A: I don't get the Shawne part, especially since he had been defending centers when he started alongside Chris Bosh, so it's not as if he wouldn't be able to enter at center or power forward. With Hamilton, I'm guessing the thought is to get him on the floor for his mix of bulk and 3-point shooting. But those are the minutes that Chris Andersen gets when healthy, and Birdman hardly is a 3-point threat. It would seem of what's otherwise available that Udonis Haslem would more closely resemble the inside grit that Andersen offers (and perhaps eventually Hassan Whiteside could offer). I would think when Birdman returns that Hamilton would fade to the end of the rotation. Yes, Justin had his moments Friday, but they came in one of the Heat's worst performances of the season.
Q: As to the sports writing about the Heat, your repetition with Erik Spoelstra and now Chris Bosh is absolutely painful. Every day for the last four years, at least, it's, "We're working on it. It's a process, etc." Can you guys ever get them to talk about anything interesting? -- Carl.
A: What you can't do is put words in people's mouths. And an organization led by Pat Riley tends to talk in catchphrases, whether owned or borrowed. With the Heat, the goal is to parse the words to get something more than claptrap out of the mix. But just as the Heat have core beliefs in how they run their defense, they also have core beliefs organizationally, which you tend to hear over and over and over. But that also is what entices free agents and outside players, that the approach is consistent, the demands understood, the expectations unwavering. You're hearing the same things because the goal is to consistently get the players to do the same things. Sorry. Of course, at this point, it would be nice to hear something and see something different.
December 5, 2014
Q: It seems like we need a spark off the bench, a player who knows he will be a bench player in these endless rotations, and will play like it. Is it time to bring that player, Michael Beasley, back after this China contract? -- Rover, Wellington.
A: No. The last I've seen from Beasley was when he spent Wednesday night playing "tag" on Twitter. So let's leave that at that. But with Luol Deng dealing with his hand injury, and with Danny Granger such a great unknown at this stage, it did have me looking at the list of available wings, a list topped Ray Allen and one that also includes Beasley and Rashard Lewis. The pickings, for the most, are slim, a list mostly of players who are out of the league and not very likely to get back in, players such as Stephen Jackson, Mickael Pietrus, Josh Howard, Rip Hamilton, Keith Bogans and Ryan Gomes. Then there are the likes of Travis Outlaw, Dahntay Jones, Quincy Miller, Ronnie Brewer and Heat camp cut Reggie Williams.
Q: What does Andre Dawkins being moved to the D-League mean for the Heat? -- Randy, Orlando.
A: That he remains property of the Heat and continues under his NBA contract while also getting playing time while the Heat are on the road for more than a week. But it also could mean allowing him to settle in with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, then releasing him in order to continue to work under the Heat's D-League coaches there. That would open a roster spot on the Heat's 15-man roster, perhaps for one of the wings mentioned above, or perhaps someone who could be acquired in a trade. It could come down to whether Granger can show that he is a viable Heat alternative at the moment.
Q: How can the Heat seem to be so aware of their lack of defense and then still come out every night and not play it? -- Bryan, Calif.
A: Because they might not have the players who can work in this type of system, or perhaps play defense at all. The lack of a defensive backstop is a factor, and that's where the Heat are missing Chris Andersen's deterrence. The Heat also have been playing small for extended stretches, which also is a factor. Josh McRoberts' move into the starting lineup could help. But what they really need is for Deng to play as a lockdown one-on-one defender, so the switches don't have to be as frequently. Another issue is none of the Heat's point guards have played well defensively, with Shabazz Napier particularly exposed off the dribble.
December 4, 2014
Q: Erik Spoelstra needs to change the defense. The Heat continue to give up too many open 3-pointers? -- Jay.
A: In various forms, I got more email on this subject than any other after Wednesday night's game, and I agree that it's insanity to try to play the same style of defense with defenders that don't fit the system. And I thought that was where Pat Riley was going after last season, in the wake of the Spurs carving the Heat defense up with their ball movement and wide-open 3-point shots, when Riley spoke of Spoelstra having to reinvent himself. Instead, the Heat make such an overwhelming effort to defending the pick and roll, continue to overplay the strong side, and then scramble out to 3-point shooters. These defenders do not have the necessary foot speed. And there is no second line of defense, no deterrence at the rim. So much of the style Spoelstra coaches requires five men on a string, each reacting to what another defender does, pulling "triggers" if needed. With so many new players, and so much shuffling of the rotation, the scramble appears to be overwhelming. All of that said, I don't think Spoelstra is budging. I think the insistence will be that these Heat players simply do it better. I'm not sure they can.
Q: Does Dwyane Wade have to jog back on defense? -- Steve.
A: No, there is no rule that mandates the approach. On one hand, Wade is at an age when he has to pace himself. On the other, he can't just be solely an offensive player. If it's fatigue, then trim the minutes. Against a ball-movement team like the Hawks, it was fatal on several occasions when the rest of the Heat's defenders had to play 4-on-5 Wednesday. It is the type of thing that needs to be subtly addressed, and for more than YouTube videos during the playoffs. Then again, perhaps it already has. It is nothing new, but something these little-margin-for-error Heat can afford.
Q: Ira, Birdman was not playing well. So his injury did not change very much. But is Justin Hamilton the backup center? -- John.
A: Of all the moves by Spoelstra on Wednesday, that is the one that I found most confounding. And then to play him seven minutes early and then not again? That I found even more confounding. I don't think Justin Hamilton plays on a playoff-level team, so it comes down to what you think about the Heat. But for Shawne Williams to go from starter to 18 minutes off the bench seemed odd, as well. If the commitment remains to the aforementioned defensive style, then perhaps Udonis Haslem should be revisited, as he was in Wednesday's fourth quarter. Bottom line: Amid the injuries, the depth on this team is shaky, very shaky.