This has been brewing since the start of the season, when the high-profile Miami Heat lost their opener to the Boston Celtics. Everyone has speculated if Eric Spoelstra would be the right coach to lead this group of “superstars” to the NBA Finals, or if Pat Riley would relieve him of his whistle in a similar manner to the Stan Van Gundy situation (even Phil Jackson chimed in on it). It now looks as if the relationship between Speolstra and LeBron James is definitely shaky, according to this report from ESPN. There was already rumors of this after James allegedly accidently bumped Spoelstra with a shoulder during their loss to the Mavericks. Here’s some of the story:
In contrast to the popular view that Spoelstra has been hesitant to jump on superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, sources say the Heat coach has shown no fear in criticizing them.
Exhibit A was a recent shootaround in which Spoelstra told James that he had to get more serious. The source said Spoelstra called James out in front of the entire team, telling him, “I can’t tell when you’re serious.”
“He’s jumping on them,” one source said. “If anything, he’s been too tough on them. Everybody knows LeBron is playful and likes to joke around, but Spoelstra told him in front of the whole team that he has to get more serious. The players couldn’t believe it. They feel like Spoelstra’s not letting them be themselves.”
I have to side with Spoelstra on this one. Clearly “letting them be themselves” didn’t work out so well for LeBron and Chris Bosh on their previous teams and Spoelstra’s job is to coach them, not be a kindergarten moderator. Another sign that #6 needs to grow up and mature if he ever wants to win that coveted ring.
The Miami Heat so far are only 9-8. Spoelstra isn’t the Heat’s main problem. They have horrible point guard play, soft big men in the paint and no defined roles on the offensive end. Sure they can probably win 45-50 games on talent alone but to this point their weaknesses have been exploited by the other top teams in the NBA.
Would a change to Pat Riley make a difference? Maybe. Is he a tougher disciplinarian than Spoelstra? Definitely. Will it be enough for the Heat to win a ring this season? Unlikely.
We’ll see how it all plays out, but until James and Bosh start to grow up and show some accountability instead of saying it’s still early a coaching change might not make much of a difference.