return because Danny Granger was released) when it wasn't OK for the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul? Why did the Commissioner step in to prevent the Lakers from becoming a super power and stop New Orleans from destroying their team, when it is OK for the 76ers to liquidate their talent? -- Stuart.

A: First of all, the Chris Paul issue came at an awkward time for the NBA, while it was managing the Hornets/Pelicans while searching for new owners. So your argument is somewhat apples to oranges. But the greater point is how tanking teams are impacting the playoff balance, including the actual games, when winning no longer is a priority. The 76ers could yet have a playoff impact, just not for themselves, but rather the teams they will concede victory to, as they battle the Bucks for the top lottery seed.


March 30, 2014

Q: Is it my imagination or has Norris Cole regressed this season? At one time, I thought that if we lost Mario Chalmers to free agency, Cole would just slide into the starting role at point guard and the Heat would sign a veteran as a backup. Now that seems like wishful thinking. Speaking of Chalmers, before he was hurt, he was continuing on his pace of four or five bad games and one good game. It doesn't seem like he will ever change. -- David.

A: It is very possible you will see a dramatically different alignment at point guard next season, with Chalmers to hit free agency this summer. And I agree that Norris' play has dropped off significantly, including some ugly moments Saturday in Milwaukee, when he shot 2 of 8, outplayed by Toney Douglas. But Norris did save his best for last a year ago, with his strong postseason play and incredible playoff 3-point shooting, so there still might be time to build some front-office confidence. And it's not as if Douglas is any sort of long-term answer.

Q: Ira, our bench is more than the failed acquisitions of Michael Beasley and Greg Oden, it's about collective depth. Heat teams have always had solid blue-collar contributors off the bench, but never a stand-out star. Time to hang Beasley and Oden up.-- Matt.

A: Based on these past few games, it would not surprise me during the playoffs if there are times when either Oden or Beasley join Justin Hamilton on the inactive list. Oden is severely limited against teams that go small, as Brooklyn has been doing, and Beasley wound up with the same minutes Saturday at Justin Hamilton.

Q: Can we just leave Dwyane Wade out for the rest of this year? This is getting old with him. I wonder if it will affect LeBron James' decision. -- Faye.

A: The only impact Wade will have on LeBron's decision will be the final impression. If Wade can be Wade during the playoffs, then all will be forgotten. If Dwyane has to miss time during the postseason, as well, then LeBron certainly would have to consider diminishing returns going forward. To a degree, Dwyane saving himself could help save LeBron, if Dwyane can be at his postseason best.


March 29, 2014

Q: The Pacers still have a tough schedule (tougher than the Heat). Do you think the Heat are now conceding number the number-one seed in the East? -- Jeffrey.

A: I don't think the approach changes at all for the Heat. They still will rest players when rest is needed, go all-out when everyone is available. No matter the lineups, I believe the Heat still will play for the best seed possible. But any 50-50 decisions with players' health will lead to a night off, as has been the case all season. There still are plenty of challenging games left for the Heat against teams involved in playoff races, such as the Raptors, Nets, Wizards, Knicks and Hawks. And that's a good thing. There is no better way to stay sharp than to play desperate opponents. All of that said, Heat players were well aware in the locker room of the Pacers having lost on Friday against the Wizards. In their view, No. 1 in the East remains possible.

Q: If I am Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, I put Udonis Haslem back in the starting lineup and run the first few plays of a game on offense for Haslem. If Haslem is hitting his shot, the Heat become unstoppable. If teams have to play him, everything opens up with good spacing for the Heat. --
Stuart.

A: First of all, this is all Erik Spoelstra's call; Pat Riley doesn't dictate lineups. But it sure seems, even if Haslem isn't hitting that shot, that that's where this is headed, with Haslem in the starting power rotation alongside Chris Bosh. Friday was another step forward for Udonis. Bosh, Haslem and Chris Andersen all have earned time ahead of Greg Oden in the power rotation.