With the Miami Heat’s slow(ish) start, Erik Spoelstra has been getting a lot of flack lately. Is he the right man for the job? Does he have the respect of his players? Why isn’t this team living up to expectations? How long until Pat Riley takes over?
Unfortunately for Coach Spoelstra, anything less than dismantling every opponent on his schedule meant these kind of questions would arise.
Considering Florida’s unemployment rate is already high enough, I would like to offer some helpful suggestions that might cool off the coach’s hot seat. Another Miami icon, Tony Montana, lived by the motto “The World is Yours.” So take advantage, coach. After all, it’s your ass on the line.
1 – Alternate minutes at point
Your team is getting torched by top notch point guards. In your first four losses, opposing point guards averaged 11.5 points and 16.5 assists a game. While Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams and Chris Paul are perfectly capable of doing that to anybody, there’s too many quality point guards in the league to allow other teams to set the tempo. Turn the tide. Mix in minutes for Wade and James at point on both ends of the floor. Let them control the game. Those two like to have the ball in their hands anyway. Be aggressive. Throwing different looks at opposing ball-handlers will keep opponents on their heels.
2 – Learn the triangle
Take a page out of the Zen Master’s playbook and run some triangle offense, or at least something more suited to your roster. What you’re running right now looks too much like a pick-up game. You have three of the most talented players in the world. There’s no reason not to have opposing defenses baffled. Phil Jackson, among others, has to be salivating at the thought of coaching those three, although gagging at the thought of having to call Pat Riley boss.
3 – Entertain us
There’s a scene from “Swingers” where Vince Vaughn tries to build the confidence of his forlorn, young friend, Jon Favreau. When meeting a new girl, he tells him “With these claws, with these fangs, you don’t know how to kill the bunny.” That’s Coach Spoelstra revisited. With these claws (James) and these fangs (Wade), you’re not killing the bunny like you should. You have a more talented roster than any geek currently playing fantasy basketball. Every game should be a highlight reel. Take the reins off and let them play, but first…
4 – Abandon the isolation
One reason the current NBA has alienated the old school fan is that there’s way too much isolation play. The ball in Wade’s or James’ hands with the shot clock winding down until one of them drives the lane, drawing a triple team and forcing them into a bad shot, is not my idea of imaginative basketball. One-on-one is not a game I want to play tonight. Mix in a few more pick-and-rolls, something, anything! The Heat are way too easy to defend, which is ludicrous considering who’s playing for them.
5 – Adjust your lineup
When Mike Miller returns, try playing Chris Bosh at small forward and LeBron at the four-spot. Bosh obviously doesn’t like to rebound… or maybe he left those skills north of the border. He’s averaging under seven rebounds a game, by far his career low. Everyone expected the big three’s scoring averages to go down.. but rebounding?!? Bosh should be pulling down twicethat many. David Lee could sleepwalk his way to 15 rebounds a game on this team. Since Bosh likes to play facing the basket, play him at the small forward spot and try LeBron at power forward. He’s big enough and he’s a better rebounder than Bosh. This is an unconventional team. It’s time to do something unconventional.
6 – Keep them motivated
There have been a few games this season where the Heat get up big, only to relinquish that lead. Keeping your guys’ eyes on the prize when they’re destroying an opponent has become an issue. Channel your inner Riles and hit them in their pocketbook. If your team gets up by 20 points and coughs up a lead, start fining players. It’s the only way to be sure.
7- Get big
I keep hearing all these rumors about Erick Dampier. Even though he’s just a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding, it’s not like he’ll be taking up shots, just space. Look, if Danny Ainge and the Celtics can stockpile aging big men, why can’t Riley? Even with Ilgauskas, this team will get killed by teams with a solid post presence. You desperately need size on both ends of the floor. Bosh plays small, Haslem is hurt and Joel Anthony is well… Joel Anthony.
8 – Establish an identity
I know it’s early, but this team has yet to establish any sort of identity. Are they a run-and-gun team or are they more comfortable in the half-court set? Are they a traditional, Riley-style shut-em-down defensive squad or do they just want to outscore their opponent? What exactly are they? The playoffs are still 70 games away which gives you plenty of time to figure this out, but you’re already well behind the 8-ball with teams like Boston, Orlando, Atlanta and Los Angeles whose cores have been together for years. The Heat have two of the universe’s most indefensible players. It’s about time you use that to your advantage.
9 – Stay healthy
Dwyane Wade has already missed time due to injury. Now Haslem is hurt. Without them in the lineup, LeBron James might as well have stayed in Cleveland. The Heat might not advance come playoff-time if healthy, they definitely won’t move on if they’re not.
10 – Pucker up
I highly recommend kissing Riley’s ass, while still standing your ground. You already have his respect. He gave you the job in the first place. Now it’s your job to keep it. No boss I’ve ever had likes it when you walk into his office asking for answers. They want solutions. Find some. Quickly.
11 – Sign Kobe
12 – When all else fails, register for Monster.com
This team has high expectations. Whether it’s next week, next month or next season, if this team doesn’t win a title, someone will be held accountable and that person will be you, Coach.