Who's to Blame for the Miami Heat's Struggles? Try Pat Riley.
After the Heat's latest setback—an 87-86 defeat at the Hands of the Bulls this afternoon in Miami—you can expect to get a heavy dose of stories over the next few days about Lebron's inability to come up with the big play, Dwyane Wade's turnover problems, Chris Bosh's lack of male reproductive organs and Erik Spoelstra's coaching shortcomings.
And while all of those certainly factored in to the Heat's latest setback to varying degrees, I feel that the blame should begin to be cast in a different direction.
It was only six months ago when most NBA talking heads were debating Pat Riley's place in the pantheon of all time great basketball minds after he brought together Miami's big three in arguably the biggest free agent haul in sports history. This was his vision we were told, and despite his team taking a considerable beat down in the media about their unification in South Beach, Riley was praised as a genius.
But as highly as he was complimented this past summer, shouldn't Riley be held accountable for this team turning out to be so top heavy that Charlie Sheen is currently trying to sleep with them?
The obvious question from the very start about this team is whether they'd have enough resources left to fill out a championship level roster after committing to three huge contracts this summer. Through sixty three games this season, the answer has been no, and on Sunday the holes glared so bright that you could see them in Fort Lauderdale.
Mike Bibby (who was supposed to be one of those low cost veteran players that the Heat would sign to help put them over the top by the way) scored zero points and had more turnovers (3) than assists (2).
Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier combined for 2 points and 8 rebounds. Joel Anthony, the third member of the Heat's embarrassing big man triumvirate, didn't even make it on the floor.
And then there's Mike Miller. The man who was heralded as an integral part of the Heat's championship recipe continued his season long streak of disappointment with a one point outing on 0-for-5 shooting. What's even more troubling for the Heat is that as bad as he was on Sunday afternoon, he was still only five points away from his season average. A poor game is no longer an anomaly for Miller, it has become the norm.
James Jones scored three points and played only nine minutes. Eddie House registered a DNP. So did Juwan Howard, but I can't remember the last time I saw him play in a meaningful game anyway. I'm pretty sure I saw him change into a Hawaiian shirt at half time and he left during a third quarter time out.
Miami has gigantic voids at point guard, center and the bench. They've been there from the pre-season and they're not going anywhere anytime soon because the Heat flat out don't have any way to change it.
So maybe it's time to start questioning whether Riley made the right decision by signing three max contract players and leaving little left over for spots 3 through 12. There's always been those who have wondered whether Riles would have been better served to sign two of the three and save the extra $15 million for mid level players who actually belong on an NBA roster.
It's a strategy that the Chicago Bulls ended up doing, and after beating Miami three straight times this season, it's safe to say that they don't regret the decision. No pun intended.
If the Big Three were to ever become a dynamic duo, most people would nominate Bosh to be the one to go. I'd argue however that because Wade and Lebron's games are so redundant, they would have been better off choosing one or the other this past June. $30 million is a fortune to pay for two guys who play virtually the same way and you'd have a hard time convincing me that a team based around Wade(or)Lebron, Bosh, and some actual quality pieces surrounding them wouldn't be better equipped to win it all.
But isn't that the type of foresight that one of the reported greatest basketball minds to ever live should possess? What exactly did Riley expect to happen when he had to fill out the rest of his roster with guys who couldn't find any other work? I'm pretty sure Jamal Magloire was about to start a job at Kinko's before the Heat offered him a contract.
I'm not foolish enough to write off the Heat completely at this point but with every painful loss they endure, my confidence in them truly competing for a championship as constructed takes another hit. I can't think of a supposed elite team that has had so many memorable heart-wrenching defeats in a given season. Hell, they have four in the past week alone.
And with reports surfacing that some players were left crying in the wake of yet another close game on Sunday, I'm wondering what kind of place this team is in front a mental standpoint. Maybe some of the Heat are starting to show the signs of what has had to have been a draining season. It seems like they've been in a playoff type atmosphere every second game, and that has to start taking a an emotional toll at some point. Good luck finding much sympathy however.
The Heat have sold out arenas, inflated television ratings and ignited a heated discussion on where the power lies in modern day sports. But we were told by the players and Pat Riley that the goal in Miami was to win multiple championships. As of today, that goal still looks pretty far away.
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