Ira Winderman

Ira Winderman (September 30, 2014)


November 5, 2014

Q: Ira, when will Erik Spoelstra learn to stop having his players chase double-teams when they can't outrun the ball? Tuesday was what we saw with the Spurs in the NBA Finals. The ball moves faster than players. Houston had too many open 3-pointers. It's a rerun of what I wrote you about after the Finals? -- Steven.

Photos: Coolio show in South Beach

A: No, it's not, and here's why: Among those Spoelstra had on the floor in Tuesday's fourth quarter were Justin Hamilton, Shabazz Napier and James Ennis, players who were not on the Heat's playoff roster. For weeks, months and even longer, fans have been pushing for the Heat to play their younger players. Well, with the injuries to Chris Andersen, Danny Granger and Udonis Haslem (as well as the limited mobility of Josh McRoberts), Spoelstra didn't have any other choice. Those players have to learn to play the Heat's defense, how to read and react. Houston plays the 3-point game to a far greater degree than even the Spurs. But to your point, if the Heat were again exposed Tuesday, then good. Better the first week of November than when the games grow exponentially in importance. No, the Heat did not look good in being outscored 25-14 in the fourth quarter and losing by 17. But if lessons can be learned, the Heat can grow from the experience.

Q: Ira, one thing folks might not have focused on is how much of a grind the regular season was the past four years because the Heat always got the other team's very best game. Now that the Heat are just another team in the mix, it might actually be easier for them to win more regular-season games based solely on effort (much like the Alonzo Mourning/Tim Hardaway era or the recent Bulls teams while everyone else was focused on the Heat). While this says nothing about the playoffs, might it mean a 50-55 win season this year? -- Leon, Washington, D.C.

A: Of course, I still think they would have rather remained a Big Three and retained LeBron James, and dealt with any accompanying pressures. And I also think the "best game" thing tends to be overrated. Most teams bring their best game when properly rested and when healthy, both of which are greater factors than motivation for an upset. In fact, it is the Heat who will have to bring their best game to remain competitive, and that means bringing Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in the lineup, keeping them healthy. Teams still want to beat the Heat, because the Heat remain a relevant playoff team, especially teams that know they will be jockeying with the Heat for seeding position. It sure looked like the Heat got the Rockets' best game Tuesday.

Q: After the NBA Finals loss last season against the Spurs, Erik Spoelstra, in a highly admiring tone during the Game 5 postgame press conference, referred to San Antonio's thorough drubbing of our Miami Heat as "exquisite basketball." I think Spo and probably every other basketball coach in the entire world would like to model their system after what the Spurs had last year. Do you think he has the mind and the roster to pull off a version of that, along with some streaky players like Patty Mills and Danny Green? -- Jason, Miami Lakes.

A: While many teams model themselves after successful teams, I'm not sure emulating the Spurs is the easiest of tasks because I'm not sure where the next Tim Duncan is coming from (although the Pelicans might have come closest with Anthony Davis). What I think you try to do is emulate a style that produces success, and I do think the Spurs' ball-movement approach is an enviable model. But you also have to have players willing to move the ball, and enough talent on the floor to make the equal-opportunity approach efficient. What you can't do is what the Heat did on Tuesday night: move the ball to the tune of 19 turnovers.


November 4, 2014

Q: Dwyane Wade as facilitator is easier on his knees since he doesn't have to jump as much. Wade is extremely smart and savvy, so perhaps he'll transition into a quasi point guard, which is less physically demanding than a shooting guard, but requires great court vision. And Wade can really dish out assists, while remaining fresher himself. Mario Chalmers coming off the bench helps deal with his issues of committing needless fouls. As a starter he would often get into foul trouble early, which leads to a double whammy of taking himself out of the game and putting the Heat into the penalty situation. -- Jay.

A: But this team has to get more than facilitating out of Wade. With the way this roster is built, they're going to need about 20 points at night. At least. If he can do that while also facilitating, all the better. But a Dwyane Wade who relies in jump shots is not going to be a Dwyane Wade who helps create openings for teammates. He has to remain in attack mode, even if it's not attacking the rim with quite as much fury. As for Chalmers, the new role has worked early. But it's early. Eventually the Heat are going to run into an opponent where playing Chalmers alongside Norris Cole or Shabazz Napier simply leaves them too undersized. I still think Erik Spoelstra is in his exploratory stage.

Q: I know it early, only three games into the season, but you really have to love how the ball is moving on offense for the Miami Heat, the Equal Opportunity Offense.  Are the Heat doing something different this year with offensive schemes or are the players just energized? And how do the Heat keep this up? -- Stuart.

A: Playing basketball the right way should never turn into a matter of keeping it up. Perhaps it's a bit of the Spurs rubbing off on them. Perhaps it's the reality of not having a singular perimeter star. Or perhaps it's opposing defenses not yet being in tune with the Heat's altered approach. Three games is way too small a sample size to make judgments. Sometimes it's as simple as hitting open shots. So perhaps it's as simple as: as Shawne Williams goes, the Heat go (or something like that).

Q: Is it me or does this team (real early in the season, I know!) remind of the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons? They play hard, together and they seem to trust each other early in the season. Plus, they've got this power forward, in Shawne Williams, that can shoot the 3 ('Sheed), and no one expects them to go further than the second round. I have no idea how far we'll go, but this is going to be an exciting journey being the underdog, counted out team.  (That tearing of the shirt thing Josh did?  Sexy!!!). -- Cheryl, Fort Lauderdale.

A: Hmm, so does that make Mario Chalmers the Mister Big Shot of the group (of which I'm sure Mario would not take exception)? The reality is that "hard-working teams" have to keep working hard, all the time. That's why teams with stars tend to endure. Equal opportunity for the most part only gets you so far. And that Pistons teams had lockdown defensive types in Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince that I'm not sure this Heat team features. What matters most is maintaining the hunger that those Pistons displayed. A week in, it's difficult to make any such judgment. As for Heat players that fans might want to see with their shirts off, I'm not sure Josh is at the top of that list.


November 3, 2014

Q: You can really start to see the potential of this Heat team. Justin Hamilton can only get better. Josh McRoberts needs conditioning but he will be terrific. And I like our rookies. I'm even beginning to understand the Mario Chalmers move. He's played well. -- Chet.

A: But those are just the complementary pieces. It's worked well to this point because, for the most part, it has worked well with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. And, beyond that, it has worked well with Luol Deng's cuts off the ball, and even Shawne Williams' ability to make plays as McRoberts works his way back. The concern at the outset was that the Heat had quantity depth, not necessarily quality depth. Now different players are stepping up at different times, which is exactly what this roster needs. And still, there are two other components who have yet to show how they might fit, Danny Granger and Udonis Haslem. I still think the Heat will need Granger, especially on those days (and it will happen) when Dwyane Wade can't go. The Heat need to get Granger going before that happens, so Granger can regain the needed confidence. So far, though, it has been a communal effort.