By John Schmeelk
» More Columns
The NBA season isn’t even 20 days old yet and people are attacking, criticizing or jumping ship on the Miami Heat. The first two are warranted, but the last one isn’t, at least not yet. Some of the problems have to do with the fact Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem are both hurt. These were two guys that were supposed to be major rotation players along with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Miller’s presence alone would probably account for at least one more win, but their absences are not the root of the problem. Neither is Bosh. Neither is Erik Spoelstra.
The problem is rooted with LeBron and Wade not being able to co-exist on the floor at the same time. Tracy McGrady hit it right on the head with his quotes before the Knicks played the Pistons. Neither player knows how to play without having the ball in his hands 90% of the time. It was the reason I always thought their union in Miami never made sense and wouldn’t happen. I (foolishly) assumed that once they won the gold medal together in 2008 and decided to join forces that they had figured out how they needed to play in order to win together. You know what they say about assumptions?
Their offense is very simple. Depending on the game, or the quarter, either Wade or LeBron dribbles 25 feet away and try to create on their own either on a pick and roll or isolation play. They literally take turns trying to score as the other watches. It’s disgusting basketball that really cuts to the root as to what’s wrong with the NBA in this era. Because of Michael Jordan, the league has degenerated to nothing more than a series of isolations where one player tries to win the game for his team.
In the 80’s, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and Jordan never would have joined forces, but they could have played together if they did. Those guys could have played within a team concept and integrated their skills with one another. They understood how to move without the ball, back cut, pass and do other things besides score with the ball in their hands.
I thought LeBron, considering his great passing skills, was more like these stars of yesteryear than he was like the isolation master: Kobe Bryant. I thought he had so little around him in Cleveland that they had to play like that. To a lesser extent, I felt the same way about Wade in Miami. That’s why I thought this experiment would work, and so far, I’ve been dead wrong. Neither guy has adjusted at all from being that “give me the ball and get out of my way” guy.
And unfortunately, neither is going to get blamed for it. The first person that’s going to go is Spoelstra. He is a good young coach that gets his team to play defense, but he’ll get blamed for his offense not being creative or fast enough. Once Pat Riley takes over and the problems persist into the offseason, Bosh will get blamed for a big drop in his numbers. No one will realize that his numbers are down only because of the Wade-James show taking place on the perimeter. The Heat will then spend their mid-level and overpay for a middling player. The real solution will be for the Heat to do the unthinkable, and trade Wade for a set of players that would complement LeBron and Bosh. Put a real point guard, a defensive minded center and some defenders and shooters with those two players and that’s a championship caliber team.
Of course, all of this is premature. LeBron and Wade can still figure this out. They are great players and if they realize that less is more and sharing is caring, the Heat can still be championship contenders. All they really need to do is watch the Celtics and see how they share the basketball. There’s nothing a little ball and player movement doesn’t solve. Of course, it better happen fast if Spoelstra wants to save his job. Or maybe only the great mastermind Riley can make it happen? If things don’t get better by the All-Star break, all of us are going to find out the answer to that question.
UP AND UNDER
Up: After an early season scare that Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t have what it takes to score without Steve Nash, he has adjusted. Still not quite as efficient as he or Mike D’Antoni would like, Stoudemire is getting his points, getting his turnovers down and his field goal percentage is rising close to 50%. His easy baskets and constant trips to the free throw line gets the Knicks easy points they simply haven’t gotten in years past. On top of that he has filled the leadership role that’s been lacking for so long.
Under: D’Antoni’s reaction to the media after the Knicks no-show against the Hawks on Saturday was inexcusable. He basically said, “You know they had off for Thanksgiving, a couple days with no game, and they took it easy. We had no energy. It happens.” It happens? It happens? It’s the coach’s job to make sure that DOESN’T happen. The Knicks will be in a dogfight for a playoff spot this year and every single game counts. Obviously, there will be nights when the team is lackadaisical. It does happen. But the coach can’t simply accept that. When that happens he needs to be furious and rip into the team. Maybe D’Antoni did that behind closed doors, but his presentation to the media was simply inexcusable.
AROUND THE WORLD
Good for Avery Johnson. Terrence Williams and his constant lateness and other antics should not be tolerated. He had every right to send the ultra-talented but mercurial forward to the Siberia known as the D-League. Sometimes tough love is the only way to get through to a player. Big shock that Nate Robinson defended Williams and said the punishment was too harsh. Johnson is running a tight ship in New Jersey, and sometimes an uncooperative crewman must be thrown overboard for the sake of the ship. Once he is sufficiently humbled, he’ll be brought back onboard and everyone will be better for it.
I have to take some shots at the people who have called the Knicks recent win streak “tainted.” You know who you are. How can anyone that has covered this team the last ten-year snub their nose at ANY win streak the Knicks might have? The Knicks haven’t been able to beat ANYONE the past ten years, even the worst of the worst. Putting together five straight wins, and six of seven against ANYONE is VERY significant for a team that hasn’t been able to break the 35 win barrier. In order to get to .500, any team has to get wins against the teams they are supposed to beat. No one is saying this winning streak means the Knicks are a top five team in the East. All it means is that they might just be a .500 team, something that would be a huge step forward for the franchise.
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk
- Schmeelk’s Stance: Fool’s Gold? (newyork.cbslocal.com)