7 Nightmares Keeping Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra Up at Night
A terrifying dream in which the dreamer experiences feelings of helplessness, extreme anxiety or sorrow.
That is how Dictionary.com defines nightmare.
Something we are all susceptible to and can strike at anytime. Even if you just won the NBA championship, employ the world's greatest player and have two perennial All Stars surrounding him.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is not immune to nightmares.
He may not be kept up by the same feelings of coaching helplessness that Mike Dunlap could be in Charlotte, but he still has reasons to worry.
Lofty expectations are associated with coaching the NBA's most talented team. A team that, despite their talent, still does not include a legitimate NBA center.
Meanwhile, the second best center in the NBA now resides in the Eastern Conference. Miami's biggest rival out West just acquired the best one—along with a new point guard expected to make that center even more dominant than he ever was before.
The threat of injury is always there. Innate distractions unique to only his team also exist for Erik Spoelstra. An opposing point guard who's been a problem before could be even more of a problem this time around.
There's also that Hall of Fame coaching option available to step in should those expectations appear as if they won't be met.
At just that moment when things would seem they couldn't get any worse.
Joel Anthony, You Got Dwight Howard
The scariest nightmare is sometimes the one that's most realistic.
For as talented as the Miami Heat are, they still do not have a center. Meanwhile, the best center in the NBA is now a member of the Big Four in Los Angeles.
Even if Erik Spoelstra is able to guide his team back to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season, the heavy lifting this time around may just be starting.
In a race to see which team can win four games first, Joel Anthony could be matched up against Dwight Howard.
For all that Anthony is—tough, gritty, hard-worker, team player—the chances he slows Howard down are minimal at best.
Spoelstra's best option in a possible Finals matchup with Los Angeles would be to bracket Howard in the post. Send help from the backside off the opposite big while Anthony fronts Howard on the block. Only issue being that Pau Gasol is the opposite big man.
Gasol isn't the player he once was, but if he's left open he will still make you pay.
Miami would essentially be forced to role the dice most times as a result, hoping Anthony can do enough by himself against Howard to keep his team in the game.
The same Dwight Howard who averages 19.9 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks on 60 percent shooting in 57 career playoff games heading into this season.
An Injury to LeBron James
The same fears certainly exist for any team and any player. The threat of possible injury is only magnified when that player is also the best in the world.
An injury to LeBron James would be devastating. Everyone knows this, especially Erik Spoelstra.
If he's injured for a substantial period of time, especially during the playoffs, the Heat become a long-shot to repeat as NBA champions.
LeBron's never really been injured before. He's actually tougher on the basketball court than most people give him credit for. The idea of defending LeBron with hard fouls as he attacks the basket is sometimes suggested, but there's not really anyone strong enough to affect him like that.
He's just too big.
But he is, at the same time, somewhat dramatic when he does hit the deck. He's usually down there for a split second longer than everybody else. Maybe he's just catching his breath. Or maybe he finds it amusing that everyone else is holding theirs.
Whatever the case, that's where this particular nightmare begins for Spoelstra. LeBron ends up staying down long enough for the training staff to run out onto the floor.
He grabs his knee. The worst is feared.
Guarding Rajon Rondo
After the center position, the Miami Heat are weakest at point guard.
Conversely, the Boston Celtics have completely turned their offensive machine over to All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo.
Surrounding Rondo this season is an underrated collection of options at the wing position. Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green will add some needed depth despite the departure of Ray Allen.
This in addition to the Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett up front.
Rondo has been a force against the Miami Heat too, long before Coach Doc Rivers declared him the primary option this summer.
During seven playoff games last season, Rondo accounted for 20.9 points, 11.3 assists and 6.9 rebounds during the Eastern Conference Finals.
The previous season, in Game 2 of the Conference Semis, he finished with 20 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds just prior to dislocating his elbow the next game.
He has been simply too much for Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole to handle. That will only continue.
If Rondo is able to get into the paint consistently, making those options around him better, he could give his team a better chance of beating Miami than anyone outside of the Lakers and Thunder.
Make This Free Agent Talk Stop, It's Two Years Away!
The Miami Heat will continue to insist that discussion of LeBron James' impending free agency in 2014 is a non-issue. Right now I'd agree with them too. It probably is.
But what if these talks only get louder as the season goes on?
These things could take on a life of their own. Just ask Mike Brown and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It's not a positive thing for Erik Spoesltra and the Miami Heat to be forced into talking about a free agency decision that their MVP will be making two years. That is a distraction, regardless of how anybody wants to classify it.
Distractions may not necessarily stop your team from winning basketball games, but there's no way they help.
Since this topic was entered into the mainstream conversation last week, people will continue to talk about it. Right or wrong, warranted or not.
Each time there is a bump in the road for the Heat it could come back up louder than the last time. Someone could interpret a LeBron James' quote wrong. Read into a facial expression a certain way.
Maybe he even brushes his coach off on his way back to the bench.
Nothing Spoelstra wants to find himself talking about this season.
Andrew Bynum Could Provide a Blueprint for Lakers
Short of injuries ravaging the Miami Heat roster, there is no scenario where the Philadelphia 76ers could possibly beat the Miami Heat in a potential Eastern Conference Playoff matchup.
But that matchup could help provide the Los Angeles Lakers with a blueprint for how to better attack Miami in a potential Finals series.
The only center that is better than Andrew Bynum in all the NBA is the one who the Lakers now employ.
In a five or maybe six game playoff series, Bynum could find success doing some things from the center position that the Lakers and Dwight Howard could replicate.
They would do whatever those things were better, too.
The Lakers are also more familiar with Bynum than any other team outside of Philadelphia. The information they could gain from studying those playoff tapes could go on to tip Spoelstra's hand defensively.
Making it even more difficult, possibly, to cover Dwight in the Finals.
So You Don't Want to Play Power Forward Anymore?
This power forward concept for LeBron James isn't a new thing. LeBron would have been receiving the basketball at the power forward position in Cleveland six years ago if Mike Brown could've convinced him to set up there offensively.
But he wasn't able to.
From all the talk this summer, along with moving his game closer to the basket last season, it appears that Erik Spoelstra may have convinced him.
James could play any position on the basketball court and be an All-Star. The Miami Heat, specifically, are best served by him playing the power forward.
Or point forward, as they're currently calling it.
That is a great development for Spoelstra. It speaks to his ability to connect with James while ultimately making his Heat team better.
But what if, at some point this season, LeBron decides that he wants to be back out on the perimeter. Worse than that, what if he wants to start shooting three pointers at the same rate he did three seasons ago?
Spoelstra will be forced to simply let him. I'm not sure what else he could really do, short of Pat Riley intervening.
And if he lets James do whatever he wants, after talking about a different philosophy all summer long, his credibility in the locker room would be in real trouble.
Pat, Why Are You Wearing That Whistle?
The Heat lose their sixth straight game. LeBron and company publicly question Erik Spoelstra during the postgame presser.
His plan is to right the ship at practice.
Then Pat Riley walks in. Wearing a whistle around his neck and his championship rings on his finger. He's also carrying a clip board.
That nightmare was probably more frequent during the first season of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami for Spoelstra. He doesn't need to have that one as much anymore, but the scenario still remains possible.
Pat Riley once fired Stan Van Gundy only to go on and win the NBA championship himself with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal back in 2006. The same Stan Van Gundy who'd later lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals three years later.
Beyond any of that though, there is also this simple fact: there is no other franchise in the NBA that could make as smooth of a transition to a Hall of Fame Coach mid-season as Miami.
Riley is at practice, he assembled the talent, he taught Spoelstra the systems the Heat are currently running.
He is 67 years old. In all likelihood, he'll never coach again in the NBA. But there always is that chance.
Something I'm sure that Erik Spoelstra is fully aware of.