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Wade and LeBron to blame for Heat mess
Let’s hope Dwight Howard and Chris Paul learn a lesson from the Miami Mess.
The NBA isn’t AAU hoops. It takes more than two or three super friends to win an NBA title. Players interested in winning at the highest level shouldn’t moonlight as general managers in the offseason.
For seven months, we’ve listened to the enablers and sycophants celebrate LeBron James’ Decision to take his basketball destiny into his own hands and join forces with Miami Heat de facto general manager Dwyane Wade and Toronto escapee Chris Bosh.
The Big Three promised instant championships, an assault on history and wild parties on South Beach.
Everybody got caught up in the hype. It was going to be easy and fun. After a shaky start in November, the Big Three turned up the heat, beat up on mid-level competition and became the toast of hip-hop culture.
In December and January, the Big Three kind of felt like basketball’s Death Row Records -- with LeBron as Tupac, Wade as Dr. Dre, Bosh as Snoop Dogg and Pat Riley as Big Suge Knight.
Well, now it’s March, and after Thursday’s TNT-televised meltdown against the Orlando Magic -- the Heat blew a 24-point lead and lost 99-96 -- you sort of suspect Pat Riley might want to hang coach Erik Spoelstra upside-down from a balcony.
But Spoelstra is not to blame for this catastrophe, which includes Miami’s continued struggles against playoff-caliber teams.
Wade and James are.
The Big Two conceived this poorly constructed team. The Big Two gave in to their egos and assumed any group of stiffs would be enough support for the Big Three to compete against the NBA’s best teams.
It’s just not true. And you hope Howard and Paul -- the next irresistible free-agent targets -- are taking notes. You hope they’re not still caught up in the Miami hype.
The Heat are not title contenders. Boston, Chicago, San Antonio, Dallas and Los Angeles are all significantly better than the Heat in a seven-game series. The Knicks and the Magic could give Miami trouble early in the playoffs.
Any objective basketball follower could see the Heat’s glaring, unfixable flaws in November.
No point guard. No center. And Bosh is the wrong third wheel. He doesn’t play on the low block and create space for spot-up shooters or slashers, and his rebounding and defensive presence are both inconsistent and far from overpowering.
Add those flaws to two enormous superstars -- James and Wade -- trying to figure what to do at the end of games, and you have a recipe for blown leads and an inability to finish against good teams with well-defined roles.
“Obviously there’s a trend with us where we do the same things over and over,” Bosh said. “We’ve blown a lot of 20-point leads. We’ve blown a lot of games where we’re in full control. “
The Heat led 73-49 early in the third quarter. Operating from around the paint, James and Wade combined to score 47 points in the first half. They scored two in the fourth quarter. The Magic ran traps and quick double-teams at James in the second half, forcing him to kick the ball to a teammate.
Erick Dampier was Miami’s third-best offensive player on Thursday.
Let me repeat that: Erick Dampier was Miami’s third-best offensive player on Thursday.
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I can’t take a team serious when a 35-year-old journeyman center who is averaging 2.3 points is its third-best offensive player. Can’t do it.
When this Heat season is over -- and it could end in April with the wrong first-round playoff seed -- it will be interesting to see whom Wade and James blame for the mess they created.
Spoelstra is the leading candidate, with Bosh quickly closing in.
The truth is, Wade and James are responsible. They bought their own hype. They’re caught up in the recent wave of conventional stupidity that says players are as smart or smarter than the coaches and executives who run the teams.
Is Tom Brady the only modern-day superstar athlete content to just be a player and chill with a supermodel at home?
James and Wade are suffering the same disease as Peyton Manning. They’re trying to do too much. At some point, the most mature thing a great athlete can do is surrender to the right coach, the right organization and let the dedicated professionals control his destiny.
Brady is going to win more titles than Manning partially because Manning has carried too big of a load working as Indy’s de facto offensive coordinator.
I’m not saying Dwight Howard has the right coach or right general manager in Orlando. I have major questions about Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith. I’m saying Howard (and Paul) shouldn’t believe the false narrative that James and Wade did something all players should try to emulate.