Q: I would love to see Greg Oden get an opportunity to get the ball more and try post plays. He seems to be showing fast improvement and he has a great inherent talent. -- Francisco, Royal Palm Beach.
A: Actually, what I would like to see is Greg get the opportunity to defend more post plays. The Heat likely will never go to a post-centric offense with Oden, not with all their other scorers. But what the Heat have to find out is whether Oden can defend the post without foul trouble. Spotting Greg against Roy Hibbert won't make a lot of sense if it only leads to quick fouls that put the Heat in the penalty. Spotting Oden against post centers, whenever possible, possibly later this week against Andrew Bogut, makes sense at this stage of the season.
Q: As a Heat fan since day one and a native Miamian, I have a special affinity for Udonis Haslem. Why is Erik Spoelstra refusing to play him? -- D.B.
A: Because this is about more than nostalgia or sentimentality. No matter the role, Haslem will remain a revered presence in the franchise's history, his number almost assuredly to be retired one day and hang above AmericanAirlines Arena. But with the Heat's move to an offensive game where everyone has to be live, Haslem's erratic jumper simply did not make the cut. Plus, with last season's acquisition of Chris Andersen and this season's addition of Oden, the squeeze has become severe at power forward. Unless Spoelstra moves away from Shane Battier in the power rotation, the minutes simply aren't there.
Q: I'd be fine with the Heat settling for the two seed if their road record was comparable to last season, but that's not the case. -- Boss.
A: Which is what the balance of this trip is about, with key tests remaining in Phoenix, Golden State, Dallas and Oklahoma City. The Heat were humbled by what happened in Utah, now we'll see if the road-warrior mentality remains.
February 10, 2014Q: Is the Heat's stumbling and rediscovery of chemistry running longer than the last two seasons? The start-to-date comparison of records (this season versus last) seems deceiving. -- James
A: Look, last season's 27-game winning streak was a once-in-a-franchise thing, likely not to be replicated by this group or even over the franchise's next 25 seasons. To a degree, many NBA players see the period after the All-Star break as when it's important to start getting things together. So, to a degree, the Heat might be operating on a typical NBA schedule. As it is, the loss in Utah followed three consecutive victories. And winning three of every four would seem fine, too. I think the greatest issue for the Heat is they utterly are not being pushed from behind, whether it's Toronto or Atlanta or anyone else. They look in their rearview mirror and barely can make out the objects in the distance.
Q: I guess Erik Spoelstra and the Heatles have just said, "To hell with the No. 1 seed"? -- Dee.
A: Or could it be that the Pacers are saying the Heat cannot have it? This season has been a crusade for Indiana and little more than an annoyance for the Heat. But Spoelstra has tightened his rotations in recent games, so perhaps that's his means of sending a message.
Q: Is Michael Beasley totally out of the rotation? They could use his offense. -- Jeffrey.
A: With Shane Battier coming around, especially with his 3-point shot, and with Ray Allen having his moments, with strong finishes against both the Clippers and the Jazz, the perimeter rotation appears largely set. And with Chris Andersen playing well and Greg Oden being given regular minutes, the power rotation also has run out of room. Michael is living the life of a typical NBA 10th man.
February 9, 2014
Q: Why have the Heat lost so many games to teams they should beat? Why are the Heat not taking care of business? Just like the Heat couldn't wait to get back to the NBA Finals after losing to Dallas, Indiana can't wait to get back to the Eastern Conference finals and play the Heat. And the Pacers want homecourt advantage. The Heat are making it easy for Indiana because they don't take care of business. -- Stuart.
A: It's funny, how it used to be that the Heat couldn't beat the top teams, something that seemingly never proved to be a problem in the playoffs those years. Now the focus is on the terrible losses to terrible teams. Look, it's difficult to keep your focus when you go into a game 10 games ahead of the team directly below you in the standings. Clearly, catching Indiana is not the ultimate focus. Hey, if the Heat can get all the bad shots out of their system now, maybe it's not the worst thing.