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ASK IRA: Is it depth or desperation that is driving Spoelstra’s Heat approach?

Q: Ira, Erik Spoelstra has spoken for weeks about his depth. But Friday he only played eight and it became clear that Josh Richardson wore down and maybe even Jaime Jaquez Jr. had to force it. – Phil.

A: But depth is only depth when a team is whole. Without Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Haywood Highsmith, the depth can be forced to do more than desired. On one hand, Kevin Love certainly stepped up after Orlando Robinson faltered. But there also was a point when Josh Richardson asked out, the load excessive on a night Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson struggled. Factor in Bam, Tyler and Haywood and the equation changes. As it was, Erik Spoelstra kept it to an eight-man rotation with the following two days off. So Friday wasn’t as much about depth as desperation. And too many of the eight simply didn’t provide enough. But it is getting to a point where you would like to see it whole.

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Q: I realize that there was a lid on the heat basket Friday and Cleveland was playing good defense, but I’m worried that Jimmy Butler has hurt himself again. His shot was flat and it was not getting any lift whatsoever. – Roland, Borrego Springs, Calif.

A: But he also is being defended more and more with size, and I think that was a factor, as well. That is something Jimmy Butler has overcome before and something I would expect him to be able to overcome again. It did, however, from the start, look on Friday that Jimmy’s tank was low on energy.

Q: During last week’s national broadcast, the Heat’s mascot Burnie presented commentator Shaquille O’Neal with a Heat Culture jersey. I don’t think it was happenstance that the presenter was the anonymous, faceless mascot given Shaq’s lack of embrace of Heat culture. Your thoughts? – Michael, Hollywood.

A: Wow. That seems like a bit of a reach. Shaquille O’Neal has been thoroughly embraced by the Heat in recent years, particularly with the team’s marking through Carnival and Shaq’s endorsements. Yes, there was a rough patch. Then Shaq’s Jersey was retired and all forgotten.