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Miami’s next step: Figure out how to be a team

Jun 6, 2012, 6:06 AM EDT

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Five Getty Images

With the game and maybe the season on the line, the Miami Heat were what they have been since October of 2010 — individuals.

Dwyane Wade was the guy with the ball, standing out top and attacking off the dribble trying to find a seam to slice through. LeBron James was in the corner, motionless, a decoy. He was tired from having carried the team the first 40 minutes and it showed in his lack of movement. Chris Bosh was sitting on the bench because coach Erik Spoelstra “didn’t think it would be fair” to him to be out there in his first game back.

It didn’t work. Again.

For the second straight year the vaunted Miami Heat are about to be eliminated by a team — not a more talented group of individuals, but a group that is more than the sum of its parts because they play as a unit. They trust each other on defense, they make the extra pass on offense. Boston is the definition of team.

Miami has never been more than just its parts. Not for a consistent stretch anyway.

And that’s what the Heat have to figure out. It may well not be possible to do that before Game 6 in Boston. It is something they have to figure out this summer.

How? That’s the multi-million dollar question.

• Does Miami need a new coach? After the game, Spoelstra was sounding like a hollow motivational speaker with the kind of rhetoric he brings into the locker room.

“(We must) fight any kind of noise from the outside or any human condition, and to collectively come together strong to prepare for the next game,” Spoelstra said.

With the expensive talent on this roster his seat is permanently warm. Thing is, the players have bonded with Spoelstra and I don’t know that a coaching change really solves the problem. First off, late in the game Wade was not hustling back on defense and leaving his teammates exposed — some want to blame Spoelstra for a lack of motivation here, but that misses the point. If Wade is not hustling near the end of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals it’s not the coach’s job to motivate him — that’s all on Wade.

Also, who are you going to get that’s that much better? Pat Riley doesn’t want to return to the bench. He’s not about to bring in the ego of Phil Jackson to battle for control of the organization’s soul. Pretty sure Riley isn’t going to re-hire Stan Van Gundy. Do you really want to commit to Mike D’Antoni’s seven seconds or less? Spoelstra is not a bad coach and if you fire him you need to have someone better in the wings.

• Bring in more talent? Much easier said than done because the roster you have is already well over the salary cap and luxury tax thresholds for next year. The big three alone account for $52 million, the rest of the roster commitments bring the Heat to $78 million for next season already on the books. They have the mini-midlevel exception of $3 million — you think that is going to lure Steve Nash? After that it’s just veteran minimum deals. And making a trade isn’t going to be easy — who on this roster do you really want after the big three? You’re not getting much for them. Basically the Heat can keep adding some veterans willing to play for less like Shane Battier and Mike Miller, but that’s it.

• Break up the big three. Is two years enough time to decide that the experiment has failed in this form? I’m far from sold Pat Riley is ready to give up on this yet. And even if he is, trading a superstar — whichever one of Bosh, LeBron or Wade you decide to move — never brings back equal talent.

There are no easy answers. Maybe the best answer is for Wade, LeBron and Bosh to internalize the lessons that Dallas and Boston have taught them and make the sacrifices they need to themselves to become a better team.

But clearly, they are not there yet.

  1. rickyspanish - Jun 6, 2012 at 6:19 AM

    Helin

    Hold off on the eulogy until they’re gone. Are the Heat the only team to fall 2-3 to a great team? Are the Spurs not in the same situation? It doesn’t look good for Miami right now, but this article would be great if Miami just got eliminated.

    • infectorman - Jun 6, 2012 at 8:03 AM

      “a great team”?
      All I’ve been hearing is: “too old”, “too slow”.
      Heat fans and countless infamous national trolls were calling for this to be over in 5, certainly no more than 6 games with Miami going to the Finals for the 2nd year.

      Where are all the Heat “fans” today with the big mouths? U know who you are!

      Appears Heat fans aren’t very experienced at understanding what good “teams” are and what playground basketball is.
      When the pressure was on last nite we witnessed both, with the “Team” prevailing.

      • jimeejohnson - Jun 6, 2012 at 11:01 AM

        They have been silenced by their team’s losing to the underdog Celtics. Yet, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings!

      • scooter2the - Jun 7, 2012 at 9:32 AM

        One prevailing and glaring item that everyone seems to overlook is what I like to call the Lebron James Factor. It is unfortunate that a basketball player in this day and age is going through what he is. He came drectly from High School to the NBA and was not mentally prepared for what was to come on or off the court. He has some of the best physical skills we have ever seen but mentally and intellectually has not matured enough yet – he is getting there. I for one think he would have benefited greatly from college to help him become a better thinker and responder under pressure and he still could benefit from going to college in his spare time to help him become a better thinker – and to insure he knows how to manage his finances but I digress. 2nd his personality is large! and because of the spotlight I think his teammates both in Miami and Cleveland dont feel as important so you dont get maximum effort as you should from your role players at crucial times. Now I have no idea how Lebron is with his teammates off the court but I do think he is trying but still has a ways to go in basketball IQ and Leadership skills both of which he must become a student of and fast, if he wants to become an NBA champion. I think if Lebron James had been required to go to college at least 2 years before entering the NBA – he would have had a championship by now and the league would have been better for it, but he lost valuable time and a learning experience in both Basketball IQ and leadership skills that he would have picked up in college. HELLO DAVID STERN

  2. cantonbound13 - Jun 6, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    Not 1, not 2, not 3…. What an IDIOT!!! Hahahaha

    • jackntorres - Jun 6, 2012 at 10:09 AM

      But zero!!

  3. mx429 - Jun 6, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    This is why players do not usually make good managers, they don’t understand anything other than their own individual talents and are seldom able to put complimentary pieces together. Wade and James collaborated and built this team in their own image, and the result is the predictable whining, choking and flopping performances they’ve displayed both in this series and last years Finals. Wade has lost the character to truly lead, and is probably the worst cry-baby in the leauge, and James was never the guy with the mental toughness to go the distance.

    • delius1967 - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:21 PM

      I don’t really understand your comment, given that Spoelstra was never a player in the NBA, and Rivers (who is outcoaching him) was.

      • mx429 - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:39 PM

        Your lack of understanding is due to the fact that you apparently don’t know the difference between a head coach and a general manager.

  4. cantonbound13 - Jun 6, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    Another 4th quarter disappearing act in a big game by LeChoke.

  5. mrbiz8505 - Jun 6, 2012 at 6:52 AM

    At least at halftime…LeBron was “pleased with his individual performance.”

  6. highlander24 - Jun 6, 2012 at 6:53 AM

    Good job, Good Effort.

  7. slowclyde86 - Jun 6, 2012 at 7:01 AM

    Anyone else notice heat fans filing out with 40 seconds left and the game still in doubt? Heat fans are the best!

    • berbes - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:42 PM

      to be fair, the best whores are swept up immediately following a home playoff loss.

  8. mungman69 - Jun 6, 2012 at 7:33 AM

    Heat in big trouble: no TEAM here.

  9. emaimo80 - Jun 6, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    Bosh 14 min 7 rebounds and 9 points, battier 32 min 2 rebounds 2 assists, James jones 17 min 1 rebound 4 points. Spolstra could be blamed for the last 3 losses. Example: game 3, heat down 23 to start the fourth quarter. They go on a run only down 8 during that run spo calls a full timeout while the heat possess the ball, bad move probably cost them the game. Game 4 heat have a chance to tie or win 14 sec left in ot, wade gets the ball holds on to it for all 14 seconds without passing once, horrible play heat lose. Game 5 how do u play battier 3 times as long as bosh only to get half of bosh’s results. Poor coaching, if the heat lose this series we have seen the last of spo!!!

  10. ogre2010 - Jun 6, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    They still haven’t figured out how to be a team yet?

  11. daniel10017 - Jun 6, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    They will fire Spoelstra on Friday should they lose. They would have no other choice. Pat Riley will also swallow his pride and hire Phil Jackson as coach or else Riley will be shown the door as well.

    • Scott - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      Daniel, you’re under 30 arent you? You do not yet understand how the world works. Your comments suggest that Riley’s on the hot seat…wrong. You think Riley will bring in Jackson…wrong. And win or lose, Spoelstra will not be fired on Friday. People in riley’s position did not get there by making kneejerk reactions to adversity.

      Spo may be fired this summer if they lose, but it will not be on Friday.

  12. prosourcetalk - Jun 6, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Dump Spoelstra & bring in Jerry Sloan

    • delius1967 - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:22 PM

      No! Don’t do that. That would maike the Heat better. And soil the good name of Sloan. Better to keep Spoelstra, and have the Heat win 50+ each year but never get a championship.

    • iknowzeroaboutsports - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:38 PM

      After the Deron Williams issue, do you really think Sloan would go coach the Heat?

  13. mx429 - Jun 6, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    When you can’t figure out how to BE a team, it’s very difficult to figure out how to BEAT one.

    I’m sure when Wade and James stood in those bright lights, basking in the adoration of fan-boys and marketing whores, they felt as if they were capable of doing it all by themselves. Now that the cold reality of a strong supporting cast is apparent, they instead whine about officiating or other factors, continuing to delude themselves as to their own real worth. You’ll hear it said “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”, but there is nothing wrong with the game, however certain players richly deserve the hatred they receive.

    On the whiteboard in the locker room, I wonder if they demand their O’s to be drawn bigger than their teammates (which must be tiny in comparison), or whether they even considered the X’s at all.

  14. abchome - Jun 6, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Two And A Half Man – Miami, stayed tuned for season finale

  15. stayhigh_247 - Jun 6, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    “not a more talented group of individuals,” really? Overall, Boston has the edge in talent. The issue is they have way more mileage on their bodies. They clearly have more heart and a much better coach. What I dont get is why the Heat went out and got Eddie Curry and Juwan Howard and not use them in the playoffs at all? Talent is being able to will yourself a needed victory when all else fails i.e Mj’s flu game. Hey Wade, stop bitching about calls in crunch time and hustle back on d, oh and get some lenses for your frames you guys look goofy as hell!

    • joeksnuffy - Jun 6, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      ” Talent is being able to will yourself a needed victory when all else fails i.e Mj’s flu game.”

      What?!?! That’s not talent. That’s heart and mental toughness – something that LeBron doesn’t seem to have.

    • Scott - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:03 PM

      As a Heat fan, I appreciate your comments. I think you’re right on. Boston has at least 3 hall of famers on that team…and Rondo will probably one as well. I havent seen true point guard play like he’s given in this series, in a long time…maybe ever. The Celtics have more great players. Older for sure and maybe none of them are as good as Wade And LeBron, but together they are rock solid.

      On another note, as a Heat fan, I think Wade is done. Any of you remeber when Allen Iverson started losing his skills, just a little bit? He was still a good/great player, but only a shadow of his once greatness. I feel like DWade is about there and I would not be upset for the Heat to trade him this summer and get a true center, maybe a consistent outside shooter. It wont happen, but I wouldnt mind.

      All of that being said, if the Heat win in Boston on Thursday (and if the Celtics fans simply dismiss that as a possibility they are dumber than I thought) all of this will be forgotten and game 7 will be epic. Go Heat!

      • chae22 - Jun 6, 2012 at 4:46 PM

        Scott@ I agree with you am a heat and a Dwayne fan as well, but Wayne does is own things as for as I can see, this guy act as if he don’t give a dam..he turn the over ball, force bad shots and the list goes on. I won’t say he’s done, I also believe they should break up the big three and get rid of Dwayne..Lebron alone cannot win the game he need help from his teammate and he’s not getting it, so I don’t see why people always blaming him whenever they lost. This is a team sport not a one man game they need to work as a team and I don’t see them doing that..good luck in the next game..

  16. pcate45 - Jun 6, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    When Lebron said not 1, not 2, not 3,….. maybe he was being a prophet because so far that is how many rings he has helped Miami win.. Not 1, Not 2, not 3, Not any

  17. redblue560 - Jun 6, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    The Heat could have been eliminated if not for game 2. However, win or loose, kudos to the Celtics’s team for giving the fans an interesting series to watch beginning with the first round. Reminds me of the Bulls series a few years ago where games have gone to multiple overtime, I still think it was the best of all time.

  18. noirad - Jun 6, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Once again LeBron gets all the blame when it is clear he has been the only one playing on this Miami team throughout the playoffs. LeBron in Cleveland all over again.
    LeBron plays great, team plays like trash.

    • berbes - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:44 PM

      did you see the game?

  19. rayburns - Jun 6, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    Well, the first thing that a coach should do is to institute fines for any player who stands and whines to the officials instead of heading back on defense. I don’t know how many times the Celtics got odd-man breaks because one of the Heat players decided it was wiser to jaw at the refs.

    Best image was a replay that showed KG make a clean block of a LaBron drive, and you could see half the Heat team throw their arms up in the air and look at the refs, at the same time the Celtics were breaking the other way.

    Like golden age ref Jake O’Donnell said to a player when they miked him for a game “Just hustle and play hard and you’ll get your calls”

  20. andrewproughcfe - Jun 6, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    The number of titles won by teams without a dominant big man since 1980, when Phil Jackson was NOT the coach?

    Zero. Goose eggs.

    If you are going to put three “superstars” on the court, and aren’t going to control the paint with a big man, you better install the triangle. Or get used to losing in the playoffs.

  21. myopinionisrighterthanyours - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    This article appears elsewhere in the NBC family with the title “Heat Are Just a Bunch of Individuals.” I was going to suggest the subtitle “And In Related News, The Sky Is Blue and Water Is Wet.” Only those in Miami have yet to figure this out. There is no “I” in team, but in Miami, there are not one, but three “Me”s. Maybe “Not 1, not 2, not 3…” meant how many year’s it’d take to figure out what it would take to win their first.

  22. fanz928 - Jun 6, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    Heats win in game 7

  23. laserw - Jun 6, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    You can’t make Prima Donnas into team players.

    Anyone with eyes and an IQ above 10 knows that LeBrick James is not a team player. His charade that brought him to Miami was a glaring and unforgettable exercise in selfishness. He is his own team. A team of one. And he is a gutless player in the clutch situation. I’ve named him the Shrinking Violet because he simply disappears when you need him most. If he can’t showboat a shot, he’s throwing up bricks when he bothers to show up. And how many games has Miami lost because they’ve come up three or four points short. Look at how dreadful LeBrick is at free throws. The points he misses are often times the margin of their losses in clutch games. What you have here is a player who needs to be shipped off to some place like Charlotte that has no one and where LeBrick can shine as the ultimate prima donna. He won’t elevate the play around him, but he’ll sell tickets and he’ll score 50 points losing.

    I’m not much of a Wade fan but he appears to at least play the game. But Wade desperately needs a team of unselfish supporting cast members who will feed him the ball and who will rise above their individual competence every now and then. Wade isn’t succeeding because LeBrick never rises above his talent and ever does a Michael Jordan with the flu type of performance. It is likely LeBrick with the flu would be like a NyQuil commercial – LeBrick in bed and his teammates thankful.

    With that said, the Heat’s coach is a clueless twirp. He is often out-coached and is simply not ready for prime time. He isn’t motivational and no one fears him. Even worse, he isn’t very good at strategy and is out-coached repeatedly during games – unable to push his team and to counter the adjustments the other team makes. And, it is becoming apparent that he can’t bring a team into a winning situation when it develops a losing inertia. He can’t get his players to play better than they are able to individually – he rarely has any player seize control of the game and even gaudy numbers by LeBrick are meaningless down the stretch – he can’t manage one of the most selfish, repugnant, and overpaid players in NBA history. Clearly the Heat coach is testicularly challenged and is a mere mouse on the side of the court.

    Can Miami win game six? Sure. Will they? Miracles happen and maybe LeBrick will finally look in the mirror and see the solution to the problem is the reflection in that mirror. Doubtful. Overpaid players know they aren’t the problem.

  24. Charlie "Jumbo" Copeland - Jun 6, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    TIme to step up Lebron. http://wp.me/p2bjjs-Q7

  25. slimshadee - Jun 7, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    why does this heat jock rider helin have a job?????

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