Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.
Newsflash, America – the Miami Heat are not comprised of team players!
Did that shocking news revelation really just blow your mind… because it shouldn’t have. We all knew LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were never going to end the season first and second in the league in assists, but apparently there is a bit of an uproar that the Heat should be more “team-y.”
Criticism of Miami’s recent four game losing streak prompted Dwyane Wade to make comments defending his team’s unique strategy of letting star players loose to do their thing. Wade elaborates that the Heat are, “not [one of] these kinds of teams that need to play together.” And he is absolutely right! The Heat were designed to be a team of hired guns who keep the ball in the talented hands of their playmakers, then sit back and watch as LeBron, Wade, and Bosh do the rest. Why are people surprised when Wade makes a comment like this stating the obvious?
Playing to their Strengths
The Miami Heat currently sit atop the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the NBA with a 31-13 record for a reason – they win games. The Heat have a core of explosive playmakers on offense that, when hot, are virtually unbeatable. Putting the ball in the hands of James, Wade, and Bosh has propelled them to success thus far throughout the season, so why abandon that game plan at the first sign of struggles? Letting James and Wade play their preferred type of game is simply playing to their strengths.
Asking the Heat to change their game to be more team oriented is like asking the Yankees to abandon an affinity for the longball in favor of National League style small ball. Obviously the team aspect of small ball works for some clubs, but the Yankees simply aren’t built with that type of game in mind. Ignoring this fact in favor of a more team friendly approach would be placing an arbitrary handicap on the Yankees. Just as no one would expect Albert Pujols or Alex Rodriguez to quit swinging for the fences at the first sign of a minor slump, no one should expect LeBron and Dwyane Wade to move the ball around at the first sign of struggle.
Although it doesn’t sit well with those big on “team play,” letting LeBron and D-Wade hog the ball is a viable and effective offensive strategy. It was this same individual focused rewards strategy that turned around the Heat’s season after struggling out of the gate. Coach Erik Spolestra decided that when his players made big stops on defense they would have liberal doses of freedom on offense. This motivation technique, although controversial, yielded results. It helped the Heat to set franchise records as they won eight straight by double digit margins. This in turn helped them pull ahead of the Magic and take the top spot in the division.
Critics of this rewards system will point to the fact that the Heat still trail teams like Boston, and claim that it is a flawed strategy. It should be considered that the Heat have been playing in the only Eastern Conference division with two other teams with records above .500 (Atlanta 29-16 and Orlando 29-16) and are still winning. Similarly, they have a far superior road record (15-8) than other division leaders like Boston (12-7) and Chicago (10-10). The system works, despite all the naysayers who second guessed the players’ ability to coexist. The Heat’s 96-82 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats saw both James and Wade put up 30 plus point games, proving not only that they can coexist but dominate as well.
Harping on the fact that basketball is a team sport is, in this case, arbitrary rhetoric. True there are five men on the court wearing the same jersey, but each shot is taken by an individual. In Miami those individuals seem to be at their best while playing their own game. Dumping that strategy now would be foolish.
It’s a long season, and the Heat are a new team still working out the kinks. We have yet to see how the players will function in the post-season, but if its anything like the regular season has been thus far, the league should be prepared to handle an explosive offense with a unique style that is hard to handle.