The Heat sit at 9-8 and Charles Barkley, Dan Gilbert and the other Miami Heat detractors have to be giddy at the notion of a Heat team nearing a .500 record.
Some of the Heat's losses have been understandable. Losses to Boston, New Orleans, Orlando, and Dallas are not extraordinary and could possibly be attributed to bad luck or the fact that the team needs time to jell.
Naturally, rumors have begun to fly surrounding the security of head coach Erik Spoelstra's security within the organization. Phil Jackson reminded everyone last week what happened to coach Stan Van Gundy in 2005 when the Heat were not performing up to Pat Riley's expectations. Riley stepped in as coach and led the Heat to their lone championship as an NBA franchise.
The blame can be placed in a variety of places, but aside from a few poor games from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Miami Thrice has been performing up to expectations. The loss of Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller have hurt this team, but not enough to account for eight losses within the first 17 games.
Analysts are quick to point out that the Heat have struggled at the point guard and center positions. Carlos Arroyo, however, is doing a solid job as a role player and is shooting over 50 percent. The same could be said for Zydrunas Illgauskas, who is nailing open jumpers and shooting a career-high 56.3 percent.
The blame will eventually fall in the lap of the head coach. We have seen from history that Riley is not afraid to pull the trigger and remove coaches, even ones who served as assistants under him.
Recent reports from Miami have suggested that the players are not at all happy with Spoelstra's offensive schemes and coaching methodology. An inside source in Miami stated:
"If anything, he's been too tough on them. Everybody knows LeBron is playful and likes to joke around, but Spoelstra told him in front of the whole team that he has to get more serious. The players couldn't believe it. They feel like Spoelstra's not letting them be themselves."
Some have been quick to point out what appears to be an incidental bump by LeBron James into Erik Spoelstra as he was visibly frustrated going to the bench in the game against the Dallas Mavericks. While that may be reading too much into the situation, the bump is certainly symbolic of what is going on within the Miami Heat organization.
With health and age concerns surrounding Riley, it is improbable that he comes back to the sidelines to coach Miami. However, that doesn't mean that Spoelstra will keep his job. The Heat also have hall of famer Bob McAdoo, Keith Askins and Ron Rothstein as possible replacements who know the Heat organization very well. Future options could include Alonzo Mourning, who has a job with the Heat.
These are just names, and none of them are any more likely to replace Spoelstra than Riley, who promised free agents that he would not step down from the President's box to the sidelines. But how long will Riley be willing to watch his dream team struggle?
So far Riley and the players have been behind Spoelstra. As the losses pile up, that clearly won't be the case.