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ASK IRA: Did Nerlens Noel offer a lesson on dealing with restricted free agents?

Tyler Johnson on the Heat bringing the Heat group back after last season's 30-11 finish.

Q: Ira, Dallas didn't blink with Nerlens Noel and now has him back for one year at $4.1 million. Shouldn't the Heat have done the same with Tyler Johnson last summer? -- Chris.

A: Apples and oranges. There was so much cap space available in the 2016 offseason, that there was no way Johnson was going to go without an offer sheet, which proved to be the case for Noel this summer. Keep in mind, as well, that the Mavericks reportedly offered Noel $70 million over four seasons at the start of free agency, $20 million more than Johnson received in his offer sheet from the Nets. As a bunch of free agents learned this summer, this 2017 free-agent market is nothing like the 2016 market. The Heat had to make a call whether Johnson was worth $50 million over four seasons, or lose him for nothing in return. What should not and cannot be overlooked is that Tyler Johnson is an essential component of a rotation for a Heat team that has put itself in win-now mode. If he players up to the totality of his contract, it becomes a win-win investment for both sides.

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Q: Caron Butler and Ray Allen, among other NBA players, came out this past week and talked about the hypocrisy when it comes to the standard players are held to regarding team loyalty. You have to admit the Celtics trading Isaiah Thomas is shocking. This guy single handily carried the Celtics. Maybe the Celtics will get hit with a new curse of the Bambino. -- Stuart.

A: Which is why it is important for outsiders (and perhaps even insiders) not to get caught up in the notion of team "family." Caron Butler was with the Heat just two seasons before he was dealt in the Shaquille O'Neal deal (and Lamar Odom only one). Ray Allen faced the possibility of being traded by the Celtics before he moved on to the Heat. And yet fans want their teams to win more than they are concerned about the future addresses of their players. If a general manager isn't looking to create the best possible roster, then he is not doing his job. The Celtics thought they were better with Kyrie Irving than Isaiah Thomas. Those are the decisions executives have to make. But don't sell "family" when constantly mulling divorce options.

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Q: The Heat could possibly have a lot of lucrative pieces come the trade deadline or even next offseason. Keep an eye on LaMarcus Aldridge as the Spurs risk losing their disgruntled star for nothing. -- Gabriel, Miami.

A: But mostly keep an eye on if this team, kept largely intact, can pick up where it left off during the second half of last season. That will go a long way toward determining whether moves, either in season or next offseason will be needed. The Heat more than bet on Dion Waiters and doubled down. They essentially did it with the entire roster.

For daily Heat mailbag go to sun-sentinel.com/askira

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