Q: What the Heat needs most of all is the aggressive Chris Bosh who showed up for the Kings game, the same Bosh that showed up for the first four games of the season. When Bosh is aggressive, Luol Deng plays off his aggressive play and the Heat gel. Whenever Bosh goes into Big Three mode, the Heat struggle -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Which also has us turning our eyes to Wade. Dwyane went out of his way the previous three seasons to make it work with LeBron James. He seemed to be accommodating Bosh the same way at the start of the season. Then Wade began to put up big scoring totals and evolved into the focus of the offense before his recent injury. I agree that the Heat are at their best when they're at least working the ball through Bosh, provided Bosh is at least setting up in the mid-post. But, again, that comes down to how much Wade is willing to cede. It's a tough call, and a difficult one for Spoelstra or even Pat Riley to suggest. Dwyane has been scoring and shooting at a high rate this season. But this could be a case where less proves to be more.
Q: Isn't it about time we see more of Udonis Haslem. -- Roland, Portland.
A: He certainly provided a spark against the Kings. But with Hassan Whiteside emerging, about the only way Haslem works into this rotation is to take some of Chris Andersen's minutes. The problem is that when either Whiteside or Birdman aren't on the court, the Heat have no deterrence at the rim. And with opposing point guards consistently working their way into the lane, the entire second line of defense is then reduced to Haslem's ability to draw charges.
January 18, 2015
Q: I'm not surprised that the Heat can't find a decent backup shooting guard. It's the thinnest position in the league right now. The league's top shooting guard, James Harden, doesn't play defense. Klay Thomson got a (near-)max contract. And old geezers like Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant rank in the top five. Beyond those names are a lot of flawed shooting guards who either can't play defense or can't shoot. The reality for the Heat is that their best option at backup shooting guard is to play two scoring point guards together or to play a small forward out of position. -- David.
A: I'm not talking about needing a great backup shooting guard, just someone at the Jordan Crawford level. And that shouldn't be too hard to find. The Heat's lack of a true backup shooting guard compromises the entire rotation when Wade sits out. Look, I know I first pushed for a third point guard, then for a third center. But you can have 15 players under contract, so three of everything kind of makes sense. The reality is that if Danny Granger was more productive or James Ennis more polished, this wouldn't be an issue. But you shouldn't have to go into an NBA regular-season game with Mario Chalmers, Ennis and Tyler Johnson as your only choices at shooting guard on the nights Wade sits, especially when it's apparent that Wade will sit a lot.
Q: I'm beginning to feel this team has not figured out how to win regularly with Dwyane Wade on the floor. In n way am I suggesting that they are better without Wade. But much like when LeBron James was here, the team gave the ball to the star. The Heat need to become a better team with Wade on the floor, much like the win against the Clippers. -- Chet.
A: Look, they are better in so many ways, including, as Hassan Whiteside pointed out, the ability of Wade to draw defenders from the paint and create the possibilities of those alley-oops. But I do think that when Chris Bosh talks after the Kings game about the quality ball movement, it is code for that the ball has to move all the time, no matter who is in the lineup. At the outset of the season, Bosh was the focus of the offense, and things were going well. The reality is the Heat always win when Bosh scores 30 or more. But I also think there are times when Wade looks around on the perimeter and see no better options. And usually he's correct.
Q: A week ago, Shabazz Napier is in Sioux Falls, finishing up his second stint with the D-League in a month even though he plays behind arguably the least-accomplished set of point guards in the league (Lakers fans may disagree). Tuesday, he is all of the sudden asked -- by the same coach who didn't think him qualified to take any of Norris Cole's minutes -- to play all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter in a contested game. A day later, the same coach starts him against the league's leading MVP candidate. This is no way to develop a young player. It's one thing to throw him into the deep end; it’s another to spend a month telling him you don't think he can swim, and then throw him into shark-infested waters. This is silly stuff from a coach who, however skilled he is as a game manager and an Xs-and-Os guy, has shown very little by way of patience or perseverance in developing young talent. Now we have Hassan Whiteside, who, I can only imagine, Spoelstra plans to play behind Justin Hamilton for two weeks before starting him in Chicago at the end of the month. -- Ian, Miami.
A: So how do you really feel? The one thing I will say about when rotations take such wild turns, such as Spoelstra's, is that it often is a case of the talent not being good enough, which leads to the relentless searching. Some of your concern might actually be addressed to Pat Riley. So many of the Heat's pieces are flawed. That, in turn, makes some of the decisions come off as flawed.
January 17, 2015
Q: Why can't Luol Deng score 25 points every night? -- Stuart.
A: First, because that's not who he is, not who he tries to be, not who the Heat need him to be. But what was comforting about Friday's performance was that when Dwyane Wade again had to sit out, Deng was able to step up his game. But that's not why he is here. He was added to play off of Wade and off of Chris Bosh. What made him particularly effective Friday was the way he played on the move. That's when he's at his best, including moving to his preferred shooting spots. But that means that teammates have to find him in those spots. It is not by coincidence that Deng plays his best when the Heat are playing their best. He is wonderful at moving to the rhythm of the game. Friday, the Heat dictated that rhythm. There's an interesting symbiosis there. When Deng plays well, the Heat play well; when the Heat play well, Deng plays well.
Q: I was real distressed to hear that Josh McRoberts was floated as a possible trade candidate. Please tell me it was only as enticement for Charlotte, since they really miss him, and that he is not being shopped (would be kind of hard, I would think, given his current status). I still really like him. -- Bruce, Boca Raton.
A: I, too, was surprised, considering Erik Spoelstra has spoken so frequently about how the absence of McRoberts has compromised the Heat's rotation. Considering the four years the Heat extended to McRoberts, it would seem awful hasty to give up after a single month on the court. But we know that Pat Riley is partial to centers, and Brook Lopez has had his eye since the 2008 draft. Or maybe in the brief time McRoberts was on the court, the Heat hierarchy did not necessarily see what they envisioned in the offseason.
Q: So does Shabazz Napier keep starting? He's 1-1 as a starter. That's better than the Heat's overall winning percentage. -- Jack.
A: Well, I'm not sure that when Dwyane Wade gets back that Erik Spoelstra is going to be willing to play Mario Chalmers in reserve (although that would help ease the Heat's issues at backup shooting guard, a role that Chalmers thrived in early). Because Dwyane plays with the ball in his hands so often, what he needs is a shooter alongside. That's something that Chalmers has been over the years, something that's not exactly a comfortable role for Napier. And I'm not sure Spoelstra wants to have Wade as a 3-point shooter. Like most things Heat these days, it mostly will come down to chemistry.
January 16, 2015