Throughout the Miami Heat’s training camp, coach Erik Spoelstra emphasized defense as the main focus as the team went through a large chunk of the week in the Bahamas concentrating on that side of the ball. And come opening night, Miami was in rampant form as the Heat harassed Chicago into 19 turnovers, with Mario Chalmers leading the charge with five steals in that game.
Nonetheless, for all the havoc they have wreaked, the defense is actually still struggling and LeBron James hasn’t been shy to call out his teammates on it, stating that: ”These first seven games, we’re playing like s— defensively. It’s that simple.”
The reigning Most Valuable Player went on to say: “We’re not a sugarcoat team. We came in and got right down to it. We’re terrible on defense, and we’ve got to change that.” (ESPN.com)
Those were some pretty strong words from LeBron, but does the South Beach outfit really need to be at their panic stations and drastically improve defensively? Absolutely not.
Forget the fact that in all three of their losses, Miami has conceded more than 100 points. Forget the fact that they currently ranked 21st in points per game allowed (100.9) and 26th in opponent field goal percentage (19th in opponents’ 3-point percentage), it’s only the middle of November and there’s still plenty of games left to do more than just turn things around. Sure, it’s frustrating to know that you’re not playing up to the standard you are capable of, but with the season so young, it’s not that big of a deal. If anything it’s just another thing for Miami to add to the bucket list of things to improve upon before its crunch time.
Moreover, this is a team that tends to target and often upon the niggly bits present in their game. For example, just last week I was speaking about how Miami’s turnovers and points off turnovers allowed as killers for them as they resided among the bottom half of the league in both categories. But now, they have improved to become a top 10 team in the league when it comes to taking care of the ball and they are still improving.
Granted this is by no means is an excuse to be lethargic and nonchalant defensively from time to time. After all, it is unacceptable to have a Boston Celtics team that ranked 28th in scoring and 29th in 3-point shooting–prior to the game against Miami–be allowed to score 111 points at the American Airlines Arena. But at the same time, it’s not the end of the world either.
In addition to this, Miami is no stranger to slow starts after ranking 26th in points allowed last year. However, they came roaring back with a historic 27-game winning streak that was second all-time in the NBA and an NBA championship, among other things.
Sure, they can’t always count on a historic run of games to get them out of a funk but the Heat’s firepower should not be underestimated either. Plus, after the practise session, despite being frustrated with the team’s defense, James was happy with the effort and work put in by his teammates and Erik Spoelstra’s no BS approach “[That’s] the good thing about this team, we came right in here and knew exactly what kind of [work] day it was going to be. [Spoelstra] gave it to us direct. We all like constructive criticism. We got on each other and we probably had one of the best practices we’ve had in a while.”
The point is, yes LeBron James and the Miami Heat should be looking to improve upon their defensive struggles among other things but by no means is it time to man the panic stations just yet.