Posts Tagged ‘Michael Wallace’

Chemistry Issues In Miami?

VIDEO: The Heat get back on track against the Wizards

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This is a high-stakes game of NBA possum that the Miami Heat will never win, not at this juncture of their title-winning ways.

Four games into their second straight season trying to defend their title, there are rumblings of chemistry issues with this group. Seriously, Heat players are using strange analogies to describe the current state of affairs for a team that still has headliners like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to cover up any deficiencies.

They have earned the right to start a season a bit shaky because we know how they’ll finish the season, if the opportunity presents itself. Dealing a with a few “minor” chemistry issues should not be cause for this sort of alarm. Then you listen to the words coming out of the mouths of players in that Heat locker room and it makes you pause for a second.

You hear Wade say these sorts of things to Mike Wallace of and you wonder if we’re missing something bigger going on:

“Let me give you an example,” Wade said prior to Sunday’s game, which the Heat won 103-93 to even their record at 2-2. “If you’re in a relationship with a woman for a long time, you start getting comfortable. You stop doing the little things that you should do, that you did in the beginning. It’s just like a relationship. We got a little comfortable. Now we have to get back on that edge a little bit.”

Your first instinct is to look across the Heat locker room at James and examine his words and maybe his reaction to what Wade said, which will undoubtedly be relayed to the Heat’s other alpha male. When James mentioned minor chemistry issues and Wade responds the way he did, it becomes painfully obvious that whatever issues exist must be worked out by the two most important men in the room (no offense to Heat boss Pat Riley or coach Erik Spoelstra, but everyone knows that the James/Wade show is what drives the Heat).

“It’s just getting back into it — not taking what we have for granted,” James said moments later when told of Wade’s comments. “We’ve been together so long, you start to think we can go out and make it happen instead of talking through it. We lacked that the last few games. We got a handle on it today, and we know what the issue is.”

We’ll give it a few more games here at the hideout before we go hunting for that Chemistry For Dummies book to figure out the problem. Whatever issues the Heat have right now pale in comparison to what will go on if they continue to play .500 basketball into December and early January.

Based on their recent history, of course, there is little chance of that happening. So 82-0 is already out of the picture. Big deal.

After exhausting themselves last season in a quest to chase basketball immortality, the Heat should know better than anyone that this is a marathon and not a sprint. There is no need to stress a little early season scuffling when all will be forgotten the minute the Heat pile up four or five straight wins.

And save the possum for someone gullible enough to believe these minor issues are anything more than a temporary annoyance for a team that has managed to overcome all obstacles in each of the past two seasons.

LeBron To Cleveland? It Has Begun!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The NBA trade deadline usually serves as the conspiracy theorist’s Christmas and July 4th all rolled into one. Wicked rumors, wild plots and just about anything the mind can imagine is fair game in the months, weeks and days leading up to the deadline.

It’s a rare occasion that the juiciest plot is saved for the hours and days after the deadline.

But that’s exactly where we are today, with the growing buzz surrounding Miami Heat superstar LeBron James and rumblings that he could return to his North Ohio roots in the free-agent summer of 2014 and conceivably play alongside Cavs All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, the man who succeeded him as the face of the franchise in Cleveland.

I’m not making this stuff up. Plenty of others beat me to it, as Michael Wallace of points out:

There seems to be growing speculation — both inside and outside of respected NBA media circles — that a James-Irving partnership could become a reality should James opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat in 2014 and return to Cleveland.

For now, James laughs off the notion — as he did after Sunday’s 109-105 win over the Cavaliers when he explained his motivation behind that harmless halftime connection with Irving, one of the NBA’s rising superstars.

“Oh, from Kyrie,” said an apparently fatigued James, who perked up when asked about dunking Irving’s miss. “That was an extension from All-Star Weekend.”

Exactly a week earlier, James and Irving played together on the East team that lost to the West in Houston during Irving’s first All-Star appearance. Whether they’ll establish any meaningful chemistry as teammates on the same roster is an issue James bypassed Sunday like a helpless defender.

“I can’t worry about, you know, speculation or rumors,” James said after the Heat extended their longest winning streak of the season to 11 games. “My only focus right now is to win another championship [in Miami]. What we’re doing on the floor right now is what it’s all about. We’re playing good ball right now, trying to win a championship. So, you know, I can’t worry about what people say.”

It’s a great attitude to have, because people have quite a bit to say about it. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald sounds the alarm in South Florida, where the subject (even in its conspiracy theory infancy) has obviously touched a nerve:

How would Miami feel if James opted out and left in ’14? How should we? Would it matter if the Heat collected another title or two this season or next, or would the feelings either way be the same?

I would imagine many fans and likely most would thank James for the thrill ride and the parade(s), understand his desire to return to Cleveland, and wish him well.

I would also imagine many others would be angry and see him as turning his back on the city that embraced him when everyone else hated him. The city where he enjoyed his greatest success.

There would be plenty in either camp whether James left with one championship ring, two or even three, and it’s tough to say where sentiment would mainly fall.

What I mostly think is that I hope we never find out. James is such an extraordinary talent I have no trouble blurring the line between journalist and fan in this case and hoping Miami finds a way to re-sign him. Selfishly, I would love for James to end his career here. I only wish I believed he would.

Sunday will be interesting because both his teams will be on the court when the Cavs visit the Heat: The one renting his services, and the one that still owns his heart.

It feels like it has already begun.

The Long Goodbye.

Heat fans will at least have seen this one coming, if it ever does. Cavaliers fans never imagined James would depart the way he did. And it’s taken the ones who have gotten over it lots of time (and plenty of Kyrie) to steer clear of the primal instincts that accompany a breakup as brutal as the one they had with James.

It doesn’t help matters when folks like Denver Nuggets coach George Karl weigh in with comments like these, to Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida:

 “I think LeBron is at that stage where he’s challenging himself to motivate him to do something that’s maybe more difficult. I could see him maybe (returning to the Cavaliers). I see (Cleveland point guard Kyrie) Irving maybe being a reason for that.”

James had that classy, if not typical, response mentioned above.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard it,” he said. “My only focus now is to win another championship. I can’t worry about speculation or rumors. What we’re doing on the floor right now is what it’s all about. We’re playing good ball right now. We’re trying to win a championship. I can’t worry about what people say.”

And ultimately, he’s right. He can’t worry about what people say.

That doesn’t mean it’ll slow the tide of conspiracy theorists who watched him react to Irving’s 3-point shooting fireworks in Houston during All-Star weekend or to any other gesture that can be manipulated to support their theories.

The only thing that will silence all of this chatter is the summer of 2014 coming and going without LeBron returning to his roots!

Pop Praises LeBron’s Mental Growth

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Sometimes it takes one to know one, a champion.

So when San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich notices and praises Miami Heat star and reigning league MVP LeBron James, who also earned MVP honors in The Finals last season, you know it’s high praise.

Popovich did coach the team that denied LeBron his first crack at a title, back in 2007 when he led the Cleveland Cavaliers into The Finals only to be swept by the mighty Spurs. He would know better than most just how far James has come since then.

And he said as much Sunday before the Heat beat the Spurs in a preseason game over the weekend, telling our main man Michael Wallace of

“He’s so good already,” Popovich said. “We all know what his skills are. He’s a great passer, he can rebound, he can defend. But I think, if anything, he is maturing mentally in the sense that he is enjoying playing the game. He doesn’t listen to talking heads (media critics) anymore — or a lot less than when he first came in the league.”

When informed of those comments after the game, James told that Popovich’s assessment was on point.

“I appreciate that,” James said as he left AmericanAirlines Arena. “Pop knows what he’s talking about. That’s why he’s one of the best to ever coach this game.”

Their whole mutual admiration society bit aside, even LeBron’s biggest critics would have to admit that he made great strides the past two years. The agony and pain of defeat in The Finals, this time at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, paved the way for his most remarkable season, to date.

Where he goes from there is up to him. But with the mental and even emotional growth noted by Popovich, there is no reason to think LeBron will ease up now.