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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. trimaster1 - Jun 7, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    The Heat’s free throw percentage this series is 60%. This is one important aspect of the game that people are overlooking. If they would’ve hit more of their free throws they would be UP in this series.

    Let’s not be too hasty. People were praising the Spurs after the 1st 2 games of the WCF. Now look at them. They’re on their way to the bahamas for a nice vacation. The series isn’t over yet. Boston has all the confidence in the world right now, but they still have to win 1 more game. If Bosch can play more minutes anything can happen.

  2. daniel10017 - Jun 7, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    Scott, why would the Heat wait until the summer (which by the way is 2 weeks away) when they likely feel that Spoelstra is not the guy for these players. Also I heard Stephen A Smith, he is suggesting they trade Wade and Bosh to LA for Kobe and Gassol. There is no way the Heat will make that move, they are married to this big 3 and moving around the bench players won’t make a difference. So there is only one solution and that is to fire Spoelstra immediately. It doesn’t make sense to drag it out, he clearly is not the right coach for this team at this particular time. Spoelstra will flourish elsewhere.

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