Every basketball fan in the country knew going into the year that Erik Spoelstra did not seem capable of managing the egos and personalities of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Miami Heat.
Seventeen games into the season, the Heat are starting to realize that themselves.
According to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard, the Heat players are “frustrated” with their coach and “some are questioning whether he is the right coach for their team.”
The report comes just two days after James bumped Spoelstra on his way to the bench, an act which seemed from the outside to be a blatant show of disrespect.
While Broussard said that incident may or may not have been an accident, a source indicated to him that Spoelstra told James he needs to be more serious. In Cleveland, joking around with teammates during shootarounds and pregame introductions was a way of life for James, but in Miami, the coach wants a change.
“He’s jumping on them,” a source told ESPN. “Everybody knows LeBron is playful and likes to joke around, 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.”
Spoelstra, however, dismissed the rumors on Monday.
“If it’s an unnamed source, I have no comment about that. That could come from anywhere,” he said. “I think the guys in our locker room are pure about what we need to get done and to improve and that’s all I’ll comment on. Anything else is really just speculation.”
He also expressed that players being displeased with their coach is nothing out of the ordinary.
“A coach-player relationship in this league often will be confrontational at times. And other times, it’s smooth sailing,” he remarked . “But just the dynamic of the competitive nature of everybody, expectations, results — all these things combine, yeah, sometimes it will get testy. And that’s good. Especially when people have a pure heart and mind about getting better, that just shows that the sides want to make it right.”
Wade, who said that nobody on the team was doing a good job, offered a simple solution to the problem.
“If we win four in a row, coach is going to look great. If we have a good December, you’re going to be talking about coach of the year. And he might not change a thing,” he said.
With a 9-8 record and a looming Pat Riley taking notes in the stands every night, the outlook does not appear to be great for Erik Spoelstra.