Eric Spoelstra talks embracing LeBron, positional versatility

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Heat coach Eric Spoelstra calls what the Heat do position-less basketball — the idea is to have any player be able to play in any spot on the floor if it creates and/or takes advantage of a mismatch. For example, Chris Bosh is the center, but he can knock down threes and you have to defend him out to the arc.

The idea is to put together a team of versatile players and let them just play basketball. Stop thinking in terms of traditional positions. Chris Bosh isn’t just a four or a five. LeBron James isn’t just a three.

In a fantastic, must-read post at ESPN’s Heat Index, Spoelstra talks about how he and the Heat got there and the lessons of LeBron and the 2011 season.

“Thinking conventionally that first season with LeBron — that was my biggest regret as a coach,” Spoelstra said. “I put LeBron in a box. And that’s the worst thing I could have done….

“LeBron was a small forward, that’s what we knew,” Spoelstra said. “That was how we built and ran the team (in 2010-11). But after the Dallas series, we decided to start from scratch.

“We always talked about how versatile our team was, but we never thought about what it meant. We had to do away with convention.”

This organizational change couldn’t have taken place just anywhere, but it could under Heat president Pat Riley, a guy who won rings with a 6’9” point guard — a guy like LeBron who broke the mold of his position and made other things possible.

But part of this was also LeBron embracing the fact he was more than just a three — if he played more like a big, more like a power forward good things happened. And he had the best of both worlds, he could bang inside but if his defender was big and slow he could go outside and take him off he dribble.

The Heat then built a roster that fit the style. Bosh and Dwyane Wade already did. They went and got guys like Shane Battier that can play multiple positions. Even Ray Allen can be fit into it — he is taking guys off the bounce in the preseason.

This is not for every team. The Lakers are more conventional, but with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash they should be, those guys play more conventional roles. But when you look at the Thunder and Kevin Durant, you see a team where the roles of old again do not apply.

“We’re not trying to make a catchphrase or start something up in the league or be innovative with it,” Spoelstra said. “It was just something for our guys, our staff and including me to put our arms around the strength of our team.”

When you have the talent the Heat do and you play to your strengths, things like a ring follow. And very possibly more than one.