It's been the question all year long surrounding the Miami Heat and, now that we have seen how well they play together, it is becoming easier to see just who this team really belongs to between superstars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
The true answer is that it doesn't matter whose team this is since they have shown just how successful they can be despite the obstacles they face. Even after a rough start and a few stretches that tried and tested their patience, this newly-formed Heat team has proven that they can overcome any sort of difficulty.
Next season will be the true test as we see just how well they react after their disappointing loss in the NBA Finals. They showed time and time again that they were the best team in basketball before allowing their mindset to wander. They lost focus and the reason for their collective motivation and fell apart once the going got tough.
A hot start is going to be needed to be followed up by a hot finish if they want to silence their critics and achieve the success that they have been attempting to grab.
In the NBA Finals, we witnessed the demise of all that success as the team imploded with James and coach Erik Spoelstra leading the forefront. James became frustrated with the criticism from the Mavericks bench and the teams zone defense and failed to make adjustments.
He wasn't driving at the usual prolific rate that he's become accustomed to and he was reduced to taking most of his shots from the perimeter, a place that James hasn't always been comfortable in.
As for Spolestra, perhaps coaching 101 would have helped. Zone defenses are made to restrict driving, but they aren't popular at the NBA level because shooters along the perimeter tend to get more open opportunities since the defense is mainly focused on slashers.
Not even Wade could have cleaned up the mess. The Mavericks were too hungry and their zone defense was too overwhelming for Wade, who is also accustomed to slashing at will.
Wade had another terrific NBA Finals performance, but it wasn't enough considering that the team had basically lost its top player and had no adjustments made to counter the opposing defense.
After James' unbelievable run through the Eastern Conference playoffs, the load was left on Wade to perform above and beyond and it showed why he, not James, is the true leader of this team.
Wade has the offensive and defensive consistency and most importantly, the leadership skills that James was severely lacking. It showed that James still has some maturing to do and that Wade needs to be at the helm when it comes down to it.
However, perhaps the team could possibly give James the confidence in pressure situations the same way they taught Wade. In the 2004 playoffs, with his team tied up in Game 1, rather than coach Stan Van Gundy drawing up a play for Lamar Odom or Eddie Jones to take the final shot, he called upon a rookie Wade who nailed a floater with two seconds remaining to give the Heat the lead and the victory.
The move was risky, but Wade took advantage of the situation rather than faltering. He was given confidence by his team and he responded by giving them exactly what they expected out of him.
The Heat could use this same theory for a player like James who could respond better to these pressure situations if the team has enough confidence in him to take and make the final shot. They could allow James to lead the team in instances as a means to give him the same confidence that they gave Wade in 2004.
To be a clutch player, you have to be consistent at it. Players like Chauncey Billups and Kobe Bryant are notoriously good players the clutch because they can consistently come up big in dire situations. It took them time to develop and master the art and it's payed off greatly for the both of them with championships.
The only way James is going to be like either of those players in late-game situations is if he can respond to it with the right mindset, focus and the belief that he's going to make it.
For LeBron to respond better to these types of situations would be to give him the reins of the Heat in those types of moments. The team has shown that they can play together, but in the final moments it's going to come down to who responds to these situations better.
If it comes as any surprise, Wade is obviously this player as he has shown time and time again that he lives for those types of moments and welcomes the pressure.
He became this player by recognizing himself as a leader and carrying the belief that he's going to make the shot, rather than thinking about the consequences of not making it.
Wade hasn't taken a back seat to anyone and it's greatly helped his game and especially in pressure situations. It takes confidence away from a player if the coaching staff draws a play up for one player rather than another.
If the Heat want James to be consistently successful in the clutch, then they're going to have to allow him to take over the duties of taking the big shots. When your team puts their trust in you to win them the game, you're going to eventually respond to these situations in a positive light.
For James to be that player, he's going to have to be the one to step up rather than Wade who has already proven that he's ready for whatever at any time.
For the team to have another Dwyane Wade-like closer, they're going to need to give him the Dwyane Wade treatment. Just like the team did when they gave the ball to Wade instead of the plethora of veterans the team had, give LeBron the ball in late-game situations and he'll respond with wins
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