NBA: HEAT Lose, Call Players Only Meeting

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“We were just looking at each other and being honest, that’s what it’s all about,” Bosh told Yahoo! Sports about the meeting. “I think when you’re in situations like these and around guys all the time, you need to be honest with each other. Just talk and put our foot down about the season and put it in minds that we’re better than this, and we’re going to do better than this.”

The HEAT lost to the Mavericks 106-95 Friday night and held a  player’s only meeting right after the game. All is gloom and doom on the shores of Biscayne Bay, and (9-8) after 17 games with all things considered, is a marginal result at best. The injuries, the lack of cohesion, the league-leading 13 turnovers per game and 30th ranked ORR have all contributed to their slow start.

Unlike most, I don’t find solace or comfort in the struggles of the Miami HEAT.

If you do, then you are probably at the wrong site. Need that fix? Then go to any of the hundreds of NBA blogs this morning and read how it feels so good the HEAT are losing, how Riles needs to replace Spoelstra, about how James brought this on himself, and why he deserves this after his Decision special on ESPN.

Go somewhere else for your daily dose of the basketball media lynch-mob assassinating the HEAT’s character as a team, coaching staff, organization and individually as men. I won’t be. There people will continue to harp on the questionable public relations moves this summer and tell you how horrible of a person Lebron James is….

I won’t engage those persons any longer, and refuse to acknowledge their existence. I’ve grown weary, numb to the HEAT bashing, Lebron hating, Dwyane’s demise and the evisceration of Chris Bosh.

But I will share an honest, informed and unbiased opinion about the HEAT….

It looks to me like Dwyane Wade and Lebron James are having superstar issues on the court and are doing their best to conceal that.  I’m not saying there is some huge personal issue between the two, but neither player compliments each other well on the floor.

Not saying they never can, but they haven’t to this point. This duo is not Ray Allen’s pure, wet-ball jumper to Paul Pierce’s mid-range slashing on the perimeter, a complete balance of shooting and floor skills from a perimeter tandem.

Wade is a smaller version of Lebron and shares a similar skill-set, sans a wet jumper – which makes it easier for teams pack it in, destroying any semblance of space for the HEAT’s most potent perimeter players.

Both love to get to the rack, and when that option is thwarted, both settle for bad, contested, out of rhythm jumpers from 16-23 feet(1-8 vs DAL). James & Wade are shooting near their career lows from the field and three-point line, but it is no mystery as to why.

Offensively spacing is everything in the league and without a serious inside threat, the HEAT are having a difficult time finding any. While some blame falls squarely on the shoulders of their superstars, the onus is on the HEAT coaching staff to make efficient adjustments to get both guys better, higher percentage shots within the natural flow of the offense.

But nothing says “eff you” to your coach or teammates more that an off-balanced 22-footer with a hand in your grill.

70 wins was a media and fan creation, the bar purposely set high and immortalized by Jeff Van Gundy, brother of HEAT rival and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. The only team with the roster and payroll to win 70 this season are the Lakers. I doubt Jeff believed that when he said it, as it sounded like a strategic move to create an incredible amount of pressure and scrutiny on the HEAT. Guess what? It worked.

And while Lebron did mention a goal and dream of winning not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven championships, that hope is very much still alive – chips aren’t won or lost after 17 games in November. All the HEAT have to do is make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, where they currently sit 5th.

Any basketball observer worth a damn could look at this HEAT roster of players 1-12, and surmise that this wasn’t some luxury-taxed, super squad with unrivaled depth like the Lakers or Magic.  Several former NBA players turned analysts got caught up in the wave of media hype, which is an easy thing to do if you are inundated with this stuff 24/7.

It has a brain-washing effect for some, but offers clarity for others. I don’t blame you or them – I blame the lack of ability to properly evaluate the Miami HEAT roster.

Not everyone sees the game or maintains perspective like we can.

1 icon + 1 ailing superstar + 1 Bosh doesn’t  = championship regime. Maybe in your 2K11 video game, simulation dynasty world, but not in the NBA. To the number-crunching, advanced stat- head it made sense, but simulations aside, I was never blown away by the Miami 3:16. Lebron and Wade yes, Bosh? Not so much.

Lebron is not being all that he can be on either side of the ball – looking listless, unaggressive, tentative, hesitant and unlike the defending two-time NBA MVP. He needs to get back to playing with that effort and energy on defense like last year. When’s the last time you saw James chase down somebody with an open layup and beat it up against the glass?

Where’s that  great weak-side helping Lebron I was getting used to?

The one that was a defensive catalyst and seemingly had a hand in every play? Where are the deflections, the charges, the tough block-outs, the floor-burns?

Where in God’s name are the offensive rebounds Lebron?

Offensively he’s leading the league in turnovers in a lazy, careless manner, shooting the lowest FG% of his career, and averaging his lowest point total since his rookie year in Clingen, I mean Cleveland (who’s 7-8 record vs a soft schedule is misleading).

The prancing, the preening, personal proclamations of his Kingship, his wonderfully done rebuttal commercial to his insatiable haters, leaving 30+ million on the table or behaving like a 25 year-old prodigy has nothing to do with his sub-par play. It’s apparent that Lebron is still feeling his way out within the framework of Dwyane’s team.

He doesn’t know when to takeover or when to defer and it’s showing. Let me rephrase, he knows when to do both but isn’t picking his spots correctly.

Pointing out that he’d been receiving racist tweets or commenting on the Cowboys is irrelevant to his incessantly high dribble and offensive attack stance, which is the root of some of his offensive struggles in my opinion.

Personally I think it’s because Lebron tends to stand straight up on offense and defense (especially this year), neutralizing his considerable advantages athletically, and bringing his level of effectiveness down to those of mere mortals.

To me, his public relations failures don’t dictate whether or not he stays active defensively, if he’s playing the passing lanes or closing out on an open shooter.  The Decision is the last thing I think about when someone beats him off the dribble, or out hustles him to a rebound.

Some of you guys seem to make a correlation between the two, which is bordering on absurd. I try to keep the criticisms relevant and on a basketball level. Sorry, no Gloria James/Delonte West buffoonery from me.

Blaming losses + bad play on off-season kismet or off-the-court basketball related decisions is weak. Some of you fancy yourselves as the karma police, and were probably running in the same crowd that associated the Lakers Finals failure in 2003-2004 to the Kobe Bryant adultery/rape situation that previous summer.

All of that talk is nonsense. Games are won and lost on the floor and there isn’t some council of basketball Gods that sit high in judgement, controlling the destiny of players, teams or organizations they deem undeserving or unworthy.

Unless of course you are the Clippers.

Dwyane hasn’t been himself this year, looks injured, ditched his Flash nickname (bad-move), hasn’t taken an on-balance jumper all year, and is showing signs in his body language that all is not well in Miami. But honestly, Dwyane has gone through loads of personal and family turmoil this off-season, not an excuse just the reality of his situation.

Anyone one that has went through it, understands the physical, mental and emotional toll family related issues can take on the body and mind. Wade is still expected to perform like the professional he is, and I can’t honestly sit here and say his off-season drama hasn’t affected his play this season.

Wade also plays with the look of a man that wishes Lebron wouldn’t dominate the rock on offense so much. His frustration sets the tone for the rest of the team, on both ends of the floor.

James Jones, Mario Chalmers, Juwan Howard, Carlos Arroyo, Eddie House, Jamal Magliore and Joel Anthony are serviceable players in this league that need to be maximized by James, Wade and Bosh – but they aren’t. Big Z was scoreless from the field in 10 minutes Friday night. Anthony, Howard and Dampier combined for 2 points against Dallas’ much improved big-men.

Even more troubling was the production from the Mavericks perimeter players last night, which speak directly to the inconsistent, at times inadequate defense that  James and Wade have been playing this season. Despite being ranked in the top 5 of efficiency, the last few losses I’ve noticed LeWade playing gambling, fundamentally flawed defense on the perimeter, creating a rotating headache on a consistent basis.

This is a problem.

Chris Bosh has a decent floor game and isn’t the greatest passer, but can find open shooters and cutters out of the double-team in the post.  He can still score on anybody, gets to the FT line with frequency and can grab 10 rebounds a game.

He is exactly who I thought he was, and his numbers have quietly risen into the realm of respectability.

Pressure is a bitch, and I’m not sure if any of us can honestly say we understand what Miami is going through. The Lakers or Celtics aren’t hated this much, which is flat out ridiculous. I’ve never seen a  squad with a 64 million dollar payroll receive so much disdain.

Never in the history of professional sports has a team been more criticized, analyzed and scrutinized. Every misstep is magnified, every success is marginalized, these HEAT can’t win for losing. 9-8 doesn’t help their cause and winning is the best elixir for those infected with the hater virus, but how will Miami turn it around?

Erik Dampier will help on the interior, but Udonis Haslem may be done for the season. Mike Miller will provide a huge boost because of his ability to shoot and space the floor, but the HEAT’s current woes extend well beyond floor spacing.

It’s about their team DNA, their energy and effort, heart, will to win, sense of urgency and any other cliche you can come up with. The HEAT made the playoffs last year without the talents of the NBA’s best player and with Wade’s imprint all over this team.

With the arrival of James, the dynamic has changed, the DNA somewhat tainted.

Even still, we are barely 20 games into the season and there is still time, however fleeting it is. The HEAT  have 65 games remaining, giving them ample opportunity to remedy offensive and defensive woes. I figured that it would take time for Dwyane and Lebron to mesh in a basketball sense, and neither has yet to embrace his role within the newly formed structure of the team.

Yet I’m not a prisoner of the moment, and realize this team has the aptitude to make a considerable improvement over the next few months.

I am not a product of today’s “microwave culture”, that fast forwards through the 82 game season and has already anointed the champion based on their November record.

I try to take things day-by-day, game-by-game.

I recognize that the HEAT are having some issues internally and on the floor, but refuse to write them off as many have chosen to.

I won’t blame any of their struggles or woes on false Karma, public relations decisions or pep rallies either. This is about them performing as individual players, not the coaches, Pat Riley or nobody else.

For Miami to turn it around, they have to get back to playing the game the right way, something the HEAT have methodically moved away from.

[Spears]

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