Posts Tagged ‘Erik Spoelstra’

Morning shootaround — July 17


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Pistons, Kings still talking trade for Smith | Spoelstra: No ‘regrets’ over LeBron leaving | NBA may rethink Draft lottery | Taylor opens up on Love trade talk

No. 1: Report: Kings, Pistons re-open J-Smoove trade talks — A few days before the 2014 Draft, there was buzz that the Pistons had engaged in trade talks with the Sacramento Kings with forward Josh Smith being the top name shifting from one team to another. In the weeks since, there hasn’t been much chatter on that front … until now. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the teams have started talking about a J-Smoove swap once again:

The Detroit Pistons and the Sacramento Kings have resumed trade discussions on a deal that could send Josh Smith to Sacramento, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

Sources told ESPN.com the Kings have continued to express interest in Smith and the parties are on the hunt for a third team that could help facilitate the deal.

As ESPN.com reported last month, Detroit and Sacramento have engaged in trade discussions that would potentially land Smith in the same frontcourt with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Initial talks called for Sacramento to send Jason Thompson and either Derrick Williams or Jason Terry to the Pistons for Smith, but those discussions reached an impasse and were pushed into July along with the rest of both teams’ free-agent business, sources said.

Sources said the Pistons also seriously discussed various sign-and-trade scenarios this month that would have landed restricted free agent Greg Monroe in Portland, but the Blazers ultimately pulled themselves out of the race for Monroe by signing free-agent big man Chris Kaman to join Robin Lopez in the Blazers’ center rotation.

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, furthermore, is known to be fond of splashy moves. And trading for Smith, given the lukewarm reviews of his first season with the Pistons, would certainly qualify as bold.

Another potential bonus is Smith’s close relationship with Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, whom Sacramento has been targeting in trade talks for some time.

The Kings, sources say, prefer to trade Terry rather than buy him out of the final year of his contract valued at nearly $6 million, while Terry has said he’s interested in a return to the Dallas Mavericks if he’s ultimately released and can get to free agency.


VIDEO:
Relive some of Josh Smith’s best plays as a Piston last season

(more…)

Heat take LeBron-sized hit, but they’re not done for yet


VIDEO: Chris Bosh stays put in Miami and assumes the No. 1 spot?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Chris Bosh has been saying it for a while now. He believes in his heart of (basketball) hearts that he is already a sure-fire Hall of Famer, not only one of the greatest players of his generation, but of all time.

With the free-agent dust finally settled a bitLeBron James heading to Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony sticking around in New York and many other moves — Bosh will get a chance to prove his point.

Bosh could have slipped off to Houston for their max offer and continued his career as the No. 2 or No. 3 option with the Rockets alongside All-Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard. But Pat Riley convinced him to stick around and keep it going in Miami to the tune of five years and $118 million, not to mention the challenge of proving to folks that he’s more than the third wheel he was for much of the Big 3 era.

As crazy as it sounds to some who didn’t pay attention to Bosh before he donned a Heat jersey, he is the man now like he once was in Toronto. And like everyone else in the post- LeBron era in Miami, he’ll get a chance to prove that the Heat was more than just a one-man show.

We all asked the same question when word of LeBron’s coming home letter spread. What’s next for the Heat? Will they fold up and head for the lottery the way Cleveland did in 2010 when the decision was made for James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade to join forces in Miami?

Riley, laying flat on his back after LeBron’s latest decision, quickly dusted himself off and saved the Heat from disaster. Wade and Udonis Haslem, who also opted out of their deals along with LeBron and Bosh to give Riley the flexibility to retool the Heat this summer, were never going anywhere. But Bosh had one foot out the door headed to Houston.

Riley, armed with $30 million more in cash than Houston was offering and the challenge of being “The Man,” went to work on Bosh and got the deal done. Free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger had already agreed to join the party. He locked up Luol Deng on a two-year deal, not to mention Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Mario Chalmers, before the weekend ended, keeping the Heat in the thick of what should be a wide-open Eastern Conference race next season.

“He saved that franchise from who knows how many tough years,” said an executive from one of the Heat’s Southeast Division rivals. “They were on fumes Friday night after the LeBron news. Everybody goes into free agency with contingency plans. But that’s a death-blow, losing the best player in the game. But you have to give [Riley] credit, he didn’t flinch. He had to pay Bosh more than he probably wanted to or should have. But he held it together. He had to or else they were done for at least a year or two.”

Where this Heat team ranks in the Eastern Conference now is hard to tell. Chicago, with Pau Gasol on the way, suddenly looks a while lot better, provided Derrick Rose returns to form. The Indiana Pacers aren’t going anywhere. And the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks all plan on being in the playoff mix. Throw in LeBron and the Cavaliers and the field is suddenly as crowded as ever … and lacks a clear-cut favorite.

And that’s why Riley should be lauded for the work he did over the weekend.

The Heat aren’t going to be anyone’s favorite to win the East. But they’ll certainly be a viable playoff team and it wouldn’t surprise me if they climb into that top four, too. Especially if Bosh lives up to his own Hall-of-Fame hype and Wade plays with a chip on his shoulder (and through whatever pain is in his knees).

They’ve both carried teams before, with varying degrees of success.

It’s been a while, of course. And they won’t have that 6-foot-8, 250-pound security blanket they’ve relied on the past four years.

But Riley, defiant to the end, believes in the culture and crew, including coach Erik Spoelstra, that remains. He made that clear in the wake of LeBron’s departure.

“Over the last 19 years, since Micky (Arison) and I teamed together, The Miami Heat has always been a championship organization; we’ve won multiple championships and competed for many others,” Riley said in a statement released by the Heat. “Micky, Erik and I remain committed to doing whatever it takes to win and compete for championships for many years to come. We’ve proven that we can do it and we’ll do it again.”

Rumors of the Heat’s demise might have been greatly exaggerated.

Only time will tell.

Suddenly it’s dry Heat at Summer League

ORLANDO — The name on the front of the jerseys was the same. The organization that they represented hadn’t abruptly changed.

But they were a Heat team that you’d expect had the wind sucked out of its sails with LeBron James’ announcement that he was leaving Miami and returning to Cleveland.

“To be honest, you can’t turn on the TV and not see it,” said assistant coach Dan Craig, who handled the bench duties in the Orlando Pro Summer League. “So the staff and the guys, we’ve been in a cave of the arena and basically focused on summer league.

“Obviously, we all love LeBron and him the best and thank him for everything. But right now, we’re flying out to Vegas and moving on with these guys. Now it’s about these guys getting better and being NBA ready by the end of the week.”

One day they were a collection of rookies, free agents and dreamers trying to hook on with the NBA’s glamour team of the past four years. And suddenly first-round draft pick Shabazz Napier and the rest are looking at a roster that could be wide open in the aftermath of the Big Three Era. It ended with a 103-98 loss to the Thunder that closed out Miami at 1-4.

Napier, whom James tweeted was “the best point guard in the draft” shot 1-for-3 and finished with three points and six assists.

“I don’t think it’s any more pressure (on them),” Craig said. “This is an opportunity for everyone to really get better. To get better and understand the NBA game. They’re seeing defensive schemes for the first time that they haven’t seen at this level. They’re seeing different athletes and they’re trying to see what’s open and trying to see what we do as part of the Heat culture and defensively and the terminology and how we like to play the game.”

Craig said he’s had no communication with team president Pat Riley or head coach Erik Spoelstra since the news about James came out today and was not aware of a contingency plan in the event of James’ departure.

“I haven’t spoken to anybody,” Craig said. “I’m not sure what their plans are to be honest.”

With no LeBron, what’s next for Miami?

LeBron James (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

LeBron James (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

HANG TIME NEW YORK CITY — With just one tweet, the Miami Heat went from being next season’s Eastern Conference favorites to most likely being out of the race to win their own division.

Today’s announcement that LeBron James is taking his talents home to Northeast Ohio effectively ends what has been a feverish run by the Miami Heat: four seasons, four NBA Finals appearances, two NBA titles. But LeBron’s exodus not only breaks up the Big Three. It throws the franchise into flux.

With LeBron gone, the next domino that seems to be teetering is Chris Bosh, who is reportedly in talks to join the Houston Rockets. With James and Bosh gone, the cupboard in South Beach will be left mostly bare.

What happens to Dwyane Wade? As part of his season-ending news conference, Heat president Pat Riley made clear that Wade, who has played his entire career in Miami, was something of a made man. Just two weeks ago, when Wade opted out of his contract, presumably as part of an effort to create financial room to help keep the Heat competitive, Riley said, “Dwyane has been the cornerstone of our organization for over a decade, and we hope he remains a part of the Heat family for life.”

It’s a nice idea, but at this point in his career, Wade isn’t the type of player a franchise builds around. After missing 28 regular-season games last season to rest his ailing knees, Wade seemed to wear down in the postseason, to the point where he didn’t have much let in the tank during the NBA Finals.

Yet Wade could still serve as the franchise face while the Heat reload. They’ve already reportedly agreed to deals with free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, two players who should (or at least could) be solid contributors. They will join incumbents like longtime Heat big man Udonis Haslem, who will likely re-up, and guard Norris Cole. Rookie guard Shabazz Napier will give them some youth in the backcourt.

While James and Bosh may be gone, the allure of South Beach and the Heat’s organizational championship pedigree still could serve as a siren’s song for available free agents. And with Bosh and James off the books, even if the Heat sign Wade to a modest long-term extension, the Heat will have plenty of cap space to throw at other free agents. Would a core of Wade and a couple of free agents like Luol Deng and Pau Gasol be enough to contend in the East? What about Wade with Isaiah Thomas and Lance Stephenson?

Or, do the Heat step back, not immediately use their cap space, and try to reload down the road? The Heat’s first round pick next summer belongs, ironically, to Cleveland, though it’s top-10 protected. After that, the Heat own all their own first round selections going forward. And if the Heat can hang on to their cap space for one more year, the 2015 free agency class could include names like Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo and LaMarcus Aldridge (who has expressed his hope of staying in Portland).

No matter which way they go, what the Heat already have in place is a strong organizational structure. Riley may have swung and missed on keeping the Big Three together, but he did put them together to begin with and has the bona fides to build another championship organization. Coach Erik Spoelstra has spent just six years on the Heat sideline but has won two titles and never missed the playoffs, even when the Heat were setting up to go after the Big Three.

The Heat may be waning in Miami, but if there’s anything we’ve learned from watching how they operate, things likely won’t be cool for too long.

Riley needs new approach for face-to-face meeting with LeBron


VIDEO: Pat Riley issues a stark challenge to LeBron and the Big 3

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As impressive and entertaining as Pat Riley‘s first public words about LeBron James, the Heat and free agency were a few weeks ago, I think we can all agree a different approach is needed now.

Riley’s scheduled face-to-face meeting with LeBron today in Las Vegas probably won’t touch on anyone cutting and running now that the things have gotten a little more complicated. The tough guy routine won’t make it through the door of whatever luxury hotel they turn into the center of the basketball universe.

Riley’s “stay the course” diatribe in the aftermath of the Heat’s Game 5 defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in The Finals last month was epic, an instant classic. But it’s useless now, especially with rumblings that LeBron and his camp are seriously considering a return to their Cleveland and Northeast Ohio roots in free agency.

James hasn’t spoken to Riley face-to-face since exiting the premises after The Finals and before free agency began, when his agent, Rich Paul, took control off the process. Paul met with officials from the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers while James stayed away and spent time with his family.

Now the Heat family — a contingent including Riley, Dwyane Wade, Heat owner Mickey Arison and head coach Erik Spoelstra — will give their best recruiting speeches to convince James to stick around and help keep the Heat’s Big 3 together.

If we are to believe all of the smoke that billowed into the free-agency air over the weekend, it could be a tougher sell than the one Riley and Co. made four years ago when they convinced LeBron to leave Cleveland for South Beach and the lure of multiple title chases.

Notably absent from the Heat’s guest list is Chris Bosh, who like James and Wade is an unrestricted free agent. He has a max contract offer from the Rockets that he’s seriously considering, at least until he hears what James is going to do in regards to the Heat.

Riley has expressed all this confidence that the Heat’s Big Three will indeed return intact, and yet they are coming at James full force today. Something doesn’t add up. Which is exactly why I suspect Riley’s tone to change dramatically from what we hard from him weeks ago, when he compared James, Wade and Bosh to some of the great dynasties the NBA has seen and challenged them to do what Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers did and Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics did two generations ago.

“Don’t run,” Riley said then, before anyone had opted out of a contract and the Heat still seemed to be operating from a position of power.

“I’m not going to drop any rings on the table …,” he continued.

A kinder and gentler approach might be more prudent, especially at this juncture. The basketball world has changed a bit since July 1. Perspectives have changed, too.

While the Heat remain LeBron’s most viable option to get back to The Finals in 2015, provided the band comes back together again with a few tweaks, they are certainly not his only option for making repeated trips to The Finals in the future.

So it’ll be interesting to see how Riley’s tone changes now, with LeBron in complete control of the futures of so many.

Morning Shootaround — July 9


VIDEO: Howard Beck of Bleacher Report discusses Carmelo Anthony’s free agency

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Heat ready for Vegas meeting with LeBron | Lakers, Knicks in ‘Melo race | Key moment arrives for Jazz’s front office | Van Gundy wants Monroe back | Report: Brooks meets with Gasol

No. 1: Big day for Heat in Las Vegas — Say this much for LeBron James and his free-agency mulling this time around — it’s the complete opposite of his 2010 “The Decision” special. Other than a few social media posts here and there, James has been a recluse since opting out of his deal a few weeks ago and news surrounding what team he’ll sign with next has been sparse to say the least. That may all change today, though, as James will reportedly meet with the Miami Heat’s braintrust. According to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard, James will meet with the Heat today in Las Vegas:

LeBron James and Pat Riley will have their long-awaited face-to-face meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas, according to league sources.

James is in Las Vegas for his annual basketball camp, the LeBron James Skills Academy, and Riley has flown in for the meeting.

The meeting with Riley on Wednesday is believed to be the first meeting James has participated in since opting out of the final two years and $42 million of his Heat contract.

Some other Heat heavy-hitters will be at the meeting too, as Broussard tweeted this morning:

And, per The Associated Press, some more details about how LeBron has spent his free agency period have emerged:

Asked by The Associated Press how free agency was going when his afternoon meeting agenda was apparently complete, the four-time MVP said “no complaints.” He offered a quick greeting, and provided no hints of anything – including when his next “Decision” will be known – before leaving with a wave.

The entire exchange lasted about eight seconds. James, who has been relatively quiet while weighing his options, never broke stride.

He was upstairs in an exclusive part of a Las Vegas hotel Tuesday, holding court for a little more than three hours before emerging in the lobby, walking toward his assembled brain trust – including longtime manager Maverick Carter and Nike representatives, a sponsor of the LeBron James Skills Academy he’ll be hosting in Las Vegas starting Wednesday – and got whisked away.

James is expected to meet with Miami Heat President Pat Riley before making a final decision on his NBA future, and a person close to the situation said that meeting had not happened as of Tuesday afternoon. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no one has publicly announced the date of the meeting.

Some of James’ representatives have met with several teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After filming a TV commercial in Coral Gables, Florida on Monday, James flew to Las Vegas, which was planned because of his academy. Later this week, he’s expected to travel to Brazil to the World Cup final.

He took time Tuesday morning to work out with Dwyane Wade in Las Vegas before his meetings, another person close to the situation told the AP. Like James, Wade has also not announced his plans for next season and beyond, though it is still largely expected that the 2006 NBA Finals MVP and three-time champion will remain in Miami.


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down the latest news on LeBron James’ free agency

(more…)

Riley puts heat on LeBron, Big 3 to ‘stay the course … and not run’


VIDEO: Heat boss Pat Riley is calling for everyone to “get a grip” and those who stay to reinvent themselves

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Fifty-five minutes of Pat Riley unfiltered is the off-the-court equivalent of watching a Game 7 of The Finals go to triple overtime. You don’t want a miss a second of the action.

The Miami Heat’s boss was in rare form this morning in his postseason news conference, explaining where the Heat stands now after losing in The Finals to the Spurs and where they are headed with the huge decisions looming for the Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in advance of free agency this summer, should they choose to opt-out of their current deals and test the waters.

Riley’s message to them all was clear. But he might as well have FaceTimed LeBron or at least hit him on Skype when talked about the need to “stay the course” and not “run for the first open door.”

Wade and Bosh have already expressed publicly their desire to stay in Miami and continue a partnership that has produced four straight trips to The Finals and two title-winning campaigns. LeBron is the only one who has not hinted publicly about which way he is leaning.

Riley mentioned all of the great dynasties of the past and how many if not all of them failed more than they succeeded in their annual quests to win titles. He spoke of how hard the process can be and of the certain trials and tribulations that accompany the triumphs for those teams that stick together in their quest for Larry O’Brien trophies.

“This stuff is hard,” Riley said. “And you’ve got to stay together if you’ve got the guts. And you don’t find the first door and run out of it.”

That’s tougher love than most men in Riley’s position are comfortable using. But most of those men don’t have the experience, backrground or list of accomplishments Riley has. Riley vowed to do whatever it takes to keep his crew together. He pointed to the Spurs and their bond that carried them from a crushing defeat in The Finals last year to a rematch this year and vengeance.

Riley called for mass reinvention, at least for everyone under 69 (his age) and the improvement from within that marked the Spurs’ spectacular run through the regular season and postseason.


VIDEO: Pat Riley talks about LeBron James and the Heat (more…)

Game 5: The Wrap


From NBA.com staff reports

Kawhi Leonard is the youngest player to win an NBA Finals MVP since Magic Johnson after the San Antonio Spurs’ Game 5 series-clinching victory over the Miami Heat. The win sealed San Antonio’s fifth NBA championship since 1999 as The Spurs avenged their 2013 Finals loss to Miami in convincing fashion. Here’s a quick recap of NBA.com’s complete Game 5 coverage:

Game 5 Coverage: Spurs 104, Heat 87NBA Finals

Analysis

NBA TV: GameTime

Video Highlights

Postgame News Conferences

Photos

Previous

Spurs and Heat help prove that defense wins championships


VIDEO: Tim Duncan talks with the GameTime crew after the championship clincher

SAN ANTONIO – Entering the 2014 Finals, the 2000-01 Lakers were the last team to win a championship after ranking outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season.

They still are.

The 2003-04 San Antonio Spurs, who — in a season between championships — allowed 8.5 fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average, were one of the best defensive teams in NBA history. The Spurs’ D continued to rank in the top three over the next four years, but could only go downhill after that incredible 2003-04 season. And it proceeded to go downhill every single year for eight years, until it dropped out of the top 10 in 2010-11 and 2011-12 (see table below).

Out of the top 10 is not where you want to be. Over the last 37 years (since the NBA started tracking turnovers in 1977-78), only three teams have won a championship after ranking outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season. Twice as many champs have ranked outside the top 10 in offensive efficiency.

And though their offense had developed into a beautiful machine that ranked in the top two those two seasons, the Spurs knew they had to get better defensively.

“We thought that’s what was missing against Oklahoma City [in the 2012 conference finals],” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said a year ago, “that we couldn’t make stops when we needed to. We would call them ‘stops on demand.’ In fourth quarters and big games you have to be able to do it.”

You can’t just flip a switch in the playoffs. Habits have to be built throughout the season, so that when the time comes, you can fall back on what you have developed.

“We slipped a little bit,” Tony Parker said, “and we knew if we wanted to get back to the top, we needed to get back to where we were [defensively] when we were winning championships.”

So the Spurs went back to the drawing board in the summer of 2012. And as a team that has embraced analytics, they dug into the numbers and realized that being a great defensive rebounding team (which they were) didn’t matter if you didn’t defend shots well enough (which they didn’t).

“What we found,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford told NBA.com last week, “were that teams who weren’t as effective defensive rebounding were still ranking incredibly high in defensive efficiency. The areas that they were focused in appeared to us to be field goal percentage defense. So we felt like we needed to go back to parts of our system that would improve our defensive field goal percentage.”

Basically, they needed to better contesting shots, both inside and outside. Easier said than done, but some shifts in personnel certainly helped. Tiago Splitter had two years in the Spurs’ system under his belt, Kawhi Leonard had one under his, and both have played bigger over the last two seasons.

In that time, the Spurs allowed just 93.4 points per 100 possessions in 1,907 minutes with Leonard and Splitter on the floor, the lowest on-court DefRtg of any two-man pair in the league that has played at least 1,200 minutes together over the last two seasons. The tandem of Splitter and Tim Duncan has protected the paint as well as any big man combination in the league. And Leonard has quickly become one of the world’s best perimeter defenders.

Their teammates and coach were quick to point out the importance of those Leonard and Splitter, but also said that there has just been a better collective focus on the defensive end of the floor over the last two years.

“[It was] just coming in here from day one in training camp and making it a priority,” Duncan said, “making them understand that every game, every film session, everything else, this is what we’re going to hang our hats on.”

“We just worked at it,” Popovich added. “I mean, it’s basketball. There is nothing magic about it. You know, we worked at it and the guys committed to it, and we got better defensively.”

With better defenders and a better focus, the Spurs went from 11th in defensive efficiency in both ’10-11 and ’11-12 to third last season. Not coincidentally, they got back to The Finals for the first time in six years and came within six seconds of winning a championship.

This season, they brought back their core (and the best defensive lineup in the league) with one more year together in their system. Though no player averaged 30 minutes per game, they again ranked in the top five in defensive efficiency. And in the Western Conference playoffs, they got those “stops on demand,” holding the offenses of both the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder well under their regular season efficiency marks and setting up a Finals rematch.

The Miami Heat have gone in the opposite direction in the last two years. After ranking in the top five defensively in their first two seasons together, the Heat ranked seventh last season and 11th this year.

Dwyane Wade‘s “maintenance program” — he played just 54 games in the regular season — had something to do with this year’s regression. But so did bad habits. The Heat’s defensive scheme can overwhelm offenses when it’s sharp, but can also get broken down pretty easily when it’s not. It was inconsistent all season, pretty darn awful at times (especially in January), and finished just outside the top 10.

It got better in the playoffs, but the champs never really put 48 minutes of great defense together. In the conference semifinals and finals, they allowed both the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers to score more efficiently than they did in the regular season. Getting through the first three rounds was about how good the Heat were offensively, especially in the fourth quarter, than an ability to get consistent stops.

That wasn’t enough in The Finals. The Heat finally ran into a team that was great on both ends of the floor. And they got slaughtered.

The Spurs’ offense, of course, was a thing of beauty. And once it got going, the Heat could do nothing to stop it. They didn’t have a great defense to fall back on. They couldn’t get stops on demand.

Their not-top-10 defense, those bad habits and that inconsistency, had come back to bite them.

“We were always trying to conjure something,” Shane Battier told Bleacher Report after Game 5. “But you can’t win a championship trying to conjure something. It has to be who you are, and it has to be pure, and that wasn’t the case for us this year.

“We just didn’t have the fundamentals to stop an offensive juggernaut like the Spurs. And we were exposed.”

But you don’t get the largest point differential in Finals history (70 points over five games) with what happens on just one end of the floor. The Spurs didn’t just eviscerate the Heat defense, they shut down what had been a ridiculously good offense through the first three rounds, particularly in Games 4 and 5, when they held the Heat under a point per possession.

“We felt confident coming into the series that we were going to be able to score,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Maybe not as much as we typically are used to, but coming off of some very good defensive teams and series in the Eastern Conference, we felt we could rely on that. But they shut us out of the paint pretty consistently.”

Don’t let anyone tell you that “defense wins championships” is just a cliché, because it has plenty of evidence — including the result of the 2014 Finals — to back it up. These were two great offensive teams. But only one had been defending at a high level all season.

As a result, they’ll be holding a parade down the Riverwalk.

Spurs defense, Tim Duncan era

Season DefRtg Rank Lg. OffRtg Diff. Playoffs
1997-98 96.2 2 102.0 -5.8 Lost conf. semis
1998-99 92.1 1 99.2 -7.1 Won Finals
1999-00 95.7 2 101.2 -5.6 Lost first round
2000-01 94.9 1 100.2 -5.4 Lost conf. finals
2001-02 96.5 1 101.6 -5.1 Lost conf. semis
2002-03 96.6 3 100.7 -4.1 Won Finals
2003-04 91.6 1 100.0 -8.5 Lost conf. semis
2004-05 95.8 1 103.1 -7.3 Won Finals
2005-06 96.9 1 103.4 -6.5 Lost conf. semis
2006-07 97.4 2 103.7 -6.3 Won Finals
2007-08 99.5 3 104.7 -5.3 Lost conf. finals
2008-09 102.0 6 105.4 -3.5 Lost first round
2009-10 102.0 9 104.9 -2.9 Lost conf. semis
2010-11 102.8 11 104.5 -1.7 Lost first round
2011-12 100.6 11 101.8 -1.2 Lost conf. finals
2012-13 99.2 3 103.1 -4.0 Lost in Finals
2013-14 100.1 4 104.0 -3.9 Won Finals

DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

For Miami, frustration, humility, speculation and always drama


VIDEO: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade talk about the Heat’s loss in The Finals

SAN ANTONIO – The trek from the court back to the visitors’ dressing room at the AT&T Center is longer than most in the NBA. It requires Spurs opponents to slip through the tunnel at one end and then head down, beneath the stands, almost to the other end. A basic salt-and-pepper, industrial-strength mat shows them the way, behind a little iron railing.

On nights like Sunday, in the moments after their Game 5 elimination from The 2014 Finals, it’s way more perp walk than red carpet.

One by one, the Heat players, coaches and staff trod along that path, San Antonio’s on-court celebration revving up and booming through the building. LeBron James walked fast, head high, a phalanx of cameras and reporters tracking each step. Dwyane Wade came a few beats later, bare-chested, his Miami jersey gifted at some point after the final horn. They were stone-faced, revealing nothing beyond the harshness and letdown of the outcome.

Ray Allen strode by with purpose, inscrutable, deep in thoughts that surely didn’t include cheeseburgers. Then Pat Riley, looking almost wistful, resigned or ground down by the 70-point differential between his team and the Spurs (the fattest cumulative margin in Finals history). Chris Bosh paused, turned and shook hands with Heat assistant Bob McAdoo. Shane Battier spied a friend, smiled briefly and pantomimed a golf swing, a sign of his impending retirement.

None of them looked happy, obviously. None of them, however, was brought to his knees.

That, after all, is social media’s job, along with the rest of this what-have-you-done-for-me-five-minutes-from-now culture. It musters no patience, offers no comfort and certainly treats nothing sacred, particularly with this team, whose critics outnumber its fans 10-to-1, maybe 100-to-1.

However unceremonious its march into the offseason, Miami had wrapped up four consecutive trips to The Finals. The first, against Dallas in 2011, brought hard lessons and a little humility. The next two produced Larry O’Brien trophies, just like they all had pictured it. This one, three straight beatdowns still hanging in the air, had been telegraphed by slippage in the Heat’s defensive ranks and the loss (via amnesty) of Mike Miller from last year’s team.

This one carried with it some payback from the Spurs, who had been on the other side last June,and it naturally brought a skidload of questions, speculation and uncertainty.

Because this was the Heat and that’s how they roll.

So, Erik Spoelstra, have you guys underachieved? That’s how it went and that’s how it will go for days and weeks and months, now that the ol’ smoke-and-lasers pep rally back of July 2010 (“Not one, not two, not three…”) officially has stopped at two, at least temporarily.

Spoelstra referred to it as “the exaggeration that’s out there.”

“Even as painful as it feels right now, you have to have perspective,” the Heat coach said. “Even the team we’re playing against has never been to the Finals four straight years. You can’t be jaded enough not to appreciate that.”

Wanna bet? Only two other franchises – Boston and the Minneapolis/L.A. Lakers – ever had made it to four Finals in a row. But this was supposed to be about rings, not runners-up. It’s the life they chose, once James, Wade and Bosh conspired to sign with Miami four years ago and gild their resumes through a strength-in-superstar-numbers approach. (more…)