LeBron James Bumps Erik Spoelstra
After Saturday night's 106-95 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Heat held an extended players-only meeting to try to begin to solve their on-the-court issues. But this was only an extension of the frustration that was evident during the game, when LeBron James bumped into his head coach, Erik Spoelstra, as he headed to the bench for a third-quarter timeout.
As the video below would seem to indicate, the collision didn't appear to be accidental.
Whatever your opinion of James at this point -- and whether or not you feel that this was intentional on his part -- it's highly unlikely that this is a sign of a bigger issue between coach and player, or a window to the soul of this troubled team. It was simply two highly-competitive individuals refusing to be polite in the context of a frustrating and highly-competitive situation. That's all, and nothing else.
In fact, Spoelstra told reporters afterward that he's actually fine with the level of emotion his players were showing during timeouts on Saturday.
"That's the way it should be," Spoelstra said. "Good. Yeah. I think we all were (frustrated) in the timeouts, and that's the way it should be. This shouldn't be fun out here, and it was painful to go through a third quarter like that. If guys feel that pain, good. Again ... I don't have a problem with that."
For the record, James had a similar run-in while with the Cavaliers back in 2007.
While this "incident" between James and Spoelstra might be of more immediate interest to those that are looking for any clues as to whether or not the team is coming apart at the seams, the meeting held by the players afterward is definitely the more interesting tidbit to come out of this latest loss, and the one that's likely to have a greater long-term effect on Miami's season.
Despite having two of the game's top five players in James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat struggle mightily to get good shots against good defensive teams. Dallas is certainly that, and during a key 9-0 run in the third quarter that pushed the Mavericks' lead to 15 points, Miami's four shot attempts were all from beyond 21 feet out -- two from Carlos Arroyo, and one each from Wade and James.
If the Heat are going to turn things around, they're going to need to play a lot smarter than that. Wade and James are both capable of turning into unstoppable forces when driving to the basket, so to see them settling for so many long twos is really unconscionable. James was 0 for 9 from 16 feet and beyond on Saturday, including 0 for 4 from three-point range.
But it's not all on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, which is why the team hopes that this meeting may end up having some lasting significance. Everyone, from Arroyo who starts at point guard to the newly acquired Erick Dampier -- who didn't score and grabbed just one rebound in eight minutes in his Heat debut -- needs to be accountable. And that's the message that Wade attempted to convey, telling reporters afterward, "It's time to take ownership of this. It's our team."
As Wade preached accountability, James seemed optimistic that his team will indeed find a way to turn things around.
"It was a well-needed meeting, where everybody got an opportunity to get off what they had on their chests, what they had in their heads," James said. "Right now, we're a 9-8 team, and we have to own up to that. Does our record speak of what team we can become? No. I don't think so. But we are 9-8 because we're playing like that. We have to figure this thing out, which we will."
James has an infinite level of confidence, as well he should, being the most physically gifted player in the game today. It remains to be seen, however, if he can get his teammates to similarly believe in the Heat's championship potential before it's too late.