After looking horrible on opening night against the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat have rebounded nicely, they have won five of their last six games, and they look better and better every week. Not to mention, Miami is still not at full strength right now and the team is still adjusting to their new specific roles. It looks like Dwyane Wade has shaken off the rust, LeBron James is starting to adjust to not having to be the entire offense, and while Chris Bosh has struggled to find his niche in Miami, he is so talented and has such a great track record that I think he will figure it out by the end of the season. Watching this team play is like watching part of the Dream Team and even though it has been seven games, watching this team line up together on a nightly basis is still surreal.
Just like every NBA team, they have their weaknesses. The center position is a huge weakness, the point guard position has been exploited by Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul in both of their losses, and they struggle to rebound consistently. However, as the season goes on, the Heat will continue to find ways to overcome those weaknesses with the supreme talent that they put on the court and while they might not win the 70 games that Jeff Van Gundy predicted, they will have a say as to what team meets the Lakers in the NBA Finals in June. Pat Riley joined 790 the Ticket in Miami with Dan LeBatard to talk about whether or not it is still surreal seeing Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on the court at the same time, what one thing has concerned him through the early part of the season, what he has learned about LeBron James that he didn’t know before, and what he thinks can prevent his team from winning a championship this year.
On whether or not it is surreal to see LeBron, Wade, and Bosh on the court together:
“No. Not anymore. It was surreal this summer when they finally made this decision and this could be a possibility. We’re only four months into the relationship of all these guys. Not just the three of them, but all the other new players that we have brought to the team just four months into this thing. I hate to use that worn out phrase that this is a work in progress and all that stuff. The reality is that these guys have basketball IQ’s that are very high. Basketball is a universal game and we all know how to play it. I see these things happening throughout the course of the game that I like that I think I see growth. I don’t want to see a highlight film every night, but I’d like to see one or two. That play that Wade made to LeBron the other night, yeah I would like to see that. That’s what the fans come out to see and that’s what they’re capable of doing. What we want to see is just rock solid basketball where the team will eventually become a machine. It becomes routine and the ability that they have as players and the athleticism, that’s just going to happen through the course of the game through opportunities and execution.”
On what one thing he hasn’t liked so far:
“There isn’t one thing. I think the team has played very consistently in some areas. The first game against Boston was an absolutely surreal aberration above and beyond, I don’t think any team could’ve played that game on the road with the expectation level and how much hype that game had. We were horrible that night and it still came down to Ray Allen having to make a three in the corner to seal it. The same thing happened in New Orleans the other night. I would say the one thing that any team that has a lot of ability, a lot of confidence and there’s a lot of hype out there about it, they have to ground themselves and discipline themselves in this process. They’re going to run into the Chris Paul’s of the world and he’s going to get 19 assists on you some nights and knock your block off. This team is capable of getting beaten if they don’t discipline themselves in the process of becoming the kind of team that I think they are capable of becoming. I see the inconsistencies there, but I also see that it’s not going to take more than being truly focused every night, being ready every night, knowing your assignments, knowing your role, and doing what the coach wants you to do on the court.”
Whether or not he has had to make adjustments in the culture with LeBron and allow him to do things like the Cavs reportedly allowed him to do:
“We have a culture here and over the 16 years that I have been here we have made allowances for certain things, but there haven’t been any made in the form that you’re talking about. There haven’t been any changes, but we have had to staff up our PR department, we’ve had to staff up our security department, we’re still looking to add more people because there is more going on out there, but there hasn’t been anything along the lines that you just spoke of at all. Nothing.”
Whether or not he is scared for the safety of LeBron in Cleveland when he returns:
“There’s been discussion about amping up the security, but it’s almost anywhere now. It isn’t just Cleveland. Throughout the league and in all sports, with what’s going out there in the cyber-world you just don’t know who is connecting with you. That’s why I have a hard time understanding why players would want to twitter people they don’t even know and let people they don’t even know know where they’re going to be at what time and all this stuff. There’s more concern I think today in all sports of amping up security. That particular game speaks for itself so I’m sure the league will be on top of it.”
Whether or not LeBron is playing angry:
“I don’t know about that. I just think he wants to win. He’s never expressed that to me that he has any real vendetta. He may have thrown that out there somewhere, but he comes to play every night and he wants to win. He, Dwyane, and Chris, I want to try and hold these guys to their words, they want to win a championship. Welcome to the club of 450 other players in the league. They all want to win the same thing. If that’s in fact what you want to do, if you want to win a championship then you better discipline yourself to the process of what it really takes to do that and it’s not easy. Half a dozen teams in the league are capable of that but they’ll never know they’re going to do it until it’s done. You can wish all you want. You can want all you want, but it’s the doing that counts.”
What will prevent them from winning a championship:
“Health. You gotta be healthy. Really healthy. Mind, spirit, and everything has to be on the right track at the right time in the playoffs and you have to get through the regular season with a modicum of sanity and not becoming too bored and all the monotony that comes with playing 82 games. When the time comes, if you’ve got a team that can get there, you have to have great health and you gotta be rolling at that time. That’s a little bit what happened to us in 2006. The right time, right place, everybody was healthy, and all the sudden we hit another level. Health to me has been one thing.”