August 26, 2011
The biggest and baddest basketball-grounded criticism of the Miami Heat last season focused around the absolute and utter fact that Dwyane Wade(notes) and LeBron James(notes) seemed to be taking turns running a potential championship-winning show. The team made the Finals, and overcame quite a bit along the way, but the offensive chemistry was lacking.
Others may have chafed at the overhyped buildup in the months preceding the Heat's attempt to win a championship featuring Wade, James and Chris Bosh(notes) -- and they'd be right to. But those who deigned to tune into anything more than the nationally televised games (though those contests were often the most egregious examples of such) noticed that Wade and LeBron weren't exactly ham-and-egging it like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen used to. And that's to use a phrase that both Pippen and Jordan used to describe their chemistry.
[Related: LeBron gets scared on high dive]
That's all a bunch of media prattle, though, according to Wade.
He said as much to ESPN Radio the other day, as quoted by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
"We figured it out. I think we did a very good job," Wade said during an appearance on ESPN Radio, as he promoted his charity event this weekend in his native Chicago. "It didn't hurt. LeBron was still third in the league in scoring. I was still like fifth [BDL note: Wade was actually fourth] in the league in scoring."
"It really didn't change much of our ability once we got comfortable," Wade said. "Me and him are very good friends. We're two guys who want to make it work, who wanted to make it work for our teammates to be successful, so we did."
There are two ways to take this, beyond being pedantic and pointing out that they really weren't as "successful" as they thought they would be. Or should have been.
First? Champions aren't built overnight. The Heat, based on potential alone, should have won the championship last June. But teams take a while to figure things out, and top-tier players (especially) take a while to develop the sort of chemistry needed to make things work. LeBron James hadn't left Ohio, and the bubble that was the pandering Cavaliers organization, for years. Without insulting or even defending James and his solipsistic tendencies too much, this was a new gig for him. The same goes for Wade, who dominated the ball in Miami for half a decade prior to 2010-11. Same runs for Bosh, who was the touch king in Toronto.
And I'm not entirely sure, had they joined forces in 1988 or so, if Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan would have won a championship together during their first go 'round. Even given a fantastic rotation to work with, these things take time.
It was obvious from July of 2010 what both players needed to do. Heck, it was obvious from the late summer of 2008, when Wade and Kobe Bryant(notes) and James were trading off shots and ball-dominating excursions with Team USA, that all three had absolutely no clue how to play with another player of their ilk.
We can't blame them, in that short stint working for Nike Team USA, but who wasn't dismayed by the lack of cohesion on that team, despite the gold medal? Certainly not anyone who was paying attention.
(Still, why in the world did I pick the Heat for 70 wins last year? I didn't think much of the Bulls or the aging Celtics, and I thought talent would win out. Still, what a screw-up on my part.)
With that in place, and with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's limitations and Pat Riley's behind-the-scenes machinations playing a large part in limiting Spoelstra's influence, why couldn't Wade or James figure it out? There's no doubt that beyond Bosh, and with Udonis Haslem(notes) out and Mike Miller(notes) a hurtin' shell of what he once was, the Heat's supporting cast was often worse than the casts you see on 15-win teams.
It hardly matters, though. Wade and James should have figured it out. Instead, they wasted our time with nearly eight months of the same "my turn, your turn"-styled basketball. It won plenty of games, it allowed the Heat to play into deep June, but it also made a mockery of the game. It was a colossal waste of talent, typified by James' pathetic showing in the Finals, as it was "Wade's turn."
What a horrific betrayal of good basketball. Basketball morality-lacking martyrdom until spring, and then hopeless attempts at on-court chemistry following.
There's no doubt that James and Wade have turned into fast friends. Few can understand their sort of celebrity, so why wouldn't they bond? And there's no doubt that, without question, these two wouldn't enjoy an evening out appearing on behalf of some sponsor, sitting at a booth and wearing sunglasses indoors at some event that skeeves us all out.
Developing a symbiotic relationship on the court? That's a while away. And I don't care how terrible that supporting cast was in 2010-11, because James and Wade are more or less stuck in the same position they were back in 2008. Trading fours, and little else.
Your turn, my turn. Our loss.