This time there were no referees to blame for the Miami Heat losing Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. Fouls were called, but the members of the Miami Heat did not do their job in converting the free throws. Thus the two gentlemen pictured above along with the Dallas Mavericks are champions of the basketball world.
I am stunned and forced to question my knowledge of basketball. I always thought the team that played better defense and possessed better players on its roster won a seven game series. I also assumed the team that relied on long distance shooting rather than a philosophy of driving toward the basket fell behind. But this year that was not the case. The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat and I am left to cry myself to sleep.
So what is next for my favorite group of underachievers?
The media were quick to say the Miami Heat need to shake up their roster and trade one of their star players of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, or Chris Bosh for some other players. I vehemently disagree. While each of these players had shortcomings exposed throughout this series I still believe there have never been three players this good at the peak of their careers on one team. Earlier in the year I compared this Heat team to the Beatles and the Superfriends. I can preach patience and remember it took several albums for the Beatles to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. But on the other hand I don’t remember any of their albums ending with a drunken ballad by Ringo. Nor do I remember Superman or Batman running out of gas at the end of their battles with evil billionaires and German mercenaries.
But unlike Superman, LeBron James strangely disappeared at the end. Throughout the rest of the season James was supremely confident. But in the last minutes of the Finals not only was he not making shots, James was not taking shots. As any ladies man will tell you, you can’t score if you don’t shoot.
James was as tentative as I’d ever seen him. He was passing up open shots which resulted in turnovers or less effective teammates attempting a shot. This was his moment of glory, but instead it will be remembered as a failure and as I have for most of the last three years I will blame the coach.
To Heat coach, Erik Spoelstra’s, credit he never once whined about poor officiating. He was gracious in defeat in congratulating the Dallas Mavericks, but I am not certain you want someone known as a good loser in charge of a sports team you root for.
Spoelstra also had his chance for glory. He could have stood in LeBron James’ face and reminded him he was LeBron James. He could have directed him to dribble toward the basket and not let go of the ball until he catapulted it in the general direction of the hoop, but instead the plays called out of timeouts led to three point attempts by immortals like Eddie House and Mario Chalmers. Most maddeningly Spoelstra called a timeout with the Heat down by twelve and eighteen seconds left on the clock. Since there is no twelve point shot the only reason I could think of him stopping the game was to allow the Mavericks time to relish their victory and in turn piss me off more.
A coach probably would not make a difference in a ten point game, but a good coach definitely could be the difference in the past three losses that were decided by three points or less. I have long begged Pat Riley to come out of retirement to lead the Heat. His former assistant and current television broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy spoke of an instance which highlights why. Years ago when Riley coached the Knicks a player said he was hurt and wasn’t going to dress for the game. Riley asked the hurt player, “Could you go out on the court for one minute?”
“One minute? Sure.” The player said.
“Well then put on your uniform we might need you for that minute.” That kind of passion and motivation can bring out the best in people and it is what someone spoiled by fame and riches might need to perform. I found it strange when Van Gundy told that story. He and Riley had been bitter rivals for years. Never before in his broadcasts had I heard Van Gundy speak so glowingly of Riley, but then I realized he was angling for the Heat job. And if Riley will not coach again his former protegé, Jeff Van Gundy, would be the perfect person to take over.
But that is all in the future. In the present as this defeat lingers I try to find metaphor in sport. It’s hard to remember without tasting the bitter and the salty, one could not appreciate the taste of sweetness. And while I question the hours I spent watching the team along with the curse words I wasted and the gray hairs gained, I have to appreciate the optimism granted towards all sports fans, that really should be applied toward the rest our lives too, there’s always next year.