A: While it might steel them for the challenges ahead, it's also safe to say they will feel the Bulls more than they would have the Nets or did with the Bucks. That said, it's all the more reason to try to keep the series brief, to have the same recuperative opportunity they had after sweeping the Bucks. To your greater point, I can't think of a scenario where the Heat wouldn't have been better off with the Nets. Then again, after seeing the Nets in Game 7, I'm not sure that any team wouldn't have embraced them as a playoff opponent, even the Bucks.
Q: You said that the Heat might feel the Bulls more than the Knicks feel the Pacers. Hmm, sure about that? -- Brent.
A: Yes. While David West can be a load in the post, there is no Indiana player as rugged as Joakim Noah. The Bulls are feisty throughout their lineup, from Noah to Taj Gibson to Kirk Hinrich to the incredible ego machine that is Nate Robinson. Yes, the Pacers looked good Sunday against the Knicks, but the Pacers also looked shaky often enough against the Hawks.
Q: David Stern, just like he gets involved with other matters (voiding the trade of Paul to the Lakers, for example), should strike the first-place MVP vote for Carmelo Anthony. LeBron James received 120 out of 121 first-place votes. The one for Anthony is ridiculous. Come on Commissioner Stern, step up and take a stand. LeBron deserves a unanimous first place vote. -- Stuart.
A: While unanimous might have been nice, it's not as if it comes with a bonus. Just like no one remembers down the road if you swept a playoff series or merely won, the fact that the hardware is his is all that should matter. Look, if the vote was for Steve Novak or Lance Stephenson, then I think inspection might have been justified. Carmelo led the NBA in scoring, which hardly makes an MVP vote for him outrageous. The indignation is a bit much.
MAY 5, 2013
Q: Hey Ira, we know its Bulls vs. Heat in the second round. The Bulls strike fear in me after seeing them against the Nets. This series may go six or even seven games. My question is: Are the Heat afraid of them, especially with Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and possibly Derrick Rose coming back to the fold? Thanks. --Shawn
A: Afraid? Never. Respectful? You bet. To a degree, what the Bulls accomplished in their series against the Nets was built on the tenacity tenets that the Heat created their "culture" around. While it's safe to say the Heat would have preferred the glad-to-be-here Nets in the second round, there also was an appreciation of what the shorthanded Bulls accomplished. As for your question: The Bulls haven't been whole all season, so there is little reason to believe that will suddenly change. To your greater point, the Bulls will make it tough on the Heat, will wear on the Heat, no matter if it goes five, six or seven.
Q: You can take the Nets out of New Jersey, but you can't take the New Jersey out of the Nets. Da Bums! Brooklyn can't win a Game 7. Great coaching job by Tom Thibodeau. Wow. Wow. Wow. -- Stuart.
A: In the end, the Nets turned into the Meadowlands Nets. That was nothing short of disgraceful Saturday. It's one thing to lose. It's another to be afraid to step up and take shots. Yes, the Bulls' defensive tenacity had plenty to do with that, but Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez appeared overwhelmed by the moment.
Q: Are you still convinced about the Knicks making the East finals after their near-collapse against the Celtics? -- Wayne.
A: I still think they have too many weapons for the Pacers in the second round, as well as enough answers to keep Indiana's stars in check. So, yes, I expect them to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
MAY 4, 2013
Q: Ira, after three years against Boston in the playoffs, it won't happen again for the Heat. Is the Heat-Celtics rivalry over? -- Matty, Coral Springs.
A: I was going to say there's just something about these Celtics, how they just won't die. But the reality is that even if Rajon Rondo makes it all the way back to his former self, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett simply aren't that same players. The question with Pierce is that if the Celtics invoke their buyout by their June 30 deadline, might he and Ray Allen find a way to make nice and reunite in . . .? Sure it's a longshot, but Pierce is guaranteed $5 million from the Celtics for next season even with his buyout.
Q: If we already know LeBron James is going to be named MVP, what's left for Sunday? -- George.
A: With LeBron, especially after his 2012-13 regular season, there's always room for superlatives. Still to be seen is whether his selection is unanimous, and, for that matter, who else finished in the top five of the balloting.