What should the Miami Heat do?
At 10-8 and sitting in an embarrassing third in the Southeast Division, should they just call it a year?
Should Heat president Pat Riley step in for embattled coach Erik Spoelstra, who seemingly has already lost control of his team?
Should they just ride the “Big Three” for 40 minutes a game because their bench has already been depleted by injury?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
No, the Heat aren’t going to give up. No, Pat Riley isn’t going to coach this year. And no, they won’t ride LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh until they collapse.
To start, everyone should stop kidding themselves. Miami is going to make the postseason. But the main reason “Riles” won’t come back to coach the Heat (at least this season) is that they stand no chance of making even the Eastern Conference Finals.
Thus far, the Heat have dealt with a perfect storm of bad luck to start the season. Sharpshooter Mike Miller injured his thumb in the preseason and will be sidelined until late December. Their glue guy and best rebounder, Udonis Haslem, suffered a foot injury and is likely lost for the year. Furthermore, Wade has been battling multiple injuries and is suffering through a horrific shooting stretch.
A lot of NBA fans hate them. Some adolescent NBA enthusiasts probably hate the Heat more than broccoli or spinach.
The anti-South Beach sentiments have been affirmed by NBA personalities as well.
“I want them to lose all their games,” Dallas owner Mark Cuban told the Associated Press last week.
“It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to South Beach,” tweeted Celtics forward Paul Pierce after the Celtics topped the Heat on Nov. 11.
The Heat have ushered in a new era of hate surrounding one team. Recent NBA champions weren’t looked down upon like this.
The Lakers might have been showmen. The Celtics might have been thugs. The Spurs and Pistons were incredibly boring to watch. But none were despised like the Heat, a sentiment echoed by players, coaches and fans alike.
There’s also been a share of bizarre moments, such as Bosh stating after a recent win over Phoenix that the players want to “chill” more than they want to practice. Because Bosh dawdled in mediocrity during his seven years in Toronto (his Raptors made the playoffs once), his cluelessness surrounding the hard work it takes to make the playoffs shouldn’t come as a surprise.
And did LeBron bump into Spoelstra on purpose last Saturday when walking off the court in a loss to Dallas? On paper it seems like no big deal, but when have you ever seen an NBA player seemingly give his head coach a shoulder check?
The Heat’s problems boil down to a few things:
•They have no inside presence. None whatsoever. When your bigs are being dominated by good-not-great players like Zach Randolph and Paul Millsap, you’ve got interior issues.
•LeBron and Wade have not learned to co-exist. This “you take over this quarter, I’ll take over next quarter” garbage won’t cut it. You can’t have one guy go one-on-five in the half-court while everyone else stands around the 3-point stripe. That also translates to their half-court offense problems. The fact that Carlos Arroyo is their point guard isn’t the problem, it’s that LeBron and Wade think they are the team’s primary ball-handlers too.
•This team has serious psychological issues. Somehow, LeBron remains impervious to criticism and refuses to blame himself for anything, ever. His latest Nike commercial, while funny and well-done, is also a reminder that he’s yet to grow up and might never do so.
Wade went through a very public divorce in the offseason and has gone from the Sultan of South Beach to LeBron’s scorned sidekick. Bosh, well, I don’t even know if he qualifies as a power forward. He’s a shooting guard in a power forward’s body with the tenacity of a kitten. Remember when Rajon Rondo dunked all over him when the Celtics came to South Beach? If Shaquille O’Neal or Dwight Howard or Kevin McHale had been standing in the lane, Rondo would have been sent tumbling into the third row.
With all that said, this Heat team has a chance to be very, very good. But it likely won’t be this year. They need a year to gel. They need a coach who not only can bring out the best in LeBron but also has a good enough reputation to tear him down. They need Bosh to play more like Bill Laimbeer and not Darko Milicic.
They’ll be entering a war zone Thursday in Cleveland. Who knows, maybe they’ll come together under the intense adversity. Or perhaps they’ll crumble under it, like they have all season.