July 29, 2016
Q: As of now the Heat roster is at 18 players, which means they need to waive three players, which most likely are Stefan Jankovic, Okaro White and Rodney McGruder. I think the best option is to trade Josh McRoberts so McGruder can stay. McGruder is raw, but has a lot of talent. Who do you think the Heat will waive? Or will they wait to see how they perform in preseason and training camp? Thanks. -- Michael, New York.
A: A few things. First, the Heat might not necessarily stop at 18, with Beno Udrih essentially with a standing invitation at the veteran minimum if he cannot find more elsewhere. And, as stated before, there always is the possibility of a 2-for-1 trade to alleviate some of the current roster suggestion. But to get to the crux of your question, it's not as if the Heat didn't already attempt to trade McRoberts, when they were looking for additional cap space to at least accommodate Dwyane Wade for 2016-17. If word from a party close to that situation was correct, the Heat quite literally could not even give McRoberts away, that no outside team wanted to take on his salary-cap hits that include a player option for 2017-18. In fact, it will be interesting to see how the Heat approach McRoberts this coming season, given the salary-cap advantages of him bypassing his player option for 2017-18. Because of his player option, if the Heat cut McRoberts this season they automatically would be on the hook for his entire 2017-18 salary counting against their cap.
Q: The Heat's signings were done quickly because of Tyler Johnson's contract and not wanting to use cap space for him. The Heat had only 72 hours to match and to avoid an extra $4 million cap hit. -- Leonard, Aventura.
A: I understand. So essentially by sitting back and matching with Johnson, you would have lost out on the opportunity to add either Derrick Williams, James Johnson or Wayne Ellington (each with a salary that falls close to the differential amount that would have been forfeited by waiting to round out the roster after re-signing Tyler). But you also could have then saved the remainder of the post-Dwyane Wade cap space for someone at twice the price of the others added among that group in a potential trade. Again, as stated previously, if more than one of those players pan out into something substantial, then credit is due for the approach. That's the part the Heat are going to have to wait on. The answers will eventually come on the court.
Q: We may no longer be as attractive a free-agent destination as we once were, and we are definitely not as appealing right now as we think we are. Thoughts? --Phillip, Singapore.
A: The thoughts are that such things tend to be cyclical, and as long as the Heat continue to play a winter sport in Miami in a state without income tax, there will remain inherent advantages. Beyond that, never get stuck in viewing the personnel market merely in terms of free agency. Trades always remain an option, with the Heat making a point this offseason to retain as many assets as possible, including Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson.
July 28, 2016
Q: So the New York Knicks loaded up on veteran players (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee) to join Carmelo Anthony. Rose went as far as calling his new team a super-team, up there with the Warriors. The Miami Heat went in the exact opposite direction this offseason. They are starting with a core of young players (Hassan Whiteside, Justice Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson). Even in Dwyane Wade's rookie season, when the Heat started 0-7, made the playoffs, and Wade was an unknown, the Heat had a core group of proven veteran NBA players (Eddie Jones, Brian Grant and Lamar Odom). Who has the better model? -- Stuart.
A: The problem in comparing the Heat to any other team this offseason is that the Heat's work had to be accomplished against the backdrop of not knowing if Chris Bosh's $23.7 million cap hit would be a productive part of the mix. So what it really comes down to is whether you can make the comparison using Chris Bosh vs. Carmelo Anthony as a starting point for a roster comparison. Then it comes down to whether you would prefer Hassan Whiteside or Joakim Noah at center, Goran Dragic or Derrick Rose at point guard, Josh Richardson or Dion Waiters vs. Courtney Lee at shooting guard, and, perhaps, Tyler Johnson vs. Brandon Jennings at backup point guard. Yes, if you take Bosh out of the Heat's equation, the Knicks probably do set up better at the moment, if only because they have a true leading man in place in Carmelo. But it also comes down to whether you are taking the long view or merely seeking immediate middling results.
Q: Miami has 18 players as of now. Who is going to be cut? -- Nadielle.
A: I would think that the guarantees given to Okaro White and Stefan Jankovic were to persuade them to eventually play for the Heat's NBA Development League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. And with so many guards under contract, I don't think the odds, at least at the moment, look great for Rodney McGruder. The Heat could still thin the roster by making some sort of two-for-one trade, but keep in mind that every player signed by the Heat this summer (and there were 11 of them) cannot be dealt until Dec. 15, at the earliest. So that only leaves seven players who could even be put into play before then (Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Josh McRoberts, Josh Richardson, Briante Weber, Justise Winslow and Luke Babbitt, who could have his own trade restrictions, having arrived in a trade and limited in how he could be aggregated). And that's not even getting into the possibility of the Heat re-signing Beno Udrih and therefore having to trim another player from what would therefore grow to a 19-player offseason roster.
Q: In order for this to work, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow have to be in the starting lineup for their lockdown defense. -- Shyra.
A: I assume you mean because of the Heat potentially starting Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic in the backcourt. I'm just not sure, for all he has accomplished as a wing defender, that Winslow would produce the same defensive results in the power rotation. Similarly, while Richardson has fared well defending opposing guards, it's a world of difference guarding opposing small forwards such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. And to put that much pressure on Whiteside to compensate for so much could also result in putting Whiteside into foul trouble. Your suggestion certainly is a possibility, but, again, it all comes down to whether Bosh is in . . . or out.
July 27, 2016
Q: It is clear the Heat are trying to get younger and more athletic and looking to the future. If that's the case, does Chris Bosh really fit in their plans, even if healthy? -- Jeffrey.
A: So much of this has to stop. Put it this way, if the Chris Bosh we saw before the blood clots was a free agent, he might have been as coveted as anyone outside of Kevin Durant this offseason and assuredly would be as coveted as almost anyone next summer (perhaps in the Al Horford class this summer, the Blake Griffin class next summer). He is that respected and that productive when at the top of his game. He is the type of player the Heat would be clearing cap space for, in order to chase. But all of that also is moot. What isn't is this reality: None of this is the Heat's choice. If Chris Bosh wants to play, he will play, either for the Heat or elsewhere. And if Chris Bosh wants to play and the Heat can't or won't trade him, then his salary will continue to count against the Heat's cap and luxury tax as long as Bosh wants to play the game. While this certainly isn't a compromise that Bosh has to accept, because he is under no such obligation, but the best resolution might be for the Heat and Bosh's side to decide on an elite panel of experts in the field and allow them to sort out a resolution, sort of a medical arbitration panel.
Q: Do you think with all the guards we have, including Dion Waiters, that Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson will get enough playing time? -- Koa, Hawaii.
A: I think that will come down to whether either Johnson can emerge as the backup point guard or whether Richardson can withstand playing time at small forward. Under that scenario there would be minutes for both, even with Waiters and Wayne Ellington at shooting guard. Of course, if Beno Udrih returns, that would further limit the minutes available at point guard.
Q: I'm not sure if you have seen the recent polls Larry Sanders has put up asking fans where he should play next season. But Miami is one of the teams included in the polls. Does that mean Miami has an offer on the table to him? If not, is there a possibility we offer him one? -- Ryan, Port St. Lucie.
A: There is so much drama already with this Heat roster, and so many players already under contract, that I'm not sure such a major rehabilitation issue would be in the Heat's best interests at this stage.
July 26, 2016
Q: Ira, signing Dion Waiters is a good move. However it magnifies why did they match the Tyler Jonson contract? He will now become the third off-guard behind Waiters and Josh Richardson. How many guards are now on contract? -- Joel.
A: The Heat have Waiters, Johnson, Richardson, Goran Dragic, Wayne Ellington, Briante Weber and Rodney McGruder in an increasingly crowded backcourt. I don't think you can judge a long-term contract just because you add a player on a one-year deal. What you are attempting to do is build long-term stability. That's why, if you truly are committed to Johnson and Richardson as players who have to get minutes, then I'm not sure you add both Ellington and Waiters. Of course, if the Heat knew they could get Waiters an argument could be made (in hindsight) that they then would not have signed Ellington. The best way to make this work might be to consider significant time for Richardson at small forward, which might be necessary, anyway, if Chris Bosh is unable to make it back.
Q: I think Dion Waiters sees the opportunity of starting in Miami and cashing in after one year. -- Manny.
A: Which makes sense when he knew he was going to come off the bench with the Thunder as somewhat of an afterthought. And that could work to the Heat's short-term benefit. But if Waiters steps up his game, he also is going to step out of the option year on his contract, with the Heat then forced to have to consider salary-cap space to retain him. I appreciate the important of not getting ahead of ourselves, but should the Heat, at this moment, be involved in the short-term rental game?
Q: Hey, Ira. Question: What number will Dion Waiters wear on the Heat? Surely the front office will not allow him to wear Dwayne Wade's number. If they do allow it, that decision seems to lack tact, awareness and respect. -- John.
A: They will not. The next time you will see No. 3 in a Heat uniform is when they raise it to the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena. I believe the same will be the case with No. 6.
July 25, 2016
Q: Why did Pat Riley build such a young core for this upcoming season? Couldn't we have signed more veterans to this year's roster? I understand if Pat Riley is trying to find players that can develop for this team, but couldn't he have found a balance? -- Daniel, Miami.
A: I actually would have preferred even more youth (I get to that aspect in response to the question that follows). It's one thing if you believe a veteran or two from the middle of the free-agency pack could make a significant difference (Lance Stephenson? Ty Lawson?). But there are times when an investment in playing time with younger players can prove long-term results in terms of seasoning. I'm not sure we can see enough of Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, and perhaps even Briante Weber or Rodney McGruder this season. If you can't rack up wins in the standings to an appreciable degree, at least seed the future for the newcomers to more rapidly adjust to what it will take to eventually win. In fact (and, again, this is addressed below), for my money, I would have put the spending on hold after Dwyane Wade's departure and only have reached for the right veteran, rather than spend on veterans to the degree the Heat moved. Right or wrong? We'll see how it plays out this season.
Q: Heat management moved at what appeared to be breakneck speed in putting together its roster for the upcoming season once it was determined that Dwyane Wade was not coming back. You have to wonder why Pat Riley signed no shooters who were more than one dimensional. And why he overpaid for some players. You have to wonder why Wayne Ellington was paid substantially more than his value. Derrick Williams is a poor shooter and defender. James Johnson is a good defender, but woefully lacking offensively. Luke Babbitt? Another one-trick pony. It all seemed so hastily put together, with only one positive common thread: most of the newcomers can run the floor, playing the up-tempo game that best suits Goran Dragic. -- Matt.
A: I agree that it seems like an odd mix that the Heat (seemingly hastily) put together in the wake of Wade's departure. And it's not as if Ellington, Johnson or Williams arrived for the minimum (Babbitt did, with a Bird Rights contract that could come in handy down the road). Based on the fact that we're still in July, I'm not sure why the Heat didn't sit back, regroup, and see if there was potentially a player on the final year of a contract that another team might have been looking to move. The point being that it's not as if the Heat's outlook would be significantly different had none of the aforementioned players been added. Now, if even one emerges as a major role player, then the gambles will have proven worthwhile.
Q: Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe you can't trade a player just signed until December. Do you see any chance the Heat and Kings would agree to a Hassan Whiteside-DeMarcus Cousins trade? I would love to see that deal for the Heat. -- Joel.
A: You are correct, that Hassan, or other free agents signed this summer, cannot be dealt before Dec. 15 (and a few until not even later). Oddly, I believe the Olympics could have a significant impact on the Kings' future with Cousins. If he comes up big in Rio (which I suspect he will), then it will become even more evident that the issue in Sacramento has been more about the team than about Cousins. If that's the case, one would think that the Kings would want to see how it could be resolved with Dave Joerger's new coaching staff. If there are issues, or a minimal role, with Cousins under Mike Krzyzewski, then I could see the Kings viewing Cousins as a problem worth moving past. In the end, if Cousins is eliminated from trade discussions, blame it on Rio.
July 24, 2016
Q: Letting Gerald Green go, was it a good or bad decision? -- Le'Veon.
A: I'd put it this way: It was a necessary one, and not necessarily because of Gerald, at all. With the promise of Justise Winslow, the progress of Josh Richardson and the financial outlay to Tyler Johnson, all three are going to have to play, and need to be in featured roles. So it could have turned out like it did in the playoffs, where Gerald's minutes were limited, and perhaps not a position you want a player with his NBA tenure. Gerald worked as hard as any player, with effort never an issue. But he also is what he is, with the Heat moving on to more of a developmental phase. Had Gerald made 3-pointers at the percentage the Heat anticipated/hoped, I think he still would be around. Instead, there was more of a flavor-of-the-month move to James Johnson and Derrick Williams, to see what could possibly be culled there. The Heat had the resources to offer Gerald the same contract that Boston offered. But with 17 players under contract to the Heat, it likely became apparent to Gerald that it was time to move on. I wouldn't label Gerald's tenure a failed experiment, but rather a marriage that did not endure. Such typically is the case with veterans on minimum-scale deals.
Q: I have only ever purchased Dwyane Wade jerseys. Aside from Hassan Whiteside, which jersey is going to last longer than a season? -- Juan Carlos.
A: First, I'd like to assure that Hassan's will, but I'm still not sold at this point that the Heat don't consider Hassan as much a commodity as franchise mainstay. Even he is at stage where he has to still prove he belongs for the long run. Beyond that, there is question whether Goran Dragic still isn't viewed as much for his salary as his take-charge ability. So I'd probably look toward Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, with their rookie-scale deals, with the greatest long-term value. But even then, you shouldn't necessarily rule out Justise as a potential trade sweetener, if needed.
Q: Dwyane Wade would not accept the type of work-with-us deal due to ego and branding. Dirk Nowitzki is truly humble and still a basketball/team player first. -- Jake.
A: Dirk's deal, although cast as greater than what the Heat (or the Bulls or the Nuggets) were willing/able to offer, is not quite the two-year, $50 million package it seems. The first year, at $25 million, is guaranteed, but only $5 million of the second year is guaranteed. I don't believe, with Wade being younger than Nowitzki, he would (or should) have felt comfortable with such an NFL-like non-guaranteed component. Ultimately, the fact that the Heat wouldn't go beyond a guarantee of $40 million (more guaranteed money than what Nowitzki received), is what led to the fractured relationship and divorce.
July 23, 2016
Q: Ira, we’ve seen enough of Hassan Whiteside the past two seasons to understand what he could be. Now he needs to make it happen. Looking back, the talent I'd best compare him to is Robert Parish. The difference is the motor. Parish often would beat the opposing center down the court for an easy dunk and never took plays off. Whiteside has even more athleticism and, when he wants to motor, is faster than Parish. This season the Heat are going to need all the easy buckets they can muster and having a center who can outrun the opposing center is huge advantage. What say you? -- Brian, Fort Lauderdale.
A: I say get him out and get him on the move. In fact, last season there were a few infuriating moments when it was the opposing center who beat Hassan down the court. What you mention has to be the next step for Hassan, showing a 48-minute (or however many minutes he plays) motor during games, and showing an 82-game motor during the season. Elite players don't take extended stretches off. Hassan, at times, has during these past two seasons with the Heat. If Whiteside can remain in constant motion, the Heat just might be able to make the type of move in the standings few seem to expect.
Q: Pat Riley told Goran Dragic he used up his excuses from last season, so that means Riley's expectations of him are high. His best showing last season was when we went up-tempo, and it was Luol Deng, Gerald Green or Justise Winslow running on the wings and two of those aren't there anymore. -- Aristotle, Sydney, Australia.
A: But Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson will be there, with Johnson back from last season's shoulder issues and Richardson clearly now a rotation regular. And Winslow hasn't gone anywhere. Add in the athleticism of James Johnson and Derrick Williams and there should be no lack of running partners for Goran. And, as mentioned above, Hassan Whiteside very much has to be among those in constant motion, as well.
Q: The first game against Chicago is going to feel strange, rooting against Dwyane Wade. It's like betting against your team or for your kid to lose. It's weird. I know. I've done both. -- Tony, Paso Robles, Calif.
A: Hmm, so you've bet against your team? OK, that's one thing. But rooted for your kid to lose? I'm sure there has to be more to that story. As for Dwyane's return, I believe the embrace should be complete and there is no need to diminish his accomplishments. Those are the types of games when a big game from your former player and a victory for your preferred team works out as the best compromise.
July 22, 2016
Q: Hi, Ira. What is the goal this season? With our current players, do the Heat plan to fight for a playoff seed or to get a lottery pick? It seems like we are in the No. 5-8 range in the playoffs, likely with a first-round exit. And in case we don't make the playoffs, our pick will be ranging from No. 11 to No. 14 if we don't intentionally drop games. Both scenarios are not good for the Heat. For me, it is either we make a trade to be a contender (but we don't have assets) or drop the season to get a top-five lottery pick. -- Francis, Manila.
A: I cannot fathom, even if a lottery pick is the desired (and desirable) intention, that any Heat team ever, before the first of 82 regular-season games are played, would establish such a focus. Beyond that, there would be no convincing Erik Spoelstra of leading such a charade. No, I believe those types of eventualities happen organically, when a team recognizes (and I'm not saying that's the case with this roster) that it does not have championship or even deep-playoff potential. But teams that focus on the lottery tend to be teams that focus on slow, steady growth through the draft. That has never been the Heat approach under Pat Riley. And if the focus continues to be on free agents, then it is far more worthwhile to showcase your team in the standings. While the Heat's 2017 first-round pick certainly has value in what is forecast as a strong draft, I don't think the draft will determine the course of the season. The players will. And the coach.
Q: Ira, the types of players Pat Riley is signing -- James Johnson, Derrick Williams, Luke Babbitt, even Willie Reed -- is basically Riley is building a very physical team like his own version of the New York Knicks with Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, Patrick Ewing. -- Sandros, Miami.
A: Um, I sort of hope not, since the game is going in another direction. I believe the players Riley added are more a case of best-available mid-salary prospect. Yes, heft can help to a certain degree. But it will be the shooting skills with most of the newcomers that will be the focus. Which of the newcomers will play the most? Likely the ones who hit the most 3-pointers.
Q: Ira, did the Heat find a "gem" in the NBA summer league? -- Masoud, Tucson.
A: I'm not sure whether Stefan Jankovic or Okaro White will make the regular-season roster, but I'm really curious to see what Briante Weber, with his limited offensive game, can become when he faces truer NBA competition during the preseason. If Weber sets up as an NBA-level talent, it will make it easier to utilize Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson more often in the wing rotation.
July 21, 2016
Q: How important is it now for Justise Winslow to become a franchise player for the Heat? -- Ken, Hollywood.
A: There is a lot more to the equation than simply telling a player, "OK, Dwyane Wade is gone. You're next up. You're now our franchise player." And I'm also not sure there is such a thing as a 20-year-old franchise player, no matter if it is Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or anyone else that age. Being a franchise player means being a player who leads on the court, in the box score and in the locker room. Justise remains an unfinished product. And while Pat Riley says that it's important to look past the blemishes, I'm not sure you can be a franchise player without a reliable outside shot, something even Magic Johnson recognized during his climb to such status. Now, if you're asking whether Justise has the potential to become a franchise player, I think the Celtics answered that question at the 2015 NBA draft, when they were willing to shower picks on the Heat for Winslow. For now, I believe that is why the Heat need the likes of Goran Dragic and other veterans alongside, to help Justise appreciate what he can become and how much still needs to be accomplished to get there. The shame is that players such as Wade and Luol Deng would have been the perfect tutors.
Q: Ira, do you think Pat Riley will put more emphasis on keeping the team's future first-round draft picks? Now that the Heat are an entirely different team and possibly in rebuild mode, those two Phoenix first-round picks really hurt. -- Rodney, Sarasota.
A: I would like to say yes. But, at the same time, this is Pat Riley we're talking about. And while those two picks due to the Suns essentially prevent the Heat from trading a first-round pick prior to 2023, it doesn't prevent Riley from selecting for another team. I believe the Heat will value their first-round pick in 2017, if only because of the need to add low-cost talent while maximizing salary-cap space. But I would think it's safe to say that Pat Riley, if he endures as Heat president, hasn't traded away his last draft pick.
Q: Do you think it's time the NBA looks into allowing teams to dress all 15 players for games. It could allow NBA superstars opportunities for fewer minutes per game. Your thoughts? -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.
A: I'm not sure a 14th or 15th man is necessarily going to trim the time on the court for a proven veteran. But it is a bit silly to be paying 15 salaries and being able to utilize only 13 players on game nights. I would, however, like to see teams perhaps be able to add another player or two, with those players serving as "flex" players, able to be sent to the D-League without risk of being lost to another franchise.
July 20, 2016
Q: Unlike past additions of declining veterans over 30 (Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Luol Deng, Shawne Williams, Danny Granger, Rashard Lewis, Shannon Brown), this year's pickups are in mid-20s or younger, suited for upbeat pace and intense defenders. If just two or three pan out and our best prospects from last year continue to improve, we have, with great coaching, every chance to build back. -- Jack, Fort Myers.
A: First, don't understate the contributions the past two years from Deng, who served as the type of veteran glue often needed to hold together young teams, such as the one the Heat are about to offer. And Amar'e Stoudemire and Rashard Lewis also offered quality depth when called upon. But, yes, there have been some missteps along the way. What the Heat's latest signings offer is the opportunity for a player to finally get it right. But the reality is that Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Derrick Williams and Luke Babbitt all have had their opportunities elsewhere, so I'm not sure this is about them "panning out." In fact, what I believe this season should be about is Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, and perhaps even the likes of Briante Weber, Rodney McGruder and some of the talent from the summer roster. Those are the players positioned to make breakthroughs. If, anything, the danger would be counting too much on journeyman veterans (even if they're younger than 30) at the cost of minutes for the Heat's true prospects.
Q: Hi, Ira. I'm from the Philippines and I'm a Heat fan since 1997. LeBron James stated that he wants Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony on one team. Is Miami targeting those four players next season? -- Joseph, Philippines.
A: I can't fathom that happening with the Heat after the bitter breakups with James and Wade. But based on their banana-boat exploits and their compelling presence at the open of last week's ESPYs, it is clear that the four have a bond that has endured even as opponents. So, yes, I could see the four of them together at some point, but most likely only as visitors to South Florida.
Q: Are the Heat even interested in Jarnell Stokes? We need bigs and he was hooping in the D-League last season. His PER has been off the charts. Aren't we eligible to pick him up again since his contract expired last season? -- Derrick, Miami.
A: Actually, not. Because Stokes had an option year on his contract for 2016-17 when he was traded at midseason, he cannot be reclaimed by the Heat until the one-year anniversary of a February trade. To me it is one of those rules designed to prevent teams from manipulating transaction, but one that ultimately winds up penalizing the players.
July 19, 2016
Q: Is this Erik Spoelstra’s year? The year he really has to prove himself? The year he doesn’t have to placate a superstar? The year he runs his offense the way he wants, up and down the court, with speed and ball movement? No more iso-ball? -- Yunasi, Miami Beach.
A: First, Erik Spoelstra doesn't have to prove himself to anyone. He has coached championship rosters to championships, developmental rosters to the playoffs, and last season's mixed bag to a No. 4 playoff seed and within one game of the Eastern Conference finals. But I do believe this could be the first time that Spoelstra will have the opportunity to truly put his stamp on a team. When he arrived, he still was working in the shadows of Pat Riley. After those two seasons, it was about setting up what essentially stood as LeBron James' team. From there it was two seasons of being unable to finish what he had started with Chris Bosh. This season, you could see something close to what Brad Stevens has produced with the Celtics, or even what Terry Stotts produced last season with the Trail Blazers. In both of those situations, the pressure was down but the possibilities were pronounced. I do agreed that we might get a truer read on Erik Spoelstra this season than we have previously.
Q: Are we to sit back and wait for 2017 like we did waiting on 2016? There is no guarantee that Pat Riley will get his proverbial whale. -- Prince, Byram, Miss.
A: But that's who he is and what he does. The question this time is whether he will have a harpoon, and that harpoon would be Chris Bosh's cap space, if Chris is unable or prevented from a return from his blood clots. There will be far less drama next summer when Pat Riley enters to negotiate with free agents. I don't think you change who you are because one free agent decided to move to the team that just set the all-time record for regular-season victories.
Q: Ira does Tyler Johnson's contract mean he'll automatically start? I think it's close between he and Josh Richardson for starting shooting guard. -- Klif.
A: Based on the salary Tyler will receive next season, a mere $5.6 million, I don't believe it will have any impact on his role. Beyond that, I think the Heat first are going to explore the possibility of Wayne Ellington starting, if only to add a proven 3-point shooter into the mix. Personally, for all the experimentation with Josh at point guard, I believe he eventually will settle in at shooting guard and believe, with the Heat in the midst of remodel, there is no reason not to explore the possibilities as a starter immediately.
July 18, 2016
Q: "Bird Rights is the golden pass here, for any veteran player. You don't have to give players $20 million, $20 million, $20 million. You can give 'em $20 million, $8 million, $37 million, $25 million. What difference does it make? We never talked about that." Ira, could this really be true? Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley never discussed "Bird Rights." It sounds unbelievable. -- Paul, Delray Beach.
A: This is the entire crux of how it played out between Wade and Riley, and, ultimately, why it played out that way. Riley wanted to negotiate Wade's final seasons on a season-by-season basis. That meant giving him the remainder of the Heat's cap space for next season (since Bird Rights were out the question due to Wade's cap hold). Then there would have been a salary dip in order to allow Riley and the Heat to attack 2017 free agency as they were unable this offseason. From there, Wade would have been made whole, when Riley could have utilized the Bird Rights for Wade and for others (Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, etc.) and not been beholden to the salary cap. But what apparently happened along the way is that Wade no longer was willing to work on faith (and perhaps justifiably so, with all the Heat's salary twists to this point). Riley's point in offering that example was to show that too much focus was being made on what Wade would have received for the next two years from the Heat. Of course, such wink-wink agreements on future payback also are a form of salary-cap circumvention, not that it doesn't happen all the time.
Q: Well, first Shaquille O'Neal, then LeBron James, now Dwyane Wade. We've lost three icons in an eight-year time period. I don't think Pat Riley's hardball style of negotiating still works. What do you think Ira? -- Dallas, Staten Island.
A: I think for Pat it long has been about building a consensus of talent, if you will. Riley was able to sell Wade to Shaq. Then Wade was hurt a bunch and Shaq sought another running mate in Steve Nash. Then LeBron came to view Wade and Chris Bosh as lesser options than Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. And this past offseason, Riley didn't really have anyone to partner Wade with, amid the uncertainty with Bosh and the inability to land Kevin Durant. What the episodes have shown is that Riley needs to "twin" talents, to create situations of symbiosis between elite players.
Q: If Pat Riley had to do over, knowing he was going to lose Dwayne Wade, do you think he would have allowed Luol Deng to get away? I am really going to miss him. -- Mike, Sunrise.
A: I don't think Riley would have had any choice, because of the four-year, $72 million contract Deng received from the Lakers. Riley only had Early Bird rights with Deng, which basically would have allowed the Heat to pay no more than half the starting salary the Lakers offered. Plus, for all of Deng's fondness for the Heat, I'm not sure he would have embraced returning to a Heat team lacking Wade. It sort of was a package deal from the start.
July 17, 2016
Q: With the business experience/basketball savvy at the top of the Heat organization, are we really to believe the Dwyane Wade debacle was a mistake? -- Russell.
A: First, I'm not sure Pat Riley ever expressed that he thought it was a mistake, at least the end result. Instead, I think Riley expressed regret about how it played out. As much as he discussed how his approach regarding Wade should have and could have been handled differently, he never came out and said that he would have offered anything different or increased the amount he would have been willing to offer on a second year of a contract. Instead, it sounded as if he felt he should have been the one to make the final pitch about why the Heat's offer could be in both the best interest of Wade and of the Heat, instead of allowing Micky Arison and intermediaries. If you watch Riley's Saturday media session again, you can hear him still, even now, expressing why the Heat's offer was one the Heat stand by and one they believe had sufficient merit. No matter the "contrition" or any other emotion choice you prefer, the Heat's final offer was their final offer, which is what ultimately drove Wade into the hands of the Bulls. I believe you are correct, if a basketball tactician like Riley and a business expert like Arison wanted to get a deal done with Wade, a deal would have gotten done.
Q: I really thought Pat Riley would have had some type of backup plan we did not know about. Well, umm . . . so what's next? -- Will.
A: What's next, at least from what Riley said Saturday, is moving forward with the 17-player group currently under contract. He said he does not expect to utilize this summer the $2.9 million salary-cap exception the Heat still have, which is something that could come in handy in February or March at the buyout deadline. And he seems convinced that some free-agent contracts from this past summer could become available on the trade market when eligible on Dec. 15. So it appears as if we're in a holding pattern, at the moment at 17 Strong (or strong enough in Riley's view).
Q: Why did Pat Riley do this on a Saturday in the middle of the summer and not during a weekday? -- Guillermo.
A: It had more to do with Riley's schedule and the Heat's summer schedule than anything else. There were so many moving parts for the Heat that it simply came down to the first day available. As it was, there was an event Saturday at AmericanAirlines, so the Heat had to go out of their way to create room for the session. To his credit, Riley sat there and addressed every and any question.
July 16, 2016
Q: Is the influx of money more to blame than anything for this offseason and even with the Heat? No offense to players like Tyler Johnson who are fun to watch, but players that average nine points a game are getting $50 million contracts, and players like Dwyane Wade who are 19-point-a-night players are left wondering. What is happening? -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.
A: What happened was a mega-jump in the salary cap that neither the NBA nor the players' association appeared capable of managing. So it wound up turning the offseason upside down, with players deemed worthy of long-term contracts getting megadeals, and players viewed as short-term investments often winding up as afterthoughts. While much has been made of super teams and what Kevin Durant's move to the Warriors will mean for the NBA, I think two or three years down the road the greater NBA issue will be the bills to pay with these larger contracts when the salary cap flattens. Adam Silver is correct to point to this summer creating an imbalance in the NBA, but I think it has more to do with salary imbalance than the composition of rosters. There should have been a better way for the NBA and its union to work in this windfall of broadcast revenue. Something as simple as more money, now stands to lead to yet another lockout. The NBA's gluttony of July 2016 could lead to an NBA blackout in November 2017, with either side having the right to opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement after this season by providing notice by Dec. 15.
Q: Ira, why was Hassan Whiteside so willing (allegedly willing) to take a pay cut for Kevin Durant but not one for Dwyane Wade? -- Bruce, Boca Raton.
A: This has been misstated on several occasions during free agency. What Hassan and his representation were willing to do was shave as much as $9 million from his ultimate deal to help facilitate both the signing of Durant and the re-signing of Wade -- as a package deal. There never was delineation of where the money would go. In fact, because Durant would have been assured of the max, any giveback by Whiteside effectively would have gone to Wade. Once Durant turned elsewhere, Whiteside moved forward with the initial agreement. This was never about Whiteside choosing between Wade or Durant. This was Whiteside hoping to have both alongside.
Q: Was Dwyane Wade-Pat Riley the kind of public feud between a legend and a franchise icon that tarnishes a franchise when it comes to future free-agent recruiting? This whole thing has just been bad for all parties. -- John, Unicoi, Tenn.
A: I believe that part of the Heat's offseason also has been overstated. Dan Gilbert, who hardly had the best of reputations after he lost LeBron James in 2010, was able to convince Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to re-sign with the Cavaliers (OK, LeBron played a role, but it's stil Gilbert's team). The Knicks, for all their failings over the past two decades, still have had free agents responding to their calls. NBA players tend to forget quickly about previous perceived injustices as long as the cash is flowing. And based on the Heat's cap space for the 2017 offseason, Pat Riley should be able to make it rain.
July 15, 2016
Q: Do you think there is any chance the Heat put together a package to try and land Russell Westbrook for this season? To me it would seem logical to bring him on early before next year so he can see what the Heat organization is like and vice versa. Or would they have to trade too many assists? Thanks and I look forward to your response. -- Jason, Elkins, West Virginia.
A: This reminds me of when the Knicks insisted on trading ahead of time for Carmelo Anthony in February 2011, instead of waiting for him to hit free agency, losing a ton of valued assets in the process (Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 first-round pick and a 2016 costly first-round swap). For the Heat to even have a chance to trade for Westbrook (which I would think would be the longest of longshots due to the lack of available Heat draft picks), it likely would require parting with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow. And wouldn't Westbrook likely want to have Winslow alongside? Plus, what if you wind up making such a trade and then Westbrook (who benefits by waiting when it comes to the largest possible ensuing contract) opts to leave in free agency? No Dragic. No Winslow. No Westbrook. It would be the ultimate gamble. When Pat Riley traded for Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning, he knew a follow-up contract agreement was assured. He would have to know the same with Westbrook. Perhaps the cult of Riley could achieve such an understanding. But for all the risks the Heat have taken in recent years, this would move to the top of the list.
Q: It certainly looks like Danny Ainge is chasing same players Heat would want (Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin). Have the Celtics become more desirable than the Heat with the recent departures from Heat? -- Jeffrey.
A: First, I wouldn’t overstate the draft picks the Celtics have available, considering the lack of interest on the picks Boston was ultimately forced to exercise in June. And when it comes to leading men, I'm not sure that Al Horford/Isaiah Thomas necessarily trumps Hassan Whiteside/Goran Dragic. As for the rest of the Celtics' young players, it seems at one time that Danny Ainge was willing to give them all up for Justise Winslow. Had the Celtics landed Kevin Durant in the wake of Heat interest, that would have been one thing. But both teams came up short, and therefore continue to look for the big score.
Q: Would you agree that, although Dwyane Wade being here would probably equal a couple more wins, Goran Dragic will have much more of an impact this season, because Dragic and Wade were never a good fit in the first place? It's sad to say goodbye to Wade, but one thing is for sure, the Heat's chemistry will be a lot better. -- Dallas, Staten Island.
A: I don’t think you can make any assumptions about the Heat's chemistry considering how much the mix has been reworked. But I agree that we all can move beyond the charade about the fit between Wade and Dragic when it came to playing styles. And, yet, there now is the talk of Westbrook, after the obvious need to have dealt Dragic had Durant been landed. Between Chris Bosh's illnesses and the debate about playing at pace, it's as if Dragic has never been given that one, extended run to truly grab the reins of the Heat backcourt. That time could be at hand.
July 14, 2016
Q: Ira, is there room for the Heat to add players to their roster, I already count 16? -- Alan.
A: You count correctly, with a fairly even split at each position. And that's not even counting the possibility of Beno Udrih, who is rehabbing his foot injury at AmericanAirlines Arena. But the Heat still have a $2.9 million mid-level exception afforded to teams that previously utilized salary-cap space during the offseason, as the Heat did. And with no concerns this time around about the luxury tax, one would think the Heat would want to maximize all of their personnel avenues. So with Udrih and a $2.9 million player (the exception only can be used on a free agent, including someone who had been on your roster the previous season, but not in a trade), there could be as many as 17 contract players for the start of camp (the limit is 20 until the start of the regular season, when the maximum is 15). For now the roster shapes up with Hassan Whiteside, Willie Reed and Udonis Haslem at center; Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Luke Babbitt and Stefan Jankovic at power forward; Justise Winslow, Derrick Williams and James Johnson at small forward; Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson and Briante Weber at point guard; and Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder at shooting guard.
Q: Do you see the Heat dealing Dragic with the amount of guards/youth direction? -- C.S.
A: I don't see the Heat moving Goran simply because they have players such as Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Briante Weber or Rodney McGruder. Goran is at a different level than those players at the moment. He is proven NBA stock. In fact, if a Dragic trade is considered, I would think it would be considered mostly because of Goran's $15.9 million salary and what that might translate into on the trade market. As it is, the Heat otherwise don't have any tradable high-end salaries, considering the uncertainty with Chris Bosh and the desire to maximize Hassan Whiteside.
Q: Why are we planning on signing Beno Udrih when Ty Lawson is more affordable and better? -- Ben.
A: I'll allow others to debate the merits of Ty Lawson, who has been passed around the league fairly often lately. What I will say is this: Beno Udrih came through for the Heat when needed most last season, when he agreed to a buyout that allowed the Heat to add Joe Johnson. The one thing the Heat have stressed is loyalty, and Udrih did right by the Heat, so it only makes sense that the Heat would do right by Udrih.
July 13, 2016
Q: Is next season a year-long audition to make the 2017-18 roster or be cut or traded for everyone including Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow? -- Jack, Fort Myers.
A: It does seem like anyone and everyone is at risk, especially when the Heat already have drawn the line with Dwyane Wade and therefore made clear that the goal for next summer will be maximizing cap space. So certainly each of the players added these past few days on one-year contracts will have to earn their way back (something Gerald Green seemingly was unable to accomplish from last season's roster). But even then, you certainly would have to think that if Goran Dragic was to be thrown overboard for Kevin Durant that he again could be at risk, particularly with the Heat's glut at guard. And it's almost as if the Heat were recognizing the eventual option of a trade when they first benched Hassan Whiteside for the second half of last season and then went out and gave him a four-year, $98 million contract. Beyond that, we know that Justise Winslow could stand as the ultimate trade sweetener. Based on productivity and price point, it's almost as if Josh Richardson is the safest player on the roster, that if you're buying your kids a jersey that you want to remain relevant beyond this season, the Josh Richardson No. 0 might be the way to go.
Q: Ira, allow me to be candid for moment and take time in properly asking this two-part question. 1) Can you honestly say you're excited about this upcoming year? A roster full of D-League graduates? 2) Do you believe the Heat are stacking assets in hopes of using them as trade bait? -- Robert, Alexandria, Va.
A: I hope I sufficiently addressed your second question with the response above. But I don't think they are stacking assets for trades as much stacking expiring assets that will not leave contract residue beyond this season. As for your first question, I very much am interested in seeing the possibilities of growth from within, getting a better read on the potential upsides of players such as Whiteside, Winslow and Tyler Johnson. What those players show could dictate the direction of the franchise going forward.
Q: This year's free-agent crop, reminds me of two years ago when we brought in shake-your-head players like Shawne Williams, Danny Granger and Shannon Brown. I am shaking my head, again. -- Matt.
A: On one hand, the Heat had to move quickly in order to preserve $4 million in extra cap space due to the timing on the Tyler Johnson offer sheet. On the other hand, it sure seems like there were more intriguing names out there, from Lance Stephenson to Mo Harkless to Kevin Seraphin or even Thomas Robinson. But we'll see soon enough if there will be more of a payoff than other mid- or low-cost options the Heat have added in recent free-agency periods.
July 12, 2016
Q: This is the best batch of prospects Miami has had to develop since I can remember. -- Tony, Monterey, Calif.
A: Always nice to start a week with someone whose glass is half full. And I agree that this is perhaps the first time I can recall a Pat Riley team being filled with this much promise. Granted, promise doesn't always turn into reality, but it you're going to spend $98 million, spend it on a center who is unique as any big man in today's NBA, as is the case with Hassan Whiteside. And with Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, this reconfigured roster will give their games the opportunity to grow. But because there is so much to develop on this roster, when also factoring in the defensive grit of Briante Weber and the 3-and-D possibilities of Rodney McGruder, it makes it all the more confounding to me that the Heat went ahead and matched the Nets' offer sheet for Tyler Johnson. But what's done is done, and what is the reality now is that with a developmental core of Whiteside, Winslow, Richardson, Weber, McGruder and Tyler Johnson, there is plenty to be harvested if the proper investment is made toward that growth.
Q: Do you see the Heat playing next season similar to the '08-09 Orlando Magic? A team with shooters around Hassan Whiteside, playing fast and with defensive tenacity. -- Jennifer, Miami.
A: Part of the answer is whether Whiteside, at this stage of his development, can play anywhere close to where Dwight Howard stood that season with the Magic. And I'm not sure the Heat can match the type of shooting that Stan Van Gundy had on that Orlando roster, with Rashard Lewis, J.J. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus. Wayne Ellington, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and even Josh McRoberts and Luke Babbitt would have to be at the top of their 3-point games to even come close to what the Magic offered that season.
Q: Who do you think has a higher ceiling, Justise Winslow or Josh Richardson? I know Justise was chosen 10th overall and he's only 20, but I can't help but feel like J-Rich has more potential due to the fact he's so much more polished than Justise. -- Vyro.
A: It depends on what you consider when evaluating a player's ceiling. I believe Justise is more advanced on the defensive end and in seeing the floor on offense. Josh, by contrast, is the far more athletic of the two, and a far better shooter. Justise has more room for growth in his game, but I also believe that the lack of athleticism will prove somewhat limiting. If I was an outside team and was considering trading for one at the moment, I'd probably lean toward Justise. But I think that could change in a year or two based on Richardson's growth curve.
July 11, 2016
Q: I like the Wayne Ellington move if the Heat can get him in the right spots. Where do you think he fits in? -- Jack.
A: I'm particularly curious about this one, because Erik Spoelstra typically has shied from shooter-only type of players in the James Jones mold. With Shane Batter you got 3-point shooting and defense. With Mike Miller, it was rebounding and 3-point shooting. And even with Ray Allen it was more of an attacking game than expected, as well as 3-point shooting. So I think a lot of it will be what else Ellington can show or what else the Heat and Spoelstra believe he can show. To me, with Goran Dragic on the roster and taking the majority of the minutes at point guard, I would think that maximizing time at shooting guard with Josh Richardson might be the direction to go. Even Pat Riley said after the season that he viewed Richardson as more of a two than a one. But the Heat do need 3-point shooting, something they lacked last season, so I could see trying to work Ellington into the rotation, and seeing if the second year on that contract actually could have value.
Q: Dwyane Wade was a great recruiter for the Heat. Might Hassan Whiteside have the opposite effect? -- Brian.
A: To me, it all about Hassan's play. Players want to play with someone who helps cover for their defensive gambles or mistakes. Whiteside can do that. And that matters. What also will matter is if Hassan displays a willingness to pass out of the post and move the ball to an even better option. That's something that resonates with players, as well. And the one thing you know about Hassan is that he is going to make his share of ESPN's top plays, which certainly will have the rest of the league taking notice. Wade was able to recruit with his reputation, although he had minimized that role in recent years amid his own free agency. Whiteside has to recruit with his play. He had to make himself in demand with his performance. Otherwise, it could be a very long four years for Hassan as he collects on those $98 million,
Q: What about Rudy Gay, Lance Stephenson, Dion Waiters? -- Michael.
A: I think the Heat are somewhat hard-capping themselves when it comes to touching their 2017-18 payroll. It's hard to make future flexibility such a major issue in the Dwyane Wade negotiations and then go out and add dollars to the 2017-18 payroll with supporting pieces. I do, though, believe there will be some surprising names later in the process willing to take such one-year deals.
July 10, 2016
Q: Ira, classy exit Saturday by Dwyane Wade. None of Pat Riley's "smiling faces" this time. Dwyane said all the right things and didn't paint Pat Riley into a corner. His friend LeBron James could have taken a lesson. I'm proud we called him our own and glad he said we still can. Thanks, D-Wade. -- Steve.
A: I was both surprised and pleased to see how Saturday played out. Even if the contact between Riley and Wade was limited during the negotiations (although they had an extensive season-ending meeting), Dwyane basically delivered his message directly to Pat when he spoke Saturday. And it was an uplifting and refreshing one. There never was a similar sense of mutual appreciation with LeBron James. But Wade's words showed a mutual respect. This could have been the perfect opportunity for Wade to skewer, as LeBron has over the ensuing years. Instead, after a rough week by anyone's standards, Wade exhaled, and then inhaled back all that had made these 13 years so special. Yes, there will be a statue. Yes, the number will be raised to the rafters. In fact, if you want to do something totally out of the box . . . retire Dwyane's No. 3 Heat jersey immediately, before the game when the Bulls make their first appearance this coming season. There is no rule or law that you have to wait until a player retires. And that way, you can retire Wade's No. 3 ahead of Shaquille O'Neal's No. 32, with that ceremony already scheduled for some time this coming season. Yup do it. LeBron got a video . . . Dwyane would get something so much more heartfelt. Pat Riley went out of the box with those Michael Jordan and Dan Marino jerseys. Stay out of the box one more time.
Q: I can't help but see the similarities between the Dan Marino and Dwyane Wade departures: two legends pushed out. The Dolphins haven't won since. Do you see the Heat with the same fate? -- Jae, West Palm Beach.
A: Look, winning a championship is never easy, but the Heat play in a league where 16 of the 30 teams make the playoffs, so there's still something to play for just about every season. But the NBA also is a league with a draft lottery, and with the Class of '17, almost all of whom played in high school this past year, considered one of the best drafts in years, I do wonder if the Heat might subtly be willing to take a dip in 2016-17. But Pat Riley's teams rarely stay down for long. If Riley's Ryan Tannehill doesn't pan out, he's not shy in going out and finding another. This is someone who went two seasons with Michael Beasley and said enough was enough (until the latter reunions came on the cheap, with far less responsibility).
Q: Why haven't the Heat announced the signing of Hassan Whiteside? -- Phil.
A: They have, in a news release issued Thursday. What they haven't done is conducted a formal news conference. I think part of that was not wanting it to turn into a grilling of Pat Riley about the Dwyane Wade situation. Now that Wade has cleared the air, I think it makes it easier to create a day of celebration for Hassan. And it's something the Heat need to do. If you're going to pay someone like the face of the franchise, then you need to make him the face of the franchise.
July 9, 2016
Q: How long do we dwell on Dwyane Wade leaving before moving forward? -- Taylor.
A: When it comes to Dwyane Wade leaving the Heat (or being asked to leave, depending on the perspective), I think it comes down to the party in question. By that, I mean that if you're a team that loses (or chooses to lose) a star player, you can't sit idly by. You have to get back to work, immediately, especially in a salary-cap league when there is a ticking clock and a dwindling choice of resources. I thought the Heat did a good job in 2014 in the wake of the loss of LeBron James to go out and secure Luol Deng. And I could see the value in the move the Heat made with Friday's addition of Derrick Williams. It's like when I spoke to Pat Williams in Orlando this week about what the Magic went through after losing Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard. You regroup and you move on. As for fans, I think you handle it as a celebration of what was. Few teams get to celebrate any player for 13 seasons, let alone share in three championships over a seven-year span. The parting was painful. But in the NBA there will be new celebrations, as well as new pain.
Q: Why Udonis Haslem? Come on, Ira, there has to be something better out there. -- Eric.
A: Why not? Especially now. Look, this could have gotten difficult had the Heat run out of salary-cap space with Hassan Whiteside and Wade, left with only their $2.9 million salary-cap exception to round out their rotation. But with $19 million left in cap space after Wade's departure, there is no reason not to take care of Udonis, perhaps with this his final deal above the minimum. And with Wade and Luol Deng gone, and with Amar'e Stoudemire likely not returning, it will be important to have the right locker-room influence alongside Whiteside. I would, in fact, move Haslem's locker next to Whiteside's at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Q: Wish we could have kept Deng. -- Wendell.
A: This is a league that is all about timing. Had the Heat not gotten the last visit with Kevin Durant, perhaps they would have recognized sooner that they were out of the running there and moved on to other possibilities. Similarly, if the Heat did not wind up waiting so long with Wade, perhaps they could have moved on to a Plan B sooner, someone in the stratum of a Courtney Lee. Timing is everything is business, especially in the NBA. This time around, from being forced into an instant decision with Whiteside, to the delay in the decision with Wade, the Heat found that time was not on their side.
July 8, 2016
Q: Masterfully done by Pat Riley. For public relations, the Godfather makes a competitive offer, but the aging superstar leaves anyway. Pat should send Gar Forman a box of cigars. I hope Jeanie and Jim Buss were taking notes. More importantly, I hope Nick Arison was taking notes. The Chris Bosh retirement or trade will be the next shoe to drop. Now Pat can do what Pat does best. He'll have oodles of cash going into 2017 free agency, a talented young core (including a newly minted lottery pick) to pitch, along with Heat culture and the city of Miami. -- Rich, West Palm Beach.
A: I hereby abdicate to Rich from West Palm Beach. To be quite candid, I often will sift through questions to get one that allows me to offer a desired response. Then this popped into the in-box. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. The manipulation has been shrewd, deft and handled with just enough hints of regret to pass most muster. But it also was handled without ever creating opportunity for the approach to be questioned as it played out. What remains uncertain, at least from this vantage point, was when it became clear that there could be a need to move on from Wade, to keep his 2017-18 salary from becoming too detrimental. The thought here is that happened once it became apparent that Kevin Durant was not hopping aboard. Had that happened, and with the concession that Hassan Whiteside apparently was willing to make, the 2017 offseason would not have resonated as strongly. But with Durant out of the picture, it had to further steel the approach for next summer, when Riley could potentially land not one, not two . . . OK, two whales, which, we've learned, prefer to swim in packs. Russell Westbrook, meet Blake Griffin. You pass, he'll catch. It is the yearlong fantasy far less possible with Wade on the books for anything too substantive for 2017-18. So the Heat slow-played it, and then no-played. Oh the horror of the he-said, he-said. Or, as it played out, the he-didn't-say, he-didn't-say. No one spoke. Nothing happened. So why is the man with the silver hair smiling over in the corner? Oh well, to be continued in July 2017. Until then, enjoy the kids. They're all right.
Q: Will Justise Winslow ever be able to shoot straight? -- Rick.
A: Yes, as long as he keeps hoisting up shots like he did during Thursday's 3-of-17 performance in Thursday's summer-league loss to the Pistons. What he needs, now that he will be counted on for more than hustle and defense, are even more games like this, when he learns what's a good shot, what's not, and then goes to school on the ensuing video. That is why a few more summer-league games wouldn't hurt, and that's why it would be nice to have a Heat coach on hand when Winslow works with the U.S. Select Team during Olympic preparations later this month in Las Vegas. To work out the kinks, you first have to work through them. So shoot, Justise. Shoot a lot. And learn. That's what the offseason is for. That's what it has to be for.
Q: Do the Heat match for Tyler Johnson? I hope not. -- Darren.
A: The more I think about, the more I think that moves such as Thursday's signing of Rodney McGruder are an indication they will not, that the Heat believe they are just as capable of developing such contributing wing players as paying for them. With McGruder, Josh Richardson and Briante Weber, the Heat could convince themselves that at least one could developed into what Johnson has turned into. And in the interim, the Heat could get by with journeymen of the Gerald Green ilk, if not Gerald Green himself.
July 7, 2016
(Note: With so many questions in the wake of Dwyane Wade's departure to the Chicago Bulls, we're going to break format a bit here today and instead summarize three of the themes from the volume of questions. Hopefully this addresses what many of you have asked since Wade became past tense when it comes to the Heat.)
Q: Couldn't the Heat have done more to prevent such an outcome?
A: Certainly. But part of stewarding over an organization is to determine when it is time to move on from what otherwise could weigh down a franchise going forward. The Heat, after early probing to see how they could align a Wade contract with the negotiations with Hassan Whiteside and the pursuit of Kevin Durant, came up with a two-year, $40 million offer to Dwyane. From there, more money could have been created with a trade of Josh McRoberts. And I agree that you can't let someone like Josh McRoberts stand in the way of retaining a mainstay such as Wade. But when other teams wanted something else for their trouble of taking on McRoberts' salary, perhaps a first-round pick or someone like Justise Winslow, that's where the Heat drew their line. I still believe the fairest resolution would have been a partially guaranteed third year, which would have allowed Wade and his representation to claim victory of sorts. But eventually you also have to take the long view. And, to be honest, that was a bit of a concern with a 71-year-old franchise leader in Pat Riley, that he might grow too caught up in the moment. After dealing two future first-round picks for Goran Dragic, Riley this time showed he also is considering the long view.
Q: Did Wade's timing put the Heat behind the eight-ball like when LeBron James left in 2014?
A: Look, the timing is never great when an NBA icon decides to move on. The timing has been off for the Heat this entire postseason, first with having to decide with Hassan Whiteside within the first 24 hours or free agency, then having to wait until the third day of the Kevin Durant interviews, which meant putting Wade on hold longer than he deserved and losing Luol Deng and Joe Johnson in the interim. But what you can't do now is make the type of rushed decisions the Heat made in 2014 free agency, when, amid the concern about LeBron James leaving, the Heat rushed out to sign Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. At this late stage of free agency, there is only so much that can be gained by picking through the bruised fruit. The Heat would be better off retaining Tyler Johnson and avoiding any free agency commitments that last for more than one year, perhaps seeing if a team would trade a player in the final year of a contract. Otherwise, prepare for 2017 free agency.
Q: With Whiteside re-signed and Wade gone, does the focus now turn to Chris Bosh?
A: That never left and remains as critical to the franchise as anything that happened with Whiteside and Wade. If Bosh returns, the Heat have a compelling centerpiece. If he can't, the Heat will have the type of salary-cap space they had lusted after this summer. But they have to know. And the fact that Bosh did not address his health at all during his appearance on Bill Simmons' interview show Wednesday on HBO makes one wonder if he insisted that topic be off limited, or if there still are questions that he cannot answer when it comes to his blood clots. The Heat have their resolution with Hassan Whiteside. The Heat have, for better or worse, their closure with Wade. What they still need, now more than ever, are answers with Bosh.
July 6, 2016
Q: OK, so take away the name and fame and pretend Dwyane Wade's name is Someone Smith and he's 34 and coming off a season with: 1. Lowest PER rating since 2003; 2. Lowest field-goal percentage ever, including his rookie season; 3. Fewest average minutes per game; 4. Lowest 3-point percentage ever; 5. Fewest steals per game ever; 6. Tied for lowest assist average except for rookie season; 7. Lowest true shooting percentage ever. And if we need to get rid of Josh McRoberts (who, if he was a free agent, would get $10 million-$12 million or more per season) please tell me who we get that's his equal for the money left over? Just as players make cold decisions on their futures, so must management. The truth is Wade is on the last few years of his outstanding basketball career and we thank him putting the Heat in the position they are today. However, while some other team may pay him more, he should be a $12 million- $15 million-per-year player from here on out, based on his age and numbers and not his reputation. -- Brian, Fort Lauderdale.
A: And yet part of it is the deal made with the devil about seeking concession after concession with the apparent promise of making him contractually whole by the end of his Heat/NBA career. While you could make an argument about having to overpay now, you could crunch other numbers that would show all the dollars left on the table based on previous productivity. You can say there shouldn't be such a thing as make-up money, but that seemingly has been the Heat approach for year. Give now; get back later. "Later" has arrived for Wade.
Q: I think Wade is taking it out on the wrong people. The Heat don't owe him any more than the $20 million, and the whole idea that he sacrificed for the greater good of the organization is overstated, as he sacrificed simply to be able to play with LeBron James, his best friend. If anybody, he should be mad at is LeBron, himself, because as a friend, he shouldn't have had Wade opt out of his initial $24 million, knowing he was planning a return to Cleveland. -- Mark, Pembroke Pines.
A: What that moment with LeBron, and this moment, show is that, as in many business situations, you have to look out for yourself. But here's another argument: There are two types of currency for NBA players. There is the current of cash, which is in play now. But there also is the currency of success, with Wade having given up dollars over the years as a means of easing his opportunity to become a champion and then a champion again. The future is never promised. By now, it is apparent that has to become a message with meaning to NBA players.
Q: With all the top free agents gone, and overpaid, can you see Caron Butler coming to South Beach? -- Dallas, Staten Island.
A: I don’t know about South Beach, but I could see to Miami, especially if Udonis Haslem seeks a larger salary elsewhere. The Heat have to have a mentor in place for Hassan Whiteside, and with Luol Deng gone, Amar'e Stoudemire a free agent, they could do far worse than someone like Caron.
July 5, 2016
Q: What types of players can we get for the minimum? Also, with Miami having a pick next year can we trade it or how does that work? -- Tre, Lithonia, Ga.
A: The Heat do own their 2017 first-round pick, but they can't trade it because their 2018 is conditionally due to the Suns if it is not among the first seven selection as a condition of the Goran Dragic trade. Because you cannot have consecutive future picks pledged to other teams, the Heat would have to exercise a pick in 2017 (although they then could trade the player selected). As for free agency, this is where the Heat have to do a better job than in recent seasons, on the low end of the salary scale. Two years ago, the players added in that range were Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger and Shannon Brown. Last year, it was Amar'e Stoudemire and Gerald Green, who both had their moments, but who weren't season-long contributors. There will be value there for the Heat at the end of the process, as there is every year. It could be as simple as Green being asked to return. It could be a player such as Marcus Thornton. And the Heat still have their $2.9 million exception, which perhaps could yield a break with a play such as Lance Stephenson, for better or worse if he's still out there.
Q: Hi, Ira. Now that Kevin Durant has left OKC there are reports that if the Thunder can't get Russell Westbrook to agree to an extension they may look to trade him. Is there any way Miami can land Westbrook in a trade? Who would they have to give up to get a deal like that done? -- Robert, Los Angeles.
A: Westbrook has essentially ruled out an extension and has eyes on 2017 free agency. The math for the Heat works with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow. But even with that, it would be a heck of a risk on a player who could then walk after a single season. What the Heat lack is the type of young talent a team like the Lakers could offer, with a package of D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. Still, this is Pat Riley who always thinks big and once landed Lamar Odom from the Clippers the same summer he was blocked from landing Elton Brand from those same Clippers.
Q: I get the sense that Pat Riley no longer has the allure that once made Miami the place to be. It seems like free agents are only meeting with him out of respect to who he once was. It reminds me of Phil Jackson and how his accomplishments are an afterthought in today's NBA. No free agents are flocking to New York because of what Phil did in the past and it seems to me that free agents are starting to view Pat Riley the same. Do you feel that players view Riley and his approach out of date in today's NBA? -- Tony, Nashville, Tenn.
A: I do not, and I can tell you that just about every player who walks through the doors to AmericanAirlines Arena talks about profound respect for Riley. Among those players is Hassan Whiteside, who Riley retained when many were concerned he would head elsewhere. Do the Heat have the talent the Warriors have? No, that's why luring Kevin Durant was so difficult. But the different with Phil Jackson is he hasn't produced a single ring as an NBA executive. Pat Riley has helped produce three.
July 4, 2016
Q: This free agency is killing us. I love Tyler Johnson as a player but I don't think the Heat will match the Nets' offer. -- Gunter, Berlin.
Q: Do you see any scenario where the Heat match Tyler Johnson's contract from the Nets? Also can you explain the "poison pill" clause in his contract? -- Chris, Chicago.
A: I initially thought the Heat would match, because they hardly are in position to allow a reasonably priced asset to walk away over the short term, when Johnson's salary will be $5.6 million next season and then $5.9 the year after. The problem is the "poison pill," the part of the contract that pays him nearly $19 million in 2018-19 and then $20 million in 2019-20. That element is part of the process to allow a capped-out team like the Heat to match an outside offer sheet, while also allowing Johnson to seek a large total package on the open market. That also is why I have reconsidered and come to this conclusion: You only match the offer sheet if you believe Johnson will emerge as an All-Star-level guard in those final two years of the contract. While I marvel at the growth Tyler already has made from undrafted, D-League rise, I'm not sure I'd be willing to bet on an All-Star-level future.
Q: I don't see the point of the salary cap rising the way it is if teams can't even keep their own free agents and try to get better. Everyone is just getting overpaid. Do you think that this is somewhat of a broken system? -- Bruno, Pompano Beach.
A: Teams can keep their own free agents; they just have to be prudent with their expenditures along the way. The problem is when you lay out $23.7 million for Chris Bosh for 2016-17, $15.9 million for Goran Dragic for that season, then sign Hassan Whiteside for $22.1 million . . . and still have to fit Dwyane Wade within your cap, let alone a Kevin Durant. As in life, building a roster comes down to smart choices. The NBA did nothing to prevent the Heat from retaining the players they want, as long as the Heat didn't want to retain too many high-end players. You can't have it all, but at $94 million, you still should be able to find contentment.
Q: Ira, I'm happy Hassan Whiteside is coming back, but before Chris Bosh went out again with blood clots it was clear that these two didn't always fit together in the court. -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.
A: Yes. Yes. A thousand times yet. While Chris Bosh's health clearly is paramount, I, too, am curious about making something that previously didn't work now work for a combined $56 million in salary and escalating from there, as long as Chris is able to make it back to the court.
July 3, 2016
Q: With both of our starting forwards leaving and Chris Bosh still a question mark and no money left after paying Kevin Durant or Dwyane Wade, don't we have to keep Josh McRoberts given his cheap salary and the fact that he fits a need of a stretch four? -- Peter, Miami.
A: That is what the Heat will have to weigh. But Bosh also is part of that equation. If Chris can return and therefore start alongside Whiteside (although there remain chemistry issues to be addressed there), then McRoberts would be no more than a backup. But if Bosh doesn't make it back, then there would be something to be said about McRoberts' passing and shooting (which we really haven't seen) in the starting lineup. As it is, the Heat might have to sacrifice McRoberts just to meet Wade's salary demands, let alone what would have to be done if the longshot of Durant comes into play. After repeated conversations with those inside the organization, I'm still not sure where the team stands with the commitment to McRoberts. There are times when they swear by him. And there are other times not so much.
Q: Ira why won't Micky Arison go over the cap? I know it's costly, but aren't these teams worth billions now and wouldn't it only be for one season because the cap will go up again? Can you explain how that works, I don't get it? -- Chris, Chattanooga, Tenn.
A: It works this way: If you utilize cap space to sign even one player, then almost all of your work has to be done within the cap. Because cap space was needed to sign Hassan Whiteside, that makes this fiscal (2016-17) year for the Heat all about cap space. In other years, when you're re-signing your own free agents, that's when you can exceed the cap to luxury-tax levels. But with cap space used for Whiteside (who lacked Bird Rights), it means the Heat are limited to the actual cap payroll number for the coming season of about $94 million, with the exception of Tyler Johnson's Early Bird Rights, a $2.9 million mid-level exception for teams operating with cap space, and then minimal salaries to fill out the roster.
Q: Ira, for the Heat to be successful next year, the Heat will have to make Whiteside a bigger part of the offense and Whiteside will have to step up to 20-plus points a game. -- Joel.
A: This. And yes. At that price point, of $98 million over four seasons, there can't be any more meandering through games, no more first half with two rebounds or games with eight points. Hassan will be earning $268,000 a game next season. A game. There has to be a payoff every game, preferably for 82 regular-season games.
July 2, 2016
Q: Hi, Ira, I've been saying for weeks that Goran Dragic's contract will soon look like a bargain. I'm glad you shared that with your radio listeners, who are all trying to trade him. -- Rich, West Palm Beach.
A: I agree that Goran at $15.9 million next season hardly out of place considering what is is going on in this year's free-agent market. And to Pat Riley's credit, he realized as much last summer. But there still could be greater value in cap space than Dragic's deal, depending on what happens with Kevin Durant, which I acknowledge remains a longshot. On one hand, I believe Goran is the type of player who would make the game easier for Durant. On the other hand, I would not let Dragic's cap space stand in the way of Durant being able to fit into the Heat's payroll. But if Durant isn't coming, then I believe you move forward with Goran, at least for next season, and try to recapture the magic that had the Heat playing so well over the second half of this past season. Still, it does appear that the Heat will need at least some additional cap space. So that could come down to whether it has to be Goran's or something closer to the relief that could be realized by moving the $5.8 million owed next season to Josh McRoberts. If the Heat move Goran to gain cap space, then they're most likely not replacing him. And that would mean having to go with Josh Richardson, Briante Weber and possibly Tyler Johnson at point guard.
Q: Last year Whiteside had to be act like he has some sense to get his contract. What will keep him in line this season? One question I have is now that Hassan Whiteside has his money, who is going to control him? He can fight as much as he wants. -- Will.
A: First, among the reasons that Hassan was positioned to get his $98 million over four years was the presence of franchise mainstays like Pat Riley, Alonzo Mourning and Udonis Haslem, with all expected back next season. But I also believe you are selling Hassan short. He has never carried himself as if money was the ultimate difference, and I don't see that changing. Irrational behavior is not something I'm concerned about. A lack of concentration is. And that puts the onus on the Heat to insist that the necessary focus remains in place.
Q: Ira can you please address the best and worst cases for the Heat moving forward please. -- Ram.
A: The best case is Durant says yes on Sunday. That makes every other question moot. The second best case is Chris Bosh being able to return. The worst case is no Durant and no Bosh and no way to add another piece after Dwyane Wade's contract is addressed. In that case, 2016-17 success could come down to whether there is a quantum leap from Whiteside and Justise Winslow.
July 1, 2016
Q: Can you explain how Tyler Johnson could get more than $10 million from another team when you said he couldn’t get more than $5.6 million from the Heat for next season? -- Alex.
A: This is one of those rare cases in the NBA where an outside team can blow away an incumbent team because of a player being a restricted free agent who also is covered by the Gilbert Arenas Provision. Without delving too deeply into the particulars (of which there are many), what it means is that Johnson's starting salary for 2016-17 basically would be fixed at about $5.6 million. But an outside team could build a huge package on the back end of such a contract -- the rare case in the NBA where a quantum leap in a pay raise is allowed -- that would allow for an average salary in excess of $10 million per season for Tyler. That's why you have been hearing talk of a potential four-year deal for Tyler in excess of $40 million. The 2016-17 and 2017-18 salaries in a Johnson contract would be relatively limited, but the back end could create consternation if an offer sheet is presented that is structured in such a heavy-handed manner, as was the case when the Rockets lured Jeremy Lin away from the Knicks. So what you've been reading about is something along the lines of a poison-pill contract, with the type of starting number that I have been projecting all along for the Heat's 2016-17 payroll. So, yes, to offer an abbreviated answer, Tyler Johnson very well could wind up with a deal that averages $10 million, provided he receives an offer sheet from an outside team.
Q: I don't buy the argument that you need to take a chance on a Kevin Durant because "You just never know" with Pat Riley doing the recruiting, since the chances are so slim and doing so is likely to set back the franchise on other fronts. -- Jeff, Chicago.
A: I disagree if the alternative is to never have taken a shot at all and never learning whether Durant would have been receptive and could have made it work. I know there is plenty of outside concern about putting other factors on hold, but that all is part of the NBA having a July 1 start to the free-agency negotiating period (which everyone seems to violate, anyway) and then forcing teams to wait until, this year, the July 7 end of the signing moratorium. What that allows is for a team to work out equations on multiple fronts. For as much as Riley and the Heat have invested in Sunday's presentation, I can assure you they have not put everything else on hold.
Q: I really believe in Pat Riley but I don't think we will be able to sign any big names this summer. We can afford to wait one more year and make a big splash next summer's free agency -- Jack, Italy.
A: This theory has been floated in several places, included by the Sun Sentinel's Dave Hyde and certainly makes a degree of sense. Except for one element: Dwyane Wade turns 35 next season. How many more years since the 2014 departure of LeBron James can you put him on hold? I can appreciate allowing younger players such as Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson time to grow. But for as much as Dwyane was, to a degree, a comeback-player-of-the-year this past season, age eventually catches up to every player. And I'm just not sure putting Wade on hold is necessarily fair.