Monday, November 29, 2010

"Welcome to Miami" and the Heat's Struggles

The shot, the drive, the fumble, and now the bump. On Saturday night, the Miami Heat played the Dallas Mavericks and after the game was out of reach, Lebron walked off the court, lowering his shoulder and bumped into his coach Erik Spoelstra. Now in real time, the bump looks like an accident with a guy just not seeing his coach as he walks to the bench. Then you watch the bump on YouTube in slow motion it looks as deliberate as the tough dude nudging the guy at the bar who is a little too close to his girl. This happens all the time. Your at a bar with your baby-doll and another guy is creeping up a little too close to her. The testosterone gets the best of you and you walk over and you give a bump with the shoulder. Translation: Hey there "guy" this is a warning and next time won't be so harmless if you get my drift." The argument that Lebron didn't see his coach a few feet in front of him is ludacris. So your telling me that a professional athlete with one of the best court visions in the NBA didn't see his coach while walking a straight line to his bench. I know coach Spoelstra isn't the biggest guy, but don't tell me that King James is able to weave a ball through five guys of traffic and thread the needle on a nightly basis but can't see his own coach two feet in front of him. What's really going on here? The answer is one word: frustration.

A report surfaced today that some un-named heat players are "frustrated" with the coach. They are saying they aren't able to be themselves and the coach is too hard on them. "He's jumping on them," one source said. "If anything, he's been too tough on them."

He might be tough on them because a team that was projected by many to win 70 games, is currently a game over 500 losing four of their last five. Expectations are through the roof and players seem to be bailing on the third year coach. There have already been rumors of possible coaching changes in the near future and even current Heat GM Pat Riley's name has been mentioned. Now, I don't think Riley is the answer. There are many flaws with the Heat that have nothing to do with the coach. Spoelstra is a defensive minded guy but the Heat don't play disciplined team defense. And, because of the lack of defensive effort, fast break chances (they have the best two fast break players in the league) are few and far between. You beat the Heat by making them a half court team and then it's just back and forth with Lebron and Wade settling for jump shots. The easy scape goat here is the coach. I'm not saying spoelstra is an elite coach. The NBA doesn't have many elite coaches to begin with; Doc Rivers, Phil Jackson, Greg Pop, Jerry Sloane and that's about it.

But, before you call for this mans job, at least let's reach the All-Star break. The problems with this team are extremely deep, unlike their bench. Their best "big guy" at 6'8, and there only defensive presence down low Udanis Haslem (the same height as point guard Lebron) is out for the next few months, while their best shooter Mike Miller who because of his three point shooting ability will spread out the floor for Lebron and Wade hasn't even played a game yet. The biggest problem, however in my opinion is what some analysts have been saying before Lebron even brought his talents to South Beach: Lebron James and Dwayne Wade are essentially the same player  Both players need the ball to make things happen and when they don't have it, lethargy and stagnancy sets in. They've spent their whole careers with the ball in their hands the majority of the time. Individually, they are the best at what they do which is attack the paint and get to the line with the occasional 15 foot jump shot sprinkled in. Lebron and Wade aren't just physically gifted on the basketball court, but they both have very high basketball IQ's and they will adapt. But, it will take more than seventeen games to get it figured out. Changing coaches at this juncture doesn't solve this problem or the injuries or the lack of height on their front line. I'm not a doom and gloom guy. Remember Y2K guy who would walk around the office telling everyone the world was going to crash. I think everything turned out okay and I think the Heat will be okay in the long-run.

What the heat players need to realize is there's a reason why spoelstra is being hard on them. When you have "the decision", whether it was the right decision or not (most would say not), there are going to be unfair expectations. When $300 million dollars was cleared for three stars to play together expectations will be high. Then you have the U2 concert in July that I went to, oh wait that was the Miami Heat welcoming the super friends together with fireworks and a killer fog machine. That display would have made Lady Gaga proud. So, I'm sorry Heat players if practice gets a little intense but you did it to yourselves. Remember Lebron proclaiming winning not two not three not four not five not six not seven championships. You reap what you sew and right now the heat are slowing starting to unravel, one bump at a time.

Silver Lining: I've been pretty glum in this article about the future of the Miami Heat, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The Heat play in the eastern conference. This is the biggest reason why panic mode should not be setting in just yet. Besides Boston and Orlando in the east, there's not a legitimate team. Once Mike Miller and Haslem get back, the Heat can easily reel off a few wins in a row and be the third seed in the east. Now out west they would barely be knocking on the door of the playoffs right now. Luckily, the east is pretty terrible with Boston a legitimate contender and Orlando most likely having the #2 seed. I do believe that once Wade, Lebron and Bosh get a few more months under their belt of playing together they will learn how to play together. The three of them are just too good not to figure it out. They now have Erick Dampier to give them depth at the center position. Now do I think at that point they will be better than the Celtics and Lakers? No, but I do think they will be able to fight to be part of that elite club next year.

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