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Pat Riley's Pickle: L'il Gherkin on the Heat and Coach Spo

Thursday, December 2, 2010

If you can't, or don't want to, beat 'em, join 'em. Just when everyone outside Miami was feeling that karmic justice had settled in on the basketball universe by making Miami a mediocre team so that we could pay attention to the teams and players who are actually doing something worth talking about this season, the imp of the schedule sends the Heat to Cleveland for Lebron's first return to the city he ditched. Armored vehicles, undercover cops, bans on "vulgar and profane" t-shirts, threats of violence, cats and dogs living together: TNT knows drama! In honor of the event, L'il Gherkin offers Go Yago! his two cents on the Heat's woes and the future of coach Erik Spoelstra.

Why have so many people been crapping all over Lebron? Didn’t he do what true champions do? Go to the team with the best chance of winning. It’s not like he went to NY where he would get the most money from salary as well as advertising and promotions. Or stayed in Cleveland where he wouldn’t win anything because management was never able to surround him with good enough supporting players. Sure he didn’t do what he said he would do (stay in Cleveland till he won a championship there), which explains why Cavalier fans should be upset. And of course they are, but I think New York, and basically the rest of the country except Miami is upset with Lebron.

I often wonder if there was a “correct” choice for Lebron. If he had chosen a different team would the outrage over his decision have been subdued and perhaps his public image saved? The recent struggles of the Heat are the only reason I am currently thinking about this subject again since the decision was made. It’s not like the Heat are playing awful, in fact they are over .500. And while they aren’t blowing any teams away with Wade’s struggles, injuries to key role players, and the drama between Coach Erik Spoelstra and the players it seems that we are at a crucial turning point. If the Heat end the month of December at or below .500 it’s likely Spoelstra will be fired and then the team will start to hit the panic button.

Luckily it’s still very early in the season and, not to the point where there’s any need to worry about missing out on the playoffs. Also; it’s fair to keep in mind how weak the Eastern conference is and, winning 41 games is probably enough for the 8th spot in the playoffs. Now I’m not suggesting that the Heat will only go .500. Realistically a team with such talent, despite the lack of chemistry should easily make the playoffs in the East. Now add to that the fact that the big 3 will eventually learn to play together the right way and that Mike Miller, at least, will return to the line-up, and there’s no reason why this team cannot win 50 games. Talentwise this is a team that could, in future seasons, rival the greats (71-72 Lakers, 85-86 Celtics and of course the 95-96 Bulls) but is Spoelstra capable of leading this team to greatness? After only two coaching seasons we don’t really know enough about him to make that judgment but from what I’ve seen he shows a great understanding for the game. Spoelstra did a fantastic job as the coach of the Heat the last two years but with this added star power it’s a much different situation. Managing the egos of two superstars and a perennial all-star is a job left for the greats. Especially when your team is calling “players only” meetings, it seems that things are starting to get out of control.

So what is Pat Riley to do? Slick his hair back like Gordon Gekko, and take control of this star stacked team? I gotta’ be honest, I’ve always been a huge Pat Riley fan, aside from the hair I loved the intensity he brought to his coaching and let’s be honest he is an elite coach. With 5 rings as a head coach he is clearly the better choice over Spoelstra, but then again he has also affirmed his faith in the Heat head coach. What is the best action at this point? Unfortunately there isn’t much Riley can do for now. You cannot relieve Spoelstra of his duties yet and it would be silly to give him a clear bill of confidence for the remainder of the season. However in a month there will be another Decision to be made. Hopefully for the owner’s sake the team is either playing up to potential or continuing to struggle. Anything in between will prolong the wait and see period for as long as it takes. And of course, the longer it takes to make a decision, the worse. - by L'il Gherkin


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