The Miami Heat are the most disappointing team in the league, and honestly it's not even close. The fact that the Heat are this bad (8-27, second worst record in the NBA) really does shock me. I was goofy enough to have the Heat heading to the Finals this year. Please excuse my momentary insanity - I thought the East was going to be very weak and Dwyane Wade was going to be healthy - my prediction was more of an indictment of the East as opposed to an exaltation of Miami. Nonetheless, I could never conceive of Miami winning less than 35 games, even with Wade damaged. But here we are - and beside the Timberrrrwolves we might be looking at the worst team in the league. And Minnesota presently is better than them judging from last night.
To me the whole Heat situation at this point is even more fascinating than the Knicks saga, which has gotten too absurd to even comprehend anymore. What makes the Heat's follies so interesting is that their recent championship basically pardons all involved. This is fair and unfair all at the same time. Imagine if Wade and crew did not have as many calls go their way against Dallas, and ended up losing the series. Miami right now would be a disaster, Shaq and Riley would be public enemies #1 and #2. But because of the 2006 championship everybody is accepting of this failure, which is understandable.
The problem with the Heat is that there is absolutely no way they should be this bad. No championship glint can disguise this malaise. The onus of the blame has to rest on Riley. His personnel moves have been erratic for quite a while, but the present problem is that his coaching this year has been downright terrible. It appears as if everybody has just had it with him. It's not hard to see why - Riley has always been know as a hardass, and with veterans that tactic can only work for so long, even if Riley has lightened it up considerably. You look at the roster and realize that while it is not good, it hardly is bad - Wade, Shaq, Ricky, Haslem, Williams, Cook, Quinn, even Blount - the team should be capable of something. And Riley has extracted nothing from it. Last year the Heat had enough guts to battle back and at least make the playoffs (with a big hat tip to Ron Rothstein.) After thirty games this year we knew such a feat was impossible.
And Riley is to blame - he has been unable to devise anything that works. He stupidly accepted Blount's contract along with Davis and then never even gave him a chance out on the court. He repeatedly questioned his team's focus when the gameplans he drew up were nothing short of lousy. And all the while he has had most of his players underachieving. The irony is that Riley might actually be aware that he is the problem - but is probably too prideful to walk away. It makes for a fascinating scenario.
So Miami bears watching - and you'll get a chance, because they are on national TV another 15 times or so, which is a complete obscenity. There are several subtextual things to be aware of, but the main one is probably Dwyane Wade's physical and mental state. This past summer I claimed a healthy Wade was the best player in the game, and I will shakily stand behind that statement despite LeBron's improvements and Duncan's perpetual greatness. The question is will Wade ever be healthy again. I think the longterm answer is yes, but the short term answer is no. It came out yesterday that Wade's shoulder was hurt much more than originally revealed, and that Dwyane's compensation for that injury proceeded to give him further injuries. Whoa. Riley said that it was "painful" watching Wade recently and that Dwyane "was barely able to move" after many games. Jesus Christ, Pat. As stupid as Riley's on-court moves have been this year, having Wade play while seriously hurt has to be ten times stupider. Wade is the entire fucking franchise. All of us have been harping about how important having a superstar is, and how it makes up for nearly everything else. Having Dwyane risk injury while playing for a team going nowhere is grossly irresponsible. If Wade is not risking further injury it is one thing, but Riley is implying that Wade is putting himself at risk every night. Sit him fucking down. My God.
If I'm Wade I'm not exactly happy about things right now. He's busting his balls playing hurt, and the team is just dreadful. So perhaps Wade is more likely to leave his team than LeBron. But perhaps not - it will be interesting to see how Dwyane handles the rest of the season. I would sit him down immediately and not let him on the court till properly mended. You know that Riley really has lost it if he makes a panic trade and gets Bibby or Andre Miller, and continues to ride Wade hard. But reason should win out - the season is lost, and now you can go about planning for the future, which should be fine with a healthy Wade.
In spite of Shaq and Blount's contracts, Miami will be under the cap this summer, and should be able to bring in a quality player or two, perhaps even a fringe All Star. They will have Wade, hopefully healthy, and they also will have a top 5 pick in all likelihood. So this foray into squalor should be brief. But it will continue for longer than it should if the vibe of the team does not change. The easiest solution is probably to get a new coach. Saying that this is unlikely to happen (UPDATE: IT MIGHT HAPPEN - HALLELUJAH), Riley will have to reinvent himself again. He's done this in the past, but I have no idea if he can do it now. But he has to - otherwise he risks alienating Wade, and losing his credibility faster than any of us would have thought possible given the Summer of 2006.