ASK IRA: Is there still time for Heat to make one last stand?

Q: We should be used to this by now. – Nat.

A: And the problem is, we are. There is no game the Heat go into where you can convince yourself it effectively will be over by the start of the fourth quarter. Because if there ever was a game where it could have and should have been, Tuesday night in Detroit was it. A team looking to lose. Playing no one. With baggage already circling the carousel in Cancun. Good teams don’t just scrape by. At this point, assume nothing about Friday in Washington, even if the Wizards continue to sit Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma. And at this point, assume nothing about the season finale on Sunday at home against Orlando, even if the Magic sit Paolo Banchero. This ia a team with one great player, a couple of good ones, and players with whom you seemingly ride the wave. Basically, the Heat record says who they are.

Q: I get it that a lot of fans are still emotionally invested in the Heat this season. playing out all the possible scenarios in their heads of what gives them the best chance of going as far as they can until the bitter end (and waving goodbye to the players taking off for Cabo). The switch has already flipped from On to Off for me. I’ve transferred all my hopes onto future years as I play out all the various scenarios in my head of how the Heat might improve down the road. So who cares if the Heat face the Hawks, Bulls or Raptors? If they get knocked out in the play-in, they get a better draft pick, and they avoid getting blown out a few times by the Celtics or Bucks. – Morgan, New Orleans.

A: Actually, the only advantage of getting knocked out in the play-in is that you do get a scant chance to move up in the lottery. (If you are not among the teams with one of the 10 worst records, which the Heat won’t be, then you have no better than a 1.8% chance of securing the top pick, and only slightly better for one of the first four). Otherwise, it basically is the same draft area as if you advance to the best-of-seven first round. Perhaps it’s just me, but hope is what should drive fans, particularly those with a strong allegiance to their teams. I’m not going to tell you the Heat are going to beat the Celtics or Bucks in the first round. But there at least is the chance. I think once you give up hope, then all you do is constantly kick the can down the road, never getting to the point where you can savor the moment. Where is this going to end? Likely well short of the expectations of most. But it’s sports. And sometimes you never know.

Q: The thought at the beginning of the season after signing his new extension was that Tyler Herro needed to start. But with the Heat struggling this season, could Tyler return to a sixth-man role? Anything should be on the table for the sake of winning. But it’s hard to see him going to the bench quietly. – John, Ocala.

A: That assuredly will not be happening anytime soon. First, Tyler Herro has yet to start his four-year, $130 million rookie-scale extension, which does not kick in until next season. And that is not exactly the way you want to open your next chapter of a relationship amid such a commitment. For the shorter term, Tyler also remains a possible offseason trade chip. So the last thing you seemingly would want to do is reduce his value before the offseason (trade season?) by casting him in what is perceived as a lesser role.


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