We all understand the type of physical pressure the Miami Heat’s Three Amigos are under.
Bookended in a starting lineup by Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony, the Three Amigos basically need to win three-on-five every time they step onto the court. Seriously. With apologies to Arroyo and Anthony (actually, I will not apologize), that’s the truth. Not only do the Heat’s two weakest links provide almost nothing offensively, but they’ve also both spent the first few weeks of the season like an Olympic city — getting torched all day.
So yes, the Three Amigos are under some immense physical pressure. But the emotional pressure is even greater. Never before has a team joined together with such hype. Never before have expectations been so high before a team even played a single game. If the Miami Heat don’t win a championship, they’re a failure. Really, even a championship won’t meet our expectations. We expect them to be nearly perfect.
So far, they haven’t been. Not even close. The Heat let Paul Millsap look like a mix between Superman and Reggie Miller, coughing up a 22-point lead in the process. They let Emeka Okafor look like he was back at UConn playing against Joe Schmo from Rutgers University, and fell to the Hornets while Okafor was in Huskies mode. They have allowed elite point guards to tally obscene assist totals, and they don’t seem to have any semblance of an end-of game plan. One night, Lebron James takes every crunch-time shot while Dwyane Wade watches with disinterest. The next, it’s Wade’s turn to dominate the ball while Lebron chills. There’s nothing about the Heat that screams, “Team!”, nothing about them that shows any synergy, any feeling that, “Hey, these guys make each other better as a team than they are on their own.”
It’s early still and most of the problems are curable, but the scrutiny is terrible. Listen to how Rich Levine described it.
Sure, the Heat have played better since Opening Night, but still, they’re about as emotionally stable as a PMS-ing supermodel. For every step forward, at least in the eyes of the national media, they take seven steps back, and it’s got to be wearing on them. Erik Spoelstra can’t open the Internet without reading about the eventual Pat Riley takeover. Chris Bosh can’t check his Twitter feed without nearly 290K followers telling him he’s a fraud. LeBron James can’t gaze into the mirror and ask, “What should I do?” without the mirror yelling back, “How about taking over in crunch time of a big game, fool!?!”
We tend to think of superstars as something beyond human. But these guys have feelings too. And while I think Wade and Lebron are beyond the point where public perception can change their games, I think all the scrutiny has really affected Bosh. Really, how could it not? He had spent the rest of his career in Toronto, toiling in a minor market for shitty teams, receiving attention only when people discussed, “What about that Bosh guy, up in Canada? He’s actually pretty good, huh?”
Now, he’s everyone’s goat. (And I definitely don’t mean G.O.A.T.) Jason Whitlock has already called for Bosh to be traded. Seven games into the season! And that was BEFORE Millsap’s superhuman 46-point explosion. Bosh has become the butt of everyone’s jokes, the reason some people now refer to the Heat’s “Big Three” as “Two and a Half Men.” At almost any point in the day, my Twitter feed shows someone abusing Bosh’s game.
Bosh has already shown us that he’s not emotionally stable (in a basketball sense). He had a meeting with Lebron James to discuss how he feels hesitant. He told reporters, “We have a system but at the same time when the games happening so fast, sometimes I get lost. I don’t know whether to cut, whether to go, whether to get back. Playing with those talented two guys, it gets real fast.”
When the game’s happening so fast, sometimes I get lost? That sure as hell doesn’t sound like a superstar to me. It sounds more like someone struggling to get on the same page as his two vastly superior teammates.
Bosh is one hell of a talent. I won’t argue that. He’s long, skilled, athletic and has in the past proven himself capable of making plays against any defender. But one has to wonder if he’s built to withstand such enormous pressure.
(Note: I wrote about the Bosh issue and more Heat problems in a piece for SLAM Online. Check it.)