Heat Start Far From Perfect
There are concerns — real issues — in Miami.
by Jay King / @CelticsTown
The checkered shirt, that’s one thing I remember from that night.
I also remember “taking my talents to South Beach,” and the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club, and Jim Gray, and I remember that LeBron James didn’t quite seem comfortable making his Decision. I remember seeing Cleveland fans burning LeBron jerseys, and crowds in Miami bars jumping for joy. I remember the restaurant I was eating in, in Boston, MA, falling almost completely silent for the entire show. I remember Dan Gilbert, and Comic Sans, and “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.”
But do you know what I remember most about the night of LeBron James’s Decision? When he finally made his choice, I only had one thought: Those three dudes are really playing together. Damn.
Everyone in the world, it seemed, had an opinion about LeBron’s Decision. Not just the choice he made to team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but the way he made it. On ESPN. Stabbing the city of Cleveland in the back. With no real remorse. I had my opinions about all that, too. (LeBron was an asshole for the way he announced his Decision, but the actual decision I could understand.) But I was more concerned with something else.
How would Miami’s Three Amigos co-exist on the court? It’s a question that still hasn’t been fully answered. One can look at Miami’s start with optimism, or one can look at it with a critical eye.
In a way, every concern about Miami to start the season has come to fruition. Carlos Arroyo can’t handle opposing point guards. Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh are softer than Ray Allen’s touch. James and Dwyane Wade sometimes look afraid to step on each other’s toes. The bench is too old, and Juwan Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are even older than that. Enough has gone awry that Pat Riley is probably sitting outside Erik Spoelstra’s office with one of those sand hourglass timers, just waiting until the sand expires to fire Spoelstra and take the reins himself. (Note: I’m just kidding. But seriously.)
Then there is the glass half full view. The Heat are nowhere close to a finished product, yet they are second in the League in defensive efficiency. Anthony and Bosh have reputations for being transparent down low, but Miami grabs more than 50 percent of available rebounds. James and Wade haven’t yet learned to play with each other, but they’re LeBron freaking James and Dwyane freaking Wade! At some point they’ll figure it out, right? And Carlos Arroyo, well, at least they can sub him out sometimes and let James or Wade run point. The Heat have lost three games already and are far from complete, says the optimist, but once they start firing on all cylinders things will be different. They have to be, right? Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are all playing on the same team. That trio is supposed to be unfair to the rest of the League.
Yet I have more questions. Questions that haven’t been answered yet. Some questions that may not be answered until the postseason.
Do the Three Amigos, in a basketball sense, fit? — When Wade, Bosh and James all signed in Miami, the comparisons to the Boston Celtics‘ Big Three immediately poured in. When Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen joined forces in 2007, they had already accomplished everything they needed to individually. They were old enough to realize they couldn’t win alone. They needed help, and they knew it. They joined together at a time when they could put pride in the rearview mirror and just do anything it took to win.
People instantly asked whether Wade, Bosh and James were at the right stages of their careers to push aside all egos and focus solely on winning. That seemed like the only valid question. With three talents like that, only chemistry could hold them back. Right? But maybe we were asking the wrong kinds of questions. Maybe we should have asked whether the Heat fit from a basketball standpoint, rather than whether their attitudes were in the right place.
There is something beautiful about the way Boston’s Big Three complement each other. Allen’s the shooter, Pierce the slasher, and Garnett the mid-range shooter, defensive menace, noted trash talker and occasional post threat. From day one, they developed a synergy. Together, they are greater than they ever could have been alone. Their games thrive off each other’s. Not just because they are willing to put egos aside, either. Because their talents mesh almost perfectly. Pierce’s slashing makes it easier for Allen and Garnett to find space; Allen’s shooting enables Pierce’s slashing; Garnett’s basketball IQ and unselfishness allows it all to flow. Boston’s Big Three is a match made in basketball heaven.
Is Miami’s? Not in a conventional sense, at least. James and Wade thrive in pick-and-rolls, but neither are pure shooters. Wade’s talents aren’t utilized when spotting up in the corner while LeBron runs the pick-and-roll, and vice versa. Basically, when one has the ball the other might as well pick his nose on the other side of the court. So far, James and Wade don’t make each other better. They don’t make the game any easier for themselves. The only places the new duo really thrives, right now, are on defense and the fast break. But fast break opportunities, even for these guys, are tough to come by.
And Bosh? Don’t even get me started on him. His game has clearly been hindered by his new teammates.
Which brings me to my next question.