The world is coming to an end. The vaunted Miami Heat, all but guaranteed a spot in the 2010 NBA Finals by many before playing a single game, have come out of the gate 9-8 after 17 games.
While it is still early in the season, another twenty games of mediocrity will most certainly drive the media watch dogs into a frenzy and Heat fans to drink.
The new “Big 3” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh now know that the games won’t be as “easy” as LeBron predicted before the season. The “Welcome to Miami” pep rally/coronation that signaled James and Bosh’s arrival seems like a long time ago. The Heat will not win the NBA title this year, but here are five ways they can salvage this season and make the run to the NBA Finals almost everyone predicted after July 8th 2010.
5 – Pat Riley takes over as head coach
Make no mistake about it. Pat Riley is a big reason why LeBron James “took his talents to South Beach.” It was Riley on the front lines in Cleveland reportedly flashing his championship rings at LeBron this past summer. While Erik Spoesltra may command D Wade’s respect, it is hard to fathom that James and Bosh are really gonna listen to what Spoelstra’s selling when times get tough. That being said, a coaching change probably won’t be made until next season which is why this reason is number 5 on the list. As past history has shown, Riley won’t come down from the executive suite until this team is built to win. With the way the roster is currently set-up, Spoelstra won’t have to resign to be with his family until next year.
4 – LeBron has to decide whether he is a passer or go-to-guy
Even though this is Wade’s team, LeBron is still the best player on it. For this reason the Heat have looked like the Miami Cavaliers at times with LeBron taking over the game offensively while the other four guys on the floor stand around. The Boston Celtics made their Big 3 of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett work because ball movement was fluid. None of the three stars dominated the ball for significant stretches of the game. LeBron has to figure out if he is going to put up gaudy scoring numbers each time out and leave the passing to someone else or facilitate the offense and sacrifice scoring until they address a glaring need at the point.
3 – The other 12 guys have to step up
This ain’t The Redeem Team. Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony aren’t rounding out the starting five. Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, and Jason Kidd are not coming off the bench. This is the down side of locking up three max players and leaving crumbs in the coffer to fill out the rest of the roster. Granted, this team has been decimated by some freak injuries (Wade’s hamstring, Mike Miller’s thumb, etc.), but the guys that are putting on the uniform have to hit some shots and keep opposing defenses honest. Sure Juwan Howard and Zydrunis Ilgauskis have seen better days, but they are former All-Stars. Mario Chalmers was the starting point guard for last year’s Heat team that had a better record at this point than this year’s squad. Show some pride men!
2 – Get an elite point guard
With all apologies to Carlos Arroyo, who is a proven floor leader (Wade plays much better with Arroyo on the floor) as witnessed during the 2004 Olympics when the Arroyo-led Puerto Rican team beat the USA, the Heat have lost to teams boasting Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo (twice) at the point guard position. Like the Riley move, a change may not happen at the “one” this season. Even if some top tier point guards were available, I doubt they would take the minimum salary to defer to three other stars.
This season LeBron has been dominating the ball as point forward. This needs to change. If Arroyo is gonna be the guy he needs to control the ball more. Passing to LeBron and then setting up on the wing is not going to cut it. This predictable offense allows teams to clog the middle on LeBron and Wade forcing them to take jump shots and with the way they have been shooting the three ball (a combined 5-30 the last few games) keeping them on the perimeter is the best defense. Showcase Arroyo more, allow him to drive the lane and break down the defense to set up the star players instead of vice versa. This needs to be addressed asap if the Larry O’Brien trophy is going to make an appearance in American Airlines Arena in June.
1 – Get a big man or two (or three)
If the point guard is a glaring need, a presence in the middle is a gaping hole. If Miami wants to compete with Dwight Howard in Orlando and Boston, who has a rejuvenated Shaquille O’Neal catching alley-oop dunks from Rondo, Jermaine O’Neal, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins returning in February, they need someone who can score and defend in the pivot. Unless Chris Bosh starts playing like Blake Griffin, Joel Anthony and Big Z is not gonna cut it come playoff time.