It's no secret. The Miami Heat are in trouble. The Orlando Magic know this and will be prepared on Wednesday night.
At 8-6, the Heat are by no means in bad shape, but compared to expert predictions of 70 plus wins, Miami has been most definitely disappointing this season. Dwyane Wade is banged up. Chris Bosh has taken time to adjust to playing with new, better teammates. LeBron James, well, he just looks like he can't make a decision sometimes. Udonis Haslem will be cheering from the bench until at least February.
Every team that Miami has played has circled them on the schedule. Evidently, Memphis and Indiana were better prepared than the Heat. The Grizzlies and the Pacers came into those games with the intention to embarrass Miami, and by simply beating them, whether through blowout or on a last shot, they accomplished their goal.
With the exception the Lakers and the Celtics, Miami came into this season that they would roll through every opponent they faced. The failure to dominate as they and the commentators suggested they would has put the Heat into a bind. Despite being only two games back of first place in the East, the Heat have not lived up to expectations.
So what can the Heat do? Or as LeBron would say "what should I do?"
It is time to embrace the role of the villain.
Around the NBA, fans, opponents and the media are relishing the opportunity to see the Heat fail. Miami has to embrace this role and unite in an "us against the world" mentality.
Miami has some of the worst fans in the league. The fans finally get in their seats towards the end of the first quarter. By the middle of the fourth they are generally gone. The team has to rile the fans up rather than vice versa. The "fan up Miami" campaign is the most embarrassing event in the history of the organization. Clearly, the players must look elsewhere to find something to unify them.
The Heat do not have to view this as a bad thing though. An "us against the world" mentality could be the exact boost that this Miami Heat team needs, especially considering the rumors of coaching change that will undoubtedly emerge. Phil Jackson even recently suggested that Pat Riley could be coaxed from the stands to the bench if Spoelstra cannot find a way to win more games.
Similar to the "15 strong" motto of the 2005-2006 Miami Heat championship team, the Heat need a strong rallying point. Accepting the position as villain would allow the Heat players to feel more camaraderie and responsibility amongst themselves.
The Heat play the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. Miami knows how important games against the Magic are, and it was demonstrated in the home opener when Miami crushed Orlando. The problem will be keeping a consistent mindset against teams like Memphis and Indiana.
Until Miami accepts their role of the villain, they will continue to be surprised when a team like Memphis, which has more on the line in the game, surprises them.