In Defense of Erik Spoelstra: Heat Coach Was Not the Problem This Season

Spoelstra was dealt a different hand every single night, and the cards he was dealt were all nonmatching 2s with a discarded Garbage Pail Kid card thrown in for some reason.
Spoelstra was dealt a different hand every single night, and the cards he was dealt were all nonmatching 2s with a discarded Garbage Pail Kid card thrown in for some reason.
photo by Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, our sister paper Miami New Times published an article by Luther Campbell (AKA Uncle Luke) with the headline "Pat Riley Needs to Reevaluate Whether Erik Spoelstra Is Right for the Heat.

Allow us to retort.

Erik Spoelstra is fine, and Pat Riley doesn't need to do anything with him. In fact, Spoelstra is the very least of what Riley has to worry about this off-season.

Luke's argument can be recapped thusly: Spoelstra doesn't call enough timeouts, and losing both of your best players isn't an excuse.

Now if you know anything about Luke, it's that he's a venerable walking HOT TAKE. Canes fans know all too well of his takes and analysis on how Randy Shannon is the greatest football coach to ever walk the Earth.

But this. This is just silly.

Luke says losing Chris Bosh should not be an excuse, and he references other teams that lost All-Star players to injuries this year, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, who lost Kevin Durant.  The Thunder fired its head coach. 

But the Heat lost more than just their Durant (and Scott Brooks' firing was more than just a result of this season).

Miami lost LeBron James, who bolted to Cleveland, and Bosh, who had to shut things down because of blood clots. They also got a roller-coaster season out of Dwyane Wade's creaky knees.

Yup. Free agency, age, and near-death experience. These were the catalysts for the Heat's derailment. But let's pin it on Spo because why the hell not?

The Heat was an avalanche of injuries and bad breaks all season long. Josh McRoberts was lost to a knee injury. Luol Deng missed time, as did Udonis Haslem and rookie Shabazz Napier. 

Things got so bad that they were essentially forced to bring back Michael Beasley, who had been exiled to China. 

The Heat also had to count on guys like Henry Walker. Read that sentence again.

Again.

And again. 

The biggest issues the Heat ran into this season were injuries, lack of depth, and really shitty luck.

Those things ran rampant all season long, killing cohesiveness and consistency. Spoelstra was dealt a different hand every single night, and the cards he was dealt were all nonmatching 2s with a discarded Garbage Pail Kid card thrown in for some reason.

Even when they got lucky and landed Hassan Whiteside, he was either missing games for being a headcase or missing games because he lacerated his hand dunking the ball. Seriously. This is a thing that happened, and Whiteside had to play the remainder of the season with 11 stitches in his hand.

So to recap: The Heat lost its best players to free agency, bad knees, almost dying, and razor-blade basketball rims.

But sure. Let's blame it on Spolestra.

Then Luke throws in this gem:

It's obvious Spoelstra can't call a simple play to stop another team's run after a timeout.

Luke wants to have Riley can Spo because of his X's and O's DOES THIS GUY KNOW WHAT THAT EVEN IS? theory based on that one or two times the other team scored after a time out.

IT'S OBVIOUS, THOUGH.

It's easy to let Spo get swallowed up in the tidal wave of awesome that was the past four years. But Spoelstra had been proven to be a great coach even before the Big Three Era. 

And he's known and recognized by the brightest minds in the league a coach who can get the most out of his teams while being forced to adjust on the fly.

Take Goran Dragic. Before "The Dragon" arrived to Miami, the Heat offense was slow and half-court-based. Dragic gets here and Spo turned the offense into a fast-break circus. The result was Dragic and Wade being among the most efficient backcourts in the NBA.

Among NBA coaches, Spo has been a trialblazer with advanced analytics. This is the man, after all, who taught LeBron the importance of efficiency and convinced him to become a post presence rather than a shoot-first player. 

The hallmark of this season has been Heat lineups that have no real business being an NBA lineup, because of injuries. Good NBA lineups have sustainability. Spo was able to make the most of the crap the Basketball Gods handed him and almost made the playoffs with a bunch of castoffs and walking dead. 

But sure. Let's knee-jerk and say Riley needs to reevaluate. Hell, Scotty Brooks is out of a job, and he lost only Kevin Durant.

So let's do this. Let's fire Erik Spoelstra and hire Brooks.

Then let's write another article this time next year about how Riley needs to fire himself for following dumb advice. 

Or maybe we should just hire Randy Shannon.


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