Spoelstra, HEAT Continue to Find Success
Miami HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra will have three familiar faces in his starting lineup while he’s coaching the Eastern Conference team during the 2013 NBA All-Star Game: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. James and Wade were voted in as starters, and Bosh replaced injured point guard Rajon Rondo in the East’s starting five.
Miami is the first team to start three players in an All-Star Game since 1990, when the Los Angeles Lakers were represented by starters Magic Johnson, James Worthy and A.C. Green. This is the first time that Spoelstra has coached in an All-Star Game, and he’s excited to share the experience with his staff and players.
“It’s a culmination for our entire organization,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously, we’ve been through a lot. We were finally able to get over that hill last June to win the title together. We were able to visit the White House last month. Now, we’re able to share this experience this time around. Normally, you say goodbye to your players, tell them to enjoy All-Star weekend and you see them when they get back. Now, we get to experience it together. Our entire coaching staff is here and so many from our organization are here. It’s fun to share this with our HEAT family.”
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who is coaching the Western Conference team on Sunday, joked that he’s going to play Tim Duncan and Tony Parker just “three minutes each” to rest them for meaningful basketball. Spoelstra took a different approach, making it clear that his players will receive plenty of playing time and Miami’s signature “position-less” philosophy will be on display.
“They’ll play – I’m not giving them any restrictions,” Spoelstra said with a smile. “They’ve had a few days off – I wouldn’t mind them getting a little workout and sweat on Sunday. Then, they’ll have Monday off and we’ll get back together on Tuesday. Position-less will be in effect on Sunday.”
That’s good news for fans who want to see James put on a show, as he has done in the past. James won All-Star Game MVP in 2006 and 2008, and he has been playing the best basketball of his career lately. Earlier this week, James became the first player in NBA history to record six consecutive games of 30 or more points while shooting 60 percent or higher from the field. Over Miami’s last five games, James is averaging 32.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 66.3 percent from the field. James is a big reason why the HEAT entered the All-Star break on a seven-game winning streak and Spoelstra had nothing but praise for the engine that makes his team go.
“He’s making greatness look easy,” Spoelstra said of James. “We don’t want our fans to take that for granted, we don’t want NBA fans to take that for granted. It’s historic, but we also don’t want to put a ceiling on him. We don’t know how good he can become and we don’t necessarily want to say that this is the best he can play. What I love about LeBron is he doesn’t get complacent. I think it would be the natural human condition to relax as the best player in the game with the title and say that that’s enough, but he keeps pushing forward and trying to break barriers. He continues to improve. It’s motivating. We want to make sure that we’re getting better too. … His work ethic is very contagious.”
Spoelstra acknowledged that “it’s going to be tough this year” for Miami to repeat as NBA champions because “the competition is [getting better].” However, he believes that the HEAT has something that separates them from the pack, something that he has developed since taking over as a head coach in 2008.
“Resolve,” Spoelstra said. “You get tested in this business. When you start contending for a title, you will face challenges. But you just have to stay the course. Through all of the ups and downs and everything in between, you just have to stay steady, particularly if you’re leading a group. You can’t waver. [Winning a championship] is never easy. It’s certainly the toughest thing that we’ve all had to go through as professionals, but that’s what makes it so gratifying when you’re finally able to win.”