Heat’s pain may be their long-term gain
Dwyane Wade might be surprised by this: Not all of the Miami Heat’s critics are rooting for the Big Three to fail.
Some of us root for Wade, James and Bosh to experience intellectual evolution, self-awareness growth and the maturity to publicly admit a mistake.
Some of us want the Big Three to win the right way because that’s what’s best for them, best for the NBA, a league we love, and best for the young people attempting to model their behavior after three of the highest-profile athletes in America.
“The world,” as Wade claimed, may indeed be happy the Heat are momentarily failing, but the root of our joy is more complex than perhaps the Big Three understand.
I like the Big Three. They strike me as well-intentioned young men who are struggling with the consequences of rare, God-given talent and even rarer, man-made fame and wealth.
They simply need their perspectives reshaped by humility, which will give them the courage and desire to reassess and adjust.
I think it’s happening.
I think the Chicago Bulls did the Heat and the Big Three a huge favor on Sunday. The old sports cliche is true: no pain, no gain.
The Big Three emptied their hearts in a one-point loss to the Bulls. LeBron James played the entire second half. Chris Bosh sat for a little more than a minute after halftime. Dwyane Wade swallowed his pride and gave 100 percent on a last-ditch play he wishes had been designed for him.
When it was over: the Heat cried; James stood before his teammates, apologized for missing the Heat’s last good shot and promised to deliver the next time his number was called in the clutch; and, in a moment of mature transparency, Wade acknowledged the difficulty of occasionally accepting a lesser role when the outcome is in the balance.
There are false narratives being written about the Big Three, particularly James and Wade.
This past weekend in South Beach, Dan Le Batard, the brilliant Miami Herald columnist, and I had a long debate about “confirmation bias.” People evaluate events looking to have their biases confirmed. No group is more prone to do this than journalists and opinion-makers.
People have made up their minds about the Big Three and interpret their every action through a preconceived conclusion.
The best NBA reporter/writer, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, has convinced himself that LeBron James is the second coming of Mike Tyson, O.J. Simpson and Terrell Owens rolled into one 6-foot-9, 255-pound package.
I love reading Wojnarowski’s columns. He’s informed, courageous and writes with flair. But I’m not sure he’s fair to James. Wojnarowski interpreted Sunday’s game, LeBron’s “I let my team down” confession and Wade’s honesty about wanting the ball as an indication that LeBron will soon let Omar and Brouther Mouzone blow holes in Wade.
I could be wrong, and I’ll be quick to admit it if I’m later proved in error, but I just don’t see it.
I think Wade and LeBron’s relationship grew stronger Sunday. I think — or hope — Sunday was a turning point.
As I wrote Monday, it’s my belief LeBron removed the mask in front of his teammates, broke down in tears and let everyone know in the realest way possible how invested he is in making this situation work. He’s already adjusted his play on the court, defending all five positions, agreeing to play the point, initiating offense from the low post. I’m not going to label him the ideal teammate or the easiest player to coach, but his strides in those areas are completely obvious.
The emotion and the pledge to perform better in the clutch simply reinforce what we’ve been seeing on the court the past two months. James is growing up.
Sensing that, it’s easy for Wade to sit shoulder to shoulder with James and say exactly what he thinks about the Heat’s end-game offense. They trust and believe in each other. They’re not questioning each other’s motives.
Now, they might be questioning Erik Spoelstra. And, yes, I heard LeBron’s answer when I asked him what he thought of Spoelstra revealing locker-room secrets.
“Naw, man. We stay together,” James said. “Spo is the captain of the ship and we’re going to stand behind him whatever Spo says.”
Again, James is growing up. A smart person realizes Spoelstra’s amateur actions don’t need amplification.
Spoelstra created Monday’s all-day media circus by mentioning what transpired in a closed locker room. Spoelstra changed the first-half playing rotation that produced a double-digit lead. Spoelstra fed the bogus media narrative that the key to fixing the Heat is the continued pursuit of getting in more last-possession games and having a break-through moment.
“A lot of these games shouldn’t come down to the last shot,” Wade accurately pointed out.
I don’t think there’s a huge last-shot debate in the Heat locker room. Wade trusts that he’s going to get his fair number of chances the rest of the regular season and during the playoffs. He’s also smart enough to know championship teams put good opponents away and don’t constantly rely on the final possession to determine an outcome.
“We have a coach,” Wade said Monday. “LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are just players.”
Yep. They’re going to do their jobs and let Spoelstra hang or unhang himself.
It might not take long. Spoelstra and Tim Donovan, the Heat’s too-smart-for-his-own-good, public-relations flack, came up with the bright idea for Spoelstra to blame the media for “CryGate.”
Not smart. Not mature.
“I think (the media) can probably take anything I say and turn it into a story,” Spoelstra said Monday. “I was shocked when T.D. told me about it this morning. That it’s actually making the news. I think you guys can be a little more creative than that.
“I will say one thing, the guys care. Nobody was whimpering in the locker room, guys heads were down, there was a lot of noise going in there. I think the rest of it is you guys searching for sensationalism. I call it CryGate.”
Yeah, we made it all up. Just like we organized the first-ever, preseason championship celebration. Wojnarowski came up with the idea to raise the Big Three from beneath the stage and Bill Simmons told them to predict four or five titles.
Looks like the Heat are going to combat false narratives with false narratives.
Good luck with that.
The better approach would be honesty.
“Yeah, I screwed up. Shouldn’t have said that. I’m glad my players aren’t too upset with me. It won’t happen again.”
That’s all fair-minded critics want.
If James would repent for his original sin — the crassness and the narcissism of The Decision — and the Heat would acknowledge the preseason hype and arrogance were mistakes, the world would not be happy the Heat are losing.
Many of us would celebrate their passion, their fearless, breathtaking play and their evolving maturity.