As the Miami Heat have struggled to a 10-8 record early in the season, most NBA fans have rejoiced. Never in all my years following the NBA have I seen a team so universally reviled. At lunch on Saturday, a vehement longtime Laker hater even said to me: "I never thought I could hate a team more than the Lakers. And now I do."
Over the summer, I wrote that we as fans and bloggers shouldn't hate on the Heat too much, for it will only fuel them to prove us wrong, play better and decimate their opponents — i.e. our teams. But instead of fueling the Miami Thrice into legendary territory, they have withered under the hate.
18 games into the 2010-11 NBA season, even casual fans know the hard facts associated with Miami's disappointing start: a 10-8 record, losers of four out of their last six and one lone victory over a plus-.500 team all season. But looking beyond the obvious, a more troubling pictures emerges of what's happening in Miami.
Simply put, they're not fun to watch.
You'd think a team featuring three 20-plus point scorers in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be collectively lighting up NBA scoreboards. Instead, their team's 100.4 points per game ranks them in the middle of the pack of the NBA. Even worse, the Heat rank third from the bottom in field goals made per game, which means most of their production is coming from the free throw line (where they rank second in attempts and makes). Booooring.
What about all that great passing we were supposed to see from LeBron and Wade? Nope. The Heat rank among the bottom third among all NBA teams in assists per game and aren't cracking 20 assists per night. It's ugly.
And those are just the numbers. Watching the Heat play is equally if not more painful. Too much standing around. Not enough ball movement. Too many mid-range jump shots being taken by guys who can't make mid-range jump shots. And with LeBron routinely over-dribbling and eating clock three feet behind the three-point line, you'd think Mike Brown was still coaching him (sorry, Cavaliers fans, I had to). Oh, and you can forget about seeing breakaway dunks or thrilling alley-oops, they're virtually non-existent on this Miami team.
The 2010-11 Miami Heat were supposed to redefine basketball as we knew it. LeBron, Wade and Bosh's ardent supporters pointed to their selflessness — not selfishness — as the reason they formed this supposed "super team". LeBron was going to average a triple-double, Wade was going to be a scoring sensation and Bosh was going to do all the dirty work down low. Remember?
Instead, the Heat might as well have skipped their overly hyped training camp altogether as they clearly got nothing out of it. And while much of the blame belongs squarely on the shoulders of LeBron, Wade and Bosh, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is equally to blame.
I hate to pull a Phil Jackson and kick an inspiring young coach while he's down (lest we forget, Spoelstra's 2009-10 Heat won 47 games with Wade and a collection of nobodies; the guy can coach, I think), but Spoelstra hasn't been up to the task to date. Coaching players like LeBron, Wade and Bosh is a chore. Just ask USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski who reportedly had his own issues with "The King" as they tried to reclaim the gold medal for Team USA. And Spoelstra is clearly overmatched.
As detailed on Monday by SB Nation's Mike Prada, the signs of insubordination among the players towards their coach have already begun. But having players-only meetings, whining about how they're treated in practice and openly disrespecting their coach by bumping him on the sidelines only pushes these Heat players farther down the road of bad, poorly played basketball. Even the Heat's biggest critics assumed, at a minimum, that they'd be fun to watch.
Many have compared LeBron, Wade and Bosh's cabal to the great threesomes of NBA lore: Magic, Worthy and Kareem or Larry, Kevin and Robert or Michael, Scottie and Dennis, and so on. Those legendary threesomes were chock full of huge egos and overly competitive personalities that didn't always get along with each other or their head coaches. But regardless of what went on inside the locker room, on the floor those teams were always fun to watch.
Only 18 games into a new NBA season, I'm not going to write off the Heat. Nor should any of you. As much I hate what they've done to the competitive balance of the league (my season tickets cost the same whether the Nuggets play the Heat, the Cavaliers or the Raptors), I have to believe that the likes of LeBron, Wade and Bosh will figure it out and put a good product on the floor that will eventually find postseason success.
But for now, the only thing that's fun about the 2010-11 Miami Heat is watching them lose and bicker while doing so. And really, what's the fun in that?