October 27, 2010
Ben Collins covered the Celtics-Heat opener Tuesday night from the TD Garden for SLAM Magazine. You can read his coverage here: He writes a blog for Boston.Com called Today's Soundtrack, too, mostly with his hands. He wrote it with his elbows and teeth once. It was a long night and he doesn't want to talk about it.
BOSTON -- In the Miami Heat locker room before their 88-80 loss to the Boston Celtics Tuesday night, there were two enormous easels (in my notebook it reads, "CHECK OUT THESE F'ING ELABORATE EASELS") with 16 plays on them.
This is not common. Sometimes there are whiteboards with two or three plays on them alongside rudimentary defensive suggestions in all-caps, like "TRY TO MAKE THE BALL NOT GO IN THE HOOP WHEN THE OTHER TEAM MAKE SHOOT-SHOOT," and quotes from the Bible that could be misconstrued to double as sports references. ("Then Joseph said, 'Dude, you've got to stay in front of Ricky Davis(notes). He's not that good.'")
But never 16 plays.
I'm not sure that's why the Heat played so badly, though. I watched the whole game. I only saw one play, and it was a clear-out.
At halftime, I was asked by an elevator attendant how the Heat were playing. He had heard the score and deciphered from grumblings of the last batch of riders that the Heat may not have appeared trés compétente out of the gate.
"How do they look?"
"Well," I said. I was trying to find something very relatable, something everyone had seen before. "Have you ever seen three stray dogs in a parking lot fighting over a piece of meat?"
"Me neither. They look really bad."
In hindsight, this was a bad analogy on two counts. Because:
1) I just implied that I think this elevator attendant is spending at least some of his spare time in a parking lot with at least three homeless dogs and a large-enough slab of meat. And,
2) The Miami Heat's suck Tuesday night was a much more dynamic suck than your typical suck.
It was nuanced and interesting and sophisticated in its horribleness.
They had their unchained-dog moments of ultra-assertiveness, yes-like when Chris Bosh(notes) presumably screamed, "I'm taking over!" then proceeded to miss six consecutive shots to start the second quarter.
But they were also uncomfortably passive at points. This umpteen-championship dynasty with LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh, if it exists, will have started with a nine-point quarter that eerily resembled a first date going very badly. If Erik Spoelstra's offensive playbook was just a laminated sheet of paper that said, "Just do whatever is the basketball equivalent of making a mountain out of napkins and silverware to try to get her to stop talking about politics," then this game should've been stopped at halftime to give Erik Spoelstra the Coach of the Year award.
But that wasn't his game plan. I saw the easels.
That's the problem, though. I saw those easels. I'm not sure the players did. It certainly didn't look like it, at least.
LeBron tried to justify this after the game.
"We know that Rome wasn't built in a day," he said.
True. But Rome wasn't built by one guy screaming "I got this!" and heaving two-ton stones on top of other two-ton stones while everyone else stood around and fed each other grapes.
(They did all of the grape-feeding afterwards, if I remember correctly.)
On the easels -- the Roman blueprints -- there were these elaborate pick-and-pops for LeBron and off-the-ball designs for Dwyane Wade to get him free layups. A couple of reporters were just sitting there ogling before the game, wondering how this team was ever going to be stopped.
But I just watched a fourth quarter where LeBron was trying to wrap up this awkward first date nicely, anyway, attempting to end this sucker on a high-note. He tried to tell a joke.
LeBron: "What do you call the other four people in black on the court with me right now?"
LeBron: "I have no idea. I'm just going to pretend like they're not alive."
It didn't work. Now I'm wondering if they are ever going to get started.