Miami Heat No Longer Favorites for NBA Title
by Trevor Whenham - 3/10/2011
Like many people -- perhaps a majority of the sports fans in the country -- I am not particularly sad that the Miami Heat are struggling right now. They are losers of five straight as I write this. In fact, I am taking a whole lot of pleasure that fact. I have never been much of a fan of the team, but The Decision and the subsequent fallout put another giant nail in their coffin in my eyes.
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What’s wrong with the Heat right now? You could write a book about that. They are still a top-level team that will obviously be dangerous heading into the playoffs, but the season certainly isn’t playing out according to the blueprint. The list of problems is long, but here are eight that clearly and obviously jump out:
Spoelstra getting harder to defend - Coach Erik Spoelstra was put into an almost impossible situation this year. In the beginning I was on his side only because of the ludicrousness of what he was being asked. Recently, though, it has become harder and harder to buy into what he is selling.
This whole crying after the Chicago loss issue is the latest problem. Not only did he throw his players under the bus by letting it slip that there had been tears, but then he came up with a totally ridiculous explanation for what had happened and how the media was entirely to blame. That would be fine if it seemed like he was managing his team internally better than he is managing things externally, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
Two best bench players play same positions as two best players - Mike Miller and James Jones are the two best bench players the team has. In a lot of ways they are the only two decent bench options.
The problem, though, is that they struggle to get as much time as they would ideally get because they are behind the two best players on the team. It was moronic team building to put all your eggs into three players and have no cash left for anyone else, and it was especially moronic to get your best backups in positions that aren’t the highest priority.
Ego issues - The big three assured us that they would get along perfectly and there would be no conflict or issues. Oops. That lasted for a while in theory, but the cracks are really showing right now.
LeBron wants to take more shots late in games. Wade wants the ball late in the game more, too. Bosh wants the ball down low more. Unless Spoelstra can find a way to get another ball or two into the game there is not enough action -- and glory -- to go around to these three, and those problems will only intensify unless they win.
A lot of people said you couldn’t put three alpha dogs on one team and keep them happy. Those people aren’t right yet, but they clearly aren’t wrong, either.
Injury to Udonis Haslem - This one is beyond their control, but it’s a huge problem, too. Haslem is a very nice complement to the big three, and his extended absence is proving to be a significant issue. This would be a significantly better team with Haslem in the lineup because he’s willing and able to do things the big three can’t or won’t do.
Shocking lack of effective big men - The Heat had three criteria for recruiting players in the offseason -- they had to be big, old, and cheap. Shockingly, that’s not paying off.
They have a lot of big men, but none of them are worth anything in any meaningful way, and that’s creating serious openings for opponents to exploit -- which they are doing effectively. Dampier, Ilgauskas, Magloire and Anthony would have been a fearsome foursome in 2004, but it really, really isn’t 2004 anymore.
Point guard - The Celtics have a very good point guard. The Bulls have the best point guard on the planet. The Lakers have a quietly effective veteran manning the point. The Spurs have a star. The Heat have Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby. Ouch.
A point guard isn’t the be all and end all, and teams have won titles without a great point guard. It would be a lot easier for this team to thrive, though, if there was a point guard able to make sure that the right people are getting the ball at the right time. Having to find players at or near the minimum to man the point seemed like a terrible idea before the season. It seems even worse now.
Feeling sorry for themselves - Nobody likes a whiner. The Heat are, increasingly, doing nothing but whining. Nobody likes us! The media is out to get us! Cleveland is being mean to me! We get no respect! Total garbage.
If they just shut up and did what they are being paid so much to do then people would quit talking trash and might even start to respect them. The more they whine, though, the more they will have to whine about.
Shocking last minute ineptitude - I shoot like an old white guy that has never played high level basketball -- decent on a playground, but far from great. Despite that, I am confident that I wouldn’t shoot worse in the last seconds of games than this team does.
It is stunningly impossible to believe how often this team has had the chance to put the game away late, and how often they have missed the opportunity. LeBron, in particular, has been a mess late. Totally unacceptable.