Q: One the main issues for the Miami Heat: Their apathy to fight for offensive rebounds. We were last in that stat last year during the regular season and playoffs. It is not to protect transition. It is a lack of effort and coaching plan. This year we don't have LeBron James to bail us out. -- Jorge.
A: It is not apathy; it is part of a strategy, one I condone. You have to protect the backcourt in this league, especially when you might not score to the degree you have in the past. The issue with the rebounding is on the defensive end. What this team can't afford to allow are defensive rebounds and ensuing second-chance opportunities.
Q: Heat are a joke, 0-3 and counting. -- Kevin.
A: Normally, I would insert a punch line here, about it being preseason and all. But I do think this team needs to gain some confidence in the wake of how this offseason played out. That could make Tuesday at home against the Hawks more than one of eight meaningless preseason games.
October 12, 2014
Q: You keep talking up and mentioning things will be different when Josh McRoberts is able to play. To me, not to knock him, but he is nothing more than a mediocre role player, an upgrade for the Heat at his position, but not a savior or game-changer. -- Joel.
A: The saviors will have to be a rejuvenated Dwyane Wade or a reborn Chris Bosh, and both will have to offer more than they have to this point of the preseason (and there certainly is enough time for that to happen). Everyone else just has to help offset the loss of LeBron James. But McRoberts is the type of player who, with his passing, makes others around him better, and should help create easier shots for teammates. And that's exactly what the Heat will need. Look, this team only is going as far as Wade or Bosh are taking it. They have to be the game-changers. But good players make a difference, and McRoberts proved to be a valued commodity last season with Charlotte. Again, this is one of the calls that Pat Riley made in the offseason, that McRoberts would make this team significantly better. Soon enough, we'll see.
Q: Why can't you just admit that the stars aligned perfectly for LeBron to make his move back to Cleveland this summer? First, the Cavs win the lottery and draft rights to Andrew Wiggins. Second, Kevin Love happens to be just one year removed from free agency, and is available for a package headlined by Wiggins. Third, the Cavs signed Kyrie Irving to a five-year extension. Fourth, the Heat lost in the Finals, and Dwyane Wade looked like damaged goods in the process. If LeBron had waited until next summer, Kevin Love likely would have been traded before the trade deadline to the Lakers or Golden State, and signed with them long-term. -- Rich.
A: Oh, I've never had an issue with LeBron's basketball IQ, both on and off the court. But I also appreciate his perspective on his NBA legacy, and still find it difficult to believe anyone could (or should) walk away from his teammates after four consecutive visits to the NBA Finals. No one has done that. Ever. And yes I appreciate the few have even sustained that level of perseverance. I just take issue with the portrayal of the Heat somehow failing LeBron, forcing his hand. All of that said, his jersey still eventually goes to the rafters in Miami. These past four seasons were that special.
Q: Ira, with the new television deal there has been discussions of eliminating max contracts from the NBA. Obviously this benefits the LeBron James and Kevin Durants of the world, but what about the rest of the league? I don't think it's inconceivable for a downtrodden franchise to offer their entire salary cap to one superstar and pay the rest of their roster the minimum. Why would the majority of the players, who are not superstars, vote for a CBA where superstars take the whole pie and they are left with the minimum crumbs? -- Jeff, Miami.
A: Exactly. I've always believed the easiest way for the NBA to break the union is to offer a deal with an elevated minimum salary. If the minimum with a possible $80 million team cap is raised to $2 million or even $3 million, that would create enough votes to pass any collective-bargaining agreement, no matter how onerous the remaining terms, including a possible hard cap. Far more players than ever have been playing at the minimum. Raise their salaries and a majority is easily attainable for a new CBA, if needed.
October 11, 2014
Q: What's your opinion of how James Ennis has been playing so far, and have the Heat also been impressed by what Ennis has done so far? -- Brian, Mountain View, Calif.
A: I've been very, very impressed with the skill set he offers. I've also taken into account that much of his play has come against opponents who might not be in the league this season. But in many ways he already looks like he might have more upside than Shabazz Napier, who is close to a finished product. For years we've heard about the Heat's development culture. It will be fascinating now to see where that development program takes Ennis. The Heat failed to bring out a consistent NBA game in Michael Beasley (as did many teams); now they get a second chance in Ennis.
Q: It must be heart-wrenching to be Erik Spoelstra right now. After watching him during the Magic-Heat game, just from observation it looks like he absolutely despises having to play people he knows won't make the roster to see exactly what he has in them. I'd like to see Spo shorten the rotation already (even though it's preseason) so he can build continuity and chemistry with players he knows he will actually play, especially now with so many new faces. On another note, he keeps talking about James Ennis like he's definitely headed to the D-League (with all the D-League banter, "We hope he grows and learns the system," etc.). I realize Spo hates playing the young guys, but these next two years he will have to change that philosophy so the Heat organization can grow from within. -- George, Toronto.
A: A few things: Erik Spoelstra has three championship rings; little will be "heart-wrenching" going forward. And he doesn't "despise" playing anyone; it's all part of the preseason. But he already has trimmed his rotation, based on the lack of minutes for Reggie Williams, Tyler Johnson and Andre Dawkins. And I think he has done that because of the exact continuity you mention, trying to work in newcomers like Luol Deng, Danny Granger and, eventually, Josh McRoberts. He also doesn't "hate" playing young guys, and I believe he very much is intrigued by Ennis. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with D-League seasoning for Ennis, Napier or some of the other young players. Until Oct. 29, the stress level is going to be a bit lower than you portray. After that? Well, that's another story.
Q: So is Udonis Haslem going to pop LeBron James? -- Mark.