2012 NBA Playoffs: Is Erik Spoelstra Proving He's Not Ready to Coach LeBron?

Joye Pruitt@joyethewarSenior Analyst IMay 17, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  LeBron James #6 and head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat talk against the Chicago Bulls in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2011 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. The Heat won 101-93 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade power the Miami Heat, as we saw in Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers. Without them, there is no chance that the Heat will make it any further than the first quarter without being blown out. And then there is coach Erik Spoelstra...

Coach Spoelstra may not be the perfect coach for the job, but he has sustained some level of leadership within the Miami organization. The players seem to be receptive of him and his ideas, even in situations where they may feel like the play-calling could have been better.

Miami’s head coach is in a good spot with the players, for now. However, that could change if he does not figure out a way to ease off of the gas when it comes to the league’s most valuable player.

Not a single player in the league seems to be in better basketball condition than LeBron James. He is agile, rarely benched and plays very physical basketball on a consistent basis. Still, after being propelled into the power forward position after Chris Bosh’s indefinite exit, James is subjected to far more than he ever has been in his career.

The fatigue was apparent in Game 2. James has even come forward, telling the Miami Herald that the job is challenging:

“It’s a lot more taxing being in there with bigger guys,” James said. Defensively “is the biggest difference. When you’re on the perimeter, there’s more space. The interior is more cramped and physical.

That’s been made painfully obvious. After posting really good free throw numbers throughout the first series against the Knicks and in Game 1 of the Indiana series, he bricked two possible game-winning foul shots. It was something that pushed LeBron right back into that dim light that forces the question—“Is he really ready to be as great as The Greats?”

However, there is something else that should be learned from Game 2 in Miami against the Pacers. James played 43 of 48 minutes, and the fatigue was there. Everyone saw it. James knows it and he hopes to get a little bit of rest here and there to keep those things from being a factor.

What was Coach Spoelstra’s response?

From the Herald:

"There's nothing we can do [about rest for James] in the fourth quarter," Spoelstra said.

"Forty-minutes-plus is probably what he can expect."

It is one thing to not cave in to pressure from the superstar athlete. We get that. Players often look for a role in coaching that exceeds their responsibilities. Leave the coaching to the coach, and just play the game.

Still, there seems to be a lack of communication when it comes to what Spoelstra needs to do in order to get the best possible performance from the best player on his team. He’s never coached a player like James. Taking into account how conditioned James is in the game, it’s hard to think that he would ever need a breather.

He does now, especially while banging bodies with David West play by play.

Spoelstra wants to ride James until the wheels fall off, and unfortunately that may continue to be in the fourth quarter. LeBron has worked on being productive both offensively and defensively in the fourth. That has been shown in both the regular and post seasons.

Yet, it does not seem too smart to keep up with pushing James to the limit in a much more physical aspect of the season. The NBA Playoffs are generally much more taxing than the regular season, and 43 minutes are far from tiring.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has done a great job with LeBron James as a player and working him in every inch of Miami’s offensive scheme.

However, he may be out of his league at this point. Rotating players is something that elite coaches do without breaking a sweat and without forcing their star players into a bad situation. You know, the Phil Jacksons and the Pat Rileys.

What if Spoelstra doesn't have that yet?