In Miami, the blame has to go somewhere.
LeBron James is getting a heaping share. So are all the role players. But you can’t fire LeBron and in the NBA when teams don’t live up to expectations it is the coach whose job is on the line. Fair or not.
There are those wondering if Erik Spoelstra will be back with the Heat next season. He’s a young coach on a team that is as “win now” as it gets. David Thorpe of ESPN thinks that may pressure the Heat into a move (as he told Henry Abbott at TrueHoop).
I wouldn’t fire him. But I suspect they’ll think they can’t afford to wait another year to figure out of he’s the right guy for them. If he is fired, he’ll be employed again very quickly. I think he’s a terrific young coach, and he’ll get better and better.
A lot of NBA teams think that way, Thorpe is right. Pat Riley, however, doesn’t think and act like most NBA teams. Most likely Spoelstra keeps his job. And one thing Thorpe says I can verify — if Spoelstra were let go he’d be in instant demand around the league. Other GMs and basketball people speak highly of him. He is young, hard working, gets the game and considering everything he had to deal with this season he did a good job.
But next season he may well be on a much tighter leash.
One question is who would you bring in? Pat Riley is there but he does not want to return to the grind of being an NBA coach. Phil Jackson is taking a year off and might be an odd fit with that roster and front office anyway. Doc Rivers stayed put in Boston. Mike Brown is with the Lakers. Who is left that you really want to bring in? Larry Brown?
The Heat struggled early in the season but what should matter, what Pat Riley will likely take into consideration, is how they improved as things went along. By the end of the season they Heat were playing their best ball, against Boston and Chicago they had the off-the-ball action, the “big three” worked more in concert than next to each other. Things really were coming together.
On the biggest stage against a veteran team that fell apart. But that is not all on the coach — the roster is not deep enough right now, and it usually takes teams some hard losses playing together to learn how to win a championship.
Spoelstra also seems to have the backing of his players. His pregame white board in the locker room (detailing actions) is one of the better organized, more detailed in the league. And Spoelstra is figuring out how to motivate this team, Dwyane Wade told Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.
“He’s good at analogies, using what we’ve been through, throughout this year, and stuff like that,” Wade said. “He’s actually getting better at speeches, though. He’s had a couple of good ones in this postseason and we were like, ‘Yeah.’ So he’s getting pretty good.”
What they have been through is key — Spoelstra is growing like this team is growing. They are doing it together, they have been through a season unlike one any other NBA team has dealt with in terms of media scrutiny and the feeling about them around the league.
Spoelstra is one of them. He shouldn’t be let go, he deserves a chance to grow with this team and help it take one more step.
But he might not want to get off to a 9-8 start next season.