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ASK IRA: Is there too much future thought in Spoelstra’s Heat contract?

Q: Ira, how does any coach deserve an eight-year contract extension? That means he could be coaching a kid who is currently in grammar school. – Steve.

A: By that, I believe you are talking about elementary school. And yes, that could be the math. But I believe Erik Spoelstra’s contract extension is about more than the years. It is about rewarding him with a total package that puts him ahead of coaching peers who have accomplished less. Just because he signed the eight-year extension that kicks in next season, it doesn’t mean he is under an iron-clad obligation to coach all eight seasons. Whenever, if ever, Pat Riley opts to step aside, I believe there will be a reimagining of the entire operation, a reimagining with Spoelstra in a central role. More than anything, the length of the deal means Spoelstra isn’t going anywhere, and the value of the deal means that he wouldn’t want to go anywhere.

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Q: Why would the Heat grossly overpay a coach who hasn’t won the NBA Finals in over a decade? Erik Spoelstra has also lost his last three Finals. The four top teams in the NBA (Boston, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee) are all doing great with coaches that have less than four full seasons of experience. And this season thus far they are a perfect 6-0 against the $120 Million Dollar Man. – Paul, Miami.

A: Because if the Heat didn’ pay, someone else would. There is no salary cap in the coaching realm, so it becomes a place where the highest bidder controls the cards. Plus, you likely are about to see similar deals with Steve Kerr and Tyronn Lue. Plus, whenever the next hot college coach becomes available, expect something similar. This move into the salary stratosphere didn’t start with Erik Spoelstra. Monty Williams provided the impetus with his deal with Detroit. That dramatically changed the market. As for your point about Spoelstra and the NBA Finals, he also has made the NBA Finals in two of the past four seasons, so there also is that.

Q: I knew it. Haywood Highsmith is back in the starting lineup and then when Jimmy Butler comes back, Nikola Jovic is shoved out of the way. – Allan.

A: Actually, Haywood Highsmith was inserted into the starting lineup Wednesday night against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as a perimeter defensive measure. A truer moment of truth will be when Caleb Martin returns from his ankle sprain, a return he indicated could be imminent. At that point, Haywood and Caleb could wind up playing as the first two options at power forward. The Nikola Jovic story is a nice story, but one with plenty of time to play out, considering Nikola is only 20. Heck, even when Erik Spoelstra’s extension runs out, Nikola still will be in his 20s.