Coach: Eric Spoelstra
Not a decorated coach, but definitely amongst the NBA’s top ranked, Eric Spoelstra’s tenure as coach of the Miami Heat has yielded a playoffs birth every year since he became head coach in 2008 and took the team to the finals in 2011 only to be beaten by an emphatic, determined Dallas Mavericks squad. In his second year, Spoelstra was exposed to the incoming of star forward LeBron James and his task was to ensure James fitted into the already star studded lineup.
He has molded James and Dwayne Wade into one of the most deadly duos in the league and partnered them with the skills of Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem. The key to Spoelstra’s success in 2012 will rest completely on the relationships he keeps with his players. These playoffs, we’ve already seen an altercation with Dwayne Wade and Spoelstra that sparked questions as to whether the two do actually have a good relationship. If he cannot maintain the focus and respect of Wade, James and other key players it is unlikely he’ll be able pull off a Championship.
Having said that, the team possess enough talent for Spoelstra to work with and create a history making year for the Miami Heat. He’s still young, and has a great coaching career ahead of him with rings becoming more and more likely, but could the pressure of managing a Big 3 be the real problem for Spoelstra? Egos, money, talent, attention… They are all areas he must consider and focus on if he is to stake his claim.
You’ll see a very aggressive game plan from Spoelstra in the East Finals against the Celtics. He’ll be looking to attack Boston’s defense which has been known to shut down teams and grind them down, but Spoelstra will concentrate on putting the ball into transition quickly and killing the Celtics on the fastbreak as well as in the paint. Three point shooting has not been good during this year’s playoffs for any team let alone the Heat so unless Miller or Battier are on fire, don’t expect to see a lot of it. Look for sparks and fireworks through Wade and James.
Whilst hostile, Miami’s crowd don’t have the fire like Oklahoma City’s do. They are hugely passionate and turn out for every game, but they are not as loud or as game-changing as other crowds in the league. In this Playoffs however, they can smell a Championship. They can see that their team is on the verge of something special and this may mean a reinvigorated effort could spark their team to title status. The crowd consistently dons their ‘White Hot Heat’ t-Shirts which makes the arena look special, and should the crowd rally and find their voice it could be a deciding factor on the team’s Championship success.
Key Player: Dwayne Wade
Wade is undoubtedly the heart and soul of this Miami team. Sure, he may not be the main draw card, but he certainly is the leader. He has spent enough time with the team to know how it works, enough time with his team mates to understand the way they play and enough time with LeBron James to forge an intimidating partnership. Wade is one of the most deadly shooting guards in the league and when he’s on, the Heat are practically unbeatable. There is an erratic side to him that could become problematic, but assuming he keeps composure and continues to knock down points, he’ll be key in Miami bringing home the Championship.