Q: Ira, why do you say “non-COVID” each time you list a Heat player as being ill? We get it, there is still COVID. But you’ve said the Heat players are vaccinated and boosted. You’re bringing something up that doesn’t matter. – Edward.
A: Actually, this is something the Heat and most, if not all, teams bring up when listing a player as out due to illness, to make clear they are not putting (or have not put) other players in harm’s way. And the reality is that the NBA, even though it has stopped mandatory routine testing, still has protocols that keep players/coaches away from teams for extended periods. Of that, the Heat are well aware, with Erik Spoelstra isolated from the Heat during the latter stages of the regular season and then Bam Adebayo away from the team ahead of the playoff series against the Hawks. Put it this way, the concern of losing a player remains such that the 76ers bused across the border following their Thursday victory in Toronto so they would not be exposed to the mandatory testing required for those entering the United States by air. Yes, there are still convoluted policies that must be navigated. And that is why teams stress non-COVID when they believe it is necessary.
Q: Would you agree that in this next series, Bam has to make an injured Joel Embiid work on both ends (I’m not saying lead in points) and stay out of foul trouble? – T.G., Queens, N.Y.
A: Well, it was one thing when the thumb was limiting Joel Embiid. But now there might not even be any Embiid, due to the orbital fracture. So, yes, there are increased expectations in the middle from the Heat. But Bam Adebayo also has to play within himself, still with a somewhat limited offensive repertoire. Still, Friday night’s news was a game changer.
Q: Not sure if you know the answer, but why doesn’t the NBA re-seed each round? Not that it matters for the Heat this year, but I think if a team earned the first seed it has earned the right to take the path of least resistance to the Finals. — Kevin, Sunrise.
A: One word: television. By having a bracket, the NBA can open a series in a following round while one completes elsewhere in the conference from a previous round. That assures the league (and television partners) the prime weekend games that draw the best ratings. Otherwise, three teams that advance from the first round might have to wait for the final opening series to close in order to re-seed. In the NFL, that doesn’t matter, since everything is done the preceding weekend before the next round.