Welcome to the “Burning Questions” Miami Heat mailbag!
As always, you can submit your questions to me on Twitter/Threads @wcgoldberg or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alright, fire away!
I remain high on the potential of Tyler Herro with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, but asking that trio to win a championship this season seems like a stretch even for me — noted Herro apologist.
The thing about Herro is that he’s the prototypical guard you’d want paired with Adebayo and Butler. He can stretch the floor, make plays with the ball in his hands (especially off closeouts against a bent defense) and score at all three levels. Butler and Adebayo can cover up for his defensive shortcomings. All of these reasons are why Damian Lillard is such a hand-in-glove fit, too. But Lillard is fully formed. Inserting him into Miami’s offense is handing the keys to an All-NBA guard. Herro is just 23, nearly 10 years younger than Dame, and a ways away from reaching his potential.
If not for Butler’s presence on the roster and the front office’s motivation to win a championship with him, it would make a ton of sense to just let Adebayo and Herro develop together and hammer out their chemistry over years like warm-weather Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. But the Heat don’t have that kind of patience. Trading Herro for Lillard is to go all-in on Butler’s timeline.
This week. That’s a guess, but both sides have plenty of motivation to get it done sooner rather than later. Maybe next week. I don’t know.
There’s not an official meeting, but sometimes a coach or executive will make a call to the player, wish him well and say goodbye. Even then, plenty will go left unsaid. Former players can sometimes get shots off during media interviews. Organizations on the heels of trading away a troublesome player will leak unflattering information to reporters (The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis calls it the “Now You Tell Me” story).
Regarding Herro, I have a ton of sympathy. He has only done everything the organization has wanted of him. He averaged 20 points over the last two years, showed growth in his game each season and even went this whole last season without missing a free-throw in the fourth quarter. He’s a dude. Whatever team gets him will be very lucky.
I love a conspiracy theory, but the big hole in yours is the lack of a made-up second preferred destination or imaginary meeting with Team X. The hot-button issue with Lillard’s trade demand is that he only wants Miami — as evidenced by the star trades in the past, you need a “list of preferred destinations” to give the illusion of a bidding war. A lot of people are OK with that but not with Lillard, who is under contract for four more years, naming his new team like he’s in some kind of transfer portal.
If this deal was done and everyone involved was trying to save face, the move is for Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, to hold just-for-show meetings with the New York Knicks and the Utah Jazz. Then, a couple of days later, the deal would be announced. But none of that has happened, and there doesn’t appear to be any other teams interested in trading away what the Heat are willing to part with for Lillard. The deal isn’t done, but many around the league are penciling Lillard onto Miami’s roster for next season. The question is what the deal looks like, what other teams are involved and what non-Lillard players are going where.
First, Caleb Martin needs to be on the team for the Heat to even make this decision. My reporting suggests that the Heat would prefer to keep Martin out of a Lillard deal, and view him as an important piece of what could be a championship contender.
Remember! Miami’s reason for trading for Lillard is not simply to get Lillard, it’s to win a championship. The Heat have to be able to put a contending roster around Lillard, Butler and Adebayo. With free agency mostly done, that means holding onto as many of their own role players as possible. Martin isn’t untouchable, but he’s high on the list of role players the Heat want to keep.
But to answer your question: It depends on Martin’s season, how much he can make on the open market if he declines his $7.1 million option, and if the Heat still have someone like Jaime Jaquez Jr. — who could plausibly backfill Martin while on a rookie-scale contract — after a Lillard deal.
We already saw two free agents with interest in joining the Heat sign elsewhere because they did not want to wait. Malik Beasley signed with the Bucks, and Dario Saric joined the Warriors. The other free agent still waiting is Christian Wood, who the Heat are reportedly interested in signing. It’s fair to question how much patience he, or any other available free agents, has. If the Blazers have any leverage in the proceedings, it’s that getting a deal done soon is more important to the Heat than it is to them. But if the Heat are able to pull off a Lillard deal, I’d expect some signings to be reported relatively quickly after that.
Why does everybody ask me this?
No. But I did have his poster on my wall as a kid.
This is a great question, and I could go on for hours about my thoughts on this industry. In the interest of brevity, I’ll say this: Yes, I question the basics of this profession every day and give a lot of thought into what kind of reporter/writer/podcaster I want to be. In fact, I even struggle with what to call myself. In 2023, am I more journalist or content creator? How much journalism do people even want these days, or do they just want opinions? With layoffs and reshuffling recently hitting ESPN, the Athletic and the New York Times, is this even a viable career? Part of asking these questions is a simple act of self-preservation, but I also wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t constantly taking stock of the landscape, where the money is going, etc.
In terms of sources, I don’t want to be in the breaking news business — there’s no competing with Woj and Shams at this point. I’ve tried it. It’s not for me. Instead, I talk with people in and around the league for context, to help me form opinions and get a sense of what’s really going on. I try to pass as much of that along to you as I can — even if I don’t literally write “sources say” or something like that.
Here’s what I do keep coming back to: My job is make watching the Heat and the NBA more fun for my readers and listeners. That’s what I try to do.