Miami Heat 'Fast Five': Spo Pulls Back, Riley & PJax, LeBron's Attacks & More

Ethan Skolnick@@EthanJSkolnickNBA Senior WriterApril 7, 2014

Five quick-hitting items as the Miami Heat prep for the playoffs:


1. Chris Bosh wanted to chill.

Remember that? That's what he said after a win on Nov. 18, 2010, back when the Big Three were still sorting out their roles, and Bosh and LeBron James were still adapting to Erik Spoelstra's coaching style:

“He knows he has to meet us halfway. He wants to work, we wanna chill, but we’re going to have to work to get everything down, to get our timing down and to get our chemistry down.”

The timing and the chemistry eventually came, and so did three NBA Finals appearances and two championships.

Reminded Sunday of that comment, Bosh smiled: "They took that all out of context. It's human nature, man. You know, if I tell you to work every day, 'Come on, man, give me a day.' "

Spoelstra has given them more than that this season. He's given them off day after off day after off day, including Monday, following their win against the New York Knicks. And he's even scrapped some shootarounds, including Tuesday's prior to the evening's game against the Brooklyn Nets. He recently spoke of how, in order to keep players fresh, he has balanced this season "in terms of how long we practice, in terms of how many days in a row we practice, in terms of how long our shootarounds (are). That's where I have tweaked things a little bit."

Spoelstra believes those tweaks "matter way more than minutes played and games. I think that's lost on a lot of people."

Not on his players.

"It's a good thing," Mario Chalmers said. "It's about to get real hectic when the playoffs start."

"Spo giving us all this rest, it helps us all," James said. "It helps even the coaching staff, to be able to just kind of decompress, and refuel the body, refuel the mind for the next time we come in."

The players do believe that some of Spoelstra's switch is circumstantial. Bosh called the second half of the season "brutal," with the Heat "playing every other day, for the past, I don't know how long. And we haven't had time to practice." And, with Dwyane Wade, Greg Oden and others recovering from injuries, James quipped that "we don't have enough bodies to practice. What are we going to play, 3-on-3?"

Still, Spoelstra has clearly evolved. According to Bosh, the coach has "picked our brains more."

"Our first year, we practiced, we got after it," Bosh said. "And it took a while to be, like, 'OK, let's take it easy a little bit.' We're beating the s--- out of each other, and then grinding it out every night. But we learned from situations."

Which brings us to this season.

Bosh says he's never been on an NBA team that practiced less.

"We have to be fresh in the mind, and fresh in the body too," Bosh said. "And the more you wear yourself down, the more likely you are to get injured. We know our rotations, we know what we're supposed to do. And you beat guys down into the ground, you just lose 'em."

No one beat players down quite like Spoelstra's mentor. Pat Riley would routinely keep players on the court—in high intensity, contact work—for two, three, even four hours, especially if he had some message to send.

"Yeah, I heard about it," Bosh said, smiling. "But that was Pat, you know."


2. Pat Riley was drafted in 1967.

So was Phil Jackson.

It seems as if the men have been linked ever since, from their role-player days to their coaching championships (with Jackson initially ruling the old Continental Basketball Association), and now, to their roles as team presidents. Their relationship has been competitive, combative and, at times, contemptuous.

Still, before anyone gets too carried away with closely comparing Jackson's current task with the Knicks to what Riley faced when he first joined the Heat in 1995, we should also note some of the contrasts.

And there are plenty.

First and foremost, Riley was the coach, shaping the team in every way from the sidelines. The most Jackson can do is what Riley has done a couple of times in the past decade, hiring someone who he believes will promote his core principles. 

Second, Riley was hired by an owner (Micky Arison) who was open to ceding total control of the basketball operation—and who (unlike James Dolan) had nothing in his past to suggest otherwise.

Third, Riley was leaving New York for Miami, which is the route people take to relieve stress. Jackson is leaving Los Angeles (at least part-time) for New York, where everything he does will be picked apart. South Floridians, those that cared, were willing to be patient with the process, and even some backwards or sideways steps. New York? Good luck with that.

Fourth, Jackson is operating in a much less forgiving economic environment, and even if the luxury tax isn't an obstacle, the salary-cap rules and the Knicks' limited future assets will be. Riley was able to flip Glen Rice and a draft choice to secure a franchise cornerstone in Alonzo Mourning. It's hard to see what Jackson can do that would have similar impact, unless it involves a sign-and-trade of Carmelo Anthony.

And finally, Riley was 50 when he came to Miami. Jackson is 68. That represents a distinct difference in energy and outlook.

So will Jackson enjoy similar success to Riley in this role?

Or will his tenure look more like Bill Parcells' Miami Dolphins money grab?


3. Rashard Lewis signed with the Heat in the summer of 2012.

So how much has he spoken to Riley after the introductory press conference?


Not for long.

"Never about basketball," Lewis said.

Lewis said Riley is seen more than heard.

"I'm sure there's some days he may want to get involved, but he stays out of the way," Lewis said. "Lets Coach Spo control it."

Shane Battier has had a similar experience since signing in 2011.

"Two or three times a year," Battier said. "Not too often. You see him at practice, and you say hello to him. You only have meaningful dialogue a couple of times per year."

Bosh said, even with Riley at many practices and shootarounds, the conversation rarely extends beyond "How's it going?" or "How's the family?" or some similar smalltalk.

Even so, Bosh added, "You feel Pat Riley when he's there. He's got the aura."


4. Toney Douglas actually stopped moving for a few seconds on Sunday against the Knicks.

That's when this happened:

Douglas was in furious pursuit of a loose ball when he lost his legs and sprawled over the baseline.

"Man, I was trying to hurry up and get it before it went out of bounds," Douglas said. "And I (was) laying under the basket, like, oh, man, I couldn't believe it got away from me. All my energy right there. I was trying to give it all I got."

Douglas has certainly done that since getting an opportunity with the Heat, starting 12 games, 10 of which the Heat have won. His energy on defense has been helpful to a team that has slogged through much of the regular season. He has done an especially good job hassling ballhandlers and sticking with them through screens. At times, though, he has been a bit too hyper on offense.

Douglas knows he has to "pick and choose" in terms of pushing the pace, and he believes that is coming easier now that he has a better handle on the play calls. He knows both guard positions, and when he's on the court with Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole, they will decide on the fly who is manning which spot.

"I'm comfortable with it," Douglas said. "One thing I like to do is grab the rebound and go. Because (opponents) don't really look at me trying to go rebound. So I use my quickness and try to find the ball."

He's averaging 4.7 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes, which ranks seventh among players still on the Heat roster, just behind Greg Oden (5.3) and ahead of Dwyane Wade (3.7), according to Basketball-Reference.

Douglas isn't big, but he's a lot taller than he thought he'd be. He was 5'8" at Auburn University, before transferring to Florida State so he could play more point guard, assuming that'd be his only role as a pro.

Now he's listed at 6'2".

"Six-three with shoes," he said.

All of which was flat on the floor Sunday, after a prime example of his hustle.


5. LeBron James gets another crack at Roy Hibbert this week.

Well, maybe.

That confrontation will occur only if Frank Vogel returns Hibbert to the lineup, following a nine-minute, pouty no-show on Sunday against Atlanta.

Provided that Hibbert is playing pivot, don't expect James to avoid attacking him, as the Heat star so often did during the last postseason. James went at Hibbert repeatedly in the Heat's 84-83 loss to Indiana on March 26, including the time he got called for a flagrant elbow.

And he hasn't stopped attacking since.

For the season, according to the NBA's official stats site, 553 of James' 1272 shots have come from the restricted area, not including the shots that weren't officially recorded because they resulted in fouls. That's 43.5 percent of his total field-goal attempts.

In the past seven games, including the one against Indiana, 55 of his 120 shots have come from that area. That's 45.8 percent of his total field-goal attempts. (He's also had four double-digit free-throw attempt games during that seven-game stretch, after just 15 such games in his previous 66.)

That trend is a good one for the Heat, since he's struggling with his midrange jumper of late. James did make 3-of-7 from behind the arc on Sunday against New York, but missed all four of his midrange attempts. He's just 6-of-26 from that space in his past seven games, dropping him to 37.9 percent for the season. That compares with 43.2 percent last season.

James has hinted at a bad back of late.

But, as he said last week, "For me, once I'm on the court, I'm not going to make my game suffer and make our team suffer. If I feel like I'm going to go out there and shoot jumpers, then I would rather be in a suit. That makes no sense for me. It's not my game. Obviously, I can make outside shots, but I'm an attack guy. Putting pressure on the defense, and putting pressure on bringing two to the ball where I can get my guys some looks. It's something I'm going to have to deal with, but it's not going to keep me off the floor. Hopefully."

If Hibbert's also on the floor Friday, as expected, you can expect a reunion of rivals at the rim.


Ethan Skolnick covers the Heat for Bleacher Report.


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