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LeBron admits quest for three-peat wearing down Heat

Jan 11, 2014, 4:58 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

“There’s a reason these teams don’t do it. Emotionally, it’s just exhausting to keep doing it year after year, particularly when you have to deal with everything Miami has to deal with on a daily basis, just the constant critiquing and scrutiny on the team, and then you factor in the injuries with Wade and Bosh and their health.”
—TNT analyst Steve Kerr, who was a three-peat champion with the Chicago Bulls, predicting before the season the Heat would not three-peat.

——-

Every night if you are the defending champion you get the other team’s best shot — the last two nights that happened to the Heat in two different boroughs of New York and the Heat were not up for it. They lost both games, to the Knicks and Nets, another example of the Heat’s lapses we have seen for a couple regular seasons where they don’t bring their best game nightly (although they woke up at the end against the Nets certainly).

After the game LeBron James admitted that the grind is mentally wearing the Miami Heat down, something reported by Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

“It’s a long and grueling season for all of us, not just us because we’re the champs,” James said after fouling out for only the sixth time in his career and the first time in a regular season game since 2008. “We’ve played a lot of basketball in our four years together. It’s taken a lot of wear and tear on all our bodies. It’s mentally fatiguing. And you just try to find the motivation the best way you can as an individual and as a collective group…

“We’re banged up right now,” James said. “We’re not an excuse team right now, but we’ve got three starters [out]. And even though we’ve got a lot of depth, it’s hard to make up for three starters being out, so we could all use a break for sure.”

Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier were out injured against the Nets, the kind of nagging ones the Heat like to treat with rest during the season.

The motivation will be there come the playoffs, and despite lapses like this there remains only one team in the East who realistically stands a chance against a healthy Heat team in a seven game series (Indiana).

But Jeff Van Gundy harped on the key point of those lapses during the Friday night broadcast — is Miami building the good habit during the regular season that they will need come the playoffs? There were questions about that last season but they were able to knock off a Spurs team that certainly did execute. Those issues seem larger this season, however.

Indiana is bringing the nightly focus of a contender this season, looking like an elite team regardless of circumstance. Miami, despite having a better record than at this point last season, does look tired. And that can do things like swing the last couple games of an otherwise tight seven game series.

  1. shanelsweet - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    I’m curious, but not enough to do the research. How many teams have been champions without having one of the best records during the regular season? Let’s say since the Wizards won in ’78. I know their record wasn’t all that great that year.

    • greg285 - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:44 PM

      The last Bulls 3peat, their regular season record during those 3peat years was 203-43 so dominant teams accept the challenge and don’t talk about mental fatigue …

      • jbass27 - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:13 PM

        Actually the 98 Bulls are pretty similar to the 2013 Heat. By most accounts they dealt with a lot of mental and physical fatigue that year. They didnt have a dominant record necessarily, they only had the 2nd best record in the East and they had at least 10 more games they should have lost if Jordan hadnt willed them through it due to his insanity, according to Steve Kerr. The Heat are probably ending up with the 2nd seed, and they’re dealing with the same mental fatigue the Bulls went through. It doesnt matter how dominant you are, three peating is never easy. Its an almost impossible task and everyone forgets rhe Bulls almost didnt make it to the finals in 98 because they almost fell to an incredibly dominant Pacers team.

      • antistratfordian - Jan 11, 2014 at 10:09 PM

        Well that isn’t true. The 1993 Bulls were all about mental fatigue – they struggled through the regular season and especially through the playoffs. Jordan was talking about retiring BEFORE that season started, that’s how mentally fatigued he had already become going through the first two rings.

        But don’t fall for LeBron’s words here – he’ll come up with some sort of excuse every once in a while after back-to-back losses to take the sting off of it. But Miami will win 10 in a row and he’ll be saying something about how locked in everyone is.

      • blueintown - Jan 11, 2014 at 10:51 PM

        This article starts with a member of that Bulls team talking about how exhausting the challenge is. Don’t be such a child.

      • antistratfordian - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:39 PM

        Sorry, correction – I meant to say the Bulls struggled through the 1992 playoffs and the 1993 regular season.

        In between Jordan was thinking about retirement – he missed the first week of the 1992-93 training camp because he wasn’t sure he had the desire to do it anymore (officially he was “sick”). He wrote in his autobiography that the attention and pressure (and added pressure from the Dream Team) was reaching intolerable levels (it also didn’t help that his dad was trying to get him to retire to play baseball even a year before that).

        But Jordan was talking about mental fatigue and motivation just trying to complete back-to-back titles. Here’s Hank Hersch from Sports Illustrated, May 25, 1992:

        Then he admitted that finding the motivation to win it all was easier in last year’s playoffs than it has been in recent weeks. “A team like Portland still has that hunger,” said Jordan. “We have to come up with something to motivate us. It’s not nearly as easy as we thought it was going to be.”

        So as they headed back to Chicago, the Bulls were on the brink of suffering the biggest playoff upset since 1981, when the champion Los Angeles Lakers fell in the first round to the Houston Rockets. Jordan questioned the character of his team. “We didn’t have anything to defend last year,” he said, “so we were more aggressive. We should have the same kind of hunger this year, but we don’t.”

        So contrary to your “dominant teams accept the challenge and don’t talk about mental fatigue” statement, MJ was talking about these issues during his run at an earlier stage.

    • jbass27 - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:16 PM

      It depends what you mean? Do you mean like team thats not a top 3 seed? 1st seeded teams dont necessarily have the best success in the playoffs.

    • jlatiger - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:33 PM

      Ignore the dumb comment below. It is normal for great teams to fatigue during a 3Peat. See the Bulls records:

      61 – 21
      67 – 15
      57 – 25

      72 – 10
      69 – 13
      62 – 20

      As you can see they had their worst record on the third year. I would say the Heat are holding up fine so far.

    • antistratfordian - Jan 11, 2014 at 10:09 PM

      That list is a long one.

    • miamatt - Jan 12, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      #1 the Heat are right there in the pack of teams with best records in the league, let’s not act like they are playing .500 ball. They’ll be right around 60 wins when it is all said and done, among the best records in the league.

      #2 more often than not, the team with the league’s best record doesn’t win the title.

  2. machine64red2 - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    Come home Lebron

    • kb2408 - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:38 PM

      Oh, he will come home alright…but only to visit. I have a hard time seeing him leave Miami. LeBron is playing for his place in NBA history right now, and three different teams will certainly take away from his legacy. I think he will trust Pat to build a winner after Wade is no longer a viable second option, which, from the looks of it, is not too far away.

      • biasedhomer - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:54 PM

        Isn’t his home Cleveland? So how could it be a 3rd team? And how does that take away from his legacy? If he can take another team to one or more championships (as the face of the franchise), that would only make his resume even more impressive.

    • jhuck92 - Jan 11, 2014 at 10:07 PM

      You sound like an old ex-girlfriend trying to get her man back

  3. trueballs - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    With Indy’s roster it’s easier to be consistent on defense. When Miami’s perimeter players slack off they have an undersized frontline backing them up. Indy has a huge frontline…and they’re perimeter players rarely slack off. Miami’s system is all about effort and focus. Tough to do every night, but a great strategy in the playoffs.

    • onlyavoice - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:37 PM

      Indy has also gone home early as long as I can remember.
      NO ONE is gunning for them, no one wants to play their hardest to beat them.
      Not 1 member of the Pacers have had any scrutiny to win a championship.
      Remember the Bulls great record & were the favorites until Lebron & the Heat stopped them.
      Expect to see a motivated Heat team come May.
      As Shaq always said, the real games start in the post season.

  4. kb2408 - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    This is exactly why I picked Indy to win it all. Miami screwed up their shot at a threepeat by getting beat by Dallas. For the Heat to get past Indy LBJ will have to be super-human AND Wade will have to turn back the clock five years. I don’t see it happening. Indy is younger, deeper, more physical, better defensively, hungrier and just flat out the better team. That being said, even if Indy gets to the Finals they can lose to the team that reps the West. I will stick with my pick of them to win the title but the Spurs, Clippers and a healthy Okc will have something to say about that.

    • onlyavoice - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:40 PM

      LOL, Wade was on 1 leg & the Heat were in a shooting slump & still won.
      Better not bet the house on the Pacers, you’ll lose.

      • biasedhomer - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:51 PM

        What you seem to be forgetting is the Pacers are a team on the rise, while most of the Heat roster has either peaked or even on the decline. And on another year, and the Pacers gain ground while the Heat have stayed pat or even taken a step back. Obviously, it will come down to Heat or Pacers in the East (because of how historically weak the rest of the conference is).

      • zoomy123 - Jan 11, 2014 at 7:49 PM

        @biasedhomer

        Nobody cares that Indiana is a team on the rise, lol. What have they done? What have they accomplished? In last year’s playoffs Paul George was an emerging superstar, Roy Hibbert was dominating, David West was dominating and Indiana was playing suffocating defense. Meanwhile Shane Battier was in a shooting slump, Ray Allen was in a shooting slump, Dwyane Wade was on 1 leg and Bosh was practically non-existent. And Miami still won by crushing Indiana in game 7. If Wade is 80% in the playoffs and Oden can play 20 minutes a game (and neither of these things seems far-fetched), then Miami wins a tough series.

      • savvybynature - Jan 11, 2014 at 10:56 PM

        Oden giving 20 good minutes throughout the playoffs seems VERY farfetched to me, considering it’s been years since he has even played a regular season game.

    • ganksus - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:57 PM

      If they beat Dallas then San Antonio wins it last year. A year will not have gone by when the playoffs start again. It really has not been that long since last season and not much has changed. You’re also assuming Indy does not catch it during the playoffs from some team they’re looking past. One injury and its over.

  5. apkyletexas - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    Oh, it’s the exhaustion!

    And here I thought it was because they are incredibly weak and inept in the paint. Silly me.

  6. onlyavoice - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    It’s a lot of games & a lot of stress. It took it’s toll on the Lakers when the Mavs beat them.
    The Lakers were spent & the Mavs capitalized. Not a Lakers fan but those Mavs GOT LUCKY that season & nothing else.
    As a Heat fan I’m prepared for it if it happens, I couldn’t be any happier for what they have achieved so far. If the Heat are healthy I don’t see it happening though, they’re tired but they have unity & chemistry,
    something Kobe destroyed that season with his ego & his mouth.
    Heat will 3 peat.

    • blackman24 - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:37 PM

      Why do Heat fans always bring up Kobe on an article that has nothing to do with him? No one destroyed chemistry you clown, they just got outplayed severely by the Mavs, plain and simple.

    • apkyletexas - Jan 11, 2014 at 7:09 PM

      @onlyavoice – “The Lakers were spent & the Mavs capitalized. Not a Lakers fan but those Mavs GOT LUCKY that season & nothing else.”

      You’ve GOT to be kidding.

    • ganksus - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:53 PM

      I agree. It wont be their last.

    • jredmond3 - Jan 12, 2014 at 6:40 AM

      Ever heard of giving credit where it’s due? Then again, I guess you’re just another bandwagon Heat fan so qualities like humility shouldn’t really be expected. Cmon now, beating the Lakers, Thunder, and Heat in a best of 7 Series has to involve more than luck.

    • davidly - Jan 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

      The Mavs certainly had the edge in energy and motivation, but Carlylse made all the right moves to overcome the overall size disadvantage. It was not all luck and nothing else by any means.

      Where you are correct is that LA–like Miami this year–had been to three straight finals, winning the last two, and were coasting at points during the regular season. In the Lakers’ case it was a matter of not bringing it every night, which in my opinion led to the misapprehension that they’d be able to turn it on whenever they wanted–as in the last reg-season matchup vs. the Mavs in which they destroyed Dallas. They went into that series not so much exhausted as overconfident.

      That’s also where you are correct: unlike some of their fans on these forums, the Heat players are not overconfident; they know they’re gonna have to bring it in the playoffs against all comers–especially the Pacers. That’s gonna be a great series, I think.

  7. dolphindubs - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    As a Heat fan, knowing this might sound stupid, but I would almost rather see Indiana get the number 1 seed. Indiana hasn’t really had to play with any type of pressure put on them, but having home court advantage with everyone saying they are the more complete team would put all the pressure on them in a potential postseason matchup.

    Miami has shown they can handle pressure. Indiana hasnt been put in that situation.

    • musician0785 - Jan 11, 2014 at 8:02 PM

      you’re right that does sound stupid

    • ganksus - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:51 PM

      No. I agree. Number one is a curse. The Heat is the first team in ages to carry the number 1 all the way to the championship. To win this year I feel they will need to be out of their comfort zone. A cool number 2 will give them the challenge they need to bring it. They like playing with their backs against the wall.

  8. dolphindubs - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    @greg285

    Different time, different era. If Jordan would have had to put up with all the type of instant-second media that everyone today puts up with, who is to say they wouldnt of become mentally fatigued.

    Let’s not forget, Jordan assaulted teammates, cheated numerous times on his wife, and dealt with a gambling addiction. That type behavior, being covered in todays media, just imagine…

  9. thomaskouns - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:17 PM

    I never heard Jordan complaining about the ‘pressure’ during his three-in-a-row. if Lebron wants the credit the Bulls & Lakers got for three-in-a-row he has to make it happen – simple as that.

    Not a good omen when you start making excuses 50 games into the season.

  10. benb410 - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    It is tiring because it is still called a Three Peat. #treybythebay

  11. truninerfan49 - Jan 11, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    Lebron, Comments like these are why you will never be as great as Jordan or Kobe.

  12. bhunter1995 - Jan 11, 2014 at 9:19 PM

    Indiana took the Heat to seven games without Granger, Without Scola, With a worse bench PG and without Chris Copeland, with a Paul George who was averaging 17 PPG and a Roy Hibbert who was 20 pounds lighter who’s offensive game was less polished. The Pacers got a hell of a lot better, on the other hand the Heat have veterans who are getting older and the addition of Michael Beasley and Greg Oden. If you think Greg Oden can stop Hibbert you need to stop popping pills. There are plenty of big guys who don’t make it in the league, being big doesn’t make you a defensive force and it doesn’t mean you can get rebounds over the giant that is Roy Hibbert. The question is, does Oden still have any mobility or vertical leap and does he still have his instincts in terms of rebounding. Heat fans are drinking too much of the Kool Aid if they think Greg Oden can bang with Hibbert simply because he weighs a lot, they forget that he has bum knees and he is out of shape and hasn’t played in years. No player in NBA history has ever come back from three micro knee fracture surgeries, the most anyone ever came back from was two (Kevin Martin).

  13. cantonbound13 - Jan 11, 2014 at 9:33 PM

    Not so easy without Daddy Stern.

  14. jbeagles23 - Jan 11, 2014 at 9:47 PM

    Easy to talk in January and make excuses in the playoffs

  15. monkeyhateclean - Jan 12, 2014 at 1:24 AM

    “you just try to find the motivation the best way you can as an individual and as a collective group…”

    Seriously, LeFraud? You have 19,067,500 reasons to be motivated, and still you cry, your tears forming a river of excuses.

    As detestable as Kobe is, he never whined about “mental fatigue”. And Jordan? He was too busy surviving the Crucible that was the Detroit Pistons every post-season to worry about LeFraud’s problems

    With such superior examples in the recent past, how embarrassing for the NBA that Queen James is thought of as the “face” of the game.

  16. davidly - Jan 12, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    Sure, three in a row is exhausting. Perhaps this is a big reason why the second-time three-peat Bulls, with 72, 69, and 62 wins, respectively, couldn’t get on the same page to try to do one better than that.

    Imagine a team with the best record and NBA title blowing it all up because they want a rookie head coach, and are willing to let a player who defines not just your franchise, but basketball for an entire generation, retire to get it done. Part of that has to be down to not just egos, but exhausted championship-fat egos.

    Regarding the hungry-for-a-three-peat Heat: the guy who coined the phrase, “three-peat” a quarter-century ago, Pat Riley, has his chance to do it as a GM–finally, again, after having been a couple of bad boys short of doing it as a coach way back in 1989.

    Interesting that one of his rivals has three of them and that he bested Riley’s former team’s best record of 69 wins only to eventually go on to coach that team to a three-peat himself.

    As an even further-to-the-side aside: this would have been the year to break the Bulls 72-win record. Miami of two seasons ago could have done it this year. But this year’s Heat is not the Heat of two years ago. Will Riley finally get his three-peat?

  17. skins1979 - Jan 12, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    I think if they can get to the playoffs fairly healthy they could regain their form. Playoffs are like another season so to get a decent seed could play in their favor.

  18. skins1979 - Jan 12, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    I think if they can get to the playoffs fairly healthy they could regain their form. Playoffs are like another season so to get a decent seed could play in their favor.

  19. spursareold - Jan 12, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    No team since the Celtics 50s 60s dynasty has gone to four Finals in a row, so the Heat are bucking that tiger, too..

    • miamatt - Jan 12, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      It was actually the Celtics of the 80s that last went to four finals in a row.

      • miamatt - Jan 12, 2014 at 9:03 PM

        How does a fact get a thumbs down? LOL

      • davidly - Jan 13, 2014 at 5:03 AM

        Dude. The fact that there are thumbs upses and downseses is “LOL” enough–don’cha think?

    • dedalus13 - Jan 13, 2014 at 5:28 PM

      And for the record just prior to the 84 85 86 87 Celtics the 82 83 84 85 Lakers did it as well. Along with 80 87 88 89 91 that was 9 finals out of 12 for the Lakers.

      It is interesting to see how the Lakers dominance in the 80s is easily forgot or assimiled to quite some earlier periods of the NBA that was home of only about 16 franchises (the good ol’ times :-P)

  20. miamatt - Jan 12, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    It’s so hilarious how short some people’s memories are. This is the same stuff we were hearing last year. Are they building good habits? Are they motivated? They haven’t done anything to shore up their weakness! HAHAHA.

    Dwayne Wade is looking great (if you watch every Heat game, you know this is true), and is wisely being rested rather frequently.

    The ball movement and offensive flow has never been better.

    While I am shocked to write this, Michael Beasley looks to be a major sparkplug with his scoring and rebounding.

    While we see the same defensive lapses we’ve come to expect at times for the past several regular seasons, we also see the same suffocating intensity to take over games at times, usually against the best competition.

    As a Heat fan I’d love to see them get the no.1 seed, but only if they can get there healthy. I’d rather see a healthy, relatively well-rested Heat team as the no.2 seed than a Heat team limping into the playoffs with the best record.

    • davidly - Jan 13, 2014 at 5:20 AM

      It’s because we (not us, per se, but the collective) are conditioned to believe such narratives. Everything you say is true. Wade is having a stellar year and the fact that he can take nights off and the team doesn’t miss a beat (on track to win almost 60 games) speaks volumes to their depth of team play.

      I, for one, was one of the people who–back during the decision and subsequent fan-pep-rally–was saying that they wouldn’t be able to get the talent to fill out the rest of the squad, not having forgotten the lesson of role players as on the late-nineties Bulls, it was just that that team already had the role players in place.

      I don’t credit Riley so much for garnering the big-three (I still think the players themselves should get all of that (I mean, if LBJ gets the blame, he should get the credit, too, imho), but I give Riley all the kudos in the world for filling in the rest of the squad. Not that he needed to prove his cred, when you look what he did building the team when he was coach.

      And you’re also right about where they need to be come playoff time. Per my comment above, they are not displaying complacency–or, if they are, it is not for more than a game at a time. Dangerous complacency is like the Lakers in ’11. They were so complacent that they got outcoached and outplayed four straight games by a team that they should have crushed at least a couple of times in that series.

      Now, I would like nothing more than for my lifelong fave Pacers to do the same, but it ain’t gonna happen. If Indiana wins the Eastern Conf Finals–it’ll probably be with an edge on the boards and defense, etc.–but it won’t be against a “complacent”, “old”, “declining” blah blah blah. That’s just fanboy-speak.

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