Tears Are For Babies
The Miami Heat have some changes to make if they truly want to make some noise in the playoffs.
by Allen Powell II
“Are you crying? Are you crying? Are you crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASKETBALL!”…
Tears are falling and last-second jumpers ain’t.
That sums up the current state of affairs in the city formerly known as “The Home of Eight Future Championships.” As late game struggles and overall ineptitude mount, the Miami Heat’s bandwagon is emptying faster than Charlie Sheen’s soul, and quite simply, things look bad. Real bad.
This isn’t like the beginning of the year when excuses about injuries and chemistry could silence the Heat’s critics. This is nut-cutting time in the NBA, and unfortunately the team’s abysmal record in close games has some folks wondering if Heat players have even let their testicles descend. Instead of fine-tuning their offense and swagger, the team’s superstars are whining about haters, and role players are crying into their NBA logo towels.
This isn’t what the way things were supposed to go. When the Three Amigos were prancing and preening around a South Beach stage there was no complaining. When certain folks damn near handed them championship rings before the season, there was no whining. Quite simply, if you want to be the man, you better expect folks coming for your neck. It just comes with the territory, and asking your haters for a break is like asking Kevin Garnett for respect on the court. Pointless.
The glee of hateful outsiders should be the least of the team’s worries. Unless those critics are actually going to be defending them and scoring against them their opinions carry no weight. Only what happens between the lines is important, and if Heat players truly want to be part of “super team” now is the time to start showing some actual “super.” Here are some suggestions:
1. Execute like it’s Texas.
Anyone with common sense recognizes that the Heat have the talent, top to bottom, to contend with any elite team. Their top three players are great even with their overlapping skills, and their role players are extremely solid. The initial gaping holes at point guard and center have been filled admirably, and an objective glance at their roster shows very few true weaknesses.
But games aren’t played on paper, and right now, the Heat don’t execute like an elite team. Elite teams make elite plays in big moments. Elite teams get quality shots and prevent the other team for doing the same. That’s why they close games. The Heat’s poor record failures in the final seconds are the result of their failure to display elite execution.
It’s unclear whether these failures are due to coaching or player’s nerves, but something has got to change. Every game, the Heat players look unstoppable stretches of the games, typically in the first half, and then they come out after the break and falter. It’s obvious to even casual fans that the team abandons its strengths for an inefficient combination of isolations and pick and rolls. If idiot fans can see it, then decision makers within the organization have to notice. Somebody needs to man up and make things right.
2. There are no small roles, only small actors.
Championship teams are all about role playing. Every player must know his role, accept that role and use all of his abilities to fill that role. Right now, it feels like the Heat are still auditioning
LeBron assumed the role of team leader when he signed on the dotted line this summer. But, being the leader doesn’t mean you have to score every big bucket your team needs. Instead it means you make every big decision. You make the best decision, not the decision everybody expects and wants you to make. And you stand behind the choices you make without casting blame on others.
In 2008, Dwyane Wade murdered the league with incredible defense, ridiculous drives and a potent mid-range jumper. It’s unclear what happened to that player, but the Heat desperately needs him to reappear. Wade seems content with coasting on defense and constantly thrusting himself into the paint regardless of the proper play. He regularly pouts about every perceived missed call, leaving his teammates out to dry on defense. That’s not superstar behavior.
Chris Bosh averaged 24 and 12 last season because he was ridiculously aggressive whenever he touched the ball. Now he’s playing so passive he might as well roll over and ask defenders to rub his belly. Bosh’s job is to dominate the opposing big man, and that requires a willingness to play with anger and purpose every minute. More importantly, he has to take it personally when LeBron and Wade fail to get him his touches. He needs to demand the rock, and then do something with it.
In fact, every Heat player, from the top to the bottom, needs to recommit to doing the dirty work needed to be elite on both ends. Each player must challenge himself to master the details of his role so that the team can operate efficiently at every opportunity. Stop “spectating” and hoping to bailed out. Anything less is the team.
3. Al Davis and Charlie Sheen called; it’s time to WIN.
Just win some damn games. Stop expecting to lose when things get tight, stop looking constipated when things go poorly and stop crying for help. Expect to win every time the ball is jumped, and then go out and create reality.
This version of the Miami Heat is defined by two things: hubris and fear. The players believe they are God’s gift to basketball, but that confidence completely abandons them after the other team punches them in the mouth. Instead of retaliating with an even mightier blow, the players look around for a teacher to stop the fight, and seem shocked that any other team would have the temerity to challenge them.
It’s not that the Heat players are cowards, it’s that they still don’t seem to grasp that they aren’t owed anything. Press conferences and bravado do not guarantee adulation or championships. In fact, given their immense talents and egos, they should firmly expect everyone to hate them. Instead of crying about this reality, they should use it as motivation to perfect their craft and maximize their effort. Nothing shuts people up faster than winning. Nothing.
This season began with fans eagerly awaiting the chance to see the super team that was going to change the NBA landscape. Honestly, despite the hand-wringing from scribes and NBA owners, the Heat’s underwhelming performance has made it clear that assembling a bunch of talented superstars guarantees nothing. You win by making it happen, one game at a time. The season is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s time for the Heat to catch their second wind. Or get left behind.