The only difference is the last two seasons Heat teams didn’t have the perceived best player in the game (LeBron James).
The acquisition of James by Miami was supposed to propel the team to the top of the NBA. Instead, it looks as if it’s about to burn it to the ground.
A lot of things have gone in an unsavory manner for the Heat this season. From the summer injury to Mario Chalmers’ ankle, the preseason thumb injury to Mike Miller, and the recent foot injury to Udonis Haslem, it's easy to find reasons why the Heat are not living up to expectations.
But the biggest reason the Heat aren’t playing the way they were expected is the dominance of LeBron James—or should I say lack thereof.
James Isn’t Dominating Anyone
Ever since James averaged 27 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in his second season, he’s been at the forefront of individual dominance. For the past five or six seasons he’s also been the frontrunner in debates of best NBA player, cemented by his consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player awards.
Throughout his tenure as a Cleveland Cavalier, James was often credited with winning by himself—a notion as ignorant as Dwyane Wade having similar or better statistics as James but not being remotely close to the player he is.
When James’ Cavalier teams won, it was because of him. And when they lost, it was because they didn’t have enough quality or dominant players.
Well, the Cleveland Cavaliers are 7-9 without making any major roster adjustments to compensate for the statistics he tallied. Keep in mind, they also defeated a Boston Celtics club that has defeated James and his Miami Heat team twice already.
However, this season his Heat team isn’t losing because they don’t have enough. They’re losing because James isn’t giving enough.
Many suggested James would average a triple-double and lead his team in almost every statistical category, as if that was a good thing. And like in Cleveland, he’s dominating the ball and making the majority of decisions.
Unlike his seven seasons in Cleveland, he isn’t dominating games.
He’s actually looking every bit the burden as his presence has all but removed the screen-and-role play that has been a staple of the Miami Heat organization since the days of Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning, and later Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal.
James Needs to Become What His Team Needs
LeBron James is credited with being the most versatile player on his team. Some might argue that he’s the most versatile player in all the NBA. I don’t agree with either sentiment.
The reason why he’s given these labels is because of physical stature and athletic prowess.
The combination was darn near frightening when he was alone and should be even more frightening now that he’s playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But it isn’t and it’s mostly because of James himself.
In order for the Miami trio to work from an offensive standpoint, they need a three-level attack. That’s outside, mid-level and post presence.
Most want Chris Bosh to become something he hasn’t been, and quite frankly can’t be on a consistent level: a low-block scorer. Bosh has the height and length but at 230 lbs, he lacks the strength and bulk needed to dominate the position.
Bosh's game is more suited to occupy the mid-level of the Heat’s attack.
Dwyane Wade is arguably the Heat’s best interior scorer, but he’s only 6’4” on a good day. Yet, unlike James, he has shown a willingness to go on the block and bang with players bigger than he.
However, Wade’s greatest strength is his ability to attack from the perimeter. His lack of size makes him the idle candidate to occupy the outside attack.
So that just leaves James and the low-post attack unaccounted for.
At nearly 6’9” and 260 lbs, LeBron James is the largest and strongest small forward in all the NBA. Physically, there aren’t many perimeter or interior players strong enough to combat James on the block.
Just one problem: James has about as much sense on the low-block as Joel Anthony has in putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim. James has dedicated his entire existence to becoming the best perimeter player in the game.
The Heat don’t need that. They have Dwyane Wade, who does a good enough job at it.
What the Heat needs is for James to take his incredible “Hulk”-like physique and smash up and on whoever tries to get in way on the block. Dwight Howard is 6’11” and 259 lbs, according to his article in ESPN the Magazine.
So if he can bang, so can LeBron James.
The Cards Are in James’ Hands
James could right most of what’s wrong with the Miami Heat by simply being more committed to what he could be, rather than what he has been.
His two Olympic teammates have already sacrificed large quantities of who they are, not to say that’s it’s been for the better. But the fact remains that they have made sacrifices in their game.
James appears to have remained the same egotistical and self-absorbed figure he’s always been accused of being. Too bad for Miami he hasn’t remained the same dominating figure.
However, that can all change, and the cards are already in James’ hands. He just needs to play them.
But he’s still young and the Heat organization can aid James by doing something no other organization before it has.
Demand James be what he can and must be, rather than what he is and wants to be.
Then, and only then, will the Heat begin to be what they thought they could be.
Only then will LeBron James be worthy of his crowned title of “King.”
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