So the season isn’t going how all of the Heat fans, observers, and even haters alike thought it would. They aren’t on track to win 73 games. They aren’t dominating anyone, even the mediocre teams. So its time to start panicking, right? Time to fire Coach Spo, right? Time to re-evaluate the entire plan from top to bottom?
No, no, and no. We are only 17 games into an 82 game season and the Heat are 9-8. If the season were to end today, the Heat would be the 6th seed in the playoffs. They are not 4-13. Hell, if the season ended today, their record would even make the playoffs in the Western Conference right now! Does anyone honestly think the players are worrying? It is no real secret that the Big 3 are confident, most might say even cocky players. The only way these guys would ever get worried is if they were in danger of missing the playoffs, which in the East is as far from reality as the Winter Olympics being held in Florida. These stars know they can turn it on in the playoffs. They also knew when they put his band together that they probably wouldn’t roll through everyone in the regular season this year until they learned to adjust and play together night after night. Sure, LeBron opened the flood gates that is his mouth and predicted title after title after title, but he never once predicted breaking regular season records or finishing the number 1 seed or being 17-0 at this point in the season. Instead it seems the Heat superstars have the Shaq mentality – the regular season is just a means to get to the playoffs, where the real games begin and you finally dial your effort and intensity up to 100%. As much as they are struggling now, if you hooked up LeBron, Wade, or Bosh to a polygraph and asked them if they thought they could win a championship this year regardless of playoff seeding, chances are each one would not hesitate to answer yes and the detector needle would probably not even quiver. That is the level of confidence these stars have.
But while the players are confident, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy with the coaching. Rumors are bound to focus on the man with the biggest microscope on him, Erik Spoelstra. After all, much is being made of LeBron’s bump of Spoelstra during Saturday night’s loss to Dallas, which has the media signaling the unravelling of the Heat. Following that are reports from ESPN Monday morning of rising tension between the players and their coach, with the players unhappy with Spoelstra’s “tough” treatment, and going so far as to question his strategies and play calling. News flash: coaches and players don’t always get along and agree on everything, especially when things are not all hunky-dory. Phil Jackson called Kobe “uncoachable” and routinely criticizes his franchise player’s shot selection and they are only the 2-time defending NBA champions. Even if LeBron’s bump was intentional, that doesn’t mean Pat Riley is sharpening his axe and prepping his clipboard. Pat Riley may indeed have the itch to coach again, but he has repeatedly stated ad nauseum that he does not miss the daily grind of coaching and traveling that can exhaust even the workhorses. Riley as much as anyone knows that chemistry takes time to develop and you can’t just throw a team together from scratch and expect it to gel immediately. Plus, the ESPN report brings out a valid point in that Riley is known to work his players into the ground, and many players such as Wade who know this firsthand may not be ready for the ship to sail in this direction quite yet.
The Baller Guru’s Ball-Wise Bottom Line:
Losing breeds discontent between players and coaches, players and management, and even players and other players. The Heat will never be in any danger of missing the playoffs. The only way Pat Riley will return to the bench is if the players themselves begin to completely tune out Erik Spoelstra. Riley believes in his young coach but only while he has control of the team. In 2 years when the Heat will be owning the top seed in the East, regardless of who is coaching, all the folks who are panicking and worrying now will have forgotten this stretch of difficulty even happened.
Tags: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Pat Riley
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