Q: As for all the supposed upgrades other teams made in free agency, they were almost all just journeymen players and not really difference makers. – Rolando, Borrego Springs, Calif.
A: I'm not sure I would go that far (or that lack of far) when it comes to Malcolm Brogdon with the Celtics or Dejounte Murray to the Hawks (if you consider Atlanta a contender). Those were significant net gains. But, yes, I do agree that the majority of the moves in the East largely were ancillary, from what the 76ers and Bucks did, and on down the line to the Knicks, Bulls and Raptors. It likely still will come down to the preexisting cores of the Heat, Celtics, Bucks, 76ers and perhaps Hawks, Bulls and Nets. Who can still find growth? Who can stay healthy? And, mostly, who can bounce back, from James Harden to Kyle Lowry to even Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton? Much of the East story this coming season will be written by the cores already in place last season.
Q: Ira, a lot is being said about Kyle Lowry coming back in a better shape. Do you think he gets the James Johnson treatment if he doesn't? – Ben, Weston.
A: I'm not exactly sure about the James Johnson treatment you suggest. But, no, the Heat are not going to banish Kyle Lowry, nor can they afford to do so. As Kyle mentioned at that golf outing in Toronto, much of last season's struggles came from a family issue that took him away from the game. I believe his resolve toward peak conditioning is earnest and heartfelt.
Q: Is the door still open for Markieff Morris? – Ted.
A: That is up to Udonis Haslem. If Haslem returns for a 20th Heat season, then he will fill the Heat's 14th standard roster spot and put the Heat too close to the luxury tax to add another player. At this point, Haslem basically controls whether the door is open for anyone else, barring a trade that sends out more players than are brought in.
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