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Heat might as well fire Spoelstra now

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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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Maybe now we can talk about the real problem undermining the Miami Heat.

For the past two days too much of the discussion has focused on the Heat’s inability to “close.”

The real problem is the Heat’s inability to “win.”

Heat or 3peat

East vs. West

The Lakers may be eliminated, but the Heat are still shooting for the NBA Finals. Visit Heat or 3peat Central

See, when you focus on “closing,” that gives you the out of criticizing LeBron James and attempting to stir discontent between James and Dwyane Wade.

When you focus on “winning” you have no choice but to examine the work of Erik Spoelstra and his mentor, Pat Riley, the two men primarily responsible for the Heat’s dramatic and unexpected collapse.

I’m glad Tuesday night’s 105-96 Portland victory didn’t turn on Miami’s final possession. The Trail Blazers controlled the contest from start to finish.

James and Wade played brilliantly, scoring 69 points, shooting 26 of 41 from the field, grabbing 17 rebounds and passing out 13 assists. They played 45 and 42 minutes, respectively.

They gave everything they had. It wasn’t enough.

“The only thing that we can do is to keep on grinding and not let go of the rope,” Spoelstra said after Miami’s fifth straight loss. “This is a mental collective test for all of us to keep on gripping that rope until we make it through this.”

Short of beating the Lakers on Thursday, Spoelstra can’t survive this. He’s lost his grip on this team.

“Did you see any lack of competitiveness there in the fourth?” Spoelstra responded when questioned about his hold on the Heat. “It’s not a matter of want.”

Spoelstra might want to look past James and Wade when assessing his team’s want-to.

Chris Bosh mentally checked out. Miami’s 6-foot-11 All-Star power forward turned in an embarrassing, lifeless, seven-point, four-rebound stat line and then made his displeasure with the Heat offense known in his postgame interview.

“A closed mouth don’t get fed,” Bosh proclaimed, summing up his Keyshawn Johnson-like, just-give-me-the-damn-ball-in-the-low-post media session.

Once again, Miami’s bench showed very little want-to, scoring just eight points. Wade defended the Heat’s role players, suggesting that their limited minutes gave them little opportunity to find a rhythm.

Spoelstra’s done.

Let’s don’t blame LeBron James for killing him.

“We are all in it together,” James said. “Spo is not by himself. We are all a collective group. We will figure it out together.”

Blame Riley for killing Spoelstra.

Riley stuck his young protege with a flawed roster and a group of players who believed a championship was a foregone conclusion. Impressed with his massive free-agent haul, Riley bought the hype that James, Wade and Bosh were all Miami needed.

 

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Presented a compelling November case that the Heat roster needed to be tweaked, Riley stood pat at the trade deadline and then added Mike Bibby, who has created more defensive problems than offensive solutions.

This is not a top-flight team. Miami’s record against plus-.500 teams is not a fluke. The Trail Blazers are a better team than Miami. Portland got 41 points off its bench. Trade-deadline pickup Gerald Wallace led Portland’s second unit with 22 points. Wallace was an All-Star for Charlotte last season.

Obviously it’s too late to fix the Heat roster so Riley might as well move on to fixing Miami’s coach.

I believe Riley began the process of firing Spoelstra on Monday. Why else would Riley let Spoelstra and public-relations director Tim Donovan concoct the blame-the-media CryGate strategy?

The move made Spoelstra look weak, dishonest and in over his head to the media and the Heat players. Riley has been around way too long to make that kind of amateur mistake.

Spoelstra is on the clock.

If Riley really doesn’t want the job — and looking at the holes in the roster and Bosh’s funk, Riley shouldn’t — he should ask Larry Brown to coach the Heat the rest of the season. I’m serious.

The final 15 games of Miami’s schedule are relatively easy. A veteran, established coach such as Brown might be able to use the last month of the regular season to install a strategy that would give the Heat a chance of escaping the first round of the playoffs and being a dangerous second-round opponent.

At the very least, the right coach might be able to rehabilitate Bosh’s trade value for next season.

The Big Three will outlive Erik Spoelstra but not by long.

Tagged: Heat, Trail Blazers, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade

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