Miami Heat’s New Offense Inspired By the Oregon Ducks

by December 22, 2011

Following the devastating NBA Finals defeat to the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra had a lot of time during the lockout to re-think Miami’s offensive attack, and drew inspiration from the college football powerhouse Oregon Ducks’ innovative playbook. ESPN has a terrific feature on the new Heat offense (which Pat Riley recently claimed resembles the one his “Showtime” Lakers ran in the 1980’s): “Explosive. Fast. Unpredictable. These are the words that [Chip] Kelly used to describe the principles behind his signature spread offense that he rode to the BCS National Championship Game in 2011 to Spoelstra. They’re also the same ones often used to describe a Heat team led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. At least, that’s what the team is supposed to be. By most accounts, the Heat underachieved both competitively and aesthetically in the Big Three’s debut season. Miami didn’t smash the record books and they played at one of the slowest paces in the NBA in 2010-11. As the one calling the shots, Spoelstra received much of the blame. But rather than deflect the responsibility, the third-year Heat coach went back to the drawing board to find a better model. So he bought a plane ticket to go see Kelly and ask him a simple, yet vexing question: How exactly do you turn a collection of world-class athletes into a merciless scoring machine? Kelly’s answer made all the sense in the world to Spoelstra. To leverage the team’s blinding athleticism, Kelly told him, one must spread the floor, turn up the pace and let it fly. Pace and space are essential. And so the mantra for the new Heat was born. Under the watch of Pat Riley, the steward of the ‘Showtime’ Lakers in the 1980s, Spoelstra set out to design his very own attack built on speed, versatility and athleticism … What happens when the Heat lose three games in a row this winter? What happens when the Chicago Bulls go on a 8-0 run down the stretch of a crucial game? What happens when Spoelstra needs to take advantage of a hole in the opposing defense with sharp X’s-and-O’s? It remains to be seen, but the potential benefits are hard to ignore, and the players seem happy with the tweaks. LeBron says he loves where the Heat’s offense is right now. Wade believes Spoelstra has done ‘a great job.’ And Bosh? He’s gushing about Spoelstra’s new groove for a different reason: You can’t really scout it. This is perhaps the greatest potential benefit of all. Everyone knows where LeBron, Wade and Bosh would be at all times last season because everyone memorized Spoelstra’s playbook. The Heat were predictable and that’s what made them beatable at times too, especially in the playoffs. Armed with a unique roster, Spoelstra is thinking outside the box and the plan seems to be working for now. With his own spin on Showtime in place, Spoelstra is hoping his moment of clarity in Oregon will lead to a moment of triumph for Miami.”