How hot is Erik Spoelstra’s seat?

Feb. 20, 2010: Miami coach Erik Spoelstra during an NBA game between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Dallas defeated Miami 97-91.

First, we had Saturday’s possibly intentional bump, and now there’s a report that the Heat players are quietly grumbling about their head coach.

The Miami Heat’s players are frustrated with Erik Spoelstra and some are questioning whether he is the right coach for their team, according to people close to the situation.

In contrast to the popular view that Spoelstra has been hesitant to jump on superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, sources say the Heat coach has shown no fear in criticizing them.

Exhibit A was a recent shootaround in which Spoelstra told James that he had to get more serious. The source said Spoelstra called James out in front of the entire team, telling him, “I can’t tell when you’re serious.”

“He’s jumping on them,” one source said. “If anything, he’s been too tough on them. Everybody knows LeBron is playful and likes to joke around, but Spoelstra told him in front of the whole team that he has to get more serious. The players couldn’t believe it. They feel like Spoelstra’s not letting them be themselves.”

He’s not letting them be themselves. That’s classic. So if a coach is irritated by the lack of seriousness of one of his players, he’s just supposed to let it go? I suspect that Spoelstra would be a lot more lenient if the Heat were meeting expectations, but when you have this much talent and are hovering one or two games above .500, it’s understandable that the HEAD FREAKING COACH might want a certain level of seriousness from one of his team’s leaders.

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Why are people surprised that vets would want to play with the Super Friends?

Chris Bosh (L), Dwyane Wade (C) and LeBron James show 10,000 fans their Miami Heat jerseys after signing 6 year contracts with the Heat at the American Airlines Arena in Miami on July 9, 2010. UPI/Michael Bush Photo via Newscom

After LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided once and for all that they were going to team up in Miami, Ric Bucher was one of the ones (along with Jon Barry, let’s not forget him) that questioned what kind of supporting cast the Heat would be able to put around their three stars.

Now that the roster is complete with the signing of sharpshooter Eddie House, Bucher chimes in on Twitter:

Count me unconvinced the Heat are the L’s next champ. But as far as supporting casts built on very limited $, they did incredibly well.

Looking at the Heat’s roster — the key signings were Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, which Miami got at a discount. Miller should thrive in open catch and shoot situations, while Haslem was convinced by his loyalty to the organization and to the team. Haslem is an undersized center, but right there, the Heat have the league’s strongest starting five, at least on paper.

The Heat knew they needed more shooters, so they re-signed James Jones and signed House, who are both career 39%+ from 3PT. Mario Chalmers is not on their level, but he’s a threat from deep and has played in pressure situations before (at Kansas, where he hit an amazing shot to send the title game against Memphis into overtime). Carlos Arroyo is still there as well, and hopefully he’s locked in a gym somewhere working on this outside touch.

Miami also added several bigs to shore up the front line around Bosh and Haslem. They signed veterans Juwan Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who are obviously at the ends of their respective careers, but they should still be able to give a few productive minutes off the bench. Jamaal Magloire is another big body who could contend with Dwight Howard in a possible matchup with Orlando.

They have some young bigs as well. Joel Anthony is a promising defensive center and the Heat drafted Jarvis Varnado, Da’Sean Butler and Dexter Pittman to round out the front line.

All in all, the roster came together very well, starting with the Miller and Haslem signings. Once those two were locked up, the rest was just gravy. Pat Riley did a wonderful job this summer.

Now they have to play the games.

How the Heat pulled it off

Pat Riley attends a welcoming party for the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, FL (Photo by Jeff Daly / Meet The Famous) Photo via Newscom

Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer wrote an excellent blow-by-blow account of how the Miami Heat managed to convince LeBron James and Chris Bosh to come to South Florida to team up with Dwyane Wade.

Riley really put the plan into action last November. During a Cavs visit to Miami, Riley arranged a get together with Michael Jordan and James. Jordan, who was in town to do some Nike work with Wade, at the time did not own a majority of the Bobcats.

During the meeting, Riley talked to James about how more modern players should pay homage to Jordan. Riley always had led this effort, retiring Jordan’s No. 23 in the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena even though Jordan never played in Miami.

The Cavs knew about it, and while it seemed like it could be classic tampering, they decided not to make an issue of it — mostly because the meeting technically wasn’t about free agency.

After the game, and after seeing Jordan and Riley sitting together courtside, James made an emotional statement on the court that he was going to ditch jersey No. 23 out of respect to Jordan. In fact, he felt all players should stop wearing No. 23.

It was controversial and got headlines. Riley probably didn’t care so much about the statement but how his conversation obviously influenced James.

That was a key moment for Riley, but the entire article is worth a read.

What’s next for the Heat?

July 09, 2010 - Miami, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - epa02243370 Miami Heat President Pat Riley (C) takes his seat during NBA basketball team Miami Heat's 'HEAT Summer of 2010 Welcome Event' at the American Airlines arena in Miami, Florida, USA, 09 July 2010. The Miami Heat reached an agreement with LeBron James to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, and sign with the Miami Heat.

Now that the Miami Thrice is locked up for the next six years — well, for four years at least — it’s time for Pat Riley, the greatest general manager in the history of time, to fill out his roster.

Larry Coon, who manages the excellent NBA Salary Cap FAQ, wrote a piece for ESPN about how Riley can proceed with filling out the rest of the roster.

Sources told that James and Bosh signed for $14.5 million and Wade $14 million, leaving the Heat with nearly $8.3 million to spend.

One persistent rumor has the Heat using some of their leftover cap room to add sharpshooting Mike Miller to the lineup, and Miller is reportedly close to agreeing with the team on a deal totaling $25 million over five years — which would start at around $4.3 million. While he is a natural small forward (the same position James plays), Miller’s skill set would complement those of LeBron, Bosh and Wade, and there would be several ways of slotting him into the lineup. In addition to using Miller as James’ backup for the 8-12 minutes James is off the floor, coach Erik Spoelstra could play either Wade or James at point guard and put Miller at the vacated position.

Once Miller is on board the team would have just $4 million remaining to spend on free agents. It is possible Riley will try to use this money to persuade forward Udonis Haslem to return to the team. Since the Heat are without their own midlevel and biannual exceptions (sacrificed as part of the process to create cap room), the team would then be limited to offering players only minimum-salary contracts. Riley will have to sell some players on the idea of accepting the minimum in order to be a part of history. In return for their sacrifice the Heat could offer big minutes (including one or perhaps two starting roles), the chance to be part of a media phenomenon and a legitimate shot at the title.

What sort of player would be swayed by such a pitch? The likely candidate is an older veteran who has already banked his nest egg, and is now looking for a ring before he retires.

Coon goes on to mention Shaq, Earl Watson, James Jones and Raja Bell as possible targets for Riley. In my initial piece about how things would work in Miami, I listed the following players:

The list includes, but it is not limited to: Joe Smith, Kurt Thomas, Theo Ratliff, Brad Miller, Rafer Alston, Jerry Stackhouse, Juwan Howard, Eddie House and Matt Bonner.

The Heat could also target Brian Scalabrine, just for comedy’s sake.

It would be another coup if Riley is able to acquire Miller and convince Haslem to stick around at $4 million per season. Along with Chalmers (and possibly Joel Anthony), that would give the Heat a six- or seven-player rotation, and they would just need 2-3 more solid veterans (Derek Fisher, anyone?) to round out the bench.

In other words, this is not going to be as tough as some of the pundits seem to think it will be.

If you sign Wade, Bosh and LeBron, the vets will come.

Mike Miller joining Miami Thrice?

Minnesota Timberwolves Wayne Ellington (19) defends against Washington Wizards Mike Miller (6) during the fourth quarter at the Verizon Center in Washington on February 17, 2010. UPI/Alexis C. Glenn.

After freeing up some cap space by trading Michael Beasley to the T-Wolves, the Heat want to replace him with Mike Miller, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

The Heat then turned around and reportedly utilized that $4.9 million in gained cap space on Washington Wizards free-agent swingman Mike Miller, who had a standing five-year, $30 million offer on the table from the Heat. Radio station KSFY in Miller’s native South Dakota reported the deal early Friday morning.

The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers also had offers on the table for Miller, with the Clippers’ package worth significantly more than the Heat package.

Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James were nothing if not pragmatic by teaming up in South Beach, and Miller is just as wise to choose situation over salary. He’s exactly the kind of player the Heat need to play alongside their three stars.

He’s a sharpshooter (career 40.5% from 3PT) and willing passer (3.9 apg last season) and he will make teams pay if they try to double off of him onto LWB (LeBron, Wade, Bosh). At the age of 30, he’s at the tail end of his prime, but his game should age pretty well, a la Ray Allen and Reggie Miller.

Maybe the most important thing about this potential signing is how Miller is clearly willing to leave money on the table to play for a winner. It’s an early indication that the Heat won’t have much trouble filling out its roster with capable role players.

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