sábado, 15 de enero de 2011

NBA: Miami still lacks the chemistry needed to win a championship

As the NBA enters into its mid part of the season, basketball fans and analysts have their eyes on the team that represents South Beach, the Miami Heat. A 2010 summer media spectacle introduced audiences all over the world to the new and improved edition of the Miami Heat. On a summer that was dominated by public rumors regarding Lebron James’ free agency and his possible destinations, the President of the Miami Heat organization, Pat Riley, seemed to have won the battle on one of the most competitive free agents markets in the history of the NBA. Miami’s captain Dwayne Wade was joined by the mega star from Ohio, Lebron James, and the talented power forward, Chris Bosh.
The word “championship” started to be heard in South Beach after the big announcement made on a glamorous ceremony held at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL during a warm Friday night on July 9, 2010. After signing these three former Team USA members, Riley completed the remaining pieces of the team by bringing back other players who were active for the organization during the 2009-2010 season. Guards Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo were joined by the veteran power forward, Udonis Haslem. To that impressive roster, other known names in the league such as Mike Miller, Juwan Howard, Eddie House, Zydrunas Illgauskas, and other were added to Pat Riley’s South Beach championship project. Eric Spoelstra was named head coach of the team for third consecutive season.
After 41 games played by the most commented team of the current NBA season, for basketball fans, the question remains the same: Does the Miami Heat have the tools and necessary chemistry to defeat the powerful teams from the East, beat the Lakers, and become the 2011 NBA champions? The short and premature answer is “no.” Despite a wonderful month of December (2010) and significant victories against the competitive Utah Jazz, as well as the reigning national champions, the L.A. Lakers, Miami still presents a weak offensive scheme that relies too much on explosiveness and speed. Lebron James and Dwayne Wade are probably the most difficult guard/forward duo to defend in the NBA. Their athletic ability is unique among basketball players. A system mostly based on a fast-break offensive system led by these two gifted athletes represents a big headache for any rival coach. On the defensive side, James is doing an extraordinary job as well.
These pieces have contributed to make the Miami Heat one of the top teams on the Eastern Conference and the league. A record of 30-11 is always an honorable mid season distribution of victories and defeats. Without a doubt, Eric Spoelstra’s team will make it to the playoffs without too much difficulties. However, we need to keep in mind that “guerilla” basketball does not win championships in this current era of globalized basketball. While offensive schemes based on speed and explosiveness help to win games, they do not conquer championships in a league that is still trying to successfully overcome the individually-oriented Michael Jordan era and enter into a more organized collective system of game distribution.
The recent championships won by the L.A. Lakers (2009 and 2010) and the Boston Celtics (2008) show the importance of producing offensive based on knowing how to play the game without the ball in hand. As gifted and impressive as they are on the court, both Lebron James and Dwayne Wade still lack the ability to create plays and contribute with an offensive based on an organized half-court scheme where they are not always in charge of leading, holding the ball, and having the license to decide most of the time. The establishment of such an offensive scheme becomes more difficult when your team is led by two superstars who have always been the first shooting options on their teams. The impressive numbers shown by James and Wade for both the "points per game" and "assists per game" departments should not be underestimated. However, those statistics should also be understood in the context of players who are part of a “get the rebound and decide” offensive reward system.
Eric Spoelstra has failed with the way the point-guard position has been managed on the offensive side of the court. The Heat needs a point guard who can create plays on the half-court game scheme and feed the offensive machinery of the “all-star” trio composed by James, Wade and Bosh. Giving the ball more time to the point guard can stabilize the disorganized offensive scheme often presented by the Miami team. The Heat does not need a star point guard with explosive offensive, but a smart player who can organize their weak half-court system. Carlos Arroyo can certainly be that person, but so far, he has not received the opportunity to play as the leader that is expected to arm and organize the important and indispensable half-court offensive game. Part of the success accomplished by many teams (e.g. Lakers, Celtics, Magic, and others) has been based on the importance given to the point-guard position by their respective coaches. The Lakers present a case where their star Kobe Bryant has license to arm offensive only during clutch and key moments of the games. For the remaining part of the game, Phil Jackson (Lakers’ head coach) demands that responsibility from those players who share the point-guard position in the team.
All being said, we cannot question the Heat’s quality to potentially win the Eastern Conference and dispute the national title. The talent is there and the desire to win a championship is latent among the players and fans. Significant adjustments to their offensive scheme need to be done before becoming challengers with real possibilities to beat the powerful Celtics and improved Magic in the Eastern Conference. As the “All-Star Weekend” approaches, the Lakers are back on track and seem to be the “team to beat” once again. Significant mid-season trades are expected and interesting playoffs series should bring a combination of excitement and surprises to the remaining part of the 2010-2011 NBA season.
(The photo is from Associated Press - AP)

3 comentarios:

  1. Dear Rafa, I liked the article. Congratulations. However, I have a few comments you may want to consider. First, you are down to earth and that's good, when you say we are living a NBA era of a "more organized collective system of game distribution." That's what everybody needs to understand when it comes to analyze how is this season going to end (including the playoffs). Second, I think that besides your questions "Does the Miami Heat have the tools and necessary chemistry to defeat the powerful teams from the East, beat the Lakers, and become the 2011 NBA champions?" there is another question to consider: Will the Lakers and the Celtics remain and finish healthy? If that happens, then the ball will be in Heat's court, but if that does not happen, then even with the Heat's flaws, they can become champions easily. There are teams we need to pay attention to, because these teams are maturing with a very good collective game: Spurs, Bulls, Thunder, Mavericks, and Magics. If the Heat does not learn to play collectively and the Lakers and Celtics have health issues, then any of these teams can pull off the surprise. I am intrigued to see if any mysterious trade is around the corner. Peace, Jose

  2. José, thanks for sharing your reaction. Those teams that you mentioned are certainly among the favorites this season. Like the Lakers and Celtics, San Antonio is another team that needs to remain healthy if they want to make it to the Conference Finals. I really like what I am seeing from the Oklahoma City Thunder team. Hopefully, they will finish the regular season among the top four teams on the West and get the important home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Saludos.

  3. Lebron y Wade tienen que averiguar quien es el Pippen y quien es el Jordan en este equipo. Eso ayudaria mucho a la ofensiva. A veces no juegan bien cuando los dos estan en la cancha a la vez. Tambien necesitan mejorar la posicion de centro porque Dwight Howard es demasiado para Joel Anthony y Juwan Howard.