ASK IRA: Is there any solace for Heat in being eliminated by eventual NBA champion?
Q: When the Panthers lost in the first round to the Lightning, I said they lost to the Stanley Cup champs (I was right). I didn’t see that as the case with the Heat being swept by the Bucks. Does this add consolation? — Rich.
A: The Bucks’ championship in no way creates any sort of Heat validation, not in the way the Heat were so thoroughly vanquished after the opener of their first-round series. It’s not as if the Heat were a play or player away, certainly nothing like the way the Nets, Hawks and Suns pushed the Bucks in ensuing rounds. The Panthers certainly could look back and hold the belief that they were second best in the NHL playoffs only to the Lightning (although the Islanders might disagree). But when it came to this season’s 16-team NBA postseason field, I’m not sure, after the way it ended for the Heat, that they could truly believe they were decidedly better than many, if any, of the playoffs teams. So, no, there is no consolation about losing to the league champion, at least in regard to the Heat.
Q: Ira, now that we see the value of having tall, long, players that can score and rebound win a championship, do you think Erik Spoelstra will show some self-awareness and finally let go of his small ball, position-less style of basketball? — Julio, Cape Coral.
A: As with the question above, you build your team to beat the specific team you need to beat. I’m still not sold that’s the Bucks going forward. And if it’s the Nets (who finally should get their first full season with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving), then you have to build your team to outscore. And if you build to score, then you don’t necessarily think big, when it comes to size.
Q: It looks like for next season the East is already set to be between Nets and Bucks. Do you think the Heat’s management might be thinking why waste money going over the cap? — Ben, Weston.
A: The Heat almost assuredly will be over the cap, no matter how they approach the offseason. The question is whether they would be willing to go into the tax. Pat Riley has previously said that Micky Arison is willing to pay into the tax when the Heat are contenders. That now becomes the question. But that doesn’t mean that the Heat can’t at least compete with the Bucks and Nets while also below the tax line (and therefore avoiding the clock on the repeater tax).