August 28, 2015
Q: Hey, Ira, judging from the picture taken in the weight room of several Miami Heat players, Chris Bosh looks to have gained a lot of weight. But there are conflicting opinions on whether that weight is muscle or fat. He looks jacked. And as bad as muscle was for his knees back in the day, I always thought Bosh was at his best offensively and defensively in his bulkier days with the Raptors. What's your take on it? -- Patrick, Melbourne.
A: First, photos can lie, especially those of the Instagram variety. Second, as with Dwyane Wade trimming down a year ago and then again this offseason, I tend to defer judgment until I see a player in camp and then during the season. With Chris, the case is a bit more complex, having been away from the game since last February due to the blood clots on his lung. On one hand, that probably has given him greater opportunity to focus on the weight room. On the other hand, nothing replicates that actual conditioning gained from the up and down of scrimmaging. I do believe that Chris should be on the lighter (or at least more-agile) side this season, since his pick-and-roll quickness alongside Goran Dragic will be important, as will his ability to get from the shooting corner to the offensive glass. Plus, with Hassan Whiteside, Chris Andersen and even Amare Stoudemire (or Udonis Haslem), the Heat should have ample options to grind inside defensively.
Q: Hi, Ira. Last week you said that Goran Dragic and Chris Bosh would be indispensible, that the team will play around them. So what about Dwyane Wade? I am with Wade fans in China. He is so popular in China. We all love him. So we want to know where the role of Wade is headed. Ordinary play or MVP candidate? (In China, we look at your articles every day. We have a forum. We love your articles and they let me say hello to you.) -- Chen. -- Hangzhou China
A: First, thanks for reading. As for Dwyane, I believe this will be somewhat of a statement year for him. As ugly as his contract negotiations turned this offseason, this time he will be playing for something more than a one-year deal. Statistically, he had a stellar offensive season in 2014-15. The issue was staying on the court. I believe playing fulltime alongside Goran Dragic will help, as will greater depth in reserve, with Gerald Green and Justise Winslow added on the perimeter. A year ago, Dwyane was in the middle of your equation, between ordinary player and MVP candidate. If he can stay there, at his age, it would be a net gain for the Heat. Dwyane Wade was and still is expected to be a very, very good player.
Q: With the Heat's scoring punch off the bench on paper being the best it's been in many years, will that allow Dwyane Wade to play 6-, 7-minute stints per quarter on both ends of the floor? We all know about his knees but it also appears he deliberately paces himself for the long run thinking he'll play most or all of the fourth quarter. If Wade can offer real defense and play both ends this team can go the distance. Well, at least on paper -- Brian.
A: I don't think that's as much a factor of minutes as it is of the Heat needing so much more from him on offense in previous seasons. The question now is whether Dwyane is willing to sacrifice some of his statistics in order to expend greater energy on both ends. When Dwyane is zoned in, he remains a defensive factor. With so much more scoring on this roster, as you point out, that could allow him to turn more of his focus to the other end. Could. But it also has to be more that blocked shots and steals. With Hassan Whiteside there to clean up at the rim for a full season, it could make every Heat defender more efficient.
August 27, 2015
Q: I'm a Miami fan and know that small ball wouldn't have been successful without LeBron James. -- Max.
A: Hmm, so you've read Hassan Whiteside-v.-Draymond Green, in all its Twitter glory? Look, small ball can work, as it did for the Warriors in the NBA Finals, with the right matchup and right roster. But I agree that while LeBron opened the door for such an approach by the Heat, the arrival of Whiteside might have closed it, for the better. I believe Hassan is correct, that if you have a big man who can score, it lessens the risk the opposition would take in going undersized. And that's not even getting into the possibilities of Spoelstra utilizing a zone, which would reduce the mileage on some of his older and less-efficient defenders. With Whiteside and Birdman (if he stays), the Heat should be able to play big as often as they want. Of course, with Chris Andersen on the floor is when you might see an opponent go small, with less concern about Bird's scoring.
Q: The Heat will undoubtedly rest Dwyane Wade during the season and other key players like Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng will get time off as well. Do you think Erik Spoelstra should sit them all at once and basically concede a few games, or hold them out one at a time? Would you concede a game versus a top opponent or against a bad team where the reserves might be able to pull off a victory? I know it isn't "fair" to fans who pay to see the best players, but most fans understand that winning in the playoffs is important, too. -- David.
A: Honestly, with the money paid to Bosh, Wade and Dragic, I think some of that thinking goes out the door. Now, if they're dealing with injuries, that's one thing. But if Dwyane Wade is going to push for his $20 million salary and possibly for more down the road, then all bets are off. Rest? There has been plenty of rest since mid-April. And the Heat remain on the league's low end, with 17 back-to-backs. Not only don't I think the Heat will concede games, I don't think they'll concede individual matchups.
Q: How does trading for Jamal Crawford, or anyone for that matter, help the Heat's luxury-tax issue? Isn't Crawford making just as much as Birdman? -- Chris, Vancouver.
A: Yes. Such a deal would simply be to address an area of need. And such a deal would come with the Heat accepting the luxury tax as a 2015-16 reality. But what contracts such as those of Andersen, Mario Chalmers and even Josh McRoberts do is provide flexibility, which also is not a bad thing to have.
August 26, 2015
Q: Hi, Ira. I'm a Heat fan from China. I saw the short video posted by Hassan Whiteside a few days ago. The content is basically Heat players hanging out together. I saw Mario Chalmers in there, too. So he has a good relationship with teammates. Do you think the trade rumor can influence the chemical reaction going on there? Thank you very much. -- Harry, Dalian, Liaoning Province, China.
A: Players recognize it's a business and have typically done a good job of separating what goes on in the locker room and what happens in the front office. Among the players Chalmers worked out with in California alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this past week was Josh McRoberts, who has spent his entire career getting traded and shifting between teams. The good thing is Heat players are living in the moment, preparing to go into camp with the names listed on the current roster. If Chalmers is dealt to minimize the luxury-tax burden, new chemistry will form and the team will move forward from there. Both Mario and Chris Andersen have told me in recent days that they understand the business side of the equation. Teammates do as well. Basically, they're teammates until someone tells them they aren't. For now, having so many Heat players working together a month before the start of training camp remains a positive.
Q: I've heard reports that the Miami Heat won't use Hassan Whiteside during small ball, which might limit Whiteside to 28 to 30 minutes per game. I say just let Whiteside's performance dictate his playing time no matter what you call the opposing lineup. If Whiteside can play against certain lineups, he can play. And if he can't, then he can't. -- Martin.