So much drama in South Beach these days. So much angst. Such soul searching for a solution to getting the mix of superstars on the Miami Heat to blend into a title-worthy contender.
And such a simple solution to the late-game woes of the Miami Heat, but this being the star-system-wedded NBA, nobody mentions it as an option. More on the easy fix later, but first, an examination of what has been going on since LeBron James announced last summer he would “take my talents to South Beach.”
Miami’s losing streak reached four Sunday at home against the Chicago Bulls, 87-86. Naturally, the final play was called for James. With the Heat trailing by one, LeBron had the ball at the top of the key. He drove to the basket, put up a lefty hook shot way too hard off the glass and didn’t get the desired superstar whistle. Dwyane Wade rebounded it and before the clock expired missed a shot from the right corner.
ESPN SportsCenter, during its non-stop coverage of the cold Heat, flashed a graphic that showed James is 1-for-7 on game-winning shots, Wade 0-for-5, Chris Bosh 0-for-1. In Sunday’s loss, James missed his last four shots, two of them three-pointers.
Coach Erik Spoelstra revealed afterward that there were tears in the locker room, inspiring a name for the soap opera: “Crygate.” If Spoelstra shared that to prove his players care, he insulted two of the best basketball players on the planet. Of course James and Wade care about winning. It’s Spoelstra who can fix this mess, but it’s going to take the guts to forget the names involved and coach to the situation the next time he diagrams a game-deciding play.
Three of Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships came on game-winning shots, one by John Paxson, one by Steve Kerr, one by Jordan. All three cigars tasted equally sweet to Jordan. When Kansas needed a big shot to ice Saturday’s Missouri game, Self drew up a play for Tyrel Reed. Marcus and Markieff Morris, the team’s best players, enjoyed it just as much as if they had hit it. Marcus set the screen that freed Reed.
Spoelstra needs to start drawing up plays for a guy with a rich history of hitting clutch shots. Long before Mario Chalmers hit the three that sent the 2008 title game into overtime, Chalmers had cemented his big-shot mettle. When James drove Sunday, Chalmers stood alone in the left corner, waiting to catch a pass that never came.
Naturally, James, Wade and Bosh always draw more of the defense’s attention, leaving Chalmers open. He shoots .360 from three, James .336, Wade .310, Bosh .273. Chalmers’ considerable confidence grows if the game’s best players feed him shots.
Playing for Miami suits Chalmers’ skills ideally, but only if they choose to use those talents. If Spoelstra doesn’t have the stomach to take the ball out of James’ hands at the end, surely Pat Riley is up to the challenge.