MIAMI — Sometimes, six words say it all.
Soon we'll see if the Miami Heat hear and heed them.
"We've been playing like s--- defensively," LeBron James said sternly following Monday's practice.
Anyone care to argue with his colorful assessment?
If so, the statistics won't support you.
After Erik Spoelstra devoted most of training camp to defense and James spoke of the need for a better start on that end than last season, here's where the Miami Heat stand:
Ranking 27th in opponent field-goal percentage at 47.3.
Ranking 21st in the league in points allowed, yielding 100.9 per game.
They are also in the bottom third in the league in most defensive efficiency metrics.
"We're terrible on defense, and we have to change that," James said.
This comes after ranking sixth in opponent field-goal percentage and fifth in points allowed last season.
"Right now on defense, we're bad all the way around," Chris Bosh said. "We need to get better with our on-the-ball defense, with our help defense, points in the paint, rebounding, our principles, pick-and-roll, post line, all the way around. We're better than this. We know we we're better than this, and we have to put the effort into being better."
If all of this sounds familiar, we heard it often early in the 2012-13 season.
Through Nov. 30, 2012, which covered 14 games, the Heat ranked 12th in the NBA in field-goal percentage against and 26th in points allowed. Then, month by month, they improved.
Will they this time?
Well, perhaps the Celtics' last-second 111-110 win on Saturday can serve as a catalyst.
"Jeff Green hitting that shot was huge, we needed that," James said. "We come out of that game with a win, it would be a whole different story today. But I think him making that shot just tells us, what the hell is going on with our season so far?"
Even if Dwyane Wade didn't necessarily agree—he believed Miami would have woken up even if they had escaped Saturday with a win—the team's talk and work Monday seemed to suggest the necessary recognition.
"The good thing about this team, we came right in here, we already knew what type of day it was going to be," James said. "Spo gave it to us direct, we all like constructive criticism, we all got on each other, and we had probably one of our best practices we've had in a while."
Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks visit.
They'll find an aggravated host.
"I am," James said. "We're 4-3."
Ethan Skolnick covers the Heat for Bleacher Report.