I figured after winning the NBA title last season I could sit back and relax watching the Miami Heat in 2012-13. I would relish the wins and ignore the losses with the knowledge that championships are not won or lost in January. Most crucially I made a pledge that after winning it all last year I would not criticize coach Erik Spoelstra for one year.
When the season began everything was hunky dory. Miami opened the season with a beat down on the hated Boston Celtics. The Heat followed this impressive victory with a 20 point loss to the New York Knicks, but I explained that loss away as a charity donation to the people of New York since they had just suffered Hurricane Sandy. The Heat were playing down to the level of their opponents, but kept finding ways to win. The previous two years with the game on the line the Heat would always miss their final shot, but in the first month of the season new addition Ray Allen hit three game winning shots.
Allen, pictured above, is most famous for starring in the Spike Lee movie, He Got Game, but Allen’s got basketball bona fides. I knew he hit more three pointers than any other player in the history of the NBA, but Allen’s all around game the first month of the season was a revelation. He could rebound in traffic, he was slow, but managed to steal the ball and drive to the basket. And what a relief it was to know when he was shooting a free throw or an open three pointer that the ball was going to go in right when it left his hands. What was most appealing of his game was knowing that every game winning basket he made was sticking it to our arch-rival Celtics who Allen left to come to Miami.
Throughout November I could see the brilliance in Spoelstra’s laid back coaching. Why wear yourself out throughout the game? Chill out and then in the fourth quarter try, with the Heat’s talent one good quarter would be enough. But as November turned into December Ray Allen began to look every one of his 37 years. His legs were getting tired at the ends of games and those once so dependable shots were growing iffy.
Most troubling of all was the Heat’s terrible rebounding. While our defense was acceptable, the opposing teams would keep getting the ball back until they finally scored. Anyone who has played basketball knows rebounding is a skill completely reliant on effort. Sure, sometimes the ball will bounce right to you, but most of the time you have to box out your opponent and reach out for the ball to secure it. Height helps the matter and the Heat generally have a shorter line-up, but most of the failings came from a lack of concentration and effort. The rebounding was so bad on a December 31 game against a terrible Orlando Magic team that I wondered if I could amend my year long pledge to not criticize Spoelstra to only be for the calendar year. But the Heat ended up winning the game and Spoelstra looked so darned cute with that mussed up hair and those sharp fitting suits.
January was tough. We were back to not being able to close out games. With the game on the line MVP LeBron James should always be driving to the basket or passing it to Allen, instead LeBron took shots twenty feet away from the hoop fading away. As the losses mounted up I wanted to bench half the team and trade away the others that weren’t named LeBron James. The main beneficiary of my wraith was Chris Bosh. Bosh’s rebounding had been disgusting for a solid month. He is 6’11, but there were many games where the 6’4 Dwyane Wade had more rebounds than him. Most troubling was smaller players would just snatch the ball from his grasp like grown men stealing a purse from an old lady.
There are solutions to these problem, (moving Bosh back to power forward and having Joel Anthony start as center, motivating the team to effort), but I am certain the revolutionary genius Spoelstra and his staff are devising it. Right? Because if the Heat keep underachieving their way to losses and wasting a peak year from LeBron James I might prove to be less patient then I believed and be forced to get out the voodoo doll I crafted after the devilishly handsome Erik Spoelstra.