— You ask, we (try to) answer:
A. What happened is each found their own level of enduring success, Riley with his emboldening 2006 championship with the Heat, Stan Van Gundy with his appearance in the 2009 NBA Finals with the Magic, Jeff with his highly successful broadcasting career.
Now each is in a position to speak from a position of power, if you will, as well as without fear of sanction. It's not as if Micky Arison is going to tell Pat to tone it down with the Heat, just as Otis Smith knows you don't get in the way of Stan once he gets rolling. And don't for a second think that ABC/ESPN isn't enjoying the offseason publicity Jeff is providing.
Behind the scenes, I still believe Riley would assist the Van Gundys in a time of need, and I believe the Van Gundy brothers would do the same for Pat.
Remember, this is a game. As for the wordplay, it seems to drive each of the three involved.
Yes, Pat has been huge in the careers of both Jeff and Stan. But, again, each of the two also made major sacrifices along the way to allow Riley to enjoy his glory.
You know what, who cares? If Riley's Miami Thrice wins a championship, he gets the last laugh. If Stan Van Gundy's Magic advance past the Heat to the NBA Finals, then the final chortle is his. And Jeff will have multiple opportunities to have the pulpit of his own when he announces Heat games this season.
You know who I feel worse for? Erik Spoelstra. He counts Stan Van Gundy among his closest friends but also works for Riley. He seems to be the only party in this equation who can't win.
Unless, of course, he wins a championship. Then, I'm sure, his opinion also will enter the equation.
Q. Ira, I read your column last week about how the players on the World Championships team will be replaced for the Olympics. I don't see why, now that they have won a gold medal. Why should Wade, LeBron, Carmelo and Kobe get a free pass?
— Mike, Edmond, Okla.
A. Edmond, Okla., eh?
Look, I appreciate the perspective, especially from that geographic perspective.
For three weeks, Kevin Durant was the best player in the world, with what he accomplished in Turkey. Without Durant, it is possible the U.S. returns from Istanbul without any type of medal.
And by the end of the competition, an argument could be made that Russell Westbrook was as effective as any point guard on the roster.
But that doesn't mean that USA Basketball fielded anything close to its best roster for this competition. And it is undeniable that most of the competition also fielded something less than its A-list, what with Russia lacking Kirilenko, France lacking Parker, Argentina lacking Ginobili, Spain lacking Pau Gasol and Brazil lacking Nene.
In other words, good enough might not be good enough when it comes to the 2012 London Olympics. Wade, Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo and Howard have done enough for USA Basketball to merit the occasional bye.
Truth be told, I think it would be difficult to make an argument for more than five or six members of the U.S. World Championships team to return in 2012.
As an example, Derrick Rose showed such limitations against zone defense that even his place could be in question. And that's no badge of shame. Tim Duncan has not been the type of international force he has been in the NBA. It's simply a different game.
As for the Thunder angle, Durant already has punched his ticket, while Westbrook has two more seasons to show if he truly has enough game to supplant the likes of Chris Paul and Deron Williams for a 2012 berth.
A. Not the Mavericks, that's for sure. That bridge appears to have been burned.
While I know many see him as a perfect fit for the center-lacking Heat, and while I don't necessarily disagree, there are other factors at play.
If Erik is released by the Bobcats or by any team that acquires him, he would collect nothing on his non-guaranteed 2010-11 contract. The Heat, which is already over the cap and have no exceptions, can only offer the veteran maximum of $1.4 million. By contrast, there are plenty of teams that either hold the entire $5.8 million mid-level exception or at least a remaining part of it.
It would be interesting, under that scenario, if Dampier does take the minimum from the Heat with an expectation of the mid-level next summer. It could leave the Heat's minimum-salary players, such as Dampier, Ilgauskas and Eddie House all vying for the same mid-level next summer.
Q. Why is the regular season so long? Do you think it would be a good idea to reduce regular season to 62 games? Second question: Should the playoff schedule be changed to best-of-five for the first two rounds? Thank you for your attention.
— Ian, Regina, Sask.
A. As someone who is about to head out on a nine-month marathon with the Heat, I'm all for a shorter schedule. But ask the players if they would be willing to take a 25-percent pay cut. And then ask the owners if they would be willing to deal with a 25-percent revenue cut. And then go ahead and line up another 82-game season.
As for shorter opening-round playoff series, I'm in favor of the best-of-7 approach throughout. Yes, it does make the opening rounds tedious, but teams shouldn't be penalized with such upset possibilities after fighting for months for a high seed.
In fact, I would give No. 1 seeds six home games in the first round against No. 8 seeds, in a 3-1-3 format. The advantage should be significant for the higher seeds. For that matter, No. 2 should be able to go 2-1-2-1-1, with five of the seven at home.
A. As Iverson's manager has pointed out, no one has called.
And that says plenty.
Based on what has transpired in Iverson's last three stops, in Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia, I'm just not sure that any team wants the potential headache, let alone a contender.
If the Heat is a factor, it might be as a favor to agent Leon Rose who, of course, also happens to represent LeBron James.
But as Dwyane Wade has said, at this point he would just as soon go to camp with what already is in place, and then see if anything else needs to be added.
An overseas reality might wind up as Iverson's only remaining reality.