It was all smiles for the Miami Heat after their 105-94 win Monday night in South Beach.
“It was the second time throughout this year that we both felt comfortable with the other taking over,” Dwyane Wade told the media after the game with teammate LeBron James nodding his head contentedly by his side.
“Every day we continue to learn each other because we have communication,” Wade continued. “And that’s what’s most important.”
Phew, breath a sigh of relief, Miami fans! The early-season scare is over. That 9-8 start you guys had is a distant memory.
They even showed some fire in that game. Eighty-five-year-old Juwan Howard shoved opponent Hilton Armstrong to the floor after Armstrong delivered a hard foul on Joel Anthony.
“I think it’s great,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in his postgame news conference. “I think this was a direct residual of the weekend [when Miami lost 106-95 at Dallas], and guys are getting tired of it. We know we really have to get more physical, particularly under the glass. I like it when we come in with a chip on our shoulder.”
What a turn-around. Maybe 70 wins isn’t a pipe-dream after all. It’s all “Kumbaya” in South Beach now.
Wait, what’s that? They were playing the Washington Wizards? Oh … so the Heat are grasping for good-publicity straws, huh?
The Wizards, for those who haven’t been following their season (and that includes all but about 12 people in Washington, DC), came into Monday’s game with a 5-10 record. They haven’t won a single game on the road, are 1-7 against teams with winning records and faced the Heat without rookie star John Wall, who is nursing a bruised right knee.
If Miami hadn’t beat that team, president Pat Riley might have fired Spoelstra then and there.
And the cold truth is, many of Miami’s problems remain.
Despite all their talk Monday night, for one, the two superstars still haven’t figured out a way to coexist. When D-Wade is on the bench and LeBron on the floor, the Heat are plus-18.2 in point differential; reverse that, and they’re plus-9.8.
But put them both out there together, and Miami’s just plus-2.8. Which means the team’s better off when James and Wade aren’t on the floor at the same time. Why? Because neither knows how to deal with being No. 2.
Wade admitted as much after Monday’s game, saying both have been “worrying about when are we going to get a shot, or when are we going to get the ball.”
I don’t recall that ever being the case with either of Boston’s Big Threes.
It’s hard to correct that problem when LeBron seems to have little respect for Spoelstra. First The King complained about playing too many minutes early in the season.
Then came “The Bump.”
Now, a leak to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, likely from the LeBron camp, claims that Spoelstra’s been too tough on them.
“Everybody knows LeBron is playful and likes to joke around,” a source told Broussard. “But Spoelstra told him in front of the whole team that he has to get more serious. The players couldn’t believe it. They feel like Spoelstra’s not letting them be themselves.”
LeBron’s response to the leak? “I got coach Spo’s back on whatever the case may be,” he said Monday. “This is who we have.”
This is who we have? Translation: I don’t like “Spo,” so I’m going to leak damning reports about him until he gets fired, then deny it all and smile for the cameras while expressing not-so-subtle hints that I’d prefer Riley.
And we all know what happened to the last head coach James wasn’t too fond of. The Cleveland Cavaliers, this offseason, fired Mike Brown (the most successful coach in franchise history) in hopes of convincing LeBron to stay. He left, anyway.
This is not, mind you, intended to be a dump-on-LeBron column. But the fact is, this Miami Heat team remains in undeniable disarray. They’re behind both Orlando and Atlanta in their division. They’ve got no true center, an average (at best) point guard and a below-average bench. LeBron is undermining the coach, and he and Wade seem unable to get on the same page offensively.
Given all that, I suppose a win over Washington is something to celebrate. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.
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