HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Everyone has their theories about what’s wrong with the Heat, but not everyone has offered up reasonable solutions for fixing those problems.
The facts: they are 1-7 on the road against playoff teams since the All-Star break and currently in the midst of their most subpar stretch of play since the first month LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces. The Heat are 6-5 in their last 11 games overall and 3-7 in their last 10 road games.
Sure, the pounding they took Sunday in Boston has as much to do with the 15-5 mark the Celtics have compiled since the break, and Rajon Rondo doing his triple-double-on-the-big-stage routine once again, than it does with anything going on in Miami.
But there are other issues strangling the Heat’s season that require a remedy (and we’re sorry, but no one is going to get the practice team we all know they — and every other team — need to straighten things out).
In the absence of that traditional fix, CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger has come up with a theory that has been visited a time or two the past season-and-a-half (mostly to no avail) that could help the Heat overcome some of the obstacles in their way.
And, you guessed it, Berger’s theory has everything to do with putting the ball in the hands of James:
The simple way to describe the unconventional approach Miami needs is to say that LeBron James should play point guard on this team. Or at the very least, James and Dwyane Wade — two of the most unguardable open-floor players ever to step onto an NBA court — need to share the initiation role in the Heat’s offense. When you have two players who are that unstoppable with the ball in their hands — and a player of LeBron’s otherworldly gifts for passing — there’s no need for Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole to be in 29 of your 30 most frequently used lineups this season.
I could’ve kept going as I scrolled through the handy-dandy advanced metrics tools at NBA.com/stats, but I grew tired of finding their names.
James and Wade don’t need a point guard on the floor with them. They certainly didn’t need one Sunday, when Chalmers (1-for-5, two points) and Cole (2-for-11, seven points) were utterly dominated by Rajon Rondo (16 points, 14 assists). James, one of the top two or three pure passers I have seen come into the NBA since I have been watching it, had zero assists in 35 minutes.
“We didn’t make any shots,” Spoelstra said, noting that Miami shot 35 percent from the field. “How do you get an assist on a missed field goal?”
Fair enough. But the Heat’s problem — on Sunday and come playoff time — goes a lot deeper than that.
Spoelstra is a good, smart coach, and I give him credit for tweaking the Heat’s early offense this season by incorporating a three-man pick-and-roll game on either side of the floor on semi-transition possessions when no set play has been called. Only two other teams in the league have run such an action this season: the Knicks, when they were coached by Mike D’Antoni, and the Suns, who still run his offense.
But like his mentor, Pat Riley, Spoelstra is wedded to tradition. He relies on conventional lineups, and that means he plays almost always with a point guard on the floor. If your point guard is Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Steve Nash, that’s good. Not so much with Chalmers and Cole.
Furthermore, if James — whose Magic Johnson-like playmaking gifts are now relegated to a once-a year exhibition in the All-Star Game — played point guard in the games that count, he’d be better than all of the above. Or at least as good, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said in slightly correcting me.
“Well, I don’t know if he’d be the best, but he is a point guard as far as I’m concerned,” Rivers said outside the Celtics’ locker room Sunday. “He’s Magic Johnson. That’s who he is.”
With all of that said, the Heat’s remedy could come soon in the form of the schedule. With 10 of their next 13 games at home, all of the things that ail them away from South Beach could very well be put to rest, at least until they have to hit the road for a playoff game.
And by then, many of their outstanding issues (fatigue for the Big 3 is somehow not accepted as a valid explanation for their struggles, but we cannot see how it can be dismissed by so many) will have evaporated.
But they are barely above .500 in their last 11 games overall, home or road, and that could indeed be cause for concern for a team whose season will be defined, one way or another, by what they do in the postseason.
The Heat sang the chorus in unison after the loss to the Celtics. “We’ll figure it out,” they kept saying.
We’ll all be watching …