Heat's Lack of Depth Exposed With Injuries
MIAMI -- One of the many reasons given this past summer as to why the Miami Heat wouldn't land LeBron James and Chris Bosh to go along with Dwyane Wade was because they wouldn't have enough left under their salary cap to sign anyone else and would be relegated to playing with minimum-salaried players.
However, the three took less money and Michael Beasley was essentially given away to the Minnesota Timberwolves which allowed the Heat to be able to add highly-coveted free agents Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem before running out of cap space. Pat Riley's gamble was that All-Star talent would be preferable to get back to the NBA Finals than surrounding Wade with a solid group of complimentary players with the money he had to spend.
While the Heat were able to add several decent players with the veteran minimum who were attracted to the prospect of playing with the Big Three, the top-heavy talent on the roster meant that injuries to their top five players would set the team back immensely. Which is exactly what happened when, in quick succession, Wade went down with a strained hamstring in the preseason, Miller suffered a major hand injury weeks later and Haslem was lost for several months with a foot injury. With Miller still struggling to return to form after returning, the Heat have now had to deal with concurrent injuries to their superstar trio which has them mired in a season-long four-game losing streak.
James understands the reality that any elite team will suffer a huge setback if their star players get injured.
"We had everything going and when you have a few injuries it takes the chemistry and the rhythm out of a team," he explained after the Heat's latest setback at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
"You can say the same for Dallas. When Dirk (Nowitzki) and Caron (Butler) went down, (they) don't have the same chemistry as they had before those guys went down. And the same goes for Chicago and everyone else that has injuries in this league. It happens and sometimes it happens at the wrong time when you're playing your best basketball."
Their best basketball was their dominant stretch that mostly took place during December as the team won 21 of 22 games and 13 consecutive road victories to briefly put them on top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Heat simply don't have enough on the bench to withstand any sort of setback to their star players. Injuries have also taken a toll on their closest rivals in the East, the Boston Celtics, but they've managed to maintain their competitive edge despite injuries to Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and others.
Until the Heat can reload with more talent over the years and be able to dip into the luxury tax as the Los Angeles Lakers have been able to do, the reality is that they can go only as far as their All-Stars can take them. For now, the bigger question is how healthy these teams will be for the playoffs when the games truly do count.
"As a team we have enough," insisted James. "Guys are going to have to step it up and play some roles that they may not be accustomed to with guys being out. We'll figure out a way to get the job done."