September 21, 2014

Q: Was Miami's offer for Andray Blatche that bad that he instead signed in China? -- Mike.

A: The fact that both Jordan Crawford and Andray Blatche opted for China says plenty about the level of interest from the NBA. Granted, the money in China can be better than the NBA minimum, but a guaranteed minimum deal possibly would have lured one or both. Then there's Ramon Sessions, who got two years guaranteed from the Kings, above the minimum. To a degree, all three reached the point of being "names," instead of being viewed as rotation players. That surprises me with Blatche, who appeared to have his moments in Brooklyn. Keep in mind that those who sign in China can return to the NBA in March, so this chapter might not yet be fully closed. But with their commitment to 19 for training camp, it likely will take a rotation player for the Heat to offer guaranteed money.

Q: So Heat fans lose LeBron James, Pat Riley signs Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and a few D-League players. As a fan I was hoping for somewhat of a consolation prize, something for us Heat fans to be excited about. -- Bruno, Fort Lauderdale.

A: Whoa. That Riley was able go to back to Deng at such a late stage of free agency and close that deal is plenty to be excited about. No, he's not LeBron, but he makes you better on both sides of the floor. He cares about being a team player, defending, doing the little things. And I think the Danny Ferry episode will make him even more driven this season. If it was just Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, I could appreciate if there was overwhelming post-LeBron disappointment. But among all of this summer's free agents, outside of Carmelo Anthony, I don't think the Heat could have gotten a better replacement player for LeBron than Deng.

Q: It's good to see Chris Quinn getting a shot at coaching. He was a good spot-up shooter. Other than that, well those were some rough years. Just seeing a guy with a limited skill set, with so much drive and love for the game being able to stay involved with the most-talented players in the world is inspirational.  -- Tony, Reno.

A: It is another case of Heat loyalty. What I like most about the hiring is that it comes attached to a D-League element, that Chris also will assist with player development there. In the wake of the loss of James, the reality is the Heat have to get back to player development.



September 20, 2014

Q: I've heard you comment a number of times that the Heat don't have any wing players except Dwyane Wade who can take their man off the dribble. That may be true, but who outside of Wade and LeBron James could last year? And as poor, or questionable, as the Heat bench appears to be, especially at the perimeter positions, who did we have last year, excluding Ray Allen? Where are we really weaker? We lost marginal players, such as Rashard Lewis (and replaced him with Danny Granger, which is a worthy swap, even if Granger is diminished). Michael Beasley? He rarely played. James Jones? He rarely played. Shane Battier? He was shot. So as much as this bench has question marks all over it, it's not like we were loaded last year. -- Matt.

A: You sort of answered your own question. Not replacing Allen is an issue, especially with LeBron already lost for nothing in return. The question isn't whether Granger can offer more than Lewis, it's whether Granger or any of the reserves can offer as much as Allen offered the previous two seasons. The falloff of the bench has a lot to do with the loss of Allen. And, of course, ground also has to be gained across the board because of the loss of LeBron. For now, there are plenty of unknowns, although there also is hope with James Ennis and Shabazz Napier.

Q: Let's see, there are three spots open and Andray Blatche, Wayne Ellington and Ramon Sessions still are available. What are they waiting on? -- Joe.

A: First, there are two parts of the equation, including what the remaining free agents want and where they want to be. Guaranteed money (and the amount of that money) and playing time factor into the decisions. It is probably safe to say that a non-guaranteed, make-good offer is not going to cut it with most tenured veterans. Beyond that, it comes down to what Pat Riley and his staff already think about what is in place. As has been chronicled in this space, an argument could be made that the Heat are settled with their first eight, when factoring in Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng, Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Chris Andersen, Danny Granger and Norris Cole, and that group already includes three newcomers. So it could come down to the degree of change that is deemed prudent. All of that said, yes, I would take all three, and worry about development consequences later.

Q: Is LeBron's new hairline a free agent? -- Ben.

A: This is among the (very few) reasons why LeBron won't be missed. Now I can get back to worrying about my own hair plugs.



September 19, 2014

Q: Ira, I've been a fan of Dwyane Wade's since his college years. I've watched every single game that he's played in since joining the Heat organization, so I've witnessed the passion and drive he has for the game. Having said that, I refuse to believe that a player with Wade's drive and passion can have such a drastic drop-off in his game since the 2012 season, when he gave the reins to LeBron James. I'm thinking it had a lot to do with taking a back seat to LeBron, which led to the decrease in work ethic in the offseason. Your thoughts. -- Bismark, Miami.