ASK IRA: Is Kevin Love poised to step up as Heat’s next Udonis Haslem?

Q: One overlooked factor is Udonis Haslem’s presence or lack thereof. Doesn’t seem like much, but habits die hard. Definitely be “something missing” after 20 seasons of Haslem. Seems like he was always there. Udonis will still be around, but the coaches will miss somebody to call out the “kid stuff” among the players. – Leonard,

A: Which is among the reasons why bringing back Kevin Love made so much sense. As with Haslem, you have a player with championship pedigree who has seen it all, and who already has shown the ability to mentor inside the Heat locker room, (if Nikola Jovic isn’t dealt, the Jovic-Love dynamic in the locker room and on the practice court could be particularly intriguing). While Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry (if he isn’t dealt) also are veteran presences, neither is the type of player as likely to wrap an arm around a neophyte and guide such a player through a tough time. Having been benched in Cleveland (and even at times with the Heat), Love appears to have the type of Haslem-like humility to morph into such a role (while also still contributing). Now, as for Erik Spoelstra naming a new captain, that will be interesting. An argument on that aspect certainly could be made for Bam Adebayo, if Spoelstra names one, at all.

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Q: If I am Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin, I would fear the possibility of bringing Damian Lillard back and him sustaining a serious injury, especially if he’s going to be required to play in big games according to the new NBA rules. How far back would Portland’s rebuilding plans be set back if they theoretically get saddled with an aging, injured player with that much money left? Is this precisely another reason why Miami should not give away all of their assets in acquiring him? – Eddie.

A: The greater question is what has taken so long, amid the reports of Portland now actively soliciting offers after two months of near inactivity. Yes, people take vacations. But those people also have cell phones, email and personal assistants to relay necessary messages. As for Damian Lillard and the NBA’s new work rules, Portland has only one nationally televised game this season (and it’s against the Heat), so it’s not as if the NBA is going to be cracking down on the Blazers, who have dissolved into an NBA afterthought. Still, if you want to deal, if you see a need to deal, then sitting back for two months and doing nothing makes sense how?

Q: Kyle Lowry sitting next to Chauncey Billups. Go. – Matt.

A: Yes, the Blazers’ coach wanted a secret, inconspicuous location to pass along a copy of Portland’s playbook to Kyle Lowry, so Kyle Lowry would be fully up to speed after he is acquired from the Heat for Damian Lillard. So Chauncey Billups told Kyle to meet him at a suite during the nationally televised Colorado-Colorado State football game, since Deion Sanders’ presence would keep it all low key and that ESPN’s star-struck cameras hardly would notice. (With the irony that as soon as Billups saw himself on camera with Lowry, he skedaddled.) The next step is for Chauncey to let Joe Cronin know about the done deal.