Q: Please tell me what all those losses to bad teams mean? Are there legit issues that will hurt them in the playoffs, or should I be frustrated by their lack of motivation? C'mon, Pelicans? Celtics? Nuggets? These teams aren't even really trying to win, so playing without Dwyane Wade or LeBron James is not even an excuse. And there's no way the Heat should be conceding the top seed. They would have caught the Pacers by now without these horrible losses. Or should I feel good that they can still beat better teams like the Grizzlies and Rockets? -- Adrian.
Q: Are we going to have any continuity going into the playoffs? Or do we plan on using the first two rounds for that? -- Alain.
A: No, and no. With the remaining schedule, it is clear that both Wade and Greg Oden will miss additional time the balance of the regular season. But there had better be some chemistry before the playoffs, with the chance of facing the Knicks in the opening round and the Bulls in the second round. While the Heat might not be sweating such possibilities, those won't be the time to fiddle with chemistry, either. Basically, the Heat have to target "X" number of games to have their primary rotation intact and use those games as their pre-playoff training camp. There still are enough possibilities for that, including the impending tests Monday against the Trail Blazers at home and then Wednesday in Indiana.
March 22, 2014
Q: Miami is doing nothing productive with that open roster spot. -- Shane.
A: I agree. While it's nice to have Justin Hamilton in the developmental pipeline, and while it might have been nice to get a look at DeAndre Liggins, at least in practice, for a team that is all about the moment, you would think Roger Mason Jr. would have been of greater benefit. It's almost as if the Heat released Mason in advance of the buyout deadline with another veteran in mind, a veteran they were unable to land. And while the Heat still can add a veteran, the fact that the Heat wrote Hamilton's contract to include partial guarantees for next season makes that less likely. These 15 likely will be the 15 going into the playoffs. At times Friday, you had to wonder if the Heat couldn't have used another big body, the way Zach Randolph was going off.
Q: The Heat really need a low-post enforcer, someone to grab rebounds and protect the paint. -- Shane.
A: I think they have that, to a degree, in Chris Andersen. In fact, while Birdman has played so well lately, my concern is the Heat might be burning him out before the playoffs. At times, you forget that he's 35, even if it's a low-mileage 35, due to his time out of the league. I asked him about that recently, but he said never to doubt his motor. OK, then -- a Bird with a motor.
Q: With Andrew Bynum out indefinitely, I guess the Heat have done a better job monitoring Greg Oden's minutes. -- Jeffrey.
A: Apples and oranges. I don't think Bynum expected to be in full rehab mode this season, while that was the plan with Oden from the outset. To a degree, the Heat are trying to build Oden up for the playoffs, while the Pacers might now be moving the other way, and distancing themselves from Bynum. It will be interesting on Wednesday night to see where Oden stands when it comes to the Pacers -- or whether Erik Spoelstra holds that off until the playoffs.
March 21, 2014
Q: Looking at the current Eastern Conference playoff bracket, it almost favors the Heat to sit tight and avoid the Bulls, Nets, Pacers until the Eastern Conference finals. -- Corey.
A: But if you fancy yourself as a true championship contender, then it shouldn't be about the opponents, but rather maximizing homecourt advantage, which for the Heat has been significant this season (have you seen them lately on the road?). Beyond that, there remains way too much in play to guarantee that a No. 2 seed would avoid the Bulls or Nets in the second round. It's not as if Toronto has locked up the No. 3 seed by any means. (And don't understate how the Raptors have played over the second half of the season.) Yes, the Bulls can punish you and the Nets have tons of playoff experience. But if the Heat are who they think they are, then it again will come down to their ability to impose their game. Right now, any series against anyone in the top seven in the East could be a struggle. The Heat need to focus on themselves, their game, not seedings or potential matchups. They're pretty much as close to a mess as you can be for a two-time defending champion with a month left in the regular season.
Q: The coach and his crazy rotations are to blame. This team wins on talent, not coaching. -- Junior.
A: Whoa. Are the rotations to blame when Dwyane Wade or LeBron James are not playing? And what's a coach to do when neither of his point guards are playing well? Yes, I agree it comes down to the players, but it also comes down to figuring out what combinations work, which is what Erik Spoelstra is cycling through right now. It's better for Spoelstra to get a read on Michael Beasley and Greg Oden in March than leave himself open to surprise in May or June.
Q: Ira, Metta World Peace is still out there and playoff-eligible. Why not bring in another perimeter stopper? -- Sam.