July 8, 2010 Lebron James announces on ESPN that he will be “taking his talents to South Beach.” With Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade already signed to the Heat team the hype was instantly driven to insane proportions. Jeff Van Gundy said the Heat “will break the single season win record.” According to Josh Baumgard at Bleacher Report “When the rest of the league soon realizes that no team in the NBA can compete with Miami (even L.A.), there is going to be a major realignment over the next few years.”
Well what has happened so far Miami(5-4) is off to a mediocre start at best. They have already been beaten by Boston twice. They are two games back in the loss column of first place Orlando. They have blown a huge lead to Utah at home. They have only beaten one team with a winning record. Despite all the talk about how hard it would be to defend two of the premier scorers on the same team and how many open looks they would have they are currently only ranked 20th in assists. While its certainly still very early and no one is ready to blow the team up just yet, there are plenty of reasons to believe this Miami team will be a contender, but not the juggernaut that so many people wanted to rush and anoint them.
So whose fault is it? Is it the coaching, with Pat Riley lurking in the wings coach Erik Spolestra must know that Heat isn’t just the team he coaches, but also the adjective that most aptly describes how his seat must feel every time his team ends up on the short side of the scoring column. While I believe Spolestra deserves some of the blame we can’t forget that Wade missed most of the preseason with a hamstring, and wasn’t even around the team as he spent most of his time in Chicago dealing with his ongoing custody battle. So for now let’s give him a pass, as this team continues to gel and he learns how to best use his players he will bare a greater sense of the burden shall this treading water above the .500 mark continue.
Shall we blame Wade or James. Well D-Wade is leading the team in points, and Lebron is leading the team in assists. At times in the Boston game on Veteran’s Day Lebron was the absolute runaway train we’ve come to expect. He simply is a superior athlete in the open floor and he kept Miami in that game. They are playing at a level that we expect from them, so its hard to put the blame on them.
Do we blame the role players and the bench? While the remainder of the crew certainly hasn’t been anything spectacular, they weren’t expected to be. The best role player on this team was supposed to be three point specialist MIke Miller who is out injured. Udonis Haslem one of the few other role players on this team worth mentioning is leading the team in rebounds with 8.4 per game off the bench. So while the role players haven’t been great, they’ve done what they were expected to do, it’s really hard to place the blame on them.
That leaves one person whom I think should shoulder this blame almost exclusively, Chris Bosh. One of the known weaknesses of this Heat team coming in was a lack of a great center. Bosh at 6’11 could be unselfish and move to center allowing Udonis Haslem to start at power forward and this alone would improve the team, you want your best players starting, and Haslem is currently the Heats fourth best player, yet he doesn’t crack their starting five. Another area where Bosh deserves a ton of blame is rebounding. When this team was assembled it was talked about how the three stars would have to sacrifice numbers in favor of team work, and clearly Bosh has accepted that, as his scoring average has dropped from 20.1 to 14.8. One stat that should not have taken a huge hit though is rebounding, Chris Bosh is currently only averaging 6 rebounds per game good enough to tie Lebron for 56th best in the league. Compared to Pau Gasol his Lakers counterpart who is averaging 11.8 rpg good for third in the league.
In my opinion if the Heat want to make the leap from good to great they need Bosh to get tougher and produce more rebounds. In his first season with the Lakers the aforementioned Pau Gasol helped lead the Lakers to the NBA finals, he wasn’t tough and LA was beaten by Boston in 6 games. That off season Gasol worked on his game and LA has won back-to-back titles in the two seasons following. If the Miami Heat want to live up to the insane hype and start a dynasty, then Chris Bosh needs to accept blame and get tougher, otherwise the Heat can start looking at fishing trips for June, because good teams play in May, but only the great ones make it to play in June.