The Other Guys
The role players of the Miami Heat, the NBA’s most scrutinized team, sound off.
“In Cleveland, it wasn’t like that,” said Ilgauskas, reflecting on his final years as a Cavalier. “It was a smaller market. And nobody hated that team in Cleveland really.”
Like James, Ilgauskas made a decision to leave Cleveland for the shores of South Beach. At 35, the Lithuanian big man is near the end of his career. For Ilgauskas, signing with perhaps the League’s most-reviled team is well worth the chance at a championship.
“Winning will cure everything,” Ilgauskas said. “The better we play, the less scrutiny we’re going to have to face. So that’s motivation in itself.”
Also in the twilight of his career is Heat forward Juwan Howard. From All-Star to journeyman, the 16-year veteran has seen and done it all throughout his career. And with that experience comes perspective.
“You can’t lose any sleep over it because these are the cards that we’ve been dealt,” Howard said of the Heat’s circumstances as the most analyzed team in the League. “It is what it is. You can’t get sensitive about it.”
Though there has been much discussion of the Heat’s deficiencies, Howard has faith in Pat Riley, the man who assembled this roster and his head coach. Despite the chatter that’s bubbled up when things have gone wrong for Miami this season, Howard trusts that the Heat’s foundation was carefully constructed.
“They had a plan as far as how they wanted to put together a championship caliber team,” Howard said of Riley and Spoelstra. “Normally you may get to see a lot of younger guys surrounded with a group like that. But, they wanted veterans. They handpicked each and every guy in here and each and every guy I’m pretty sure wanted to be here.”
As the Heat’s elder statesman, Howard made a point to praise his teammates’ composure in response to the scrutiny they’ve faced so far this season.
“Truly at times you feel as a team we’re treated unfairly,” Howard said candidly. “(There’s) a lot of criticism, a lot of reaction from some of the crowds on the road or what’s said about my teammates. But I have to commend every guy in this locker room on how we’ve handled it and I think that should not go unnoticed by the public.
“You haven’t seen any of us get into any trouble,” he continued. “You haven’t seen any of us get into fights, no shouting matches with fans. We still go out and do our job, play hard and more importantly win with class.”
With a veteran group surrounding the James-Wade-Bosh trio, hopefully it stays that way.
Major League Manager Relates To Heat Head Coach
Cincinatti Reds Manager Dusty Baker knows a little something about handling high-profile personalities.
So what advice would he give Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra in dealing with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and especially LeBron James?
“It takes time to mesh things together,” said Baker, a native Sacramentan who was in attendance during the Heat’s lone visit at ARCO Arena. “Everybody wants (success) overnight and I think the coach is handling it as good as you can handle it. He’s being patient, saying the right things and doing the right things.”
Baker, whose Reds made the Playoffs this year for the first time in 15 seasons, managed Barry Bonds, a high-maintenance superstar, during his tenure as skipper of the San Francisco Giants.
“You’ve got to just earn their respect,” said Baker of managing players with big egos. “It takes a while. (But) you’ve got to be as honest as you can with them.
“And just don’t be intimidated by the name or the money or anything,” he continued. “You just gotta treat them like people, you know?”
Jonathan Santiago is also a host on the Davis Sports Deli Podcast, which can be found here.