November 29, 2010

Time to Panic

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Only 17 games in — that is what the 9-8 Miami Heat keep saying. In the 82-game season of the NBA, anything can still happen for this team loaded with the top-heavy trio of talent in Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But in fact, they really need something to happen soon; they have underperformed, especially against the better teams in the league, as they are only 1-7 against teams with winning records. However, the team is only fooling itself if it keeps pointing to how early it is in the season. Although time may heal certain things, there are problems with the Heat that extend beyond just waiting for the team to gel.

From a purely basketball perspective, the Heat have a couple issues. The lack of a big and deep frontcourt limits the team’s ability to defend and score in the paint. Most of the better teams in the league have an established frontcourt player who they can lean on when the offense becomes stagnant, as well as a good shot blocker whose length will discourage other teams from driving to the hoop as often. The Heat do have Chris Bosh, but save for in a few games, he has underperformed in the spotlight. The other frontcourt players are a combination of veterans past their primes, rookies and injured players. The Heat will be outmatched in the paint — especially defensively, as Bosh is starting to show signs of life on offense lately.

The Heat also just look confused, both on offense and defense. Having many stars on the team could be an excuse, but for the team to be successful, everyone needs to be active — a trait the Heat have not shown that yet. This issue may start to disappear as time goes on and the unit plays games together. James and Wade need to get used to playing without the ball in their hands. For the most part, these basketball issues seem to be fixable with time, but these issues only hide what is truly hindering this squad.

Every contending and championship-winning team needs a mature leader to take it there. The Heat lack this type of leader. At the end, Bosh and Wade will end up deferring to the most talented player on the team, Lebron James. But James will not have the fire and leadership that a Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan has. Instead, when the going gets rough, he will blame others. James has a history of doing this and there are signs that nothing has changed when he changed venues. As long as he continues this type of leadership, he will fail to win a championship.

Lebron James is as immature as he has been since Cleveland. Since entering the league from high school, he has been getting things his way and has subsequently been spoiled as the “chosen one.” Advertisements, analysts and critics have all showered him with praise. Therefore, in his mind, he does not blame himself in his losses, but points to his teammates and coaches first. In Cleveland, he showed this attitude with some remarks that weren’t explicitly against coach Mike Brown but was definitely implicit. James continues to do this in Miami as he recently praised the Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan for knowing exactly what play the Heat would run at the end of a game. Not only that, but there is also just a lack of respect from James towards Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra. In a recent game against Dallas, when Spoelstra called a timeout, James bumped shoulders with Spoelstra on the way to the bench. Although it is only a small incident and may have been an accident, James is showing disrespect and may be even challenging his coach. This does not fare well for the Heat as it just shows that James will not step up and may even end up quitting on this team as James did before with his Cavaliers in Game 5 against the Celtics in the semifinals.

Before this 9-8 team can truly step up and challenge the league’s best competition, James will have to grow up. As of yet, there haven’t been signs of it. Sure, the basketball issues can be solved over time. But if James does not step up as a dependable leader, the Heat will have to abandon their championship dreams. These recent signs of immaturity from James make right now the appropriate time to panic.

Original Author: Wankyu Lee