March 20, 2014
Q: Hey Ira, what will it take for Miami to get focused and start playing well? They have looked lost. And the playoffs are coming. -- Daniel.
A: What it will take is a fixed rotation in place for an extended period, where everyone can get comfortable with their roles and assignments and responsibilities. Look, I can appreciate Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley placing a priority on health for the playoffs. I get that. And if it means sacrificing a few March victories, there is no issue with that. But what this team needs, whether it is now, in two weeks or two weeks after that, is an extended period where everyone plays, the lineup is set, the rotation is stable and everything is defined and delineated. They appeared to have that going into and then coming out of the All-Star break. And then, for whatever reason, it went south. Another run like that would inspire much-needed confidence. Getting physically right is one thing. Getting mentally right could be just as significant.
Q: I’m sorry, seeing the Heat play games like Wednesday night is humiliating. -- Chet.
A: Put it this way, what if you were running a race, and no matter how fast or how slow you ran, you still always wound up in the same place? To a degree, the Heat are in the midst of a Groundhog Day reality of second place in the Eastern Conference. Yes, an argument could be made with the Pacers struggling that first place could have been theirs, but based on Dwyane Wade's maintenance program, the decision that Greg Oden doesn't play back-to-backs, and then giving LeBron James rest, it is clear that the No. 1 seed simply is not a priority. The priority is finish top two in the East and healthy. The question now is whether mental health should also be taken into consideration.
Q: Why do the Heat never play hard against bad teams? -- Jeffrey.
A: Because they think they don't have to . . . until it is too late.
March 19, 2014
Q: Last year, Birdman was a foul magnet and needed playing time to work that out. It took him weeks to work that out. I hope Greg Oden can work that out by playoff time. -- Martin.
A: Oden clearly needs time, and it's better to see what he can or cannot do now, rather than during the playoffs. It's almost as if Erik Spoelstra put this process in motion to give Greg ample time to be ready for next week's matchup against the Pacers and Roy Hibbert. My concern remains that the move allows Hibbert to remain planted in the post defensively, almost as a goaltender. But, you're right, Chris Andersen came around in last season's playoffs after shaking the rust. Still, Tuesday was another shaky ride for Greg. And again, it is a somewhat odd role, never returning after starting each half. If anything, the power-rotation revelation Tuesday was Udonis Haslem, who came up with four steals in his eight minutes.
Q: Dwyane Wade always gets the rest. Do you think that LeBron needs rest, a game off at some point? -- Faye.
A: Actually, I thought Tuesday might have been a good spot for that. But with the back-to-back, Dwyane was given the rest, instead. I'm curious how Spoelstra will approach the next back-to-back, with a home game Friday against Mike Miller and the Grizzlies and a Saturday game in New Orleans. Wade likely will miss one of those, but I'm wondering whether Spoelstra will push LeBron through four games in five nights, which the Heat also have later in the season, as well. After what LeBron did on Tuesday night, perhaps he gets Wednesday night off for good behavior against the Cavaliers.
Q: Miller Lite should do a Phil Jackson/Pat Riley commercial. -- Stuart.
A: The thing is, the Knicks first have to rise to a meaningful level, and based on their salary-cap position, it's not likely to happen for them next season, either. I am curious to see if Phil takes as public a position in the stands as Pat does at Heat home games. Jackson being back is good for the league, and if Heat-Knicks can rekindle their rivalry, that would be great for the NBA.
March 18, 2014
Q: Has Erik Spoelstra lost his faith in Michael Beasley again? -- Jax.