There’s no crying in basketball, unless you’re Adam Morrison, a member of the Miami Heat, or me, on the day six years ago when my high school career ended. That day, I cried like a 14-year old girl who just got dumped by her first boyfriend.
In case you missed it, Erik Spoelstra admitted a few of his players shed tears after today’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. The Heat have now lost four straight times, with each defeat demoralizing in its own right. Today’s loss, I suppose, was too much to handle. While Bill Simmons ruled out Mike Bibby as the one who was crying, because Bibby’s quite clearly dead, some of Bibby’s teammates were emotional.
Dwyane Wade, though, just thinks the world’s a better place. (NBC)
“The Miami Heat are exactly what everyone wanted, losing games,” Wade said. “The world is better now because the Heat is losing.”
Wade’s teammate, Lebron James, has morphed into Bill Buckner this season, letting grounders dribble through his legs every time he shoots a potential game-winner.
“I told my team, I’m not going to continue to fail late in games,” James said. “I put a lot of blame on myself tonight. I told the guys that I just keep failing them late in games and I won’t continue to do that.”
Most of the basketball world will admonish the Heat for crying after their continual disappointments. Actually, most of the world will admonish the Heat for almost any reason whatsoever. But, though the tears showed how Miami’s wavering confidence is beginning (or continuing) to waver, for me to bash their tears would be hypocritical. I first fell in love with Kevin Garnett years before he became a Boston Celtic, when he cried during an interview with John Thompson.
“I’m losing,” Garnett said. “I’m losing.”
“I’m losing,” he repeated one more time, before asking for the interview to be suspended, so he could cry off-camera.
Garnett’s losing wasn’t the same as Miami’s, of course. The Heat are championship contenders, regardless of these four losses, while Garnett’s Minnesota team was, I believe, sub-.500 at the time. But the moral of the story stays the same. Anybody moved to tears after a string of regular season losses — anybody why cares THAT much about what happens on a basketball court — is okay by me. Whether that person plays for the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, or the Dakota Wizards (shout out to Chris Johnson).
The problem with the Heat isn’t that they lack passion. If they did, their defense would not be so stingy. Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade joined forces specifically so they could win, and veterans of all shapes and sizes joined them at the veteran’s minimum for the same reason. They want to win, as all teams want to win. But when the fourth quarter comes calling, this team performs at Nick Anderson-esque levels of clutchness.
Today, the Heat’s fourth-quarter execution was (again) abominable. Almost every bucket the Heat scored could be attributed solely to individual greatness, rather than precise offense. By my count, Miami swung the ball from one side of the court to the other just one time (one time!) in the fourth quarter. The result? An open Mario Chalmers three-pointer, which tied the game.
Miami spends far too much time running isolation offense, and the lack of creativity allows defenses to stockpile help. I don’t want to blame the offense entirely on Erik Spoelstra; I find it hard to believe he encourages Lebron James or Dwyane Wade to pound the air out of the ball, then release a contested shot near the shot-clock buzzer. But the Heat’s offense lacks motion, and the spacing is far from desirable. James and Wade still have not learned how to co-exist, partially because neither one has yet become adept at scoring off the ball. Often, when Lebron James drives to the hoop, Wade stands in the opposite corner motionless, and vice versa.
Common sense tells us the Heat will not always prove so worthless in crunch time. James and Wade have always been good clutch scorers, prior to this year, and the law of averages tells us the Heat will make a considerably better percentage of last-second shots. (According to ESPN’s Heat Index, the Heat are 1-for-14 in potential game-tying or game-winning situations in the final 10 seconds of games.) Lebron James won’t always miss wide open three-pointers (as he has earlier this year) or five-foot left-handed scoop shots (as he did today).
But these Heat have problems, real problems, when it comes to fourth-quarter execution. Lebron James could have made his final shot tonight or Dwyane Wade could have coaxed his desperation jumper into the hoop, and the Heat might have won. But it would not change the team’s startlingly mediocre execution in the final period of games. There’s certainly a lot to be said about having three players more than capable of creating their own offense. But there’s also a lot to be said about having a five-man team that functions as one, and uses teamwork to find good looks. The Heat have not yet evolved into that type of team, and more than 60 games into the season, are starting to worry if they ever will.
So they cry. Not just because they lost, but because they care, and because they are wondering — for the first time, I assume — if their current problems can be fixed. Like KG many years ago, the Heat are frustrated by losing at a rate they never expected. I can’t fault them for crying, as I stated before. But the fourth-quarter failures? Those are on them.
The Boston Celtics also play tonight, and it’s Shaq’s birthday. He turned 39 years old today, which, as Rich Levine pointed out, means Shaq was born the same year as Randolph Childress, Lou Roe, Shawn Respert, Ed O’Bannon and Lawrence Moten. Shaq won’t play tonight, of course, but the Milwaukee Bucks still beckon.
Whatever happens in Milwaukee, I’m fairly certain the Celtics will not cry. Not even a 40-point loss to the Bucks will cause Boston’s confidence to shake, or their tear ducts to open. These Celtics have an unshakable faith born from years of success, a sense of true confidence the Heat have not yet built.