Monday, June 13th, 2011 at 6:29 pm
So the NBA season wrapped last night the minute Cuban’s Mavericks laid waste to South Beach. Dallas’s well rounded attack, despite Dirk’s hangups from the perimeter, sent them on vacation. Alas, the prevailing story isn’t about the Mavericks winning in so much as it’s about Miami failing. The trend is surely disappointing considered the losers get more shine than the team who actually won. Nevertheless, that’s the case when your franchise is as polarizing as the Miami Heat.
There’s been a lot of stupidity spawned and followed by the attention-seeking Heat. Much of it is their own fault. They’ve given fans metric tons of ammunition to hate them ever since last summer. Now, as Malcolm X said, the chickens have come home to roost.
However, this article isn’t about deriding Miami in so much as it’s focused on how the team can fix their face. I’m not a fan of the franchise or its fan base but I’ll admit they exceeded my expectations. I didn’t think they’d get to the Finals as their squad’s top heavy makeup isn’t equipped for the long haul. Their lacking supporting cast and leadership deficiency contributed to their demise. They’re not a unit in so much as they’re two stars featuring a third wheel, some alright to unreliable role players and a false sense of entitlement.
First, Lebron James can’t continue to play basketball in the same fashion and expect to go far. I’ve long held he’s a gassed talent and Dwyane Wade’s a better ball player and leader. James has been in the league for eight years and, as a point-forward, still doesn’t have a post game worth talking about, a consistent J or the proper, unrelenting attitude needed to win big games. All of these assets are paramount for a dude of his size and play style. He’s always hanging around the perimeter and he’s not helping anyone with his wary jump shooting. Moreover, he’s the biggest 3 in the game and has the body to provide mismatches in the post. Yet he’s usually leery of scoring in that area. More importantly, he still lacks the meddle to consistently be a force down the stretch. Every great player has a killer instinct and Lebron simply doesn’t have it in him to take over a game at will. These hangups will always haunt him as long as they persist. So it’s in his best interest to get in the gym this summer and work on those aspects of his game.
Additionally, it’s understood James bought into Pat Riley’s scheme of him being the Magic Johnson-type player. Magic, unlike James, truly was a multi-faceted player who could play every position and come through in the clutch. He didn’t have a steady jumper but he could score down low, was great at getting his teammates involved and kept his squad running at a high level with uptempo basketball. Johnson made his teammates better which, in turn, made him a better player. Lebron always gets praised for his court vision but his attitude in the last 3 games, in light of his triple double in game 5, didn’t inspire his team to play to the occasion; thus adding to the list of faults towards Miami losing the series.
Moreover, I feel Dwyane Wade, as Miami’s leader, should’ve done a better job reminding his teammates what’s at stake. He already has championship jewelry yet his body language in games 5 and 6 showed some disinterest in the moment. Plus, I always hold captains should shoulder some of the responsibility no matter the outcome. Wade’s demeanor during critical moments rubbed off on everyone else even when he tried to get going. He played hard but I didn’t see the same fire in his eyes he had in ’06. You naturally wouldn’t expect a former NBA champion and Finals MVP, and one of the league’s best closers to fall off as well as not get shots with the game on the line. Yet it happened and Miami’s reaping the consequences for it.
Lastly, there’s much ado about Chris Bosh and his contract. He’s arguably been the most hated Heat teammate but his play in the Conference Finals and the Finals showed he can contribute in his role as a third option. Yet his stature as a max contract player makes him look like he’s hogging potential resources. Bosh’s scoring is offset by his inability to rebound well and be a defensive force in the paint. Miami needs more consistent bench scoring and stronger interior presence. Perhaps they can flip Bosh’s deal for more role players. It’s a reactionary step and Bosh’s price to value ratio isn’t appealing. They still won’t win with the team’s current makeup: especially with the new CBA looming. Maybe they can get a better mid-range player than Mike Miller at $5 Million a year or less. Either way, something’s gotta give when you’re top three players represent over half of the team’s payroll.
The Heat, despite my bias against them, are in an interesting place in that they now know what it’s like to lose as a team. Now it’s on them to use this embarrassing display to their advantage towards next season. They have a great deal of maturing to do even though they’re not very young. Fortunately for them, the NBA is in a weird place right now and plenty of teams can come up. Hell, no one outside of Dallas thought they had a chance to win it all this year. What’s more is many people are clamoring for Eric Spoelstra’s head. One thing they forget is the Heat’s problems go deeper than coaching. Personnel and mindset need to be remedied or else the ball club by the beach will keep coming up short.