Miami Heat players frustrated with Spoelstra, Riley’s shadow looms

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On every struggling team in the NBA there are players frustrated with the coach.

But no other team has the star power or scrutiny of the Miami Heat. And no other team has the long shadow of Pat Riley cast across the organization and the head coach.

So the reports out of ESPN’s Heat Zone today by Chris Broussard that Heat players are frustrated with coach Erik Spoelstra take on a special gravity.

Sources say the players believe he is not letting them be themselves, that they are questioning his offensive strategies, and that they think he is panicking because he fears losing his job.

In contrast to the popular view that Spoelstra has been hesitant to jump on superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, sources say the Heat coach has shown no fear in criticizing them…

“He’s jumping on them,” one source said. “If anything, he’s been too tough on them. Everybody knows LeBron is playful and likes to joke around, but Spoelstra told him in front of the whole team that he has to get more serious. The players couldn’t believe it. They feel like Spoelstra’s not letting them be themselves.”

According to the sources, the Heat players believe Spoelstra’s offensive strategies have been too simplistic. They feel like he is running nothing but pick-and-rolls and telling the Heat’s secondary players to find open spots on the floor for catch-and-shoot jumpers…

“He’s not a motivator,” one of the sources said. “Instead of coaching he’s at the point where the players are starting to sense that he’s fearing for his job.”

The team had a clear-the-air meeting after losing Saturday in Dallas. We’ll see what if any impact that has.

The Heat’s offense has been simplistic and relatively easy to defend, with almost no off-the-ball motion. Teams are packing the paint, the Heat are too happy to settle for long jump shots. They play at a slower pace that does not take advantage of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in transition.

However, the team has little depth and injuries to Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller have made that all the more evident. There are issues with this team right now beyond what any coach can fix, including Wade’s shooting percentage falling 30 points and his PER going from a team carrying 28 last year to a good but not the same 19.5 this season.

Pat Riley does not want to return to the bench, but owner Micky Arison could force the issue, either of his own volition or because players come to him. Wade has gone to Arison before with concerns about the direction of the franchise and the two have a good relationship.