Back in 2010, Lebron James was instantly the most hated villain in the NBA when he chose to join the likes of Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. What angered people most is that he proclaimed he would win several rings in Miami. Despite losing in the finals of his first year, he has proven the skeptics wrong by winning in 2012 and 2013. However, considering how Lebron James and the Miami Heat are playing as of late, he may not get a third ring with them.
Yes, the Miami Heat currently hold onto the second spot in the Eastern conference. Unfortunately with the way the East has been this season that doesn’t say a whole lot as it is only Miami and conference rivals Indian Pacers that have a record to contend with the west. Secondly, the Heat have been incredibly inconsistent the last couple of weeks, putting up a 5-5 record over the last ten games.
So, what is the problem? Inconsistency. If you look at all their players, they’ve all had consistency problems including Lebron James who many have said to be the second placed MVP this season behind Durant.
While he has had a sensational season, Lebron James doesn’t seem to be playing with the same conviction he has had in the past. Mainly, his shooting has been off from time to time and his rebounding and assists have been suffering as of late as well. James will have the occasional percentage around 50 percent; however, he also has had a few games where it has gone as low as 34 percent. He also has showcased a lack of killer instinct. Today, while his team did get the win over the Rockets, he only had two points in the fourth quarter. This seems to be the case with him lately.
However, Lebron James is not the only one lacking on the Heat. The team in general seems to have less of a focus. It’s not too different than many other past championship teams who have gone on slumps. The Lakers, Mavericks and Celtics have all had lackluster seasons over the last decade after championship runs.
Earlier in the season, injuries hurt the heat. Dwayne Wade, the eldest of the big three had been on and off the court, resulting in a lackluster start of the season where they trailed the Indiana Pacers substantially in the standings. However, in late November and through December, the Heat had quite a run including where they had a 17-game win streak against the Western Conference, quite a feat for an Eastern Conference team.
It continued through the early months of the year where they won more games than not. However, as is currently happening with conference rival Pacers, the Heat haven’t shown much since the All-star break. Unlike the beginning of the season, Dwayne Wade has played well and Chris Bosh has even led all scores in some games.
While one can blame Lebron for not playing up to his ridiculous potential, the blame cannot be put squarely on him. The main difference more than anything else in terms of why the Heat are in trouble is because the big three do not have the help they need. Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade and occasionally Ray Allen are the main scorers as well as rebounders and assist leaders; however, the rest of the team doesn’t seem to be contributing much and if that’s the case the Heat may not get that third ring.
A year ago, Battier was a player the Heat could rely on for lockdown defense and drilling in those unexpected three point daggers. Udonis Haslem was relied on for his rebounding. Mario Chalmers contributed on a consistent basis. The list goes on and on. Now though, they don’t seem to be playing a team and also seem to be resting on its laurels.
It makes sense especially for a team like the Heat who have a squad that is on the older side with players like Wade (32), Ray Allen (38), Chris Anderson (35) in addition to injury prone players such as Greg Oden, Rashard Lewis and Udonis Haslem. The Heat instead, being in a weak conference, are not playing up to par as to prepare for the playoffs.
It can be a good strategy, but the question is will it work? As mentioned, there have been many teams to utilize this strategy and rest their players through the season; however, it can be incredibly damaging in terms of getting team chemistry together in time.
While the Pacers have been slumping as well, it’s going to be difficult for the Miami Heat to be the favorite heading into the playoffs. The west, between the veteran Spurs, young Thunder and the stacked depth of the Clippers should prove to be dangerous.
The Heat need to find their aggressiveness. Like many teams in the west who have shown their commitment to win, the Heat as well as Lebron James need to find their groove or else they may not get that third ring.
Opinion by Simon Mounsey