NBA Playoffs 2012: Why LeBron James and Dwyane Wade Must Prove Roy Hibbert Wrong

Joshua CarrollCorrespondent IIMay 24, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  Dwyane Wade #3 (R) and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat stand on court against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Pacers have proven to be quite the outspoken team now, haven't they? Not surprisingly, Roy Hibbert had some more choice words for the Heat, in particular Wade and James, after their Game 6 beatdown. 

Hibbert claimed that Wade and LeBron are sending their teammates to respond to Indiana's physical play. Needless to say, this is not the first time not only the dynamic duo of James and Wade but also the entire Heat team has been called soft. 

Usually Miami just brushes statements like this off. They've heard it all by now. They've been called fake tough guys, a whiny bunch and now are being accused of sending their teammates to do their dirty work. This situation can get out of hand really quickly, and here's why.

First of all, the Heat have already fallen into the trap of trying to prove their toughness with cheap shots, which won't end well for either team. Clearly, the NBA has changed dramatically since the late 80s when NBA "toughness" was arguably at its prime. 

Now we've got hard shots to the shoulder warranting suspensions and NBA players whining and crying if they get scratched driving down the lane. We see 10-times more flopping than we do hard fouls. 

Nevertheless, things will only end badly for the Heat if these cheap shots continue, because soon it will not be Dexter Pittman and Udonis Haslem getting suspended, but instead one of their superstars. Something the Heat can really not afford. Wade dodged a bullet earlier in the series when he wasn't slapped with a suspension after his shove in the back on Darren Collison.

What has seemingly yet to be established in the NBA is that there is a fine line in between being tougher and fouling harder and stupider.

Reason No. 2 Wade and James must find an alternative way to respond to this soft label is that it will only get worse as the playoffs progress. In reality, it's been worsening throughout the whole season.

Teams are starting to try and bully the Heat knowing they don't have enough talent to compete on a level playing field. Assuming Miami moves on, whether it plays the Celtics or 76ers, it will be anther tough battle.

Although Boston hasn't been playing the best basketball as of late and there are no safe bets in the NBA playoffs, playing Game 7 at home is a huge advantage.  If my prediction holds true and they do advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, this toughness and chippiness we see in the Indiana-Miami series only represents the beginning.

There can be no more of talking around the question when asked about what the Heat are going to do in response to teams trying to bully them on the court. LeBron and Wade must step up, sooner rather than later, and send a message. But they have to find a smart way to do so.

They can't go out and get in foul trouble or commit a dangerous foul. We know how important both of these guys are to the team. Maybe it takes a tech or two, but Miami has got to develop a backbone very quickly here if it wants to keep playing.