There are fundamental issues that are at the heart of what is going on with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, and the Miami Heat that have been severely missed.
Listen up. Maybe "The Decision" was just one big mistake.
Tracy McGrady was quoted recently to this exact fact.
Or, maybe LeBron is being asked to be a professional from a work ethic centric organization that the spoiled LBJ is unaccustomed to being.
And, maybe the real question needs to be asked: Can good friends really be great teammates?
Lastly, could it be that taking his talents to South Beach was not the best fit for LeBron? The offense sure isn’t.
Let’s look at each point in more detail.
This past Sunday, Tracy McGrady was quoted saying he wasn't’ shocked at all that the Miami thrice have not been fitting together well, especially LeBron and DWade.
He told Booth Newspapers “It’s what I expected," McGrady said. "You've got two guys (Wade and LBJ) that really don't mix. I mean, they're the same type of player. They just don't complement each other."
Nothing has been more true than the start of this season. Both LeBron and Wade want the ball in their hands. Actually, both guys seem to need it. Wade loves to take his defender off the dribble and get his patented running start.
James has been handling the ball his entire career in Cleveland. He’s not used to playing off the ball or not being the primary ball handler.
And, add in Chris Bosh and the picture gets cloudier. Many people like to compare this new Miami trio to the Boston Celtics' “Big Three” of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce but the Miami guys are so different.
Bosh likes the ball and loves to face-up. He isn’t a big back to the basket type of guy, like say Pau Gasol or even Shaquille O’Neal.
McGrady even commented on this fact. "If you look at Boston's big three, they're traditional guys," he said. "You've got a true shooting guard, you have a true small forward and you have a true power forward. You've got a shooting guard that doesn't need the ball. In their case, both of those guys need the ball. They're not great outside shooters, so they just can't stand out there and wait for one to pass the ball and knock down an open shot."
The bottom line is that in Miami, you have guys with similar games trying to play at the same time. To paraphrase a famous quote, there is only one ball to go around.
Before last summer, one thing was crystal clear in Miami. The Heat were Dwyane Wade’s team. He was top dog, and he set the tone.
That’s because DWade is cut from the same block as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, guys with killer instinct and pit bull mentality. Neither player made friends on their teams.
In fact, both are famous for harping on teammates, riding them and demanding perfection. Until this season, I could always say the same of Wade.
But now, he’s having his friends join him on the court. The question has to be asked: do friends make the best teammates?
Teams are built in any sport on a hierarchy. It all comes down from the top. If the superstar is willing to go one hundred percent in practice, is the last to leave the gym, then how can a bench player not follow suit?
And, in the case of legends, if the bench player doesn't get with the program, he’s gone.
In Miami, Wade was top dog. But then LeBron arrived. He wants to be top dog, too. He’s used to it.
But so is DWade.
More importantly, DWade is used to riding his teammates, and getting on them. He’s a graduate of the Pat Riley disciplinarian school.
But not LeBron. One of the biggest problems going on down in Miami is that Wade is afraid of calling out his friends. Look what happened to the coach Wade loves. Head Coach Erik Spoelstra got hung out to dry by Bosh and LBJ but Wade remained quiet.
Massive problem and perfect example of playing with friends.
Maybe Shaq and Kobe were onto something with all their friction, after all. You think? Three rings!
The biggest knock on LeBron when he was in Cleveland was that he ran the place, letting his friends and buddies do whatever and however they wanted. LBJ acted like who he was: a spoiled rotten kid, with a bigger posse and massive piggy bank.
But, taking his talents to South Beach also meant going into the arena called Pat Riley’s team culture. Riles is famous for his discipline, his work ethic, his intensity.
Those are all foreign words to LeBron.
The word from insiders down in Miami is that the Heat organization isn't letting King James get away with the same stuff he pulled in Cleveland. Spoelstra demands excellence and hard work.
This is the exact reason for the recent Bosh and Lebron backlash on Spoel. This fueled the rumors that Pat Riley would return to the sideline and coach the team.
Not going to happen. Riley did it once when he still had something to prove when he hadn't won a ring without guys named Magic or Kareem. But five years later, Riley knows better and is ego has diminished. He doesn’t need to prove it again.
Now, he has pulled off the greatest free agent coup but it is backfiring on him because the gem in the bounty is a baby.
Unless Riles, Spoelstra and Wade can work LeBron into shape and change his attitude to one of hard work, this is a fundamental culture problem in Miami.
Not only are LeBron and Wade the same player, but the Heat’s offense does little to put either player in different spots that still suit their game.
In fact, it is safe to say that Miami offense doesn’t fit LeBron at all. He would have been better off going to a team last summer that had a more traditional front and backcourt.
Tracy McGrady even offered this same observation, alluding to team chemistry and fit.
"I feel like LeBron should have went to Chicago if he was going to leave," McGrady told the New York Post. "I'm not mad he left. [Chicago was] a better decision and place and fit as far as chemistry-wise. You can't just go somewhere and get that kind of chemistry he had in Cleveland. If he was to be with a team where he fit and chemistry would've been right, it would've been Chicago."
That's because the Bulls have a more traditional offense, with a real point guard in Derrick Rose and two back to the basket front court players in Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. Add a perimeter player like LBJ to the mix and watch out.But that moment has passed.
However, There is a fix in Miami...
The plain fact is that the Heat have no inside game or presence. They must create ball movement and open floor spacing a different way, because right now, they only have guys like Bosh, Wade, and LeBron who want to face up and take guys off the dribble. This allows defenses to overload and force the Heat to make outside shots.
Without injured Mike Miller in the lineup, the Heat really have no reliable spot up shooter. But even when Miller returns, it doesn't solve the Heat’s undersized problems.
So, Basketball 101 teaches us that when a team is small or lacks power in the paint, then that team must run. This is exactly what the Heat must do.
And, they need to put LeBron in a different position. Everyone has flirted with this idea for years but now it is critical. They must move LBJ to point guard and get out and run. Everyone compares him to Magic Johnson. Now it’s time to be like Magic.
If they do this, then their athletic ability will overpower teams. And, this is a short-term formula for success until the playoffs. At that point, when Miami runs into front court centric teams like Boston, Orlando, or Los Angeles, they will be cooked.
But, for now, that's the only solution.
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