There's been an extreme, almost doomsday negativity aimed at the Miami Heat lately about their losses against the elite teams of the NBA, in particular their squandering of a 24-point lead to the Orlando Magic and their 30-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs. If people aren't pointing and laughing at them, people are certainly casting condescending frowns and wagging that disapproving finger. Even the Heat themselves appear to be greatly dismayed and flustered in the post-game interviews.
But while the rest of the world clamors on, I look back at my experience watching hundreds and hundreds of amateur, competitive, and below-the-rim adult rec league games in my Dream League -- we're almost in our tenth year and we run three seasons per year, ten divisions per season, perhaps three or four ultra-competitive divisions with legacy teams returning each season, so that's like 40 seasons not including the ones I played in other leagues prior -- and I've gotta say, I've seen this all before.
Sure, I'm just as surprised as the next guy that things aren't going so smoothly for talents as Hall-of-Fame-bound as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but then I remind myself: this is still the same old team game of basketball.
However, I'm not just satisfied to sit back and accept it, either. I definitely think LeBron and Wade can do better (as could Erik Spoelstra). They're just not quite experienced enough yet, but if I were their coach or GM, here's what I would advise...
Look, the Heat are simply inexperienced
First of all, accept that you are an inexperienced team. And by inexperienced, I not only mean that this team was only assembled less than a year ago, but I also mean the ages of the players. Let's take a look at all the "elite" teams that are over .600, which the Heat are 4-10 against...
- Spurs: Tony Parker 28, Manu Ginobili 33, Tim Duncan 34, Richard Jefferson 30. Jefferson in 2nd year with Parker/Manu/Timmy. Parker/Manu/Timmy together since 2002 (9 years).
- Celtics: Paul Pierce 33, Kevin Garnett 34, Ray Allen 35, Rajon Rondo 25. Pierce 13th year with Celtics. Rondo 5th year with Celtics/Pierce. KG and Ray-Ray formed Big Three in 2007 (4th year together).
- Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki 32, Jason Kidd 37, Jason Terry 33, Tyson Chandler 28. Dirk in 13th year with Mavs. Jet in 7th year with Mavs. Kidd in 3rd year with Mark Cuban-era Mavs. Chandler in 1st year with Mavs.
- Lakers: Kobe Bryant 32, Pau Gasol 30, Lamar Odom 31, Derek Fisher 36, Ron Artest 31. Kobe and Fish have played together for 12 years. Odom in 7th year with Lakers. Gasol in 3rd year with Lakers. Artest in 2nd year with Lakers.
- Magic: Dwight Howard 25, Jameer Nelson 29, Hedo Turkoglu 31, J.J. Redick 26, Gilbert Arenas 29, Jason Richardson 30. Dwight and Jameer 7th year together, all with Magic. Hedo 6th year in two stints with Dwight/Jameer. Redick 5th year with Magic/Dwight/Jameer, 4th year with Hedo. Gil and J-Rich 1st year with Magic.
- Bulls: Derrick Rose 22, Luol Deng 25, Joakim Noah 26, Carlos Boozer 29. Deng 6th year with Bulls. Noah 4th year with Bulls and Deng. D-Rose 3rd year with Bulls/Deng/Noah. Boozer 1st year with Bulls.
- Thunder: Kevin Durant 22, Russell Westbrook 22, Thabo Sefolosha 26, Serge Ibaka 21, Nick Collison 30, James Harden 21. Collison 7th year with Thunder. KD 4th year with Collison/Thunder. Westbrook 3rd year with KD and Collison. Ibaka, Harden, and Thabo 2nd year with Thunder.
- Heat: Dwyane Wade 29, LeBron James 26, Chris Bosh 26. Wade 8th year with Heat. LeBron/Bosh 1st year with Wade/Heat. Note: Udonis Haslem (30) has played with Wade/Heat for 8 years, but only played in the first 13 games this season before his injury.
Most comparable to the Heat are the Thunder. But guess what, the Thunder are 4-11 against the elite teams listed above, including the 108-103 loss at home to the Heat. And even still, at least Durant and Westbrook have played together for 3 years. I'm sure we'd all agree that LeBron and Wade's first year together far surpasses the first year that Durant and Westbrook were together.
- LeBron: "Dwyane, they got a slow big man at the 4 tonight, so I think we need to get Bosh going. Let me worry about that. I'll be the one setting him up. I'll set you up too, so be ready for that. But I'm going to focus on getting Bosh some touches early. You should focus on somebody else."
- Wade: "Right. I think I'm going to try taking my man off the dribble, but then trying to dish out to Chalmers or down low to Dampier. I'm going to make the defense think I'm attacking the rim, but really I'm just going to try to force them to start helping, then dishing off."