A: It certainly was heartening to see Dwyane Wade's Instagram of himself, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Josh McRoberts working out with others at Indiana University. This is a season when Wade will have to carry himself as captain far more than the past four, when LeBron was the acknowledged leader. And having McRoberts there spoke volumes, as well, considering Josh and Chris Bosh are the only players on the Heat roster under guaranteed contract beyond 2015-16. What's needed next is to get Luol Deng and Danny Granger involved in the workout mix, so the Heat can go into camp with continuity. Because they have to have it with an advantageous opening schedule that has nine of their first 15 regular-season games at home.
A: To me, saying you're going to move the ball more is like teams saying they're going to run more. Almost every coach wants his team to run; every coach wants his team to share the ball. Getting players to actually adopt that mantra as a basketball lifestyle is another story. Wade still has a tendency to try to go it alone. Cole sometimes only has eyes on the rim. McRoberts will serve as a facilitator, so that will help. But it's too easy to say the ball will move and the players will run. It's all about actually doing it. Over. And over. And over.
Q: How come no info on the possible signing of Leandro Barbosa? He would be a great addition to the second unit. -- Al.
A: As I've reported, Barbosa is one of several players on the Heat's radar. Like many potential suitors, they want to see how Leandro looks with the Brazilian national team at the World Cup, as well as making sure he stays healthy, which has been an issue in recent years. Based on what the Heat don't have behind Wade in terms of proven depth, I'm not sure he wouldn't set up as the best available backup, even though some view him more as a point. You can play Barbosa alongside Chalmers and just call each a guard. But if Jordan Crawford should come available at the minimum, I still think he would be the preferred option.
August 19, 2014
Q: We need more wing defenders. With Derrick Rose back in Chicago and LeBron James in Cleveland, we need more defense. -- Wade.
A: The irony is that Luol Deng brings that dimension, but, of course, at the cost of losing LeBron. What the Heat could have used last season during the NBA Finals, when LeBron was occupied with Tony Parker, was Deng to help out defensively on the wing. The question becomes who is the second-best wing defender on this roster? At one point, a case could have been made for Dwyane Wade. I'm not sure that case can be made any longer. The Heat need to find that second wing stopper either from within, or else still are one addition short.
Q: Ira, I remember in 2006 when we won the championship by playing good team ball and utilizing everyone on the court. It seems as though the Heat are assembling a group of players to form a team, compared to individual play that we have had during the Big Three era. I appreciate what LeBron James helped us accomplish when he was here. But there were plenty of nights I could have thrown something at the TV when the ball was sticking in his hands or only would go through the Big Three, leaving two guys just standing around. I feel that going back to a "15 strong" mentality would give us a better chance of winning it all again in the near future, as San Antonio showed us this past season that five can beat three any day, all day. Your thoughts? -- Eugene, Lauderdale Lakes.
A: My thoughts are that the Heat would have had exponentially greater championship hopes had LeBron stayed. That's just the NBA reality. Say all you want about the Spurs' approach, but they also were loaded with playoff-level talent. And I'm still not sure you're going to get a five-man game out of this Heat roster, because that would require yet another adjustment from Wade. But what I do agree with is that aesthetically this could become a more attractive, if not quite as spectacular, style. But I'm also curious if "competitive" will be enough for fans who are used to "dominant."
Q: Hey Ira, why do you say that the Heat will win between 43 and 45 this season, when in the '09 and '10 season they won 43 and 47 games with Wade only. Now they also have Chris Bosh. I think they could win up to 50 games. What do you think? -- Mariano, Newport News, Va.
A: To win regular-season games, Dwyane Wade has to play in regular-season games. My estimate was based on the likelihood that Dwyane still will be held out of a certain number of games, particularly as part of back-to-back sets. If Dwyane were to play a full schedule, or something closer to full than last season, then I certainly would up the ante with the prediction.
August 18, 2014
Q: Ira, wouldn't it have been perfect for Pat Riley to steal Shawn Marion away from the Cavaliers? I saw the Heat were interested. -- Brewster.
A: Somehow I think the preference would have been to keep LeBron James from returning to Cleveland, rather than trying to do it with Marion, who now is headed to the Cavaliers. Look, I still think what the Heat need most on the wing is another creative scorer besides Dwyane Wade. There simply is not a lot off-the-dribble on this roster. But there certainly is a need for a wing stopper beyond Luol Deng. Considering Shawn indicated that playing for a championship was a priority, Cleveland had the edge from the start. And if playing time was the goal, Shawn could simply have slid into the Pacers' starting lineup in place of Paul George. Yes, Marion would have helped. But a true center or a wing scorer probably would help more, anyway. Still, Deng and Marion would have been a nice consolation prize from the loss of LeBron. Now the Cavs have their dual stoppers in LeBron and Marion, to a degree more than the Heat had this past season in LeBron and Shane Battier.
Q: If James Jones was complaining about playing time here in Miami, what about now with Marion joining the Cavs? -- Humberto.
A: Exactly what I was thinking Sunday, now stuck behind Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, and potentially behind Ray Allen, as well. In fact, should Ray Allen sign with the Cavs, Jones might find himself inactive more often in Cleveland than he was so designated with the Heat. I think Jones might have been wiser to see how things shook out in Cleveland before heading into the winter tundra. And with Kevin Love, it's not as if the Cavs will be in desperate need of 3-point shooting.