Q: Why has Udonis Haslem not been playing? He is not injured anymore. -- Sebass, Lake Worth.
November 28, 2013
Q: I guess David Stern had to give it to Pat Riley one last time (nixing the Juwan Howard deal in 1996, penalizing the Heat tanking in the 2008 draft lottery) before he left for good. How can a two-time, back-to-back champion be on the road for Thanksgiving and then Christmas? Champs on the road for holidays is just wrong. -- Julio.
A: And for Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 20, as well (although with Easter on April 20, they'll likely be home for that, for their playoff opener). To a degree, perhaps we should look at the flip side. Because the Heat are on the road Thanksgiving week as well as Christmas week (and flying home on New Year's eve), at least AmericanAirlines Arena workers were able to prepare for Thanksgiving at home and also will be off on Christmas. As for the injustice of it all, the players will be the first ones to tell you that they are thankful year-round for what they have, to a degree every day being like Christmas with their paychecks. Yes, it might be tough on their families, but how many families have dads who get (at least) three consecutive months off every year? Oh, and a happy Thanksgiving to all and a happy Hanukah to many.
Q: Ira, do you think LeBron expects the sort of payday that Kobe received? -- Jason.
A: No, nor do I think he'd want it. The only team that can offer such a legacy deal based on LeBron's current contract is the Heat. And with what Pat Riley has built, I think LeBron recognizes the advantages of leaving a little on the plate, be it for Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Those Samsung commercials look a lot better than if they had been shot in a locker room with Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly and Elias Harris (yes, they're all current Lakers).
Q: Ira, why do people so worry about LeBron leaving Miami? I don't think he wants to go through the chemistry issues experienced by NBA teams such as the Nets, with their current mix; the Knicks, when they tried to pair Carmelo with Amare; the Lakers, last season with Dwight; Houston, this season with Howard and Asik; and even the 2011 Heat. Such an inevitable adjustment process with a new group of players would mean going backward for him. -- Luis, Miami.
A: I agree. But if such a short-term readjustment were to guarantee long-term success, then I could somewhat see the merit of stepping back like he did in the 2011 Finals, for greater success down the road. But, as I've continually said, the overwhelming odds are he stays. And based on what we saw in the Heat's victory Wednesday in Cleveland, it's not as if the Cavaliers are looking like a team with an abundance of riches.
November 27, 2013
Q: We've already seen Udonis Haslem lose time after returning from his back spasms. So what happens when Greg Oden is ready to play, who loses minutes then? -- Sam.
A: The easy answer is that is a problem Erik Spoelstra would embrace. But the reality is being unable to spot Haslem back into the rotation has to be tough on Spoelstra. But if Oden does begin to eventually claim minutes, it will be even more difficult to find time for Udonis. And Chris Andersen has been playing as well recently as any time during his Heat tenure, save perhaps for last season's playoff run. I'm not sure Oden ever again plays more than spot minutes, so it could come down to shaving some time from Andersen, Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis or Michael Beasley. But even with the Heat's ever-increasing rotation, it's still difficult to fathom Spoelstra going 10 deep in the playoffs.
Q: The Lakers just signed Kobe Bryant to a two-year extension at about $24 million per year. I guess it's safe for LeBron James to cross L.A. off his list? -- David.
A: Well, the Lakers are stressing that even with Kobe's new deal they still will have room for another max free agent next summer (which, in turn, would mean Pau Gasol is gone). I can't fathom LeBron looking at a mix of himself and Bryant and a bunch of minimum salaries as a championship formula. Carmelo Anthony looking favorably upon such a partnership might be more likely, considering his situation in New York, where Amare Stoudemire holds the other huge salary.
Q: I would like to see Michael Beasley more relaxed and confident. He is doing a great job, but he can do it much better. -- Isaac.
A: Michael still is finding his way, including that moment Monday against the Suns when he bypassed an open shot and LeBron James and Erik Spoelstra got to their feet from the bench and implored him not to dodge such opportunities. Michael still is avoiding stepping on toes, appreciating he is coming into a championship situation.