Joe-Pinions: Sports

7 Mar 2011 – The Crying Shame that is the Miami Heat

Posted in Basketball by txtmstrjoe on 07/03/2011

Some of my buddies who follow the NBA sometimes ask me, “Who do you think will end up in the NBA Finals this year?”  Now, it must be said that most of these friends are L.A. Lakers fans like me, so I think as far as they’re concerned the question they’re really asking is “Who do you think will the Lakers be playing in the finals?”

I think that’s a bit presumptive, but I play along.  I tell them, “Well, OK, I think the Lakers are my prohibitive favorites coming out of the Western Conference.  Their most dangerous rival, the team against which they look to match up against the worst, is neither of the two Texas teams (San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks) who currently are leading them in the standings; rather, I think the Oklahoma City Thunder is the team that looks to be the Lakers’ biggest challenge in the West.”  And I had been saying that even before the Thunder acquired erstwhile Celtics big man, Kendrick Perkins, in what was the most stunning draft deadline deal bar none this year.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” my friends pooh-pooh me.  “Never mind that.  Who’s coming out of the East?”

“Well, before they traded Kendrick Perkins away, no doubt the Celtics.  They were the scariest team to me by far; after the Perkins trade, I think they got appreciably weaker.  Chicago is very dangerous, even more so than prior to the Perkins trade; Orlando is also possible as an Eastern Conference champion since they have a good big man (Dwight Howard) and potentially a very explosive offense if enough of their shooters are having good days.”

“What about Miami?” they ask.

“What about Miami?” I ask back.

“You don’t think the Heat will get out of the East?  Over Boston or any of those other teams?”

“I don’t rate Miami at all; I certainly don’t think they’re better than those other Eastern Conference teams I named.”

“But what about the ‘Big Three’?” they ask me, incredulous.

“What about them?” I ask back.

“You don’t think Miami, with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, can win the East?”

“No.  For months I’ve been telling you, and anyone who’d listen, that three very good players – or even two great players and one good (yet overrated) additional sidekick, which is what James, Wade, and Bosh really are – will never beat a true team that plays good, strategic, and tactical basketball.  This will be especially true in a playoff best-of-seven matchup.”

I’ve been singing this song ever since the Heat assembled their trio of superstars, and despite this many people seem so surprised that Miami is now starting to wilt under the ever-increasing weight of pressure and expecations.  That’s what you get when you get your basketball knowledge from the noisemakers and know-nothing blowhard talking heads over at what Matt “Money” Smith and Petros Papadakis call so eloquently “the evil ‘four-letter’ on their eponymous radio show.”

If nothing else, the Heat have been a great drama.  I despise the exploitation of train wrecks (one of myriad reasons I so despise so-called “reality TV”).  But if I’m honest, I’ll tell you right now that this is the one exception I’ll make.  This is one spectacular derailment that I want to see unfold.  I’ll even admit to you right now that I’m a Heat Hater.  (You can blame LeBron James for that.  Oh, and “tough-as-wet-toilet-paper” Chris Bosh, too, who I have always thought to be a “fake tough guy,” too, like Kevin Durant said he is.)  I want to see these villains fall hard on their faces.  It’s the price I expect, and want, them to pay for their bald hubris.

But drama is useless in sports.  Too often it gets in the way of winning.  (Just ask any Lakers fan about Shaq vs. Kobe, or the whole Eagle, CO thing.)

The latest Heat-centric drama is their current losing streak, which reached four games.  Now it’s normal for most NBA teams to experience losing streaks.  But when you’re the self-proclaimed multiple champions in waiting, well…

And what makes it all laughable to me is the news that, apparently, some Heat players were said to have been crying after their latest last-second loss to a strong contender, this time to the Bulls.

Give me a break.

(This is a bit of shadenfraude on my part, for sure, but I make no apologies for it.)

Why the hell are the Heat players crying (whoever they were)?  It really doesn’t matter who was doing the crying – some have said Udonis Haslem may have been one of them; others have suggested LeBron James was another.  All this shows is that the Miami Heat players are simply clueless when it comes to the big picture:  The regular season really doesn’t prove much of anything.  Playoff time is money time.  Crying over just the latest regular season loss may have been a spontaneous response to an emotional situation, but it also seems to be a hugely inappropriate reaction.

To be perfectly honest, it strikes me as a childish tantrum that happens when a spoiled brat realizes that he isn’t getting his way.

Either that, or it’s a moment of clarity.  Maybe someone over there at South Beach has finally realized what I’ve been telling friends for months:

Jason Whitlock quite brilliantly phrased it in print today the way I’ve said it to some:  “You don’t win NBA titles 3 on 5 or 3 on 8.”

(Give his piece a read; as usual, it’s provocative, I promise.)

Never mind Mr. Whitlock’s commentary on how officials can screw Miami, perhaps alluding to the allegedly questionable judgment foul call against the Heat’s Mike Miller; the salient point is that for all the fanfare for James, Wade, and Bosh, the three of them simply cannot carry the weight of an entire team of inadequate and mismatched parts and be expected to win against a good team with a proven system, a clear modus operandi.  The challenge for them to do so only becomes more difficult when you talk about winning playoff series against teams with established systems, teams that understand and maximize their own strengths and disguise and minimize the impact of their own weaknesses.

I think this is where Miami’s problems start.  They may look like they have a great collection of parts, but it appears that they don’t fit together all that well.  Not only that, but that collection is woefully small; the rest is just junk.  And I say this with absolutely no disrespect intended towards the rest of the Miami Heat squad after the Big Three.  The talking heads have been trying to sell the idea that the three mega-superstars in Miami are all that’s required for the Heat to dominate the NBA not just this year, where they were anointed as champions even before the first game was played, but for years to come.

Basketball is a team game (despite David Stern’s “the NBA is a superstar’s league” philosophy, a philosophy I have decried for decades now), and its greatest winners are a roll-call of great collectives.  From Russell’s (and, two decades later, Bird’s) Celtics, to Magic’s 5-time champion Showtime (and, two decades later, Phil Jackson’s and Kobe Bryant’s 5-time, hopefully 6-time, champion) Lakers, even to Jordan’s twice-three-peating Bulls, NBA dynasties are all teams in every sense of the word.  Sure, each NBA dynasty named here had its fair share of greats and hall-of-famers, but what they also have was great role players and a systematic way of playing the game.  Russell’s teams were founded on defense; Bird and Magic’s teams were built on solid teamwork and clutch shot making, as were all of Phil Jackson’s championship winners.  And their benches were filled with unselfish role players who also weren’t afraid to confront the team’s leaders and exert their own influence in judicious moments, if only to lend a counter-balance and a healthy ego check to their superstars.

These NBA dynasties were built with parts that were compatible with each other.  These teams all understood that the chain was only as strong as its weakest link.

The Miami Heat of 2010-2011 vintage?  From where I’m sitting they have more than one head, three or four, and they each seem to want to go in a different direction from everyone else.  LeBron James is a big black hole; Dwayne Wade is also exerting the same kind of gravity; Erik Spoelstra is one, too, trying to rein all the egos on his roster in and have them going in the direction he wants to go; and Pat Riley probably has his own gravitational force ripping this team up at its seams.

As far as the actual Heat roster is concerned, it’s a hodge-podge of parts.  The Big Three as individual players might look awesome when isolated; but thus far the experiment of bringing James, Wade, and Bosh has been a spectacular illustration that it’s not so much the greatness of the individual parts that matters most.  Rather, it’s how the pieces all fit.

Basketball teams are like jigsaw puzzles:  Some pieces are big, some pieces are small, but to have the complete picture all the pieces have to fit.

The Miami Heat’s pieces look like they belong to three or four different puzzles all mashed up together.  It’s impossible for a jigsaw like this to fit.

If you read Jason Whitlock’s piece, I obviously agree with a lot of what he says.  He expresses my own misgivings on the Heat thus:

Spoelstra wanted us — media, fans and Heat critics — to know just how much the players he’s responsible for getting mentally and emotionally ready to play care about winning.

We’re not stupid. We know LeBron, Wade, Bosh and all the players care, particularly since their rough November start. The Heat play really hard. No one in the league plays harder than James and Wade. The Big Three gave maximum, marvelous efforts on both ends of the court against Chicago. They desperately wanted to prove they can beat the NBA’s elite teams.

There are no legitimate questions about in-game effort and caring as it relates to the Big Three.

The questions are about whether the Big Three know how to go about preparing to win, subjugating their egos and finding a smart, comfortable rhythm/chemistry that produces victories against elite competition, and whether they have the right supporting pieces…

Pat Riley did Spoelstra no favors. I’m not talking about the flawed roster Riley gave his young coach. I’m talking about the organizational arrogance that Riley fueled throughout the offseason. In its desire to be relevant in a city that finds it easy to ignore professional basketball, the Heat franchise embraced the illogical and anti-team notion that three players could beat full teams and create an instant dynasty.

Protected by a fawning, local media cocoon and the ESPN hype machine, James, Wade and Bosh are just now coming to realize the depth and the weight of the burden they undertook.

*****

To be perfectly honest, Miami’s current slide is no revelation to me; it’s merely confirmation of what I’ve been telling people for many months now.  Despite their arrogant declarations of “multiple championships” and record-breaking seasons even before the first tip of the 2010-2011 season, their most recent performances have exposed them to be as fraudulent as LeBron James himself.

As much as LeBron James is the King of Nothing as far as I’m concerned, the Miami Heat are just as false as NBA championship contenders.  Three superstars by themselves cannot beat cohesive teams with adequate talent and also play with great purpose.  Individual talents are useless if they don’t complement each other.  The wolf that is the Miami Heat and their “Big Three” is nothing of the sort; they are, in actuality, three little lambs in wolf’s clothing.

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4 Responses

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  1. Chris Ross said, on 08/03/2011 at 18:05

    I agree with a lot of what you have said, but I don’t think you can totally count them out at this point. The roster is a big problem and I have never liked the idea of two ball dominating wing players. But I think a couple things need to happen if they want to have any chance of moving along in the playoffs. They need to run the offence through Bosh a bit more because I think he needs some more confidence that he can be a guy they go to in the 4th quarter, cuz all I’m seeing him do in the 4th is pass it off at the top of the key. Also, same with the role players, they need to take on a heavier load to know that they don’t have to worry about taking late game shots either.

    The crying was just sad because as you point out it’s just a regular season game. If this is how they’re reacting to this adversity, think of how they react the real tough times.

    Also, love Jason Whitlock as well, I think he is probably my favourite writer out there.

    Very nice article bud.

  2. Miami will implode once the playoffs start.

    If they don’t that’s bad news because they could potentially explode, but I dont think it’ll happen.

    Meehan

  3. I have a lot of other colorful things to say about the Heat, but I haven’t found out if you allow swearing on this blog.

    Meehan

    • txtmstrjoe said, on 17/03/2011 at 16:48

      Meehan, please do speak your mind. 🙂 Just be mindful that sometimes we might say things that someone may not particularly like, and he or she might go after you for it.

      I’m all for having good discussions, so fire away!


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