What don't you know about the Miami Heat? They're the most hyped team in the league and are seemingly on national TV for every game. Well, we turned to SBNation's Heat blog, Hot Hot Hoops to get some new information. Kevin Kraczkowski from Hot Hot Hoops is a man with lots of knowledge and an excellent last name. Anybody with the letters "cz" in their last name is okay in my book. He asked me some questions and I asked him some questions in preparation for this game. Check it out.
Questions about the Heat!
Conrad: What's going on with Dwyane Wade? We know he's getting up there in age, but are these injury concerns more worrisome than you expected coming into the year?
Kevin: It seems the writing is on the wall for old man Wade. It's true that his knees are not what they used to be, and he will henceforth sit out the second game of back-to-back games against other than elite opponents to keep him fresh for the stretch run. He has sat out a total of 39 regular season games since the dawning of the "Big Three" era, but the HEAT are 31-8 in those games.
Also consider the 67 playoff games the HEAT have played in in that span (66 of which Wade started). That all adds up to Wade appearing in 92 games per 82 game season (accounting for the 66 game lockout-shortened season) over three-plus years. Again, he's not going to eat up 40 minutes per game anymore, but he can still drive, sink daggers late, and play above the rim when he needs to. So, yes, Wade is older, but coach Erik Spoelstra is managing him (and his knees) with an eye on the three-peat.
Conrad: How's Norris Cole coming along? He's seemed up and down throughout his first two seasons, but it's clear that he has some talent. As one of the very few young guys on Miami's roster, what have you thought of his game this year?
Kevin: Cole (we call him NoCo) was a well-below average player in his first two seasons, with a 7.9 PER in each. This season, all his metrics are up, including field goal percentage (career .407, .430 this year), three-point percentage (.322 career, .407 this year), rebounds per 36 minutes (2.8 to 4.8), and assists per 36 minutes (3.8 up to 5.2). He has continued to average exactly 1.73 steals per 48 minutes for the third season in a row. Cole worked on his shooting all offseason, and it's evident in his play. As always, he's super fast, and now his turnover rate is dropping while his assist numbers climb.
Conrad: How big do you think the gap is between Miami and Indiana now? I almost picked Indiana to come out of the Eastern Conference during the preseason and now I'm kind of upset that I didn't. They look damn good.
Kevin: The gap is exactly 1.2 parsecs. But really, if there was a seven game series right now, the Pacers are really strong, and the HEAT as they stand have no answer for the NBA's leading shot blocker, Roy Hibbert. I think the Pacers would really give Miami a lot of problems. Although it would be close, I think the home court clinching team would come out on top, and as it stands, the Pacers are the home court clinching team.
You also need to understand that the HEAT signed giant question mark Greg Oden and HIS knees for the veteran's minimum during the offseason. Oden is going to be called on soon to sub in for Miami from eight to 10 minutes per game. Charles Barkley said it best earlier this season - Oden was signed for four reasons, Lopez, Hibbert, Howard, and Horford. Oden, if healthy, is the key to locking Hibbert down. The only thing Miami lacks is consistent rebounding, and Oden addresses that issue. Still, when you're making 52% of your shots, you're also generating less rebounds to collect. If Oden's in the game, Miami in five.
Conrad: How has Chris Andersen been thus far? I know he gave Miami a big boost when he signed last year, but has he been able to sustain that level of play?
Kevin: Chris Andersen is currently playing the best basketball of his life at the ripe young age of 35. Over the last six seasons, he has put up a 17.5 PER, up sharply from that metric earlier in his career. He's never scored better or more than in this season, with a remarkable .632 shooting percentage and a career high 14.2 points per 36 minutes. He's Miami's best presence on the glass, with 9.6 boards and a team second-best 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes. He really worked on his strength and conditioning this offseason, and is lighter on his feet than you'd expect a 6'10", 230 pounder his age. Miami is at it's best with him on the floor.
Conrad: And finally, we don't enjoy talking about upcoming free agency anymore than you do...but how concerned are you about LeBron James leaving Miami this summer whether it be to Cleveland or Los Angeles or somewhere else?
Kevin: I can only answer this question from a personal standpoint. I have been a HEAT fan from the very start, and would follow (and have followed) the team whether they win 66 games and the title or 15 games and a high draft pick. It's a joy to see what James and Company can do every night, but if he leaves, I'll still love the HEAT. And as a fan, I'll still love to watch LBJ, wherever he lands. I hope he plays here for 10 more years, but I'll still be here if he doesn't. Long live the King, and good luck in the LBJ sweepstakes.
Questions about the Cavs!
Kevin: What's going on with Jarrett Jack?
Conrad: He's not very good right now. Over the years, he's been a tremendous midrange shooter and quite good in the pick and pop. Currently, he doesn't really have any chemistry with any of the big men on the roster and his shots aren't really falling. There's also the whole problem with the entire offense being a mess right now. I think once they get more familiar with each other and work things out, Jack will be fine. Oddly, I'm not that concerned about Jarrett Jack.
Kevin: Kyrie Irving is clearly the best player on the club, but I think that CJ Miles isn't that far behind in his performance this season. Is there any reason why he isn't also playing 40 minutes per game?
Conrad: We actually we just discussing this over at Fear the Sword in the wake of Bradley Beal's newest injury. We noticed that Beal was leading the league in minutes per game and were wondering why our young players weren't doing something similar. Considering the fact that Beal is now sidelined with another "stress injury," it may actually be smart to limit the minutes on these really young players.
Obviously we don't completely know why Kyrie isn't playing 40 minutes per game, but there are probably a few factors. The first factor is that the Cavs have been on the receiving end of a few blowout losses. That means Kyrie and the rest of the starters were probably sitting on the bench for most of the 4th quarter. Another factor is probably Mike Brown's coaching style. He's made it very clear that he's teaching all of the players on the roster right now. If a guy messes up, he gets yanked and Brown corrects him on what he messed up. Kyrie isn't immune to that just because he's the best player.
Personally, I'd like to see Kyrie play some more. But at the same time, I have no problem with Mike Brown taking the time to coach him up. I think as the season goes on and the rotation becomes more consistent, Kyrie will play more minutes.
Kevin: What can you tell us about three of the Cavs rookies, Carrick Felix, Sergey Karasev, and Matthew Dellavedova?
Conrad: Carrick Felix just got back from a sports hernia injury and has barely played, so we don't know much about him. He'll likely spend some time with the Canton Charge. Sergey Karasev is a young guy with a sweet shooting stroke. He's look decent in very limited minutes, but I think we're a few years away from him being a significant contributor.
And finally there's Matthew Dellavedova. He's a scrappy little guy who's been thrown into the starting lineup following some injuries, illness, and off the court issues with Dion Waiters. He was an undrafted free agent and is obviously a little lacking in physical abilities. But he plays hard, knows his limits, and can shoot a little bit. Mike Brown really appreciates the fact that he plays super hard and responds well to coaching. In the long run, the Cavs are probably better off if Dellavedova is just a practice guy and emergency point guard. But for now, he's injected some energy into the team and it's hard not to root for him.
Kevin: The Cavaliers main weaknesses this season revolve around the offense, with a bottom five performance in PPG, at 93.2, turnovers, with 16.6 per game, and shooting percentage, at 44.5%. If you were in charge, what personnel would you rotate to fix this?
Conrad: I'm not sure that I'd really change the rotation all that much. The main thing is just learning how to play with one another. The Cavs are all over the place out there and there's no real rhythm to what they're trying to do on offense. Mike Brown is in a tricky situation of trying to provide some sort of consistency while searching for the optimal lineup. I don't think there's much to be done other than continue tinkering with the lineup and hope you find something that works. As we get further into the season, there will be more continuity and the offense should improve - we hope.
Kevin: The Eastern Conference isn't very strong this season. Do you see the Cavs making a run and getting into contention?
Conrad: In contention for the playoffs? Yeah, I do. As you said, the East is horrible. The Cavs have some talent on this roster and I think Mike Brown will get things together eventually. It's looking more and more like a sub-.500 record will get you into the playoffs in the East this year, so I think the Cavs are going to be in that race for a while.