Ira Winderman: When it comes to rerun or reset, there is only one viable option for Heat

MIAMI — “We have enough” as in-the-moment motivation not only makes sense, it essentially stands as necessity amid playoff runs. It’s not as if the NBA, like the NFL, allows a team to pick up players amid an injury-riddled playoff run (unless a team becomes totally debilitated).

So Erik Spoelstra offered it as Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier were out of view during the Heat’s first-round playoff loss. Tom Thibodeau had no option but to express something similar as the Knicks fell out of the playoffs amid the absences of Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, OG Anunoby and eventually Jalen Brunson. And now there is Rick Carlisle living with the reality of Tyrese Haliburton limping at the likely finish line for his Pacers.

The exception has been Joe Mazzulla’s Celtics, with Kristaps Porzingis being sidelined during the opening round against the Heat and Boston continuing to roll with a roster more than equipped to deal with such an absence.

So this is where it gets tricky, as teams have to decide whether it was injuries or inabilities that ultimately doomed playoff runs.

Rerun or reset?

The Cavaliers made their decision after Donovan Mitchell was sidelined for the close of their series against the Celtics, with Cleveland firing coach J.B. Bickerstaff after a 48-34 season and fourth-place finish in the East.

Now others, including the Heat, face similar potential resets.

No, Spoelstra is not going anywhere. The Heat coaching suite and front office remain foundational, largely for good reason. But the last time the Heat misstepped so badly in the playoffs, when they were swept out in the 2021 first round by the Bucks, the change was decisive, with Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn and others going out and Kyle Lowry brought in.

So amid what appears to be an Eastern Conference runaway by the Celtics, even with their occasional misstep against the Heat, Cavaliers, Pacers, is a massive conference makeover needed to keep pace? Or might the 2023-24 Celtics merely be the 2022-23 Nuggets, a team that looks like it has it all figured out but might only be a one-year bridge to the NBA’s next big thing, or at least the East’s next big thing?

For the Heat and the rest of the conference, that makes these remaining few weeks of the postseason significant, to see if there can be a quick-strike response to the Celtics’ domination to this stage, or, whether a pause simply is needed to allow the Celtics have their run at the top of the conference?

So for those who made it to the playoffs in the East . . . rerun or reset?

Miami Heat: There has to be a reset, because what has been in place has grown stale, even with the injection of the youth of Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Nikola Jovic into the mix.

The question is what degree of a reset or merely picking up where the team left off before Terry Rozier was hurt.

Either Rozier has to be cast as one of the leading men, or a new leading man has to be added.

New York Knicks: If OG Anunoby can be retained in free agency then you run it back, the Knicks reasonably left to wonder what might have been with health in the series against the Pacers.

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But there also could be an addition-by-subtraction element when it comes to Julius Randle, considering it no longer comes off as 1A and 1B, with Jalen Brunson clearly establishing himself as leading man.

Indiana Pacers: There basically isn’t much choice other than to run it back, considering the cost it took to acquire Pascal Siakam.

Re-sign Siakam in free agency is the only way forward.

Cleveland Cavaliers: The reset already is under way with the dismissal of J.B. Bickerstaff as coach.

Sometimes even linear success from play-in to playoffs to first-round success clouds the need for more. Darius Garland along Donovan Mitchell does not appear trending in the right direction. And Georges Niang (and, to a lesser degree, Max Strus) hardly was the shooting upgrade desired/.

Orlando Magic: There should be no question of running it back, allowing the youth to continue to develop, and then utilize cap space to augment.

While not quite there as a concern, the Magic are trending far more compelling with the youth of Paolo Banchero, Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner.

Milwaukee Bucks: At this stage, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and Doc Rivers have to be given a full season together to see if it merely was injuries and ailments that got in the way.

So next season a rerun, followed, in case of 2024-25 failure, by a reset.

Philadelphia 76ers: Based on the way the 76ers set up their salary cap, this seemingly has to be an offseason for a reset, amid the ongoing search for a third wheel alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

Jimmy Butler moved on. Ben Simmons flamed out. James Harden grew restless. The 76ers now again are positioned to swing for the fences, with nothing short of a home run to suffice.


WAITING GAME: When it comes to potential trade interest by the Heat and other outsiders, the Cavaliers appear headed toward slow-playing things this offseason with Donovan Mitchell, similar to the Portland Trail Blazers’ approach last summer with Damian Lillard. “One,” Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman said, “we can’t talk to Donovan now about the contract until July. I’ll say that my exit interview with him was really good in that he was talking about the future and how excited he was about the team, the organization. And this is a player that has had two of his best years here, that has had a lot of success here. Has had a lot of success here, understands the infrastructure. When we’re talking to him about the future here, getting his feedback, it’s all about how do we make this thing better.” But, Altman also offered, “We have to take that all on face value and say, ‘OK, we feel good about where we are with Donovan.'” he said. “Obviously things can change. In terms of his contract future, it’s nothing we can talk about until July.”

BROAD GENERALITIES: As he continues to work the national stage as a studio analyst with ESPN and NBA TV, former Heat captain Udonis Haslem appears to have made peace with working in the Heat front office and being called upon for candor about the team. “It’s an interesting summer, for sure,” Haslem said on a recent podcast of where the Heat stand this offseason. “We have an opportunity to get better. But there’s no guarantee, man. We just got to see what the summer holds. It’s going to be a long summer for a lot of different teams. So we ain’t the only ones.” Instead of suggesting roles for Heat players such as Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Terry Rozier and Tyler Herro, Haslem said. “I still think Jimmy is a major piece. I think Bam continues to improve. Duncan gets healthy. T-Ro gets healthy. Obviously, Tyler gets another year under his belt. And then you just see what you have. But we’ve been there. We just haven’t gotten it done. Make no mistake about it, everybody has to improve.”

FLIP SIDE: For all the perception of the Heat taking a measured approach to the regular season, the Nuggets, the Heat’s opponents in last season’s NBA Finals, offered an interesting contrast by pushing to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. In the end, Denver coach Michael Malone said that wound up exacting a toll with his team’s second-round playoff demise. “We played until June last year,” Malone said. “We had to play our main guys through Game 82 to secure the number-two seed, whereas last year we were able to rest down the stretch. The run last year, coming back, the amount of minutes our starters had to play, I think emotionally and physically, our guys are gassed.” It is a thought worth considering amid the consternation regarding the Heat’s contrasting approach coming off those Finals.

HEAT-CENTRIC: Having lost in the play-in round each of the past two postseasons to the Heat, Bulls coach Billy Donovan then looked into the Heat’s past while restructuring his staff, adding former Erik Spoelstra Heat assistant Dan Craig after also considering former Spoelstra top assistant David Fizdale. Craig, who left Spoelstra’s Heat bench in 2020 to become Tyronn Lue’s de facto defensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Clippers, moves to a restructured Donovan bench that now also will include former Washington Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr.


1. Heat player since the end of the franchise’s Big Three era (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh) in 2014 to make an All-NBA team, with only Jimmy Butler doing so in this ensuing decade (third team in 2020 and ’21, second team in 2023) and no Heat player receiving a spot this year, with Butler ineligible after failing to meet the new NBA requirement of at least 65 games played.