They’re done. Miami’s Big Three — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Add Erik Spoelstra and front-running Heat fans, too. Toast. All of them.
They can’t survive what we just witnessed, a Finals meltdown of historic proportion, an ego deflation that is being celebrated throughout the basketball world.
With their preseason celebration and postseason (cough, cough) arrogance, The Big Three set the stakes — championship or bust. Now, in the aftermath of the Dallas Mavericks taking three straight games and the title, the Heat must accept the consequences.
It’s over. Wade’s brainchild and Pat Riley’s free-agent coup is a failure. The right thing to do is to blow it up before it dies as a result of friendly fire.
Let’s start with the easy stuff. Erik Spoelstra has no business coaching a legitimate title contender. Rick Carlisle put Spoelstra in a clown suit. Does Spoelstra have a zone offense? Blessed with a superior roster in terms of athleticism and down double digits late, does Spoelstra realize you can pick up defensively full court?
Spo must go.
So must any notion that Miami is a serious sports town.
“Our fans just punked the s*** out of the Miami fans,” said Dallas owner Mark Cuban, referring to the 3,000 to 4,000 Mavericks fans inside Miami’s American Airlines Arena for Game 6.
Heat fans sold out and jumped ship. Which brings me to my main point.
LeBron James is a man without a country. He abandoned Cleveland. And Miami has no love for him. The Heat fans who sold their tickets to Dallas supporters will now unleash their vitriol on King James.
He’s a national laughingstock, a late-night punch line. He’s a hard-to-love Charlie Brown.
Worse, because of his putrid performance in the last three games, his ability to command respect within the Heat locker room (and across the NBA) has been severely undermined. His pregame speeches will forever sound phony and hollow. There’s no reason for Wade to share the leadership role with James again.
James and Wade are the same, need-the-ball-in-their-hands player. James is better than Wade. But Wade has much bigger (basket)balls.
Today, there are people in Miami who dislike James more than people in Cleveland do. In Wade, Heat fans see the intangibles missing in James. Wade is willing to do whatever is necessary to win. James? Not so much.
The last three games, he hid on the offensive end, repeatedly turning down open looks. In Game 4, he stood flat-footed and zombie-like as Dirk Nowitzki drove the lane for the game-winning basket. In Sunday’s elimination game, James basically declined to rebound, finishing with just four.
With his body and athleticism, James should snatch eight rebounds in his sleep. On nights when he doesn’t trust his jump shot, James should collect a half-dozen offensive rebounds and four put-backs.
Does pressure choke James? Maybe. More likely, James is simply moody. Kids born into family dysfunction often struggle emotionally.
All season when the Heat experienced adversity it took several games for the team to snap out of its funk. The adversity, the depression lingered. The Heat reflected James. Boston and Chicago failed to hit Miami in the mouth and force James, Wade and Bosh to question themselves and Spoelstra. Dallas didn’t.
The Mavericks hit the Heat twice. In Game 2, Dallas erased a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead, tied the series 1-1 and raised questions about the Heat’s premature celebration. In Game 4, Nowitzki drove around Udonis Haslem for the game-winner, raising questions about Spoelstra’s strategy.
The Heat crumbled. They won’t recover. How can they?
James is a villain in Miami now. Heat fans don’t trust him. They’ll chew on him throughout the offseason and take a cynical view of all his work until the next NBA Finals. So will his teammates.
James can’t be the alpha male on a team with Wade. LeBron’s global-icon aspirations, and No. 1 Nike pitchman status won’t allow him to be Wade’s clear sidekick. Complicating matters even more, the NBA is headed for a likely work stoppage next season. An abbreviated season gives the Heat less time to work out comfortable roles for Wade and James.
Replacing Spoelstra with Pat Riley won’t fix what ails the Heat. James and Wade are the same player. In eight NBA seasons, James has demonstrated no interest in developing a low-post game to take advantage of his magnificent frame. He loves his game. It earned him two MVP trophies, lifetime financial security, the nickname King James and the freedom to avoid self-awareness at times of crisis.
“The Greater Man upstairs know when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time,” James tweeted after Miami’s Game 6 loss.
God doesn’t care about the NBA Finals. James’ teammates and bandwagon Heat fans do. They’d love for him to spend the offseason improving his obvious weaknesses.
Short of that, they’d probably like to see him traded for parts that fit. James for Dwight Howard makes a lot of sense.
The Big Three is done. It was a noble experiment. James and Wade deserve credit for trying to make it work, for being completely loyal to and unselfish with each other for an entire season.
Now it’s time to move on before they inflict further damage on their reputations.