A: It tells me that it's the third week in October, which makes it the best time for a team to experiment. Do I think Chalmers is best utilized in such a role? No. The Heat already are playing small. But I also don't see how the option is shaping up during the closed portions of Heat practices. If Norris Cole is being given starts because the Heat believe he is the team's best option in that role, fine. But it almost seems like the preseason rotation is being set up for the purpose of evaluating Chalmers as a two-guard. All of that said, Chalmers played well at the two on Friday night in Kansas City. Still, it would have been preferable to have a more traditional option as a reserve to Dwyane Wade at the two, as well.
Q: To be honest, I'm not paying much attention to the Heat preseason. The bottom line is that until the Heat as newly constituted (i.e., with a healthy Josh McRoberts in the starting lineup) are a go, we have no clue what the "new" Heat will look like. Additionally, there seems to be flux in the starting point guard position. Provided McRoberts is in the starting lineup on opening night, it will take patience and a few weeks at the minimum before we see a consistent rotation, aka the new Heat. -- Bob.
A: And I actually believe the two could be intertwined. With McRoberts known for his ball movement and passing, the Heat might not need as much of a traditional point guard as they do now in McRoberts' absence. Actually, I agree that McRoberts' style will be a shock to the Heat's system. The concern is how long it takes for the Heat to adjust to one of the most unique power forwards in the NBA. For that matter, the Heat also might have to compensate on the boards, with McRoberts not known as much for his rebounding as some of the others who have been getting minutes in his place. Adjusting to a player like McRoberts is exactly what the preseason is for, a luxury the Heat have forfeited because of his offseason toe surgery.
Q: My guess is that Pat Riley might trim the roster soon and pick up one of the 100 players waived by the other teams that looked promising in the preseason but didn't fit with their current team. Then in December, he might after someone like Al Horford. In other words, Riley is keeping a sharp eye on available talent to tweak the squad a bit in order to strengthen glaring soft spots. -- Leonard.
A: I'm not so certain of the second part. Yes, I think the Heat very much will consider players released elsewhere at the cut-down deadline, in light of their lack of quality depth on the wing. But I'm not sure Riley would be willing to venture a major move during the season, considering all he did in negotiating flexibility into contracts this summer in order to have free-agency flexibility in 2016. Just like he did with his 2010 free-agency plan that netted LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, I think he might bypass moves in intervening years at incremental gains. It's looking like 2016 or bust for the next generation of Heat. In the interim, it could be a case of biding time.
October 17, 2014
Q: Dwyane Wade is easily leading the team in assists this preseason. Now, obviously there has been a bit of rotating at the point guard position, but it's not like Wade has been playing 30 minutes a game. Is this an indication of who the main facilitator will be for the team in the regular season? -- Bongumusa, South Africa.
A: That's a good question, considering all three of the point guards on the roster have scoring inclinations. And it also could be a way of extending Dwyane's career. But that tends to be the type of move you make when you have an abundance of options elsewhere on the wing, others who can finish while Dwyane sets the table. If James Ennis comes around, and if Danny Granger reclaims some of his former game, then the onus won't be too severe on Wade playing as a slasher. But with the current composition of the roster, it sure looks like Dwyane will have to play more as an attacker. I think he's been feeling his way through the preseason, but also recognizes the need to get into the paint and draw double teams. Ultimately, Josh McRoberts could prove to be the Heat's facilitator, as he was in Charlotte. But he first has to get back on the court from his offseason toe surgery. And even then, the Heat will need time to transition to his unique playmaking style.
Q: Does Erik Spoelstra really want Wade to play more minutes? As promising as Shabazz Napier and James Ennis look, Wade seems to be getting older every game. -- Ryan.
A: What Spoelstra wants, and needs to find out, is the amount of minutes where Wade can look like his former self, while also recognizing that it is difficult for an older player to play maximum minutes. Look, as I've said daily in this space, the 2014-15 Heat only go as far as Wade takes them. And he has to be on the court. And for at least 70 games, and likely more. If you cut Wade to 30 minutes, it's not as if there are many playoff-level options elsewhere on the wing on this roster.
Q: I think Wade should put Ennis under his wing and turn him into the next generation or 2.0 of the Miami Heat franchise. Waiting to see and keeping him under wraps is the dumbest thing you can do. Throw him in the fire. Ennis went to college, went overseas and did great. -- Neek, Los Angeles.
A: And so ends this Wade-centric edition of "Ask Ira." It will be interesting to see if Wade can transition into a mentor phase of his career, or whether that simply is not his personality, even as a co-captain. He has been more vocal during practices, but I think he also has to show that leadership on the court. As almost always is the case in this locker room, Udonis Haslem likely will serve as the primary mentor, which is why it likely is not a coincidence that Ennis has been given the locker next to Haslem. But Wade as a leader also is needed now more than ever.
October 16, 2014
Q: In the preseason's initial game the Heat allowed 98 points. In the next three games they allowed 108, 122, 109 points. In these last three games the Heat scored over 100 points each time and still lost each one. That is not championship ball, even if it is preseason. The problem started in summer league with the Heat's numerous losses and is carrying on into preseason. The media blames the easy targets: the players on the floor. The real problem is the coaching staff's lack of urgency. Pat Riley had that championship pedigree and winning mentality. This season's coaching staff was picked by Erik Spoelstra, and so far his choices have done a very poor job of creating a winning culture. Riley's assistant coaches and staff was far superior in assembling a competitive squad. The Heat have a playoff-caliber team, but in the preseason the coaching staff seems weak, indecisive and tentative at best. Again, this pattern of losing started in the summer league. The coaching staff rationalizes the indecisiveness as testing, but it's more of a case of not knowing what they are doing and hoping someone will come along and bail them out. The players seem disorganized and discouraged, and that emanates directly from incompetent coaching. It's too easy to shift all the blame to the players. -- Sag.
A: OK, so how do you really feel? First, let's filter some of this out of the way. Summer league has nothing to do with this, since almost none of those players are on this roster and, jeesh, it's summer league, where no one remembers the winning teams, just how long the games took. And the shifting of two assistant slots hardly changes the face of the coaching staff, with David Fizdale and Dan Craig, two of Spoelstra's most-trusted associates still in place. As for your opening argument, two of the games went to overtime, which inflates some of those totals. But that said, your opening statement is your most cogent statement. The defense has been awful so far this preseason. And you know who agrees most about that? Erik Spoelstra. He is every bit as ticked off as you are. That's fact. But when you bring new players together, and constantly are shifting your lineups, that tends to happen. I guarantee you the defense will be better than you have seen. Spoelstra and Riley will stand for nothing else. I also think, based on the limited wing scoring options, that this may have to become more of a defense-first team, winning in the ways Tom Thibodeau has won in Chicago amid Derrick Rose's injury absences. New team motto: Defend Free or Die! (Sorry New Hampshire.)
Q: Should we be worried yet? -- Jeffrey.
A: I think the rule with this season's Heat is that it should be illegal to worry until Dwyane Wade misses his first game. (Or you can worry if the Heat un-adopt "Defend Free or Die!")