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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Assessing the 2010-11 Miami Heat Roster and Where they go from Here

Some view Miami’s loss in the NBA Finals as a monumental failure. And if you only watched the last five games of the series, you’d have no reason to believe otherwise. But honestly, how many of us thought Miami would come closer to a title than the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers this year?

That’s the world we live in today, one where the dissected pieces are dissected once more before being arranged into 140 character tweets and sent out to all who will listen, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In this new world, information is so readily available yet moving at such a high rate of speed that many times we forget what we were thinking just a minute ago let alone at the start of the NBA season; we’re in a society of short memories.

Miami wasn’t supposed to get here, despite their pre-season victory parade and all of the shenanigans that we observed under LRMR’s big top circus act. This team was a year away. It was the general consensus coming into the season and it held true until the Celtics stumbled and the Lakers seemed gassed against the Mavs. And even when the playoffs began, many fans and pundits favored Chicago, San Antonio and LA over Miami. And that’s okay, because Miami had many flaws that could only be sealed if LeBron became the best player, ever.

LeBron did just that for 16 games. He looked unstoppable at times, like a man motivated by the burden of his own creations. For the first time in perhaps his entire career, everyone believed in him. Dan Gilbert was quiet, Lakers and Celtics fans were quiet, even haters like Adrian Wojnarowski had nothing but things good to type. The only ones who remained loud were Miami fans and Scottie Pippen. It seemed as if LeBron had finally arrived. He finally had the motivation and super-human skill set to will this team to the first of their promised seven championships.

Then it all fell apart. Nothing went right for Miami or LeBron and as the odds became stacked against them. Miami reacted to Finals losses in the worst way, by doing nothing differently.

Here’s how every Heat player and important staffer fared and what Miami needs to do differently next year to ensure that they win two more games.

Mario Chalmers – I’m starting here because he showed that he belongs on a championship-level team. He made a few mistakes here and there (not passing to LeBron on that final fast break was crucial) but overall, Mario showed that he has the shooting, defense and testicular fortitude to play alongside two of the best players in the world and still carry his own weight.

Mario Chalmers is the next Derek Fisher. Yes, that same five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher. It’s a bold claim to make but I think all the parallels are there. Chalmers has the long-range spot ups, the ballsy buzzer beaters, the ability to converse with mega-stars and not just take orders. When (when not if) Miami wins a few rings, he’ll have the hardware to match the skill set.

Udonis Haslem – UD brings the reality check to a roster full of should-be reality stars. His “tough it out” attitude coupled with his “I don’t give a crap” demeanor brings harmonic balance to the Big 3’s questionable ways. Haslem will be a difference-maker in at least one playoff series next year but even if he weren’t, his mindset alone is worthy of a roster spot.

Chris Bosh – Bosh gets more flak then he should and that’s because he chose to be the third wheel on Miami’s party bus. Bosh was never going to get it done in Toronto despite being one of the top 15 players in the league.

Many will say he was terrible this season and that he’s a waste of money, but all of that is nonsense. Bosh put up All-Star worthy numbers for a team that barely knew how to utilize its first two stars. He did this while taking less shots, less money, and more scrutiny. He didn’t take the same level of criticism as LeBron, but he was the butt of several jokes.

Yet Bosh ended this season in not just a loss but a loss of emotions. As his body crumbled to the floor of the tunnel in Miami we all learned a valuable lesson about Chris, he truly cares. He wants to win and he’s willing to let sew his emotions on the sleeves of his eccentric suits. If anything, I wish more members of the Heat cared Like A Bosh. Perhaps this post would have a different tone today if they did.

Joel Anthony, Erick Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamaal Magloire, Juwan Howard and Dexter Pittman – These are Miami’s centers. Yes, marvel at them for a moment.

Did you get a good look? Look again, trust me, it’s worth it.

Miami needs to address this issue. Joel, who was probably their best center this year, is more of an energy guy off the bench. A reserve role is probably best suited for him. Pittman is greener than grass and everyone else should retire. No, really, they should. Jamaal is 33, Big Z is 36, Damps will be 36 in a month, and Howard, at 38, is a miracle of modern medicine.

James Jones – Not sure what to think of the reigning 3-point champion. Not because his play was poor in the playoffs, but because he didn’t play. Jones supposedly was hampered by a toe/foot injury. I’m willing to give Jones another season so long as Riley is willing to show some patience. Then again, Jones might be a great throw-in for a future trade Miami might make.

Eddie House – At one point in the season, Spoelstra couldn’t figure out how to use Eddie House on the floor with his three superstars, so he decided to bench House. House ended up losing his job to his brother-in-law, Mike Bibby. Bibby, by the way, is the same exact player House is but worse in all aspects. This move probably hurt Miami more than it ever helped them.

House has proven that he isn’t the perfect player but he plays for cheap and is always ready to play. That was most evident when he dropped 35 points in the final game of the regular season to help Miami clinch homecourt of LA and Dallas. Having home court is irrelevant now, but it was a pretty big deal coming into the Finals. With a roster laden with high price superstars, a guy like House is a perfect fit.

Mike Bibby – What a mistake this was. If Mike Bibby never plays another NBA game the only person who will care will be Mike Bibby.

Mike Miller – Mike Miller might have to go but his contact might make it tough to move him. Then again, that might be a good thing for Miami if Miller’s thumbs heels over the summer. Miller got hurt early in the season and never really got into the flow of things until the playoffs. Then he was mysteriously benched in favor of Eddie House in Game 6 of the Finals. I don’t understand it either.

Erik Spoelstra – He’s probably gone but maybe he will be retained. He made enough mistakes to cost him his job but Pat Riley doesn’t seem motivated to coach right now and unless Riley and Phil Jackson make amends, I doubt there is anyone else out there that is qualified for this job.

With that said, Spo had some very questionable moments in these Finals. The one that was most jarring to me came during Game 6’s post-game conference when Spoelstra said “I wish I could figure out more ways to get LeBron involved.”  That’s your job, Erik, a job you might not have anymore for that very same reason.

Personally, I think Spoelstra is a great coach with a bright future but with Wade turning 30 soon, Miami has to win and they have to win now. No one believes this more than Pat Riley; just ask Stan Van Gundy.

Dwyane Wade – Wade didn’t show up two of the four playoff rounds Miami played in, yet the expectations that rest on Wade’s shoulders aren’t nearly as dense as those carried by his partner, LeBron James. Perhaps it’s because Wade has earned a pass from the media by virtue of his 2006 Finals performance. Or maybe we still greatly underrate Wade and see his spectacular games as overachieving. Whatever it is, people forgot about his 18 points per game on 40% shooting during the Finals and only remember his brilliance from Game 2.

Wade ended the series with a mediocre showing in Game 6 but you won’t hear much about that. You won’t hear how he spent as much time taking hero shots as LeBron did passing them up. And that’s where the biggest issue of this team comes to play. Miami is a better team with LeBron handling the ball and Wade cutting and slashing off of it. Dallas knew this and played the perfect defense to battle against it. They essentially tripled LeBron and let Wade become the primary ball handler knowing that by doing so, they would get torched by Wade but it would leave LeBron uselessly drifting into corners and waiting for his turn to miss another contested long three deep into the shot clock. And it worked.

Going forward, Wade has to become that primary off-ball guy. He has to take notes from Ray Allen and learn to move without the ball, something he does rather well already, just has to be more willing. Wade also has to become a better shooter. Not just from deep, but from the free throw line as well. 78% for the playoffs, 76% for the season and 77% for his career are putrid numbers from the charity stripe for a mega-star shooting guard. I won’t even give you his 3-point numbers but I’ll tell you this much, LeBron is hand over fist better from deep. Think about that.

LeBron James – This entry could probably get its own post but I won’t go there. Not yet at least. My biggest issue with LeBron isn’t that he isn’t a complete player. My issue with him is that he is a complete player but is unwilling to display his talents. Many critics say that he has no post-up game, but he does. He just has to use it for more than trying to purposely get doubled on the block so he can find the open shooter. I’m sure Mario Chalmers loves this game plan, but LeBron needs to be a scorer down here.

There was one play in Game 6 where LeBron took it to the post and he absolutely was focused on scoring. You could see it in his eyes and in his body language. He took two hard dribbles with his right hand on the left block then spun so quick that the defense never go to rotate over. The result was the easiest halfcourt layup of LeBron’s career. This could be a reality 5 to 10 times a game if he was only aware of how good he can be in the post.

I’m not sure what spooked James in this series or if he was spooked at all. I think that LeBron isn’t afraid of failure but he is afraid of letting down his own teammates. The phrases I just wrote may sound similar but there is a difference between the two mindsets. I’m not sure which one is worse but I know that LeBron needs to shake it off.

The issue with Miami, and this goes for everyone on that roster, was that everyone was afraid to lose but no one was willing to win and that starts with their leader, LeBron James. LeBron’s going to get killed for this series because he wasn’t really the LeBron we have seen. Worse yet, he wasn’t the LeBron we want to see. He had a good Game 6, scoring a team-leading 21 points on 15 shots and filled up the rest of the box score.

The issue here is that he only had 15 shots. Again, it’s his willingness to score that is the problem. LeBron’s always been beloved because his basketball I.Q. always told him to make the right basketball play. Sometimes the right basketball play isn’t the right play. Sometimes you need to wave off a pick. Sometimes you need to take over a game, for better or worse.

In 1994, Shaq got schooled by Hakeem. He then spent the rest of his years calling Hakeem “The Master” while also learning Hakeem’s footwork en route to four NBA titles.

In 2005, a 26-year-old Kobe Bryant thought the world was his but he soon learned you can’t rule a kingdom alone. He struggled to win despite his box score brilliance. He learned that he’d have to share in the glory if he wanted to experience any glory at all, and he demanded more help — and received it.

In 1990, Michael Jordan was forced to become a team player by trusting those around him. Once he learned that passing to teammates like Paxson, Hodges and Pippen was okay, he became the complete player and nothing except retirement could stop the Chicago Bulls.

And now we have LeBron James. He must learn that selfishness is okay to a certain degree. Hopefully this is his moment of clarity. When everything seems so bleek that he is forced to forge a new way to retool and recreate himself into “that Dude“.

This isn’t just for his own good, this is for the anyone who is a fan of good basketball. Whether you cheer for LeBron or loathe the very ground he walks on, you should want to see him succeed if you like basketball. There is something about watching greatness that is inexplicable and irreplaceable. I want to watch great players do great things, just as we all watched Dirk and Kidd cement their place in the NBA’s Hall of Fame this week by winning their first title.

For our own sake, hopefully LeBron figures out how to be great once again.

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