|Brad Stevens has a lot of respect for ‘great job’ Erik Spoelstra has done in Miami||02.27.16 at 3:18 pm ET|
When Brad Stevens talks about Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, you can sense a great deal of respect and admiration. You can also sense that he wouldn’t mind having his track record some day. When Spoelstra took over for Pat Riley in 2008, he was just 37, the same age Stevens was when he took over the Celtics in 2013.
In his eighth season in Miami, Spoelstra has been to the NBA Finals four times, winning twice with LeBron James. After going just 37-45 last season, and missing the playoffs for the first time, Spoelstra has bounced back strong this year. His team is 32-25 and what’s more impressive is that he’s doing it short-handed.
“I don’t know him all that well,” Stevens said. “I’ve obviously met him in a couple of the coaches’ meetings and seen him at the summer leagues and those types of things real briefly but I haven’t spent a lot of time with him. I’m really impressed by him and have been since I got a chance to first watch his teams play. I didn’t know him when he was a video guy or an assistant in his earlier years either.”
While both were wunderkinds when hired for their first NBA head coaching gigs, Spoelstra and Stevens are from very different backgrounds.
Spoelstra was hired by then-Heat GM Dave Wohl and personnel director Roya Vaziri in 1995 as a video coordinator at the age of 25. He worked his way up, eventually impressing Riley with his work ethic as a video coordinator and eventually a scouting director in 2001. He’s been a Heat lifer. As for Stevens, everyone knows the story how he wowed the basketball world by taking Butler to the NCAA finals in 2010 and ’11, in the process becoming the youngest coach ever (34 years old) to reach the Final Four twice. Stevens didn’t shoot out of the gate and make the playoffs in his first season like Spoelstra but he is commanding the respect of stars young and old around the league. Even Rajon Rondo was impressed with Stevens the first time they met.
But what impresses someone like Stevens is how even-tempered someone like Spoelstra can be, even when things seem to be falling apart around him.
Last week, the Heat’s leading scorer, Chris Bosh, was sidelined with a blood clot in his calf. That was just the latest in a long line of injuries to significant players. Beno Udrih had surgery Friday on his foot and is out three months. Tyler Johnson is out with a shoulder injury. Udonis Haslem had an allergic reaction this week but made the trip to Boston for his short-handed teammates.
|Ray Allen at Heat introductory press conference: ‘It’s a sad thing for me and my family’ to leave Celtics||07.11.12 at 1:58 pm ET|
New Heat guard Ray Allen downplayed reports of friction between himself and Rajon Rondo at his introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon in Miami. While Allen acknowledged “there’s differences” and noted that he has been in contact with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett but not Rondo this offseason, he insisted his move to Miami was not sparked by the Celtics‘ enigmatic point guard.
“I haven’t spoken with him at all,” Allen said when asked about his relationship with Rondo. “I know when I came down here I texted Paul and Kevin. Those are the guys that I talked quite a bit with over the years. We shared a lot of similar philosophies. Those are the guys, when we came into Boston together, a lot was put on our shoulders as to whether or not we were going to win. So, I look back at all our time spent in Boston. We’ve had a lot of disappointments, but we’ve shared a lot of thrills. And a lot of that’s off the court.
“So, it is sad to me, knowing that I’m not going to be with those guys anymore. But I’m looking forward to what we can do here in this organization, being a teammate of LeBron [James], being a teammate of Dwyane [Wade], Chris Bosh I just met, Joel Anthony, those guys are all excited to have me here.”
When asked again about Rondo, Allen said: “I can’t say it affected my decision. I think as teammates we were brothers. I’m around them more than I’m around my own family. There’s differences. We all have differences. Paul, he eats Corn Flakes, I might not like Corn Flakes. That’s just part of who we are as individuals. At the end of the day we have to buy into what the coach believes is best for us. As players we have to put our differences aside.”
Allen talked in more detail about the difficulty he had in making the decision and how it affected his former teammates.
“When I was knew I was leaning toward Miami, I actually sent a text out to Kevin, just to let him know,” Allen said. “I just remember this process in ’08 when [James] Posey left us. He left and we just really wanted him back. He went to New Orleans and we didn’t get a chance to try to get Danny to give him a little something extra, or whatever it was. I didn’t want that to be the case with me in this situation.
“So, I texted Kevin, I told him, I said, ‘Hey, I’m leaning this way. I just want you to know,’ without getting into the finite details of the deal. He said, ‘Well, Danny [Ainge] will step up to the plate and do whatever you need him to do.’ I was like, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ That was somewhat of the small discussion that we had.
“I just wanted those guys to know that I appreciate everything they’ve done for me, and it was a joy and a pleasure to play with them.”
|Doc Rivers: ‘Riley is inside [Spoelstra]’ and other Celtics-Heat Game 7 shootaround notes||06.09.12 at 1:08 pm ET|
But before Miami, and after winning four titles with the Showtime Lakers, Riley coached the New York Knicks to the 1994 NBA finals. He had a point guard on that team by the name of Glenn “Doc” Rivers.
Doc Rivers speaks often about how much influence Riley had on his coaching career. In the hours before Game 7 with the Heat, the subject came up again.
“If you play for Riley or work around Riley, he’s going to be a part of you for the rest of your life,” Rivers said. “That’s just how it is, even if you have no contact with him, or you do. Riley was Riley for a reason. He gets inside of you, and you can see that with Erik. Riley is inside of him.”
Erik is Erik Spoelstra, the current coach of the Heat, a coach who has – at times in this series – come under intense pressure and criticism for possibly losing to a Celtics team much older that was considered heavy underdogs against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Rivers said he can see a lot of Riley in Spoelstra’s approach.
“I don’t know about the game part of it,” Rivers said. “I think Spo does his own thing there. But definitely, the mental part of it, just listening to how he talks and prepares the team, that’s a Riley [characteristic]. Fingerprints are all over that part.”
Rivers is getting his team ready for the seventh Game 7 in the “Big Three” era but just the second on the road as the Celtics take on the Heat at American Airlines Arena, with the winner capturing the Eastern Conference title and advancing to play the Thunder in Oklahoma City next Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NBA finals.
“We’ll find that out later,” Rivers said when asked what he expects of his team in Game 7, after missing a chance to clinch Thursday night at home. “I’ve been to a lot of shootarounds where I’ve left as a coach [and said] we’re in trouble or we look great and the game comes, and it’s different. So, I don’t think you really get a sense for your team. I know they’ll be ready. How they perform and all that stuff, we’ll have a lot to do with that and the other team will have a lot to do with that as well.”
The Celtics are 4-2 in Game 7s since 2008, losing their only previous Game 7 on the road in 2010 when they lost the NBA finals to the Lakers. Most recently, they beat the Sixers two weeks ago, 95-85, in another Saturday night Game 7, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“There’s always something to say,” Rivers said. “But really they’ve been in this situation but they’ve never been in this situation against this team. So, every Game 7 is different, every game is different, honestly. You just have to prepare your best. You have to try and figure how much information to give them and how much is too much, and walk the right line.
“It’s always nicer to have it at home, clearly. But let’s be honest, if you had told me before the playoffs started you could have a Game 7 to decide to go to the finals, we’d have taken it and wouldn’t have cared where you played it. In a lot of ways, we love being here.”
All players were accounted for at the open portion of Saturday morning’s shootaround except for Paul Pierce. But Rivers said that Pierce – playing with a sprained MCL in his left knee – and the entire team is ready and will play in Game 7 against the Heat. Pierce eventually showed up at shootaround and participated, before leaving with the team on the bus back to the hotel just after noontime.
“Everybody’s good, everybody’s healthy,” Rivers said.
After the Celtics dropped Game 6 in front of an energetic crowd at “The Jungle,” fans and writers nationally wondered what happened to Boston’s heart, and noted LeBron James‘ very clutch, 45-point performance.
The loss prompted NBA’s Shaun Powell to question if the Celtics can mount a performance energetic enough to win Game 7.
“Given a chance to win on their home floor, the Celtics folded like a paper airplane, raising suspicion that their best game could be behind them,” Powell wrote.
Some fans responded by calling out the Celtics for not showing up to play, while others praised James’ performance. Most fans said they weren’t surprised by the game’s outcome and a few added it will be hard to predict the winner of Game 7.
“The way I see it, the playoffs is all about adjustments,” one fan wrote. “Boston won game 5, Miami made adjustments and came back to win game 6. Boston is in the better position right now, because they can only adjust to what they did wrong in the last game. The Heat do not have the grace of hindsight on their side right now because they are coming off of a win. Barring an amazing game by LeBron AND [Dwyane] Wade (yes they both will have to step up for this one), the Celtics determination and coaching staff will see them to the Finals. Don’t think that LeBron’s game was all about him, [coach Erik] Spoeltsra put him in better situations to score the ball judging on what wasn’t working in Game 5.”
On fan expressed disappointment with Boston’s effort on FoxSports’ recap.
“I was shocked at the lack of effort from the Celt’s last night,” the fan wrote. “It looked like none of them wanted to be there. Maybe [NBA commissioner David] Stern promised them a blockbuster trade next year if they would lose.”
USA Today’s Adi Joseph responded to Boston’s loss by saying the Celtics need to be fixed because “nothing worked” for the team.
ESPN’s Skip Bayless was one media personalty who admitted Boston’s loss, and James’ stunning performance, didn’t surprise him.
Lower expectations, Heat as “underdogs,” most ppl thinking Boston big – LeBron goes off. Predictable. But NOW the pressure returns, Bayless tweeted.
The focus may have stayed on the Celtics if James lashed at critics by recording 45 points on the night. His clutch performance directed most reaction from the game his way, and most praised James’, even those surprised by his performance. Read the rest of this entry »
|Dan Le Batard on M&M: ‘It’s been real hard to have trust’ in LeBron James||06.07.12 at 12:46 pm ET|
Miami Herald writer and ESPN personality Dan Le Batard joined the Mut & Merloni show Thursday to discuss the Heat’s issues late in games, Miami’s future and Erik Spoelstra. To hear the interview go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
The Heat have had immense pressure on them since the beginning of last season, but Le Batard said Game 6 is different.
“Game 5 you feel like you’ve still got a cushion. There is no safety net now. Now the safety net is absolutely gone, Le Batard said. “There is no, ‘Hey, maybe America won’t be able to laugh at us. Maybe we can come back in the next game and stop the laughter with one good game.’ This is different kind of pressure from any other kind of pressure.”
Le Batard noted that there are a number of factors contributing to Miami’s issues.
“You have got a lot of things in play that makes this a very difficult game for the Miami Heat and create that doubt,” he said. “One, you don’t know what you’re going to get from one of your All-Stars. Chris Bosh has been hurt. Two, Dwyane Wade has not been himself, he’s a little banged up. He’s the only one with a proven track record. And three, you’ve got LeBron James, who, while he’s been great this postseason and been great this season, the last time he was in this particular spot, lose and you die, lose and your season is over, he’s not been good in those spots. It’s been real hard to have trust [in him].”
Le Batard was uncertain of the Heat’s future, but he offered up an interesting trading piece if the Heat were to break up their Big Three.
“While that’s the noise that surrounds the franchise, Pat Riley prides himself on loyalty, and really that would be an extraordinary cold thing to do,” Le Batard said. “The piece you would trade is the older piece whose has the redundant skill set to LeBron James’. So you’d basically be trading Dwyane Wade, who put this whole thing together. I’m not sure how fair that is to Dwyane Wade when he put the whole thing together and two years after putting it together he’s playing in Golden State. I don’t know whether Pat Riley is capable of that.”
When asked about Spoelstra’s job status if the Heat lose, Le Batard minimized NBA coaches’ effect on games.
Said Le Batard: “I don’t believe that while Boston does have a coaching advantage in this series, I don’t believe a coaching advantage usually matters very much in this sport. … The way I’d ask you guys the question is this: Did Erik Spoelstra outcoach Doc [Rivers] last year in the playoffs? I don’t think he did. I think Boston just lost in five games because [Rajon] Rondo was hurt. And Erik Spoelstra is not afforded the same thing when I say Miami will lose in six or seven because Bosh was hurt.”
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics, Heat and the duality of team||06.06.12 at 1:26 pm ET|
There’s a duality of team happening in this series. Not good vs. evil, but heart vs. spinelessness. As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Celtics, “They have championship DNA. They have what we’re trying to get.”
The lasting images of Game 5: 1) A blank-faced LeBron James retreating into the tunnel of AmericanAirlines Arena after another devastating postseason defeat as one young Miami fan repeated behind him, “Good job! Good effort!” And 2) A grinning Paul Pierce returning to a timeout huddle, his puffed chest being pounded by teammates after he delivered another playoff victory that forced most Heat fans to funnel for the exits.
Throughout Tuesday night, constant dueling reminders arose of why these Heat are these Heat and these Celtics are these Celtics. Let’s revisit four of them from the C’s pivotal Eastern Conference finals victory.
- LeBron James in a halftime interview with ESPN’s Doris Burke, moments after his Heat coughed up a 13-point lead: “I’m pleased with my individual performance.”
- Paul Pierce overheard in a timeout, shortly after burying the dagger 3 in LeBron’s face with 52 seconds remaining: “I’m cold-blooded.”
Through the first 40 minutes, James made 10-of-21 shots, netted 28 points and grabbed 12 boards. Over the final eight minutes, he finished 1-of-4 from the field, scored just two points and snatched only one rebound.
Conversely, in the first 42 minutes, Pierce tallied 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting while amassing two rebounds and two assists. In the last six minutes of the game, he recorded five points — making his lone shot attempt (the dagger) — to go along with two assists and two boards. One rose to the occasion; the other ran from it.
Read the rest of this entry »
Appearing on Mut & Merloni Wednesday afternoon, ESPN’s Chris Broussard discussed the Eastern Conference finals series following Boston’s Game 5 win Tuesday night. Broussard said the Celtics will win Game 6 and the series, citing Boston’s championship mentality as a reason for eventual triumph over the Heat. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Celtics. … Even when they lose, you walk away saying those guys are winners,” Broussard said. “They’re champions, they play with so much heart and mental toughness. They play through injuries, through adversity, they’re well-coached, they execute, they can play in the clutch. They’re great.
“And I feel that lack of respect for the Heat, because they don’t play up to their potential. They don’t execute, I don’t think they’re well-coached. … This team needs somebody with the credibility to kick them in the butt and make them perform and make them play with intensity — a Pat Riley, a Phil Jackson, a Gregg Popovich, somebody of that ilk. Maybe it’s not to blame [Erik] Spoelstra; he’s just in over his head. He never should have been put in charge of this situation.”
Broussard said Spoelstra has been unable to come up with effective strategies late in the game, noting that the Heat usually fall back on an isolation play that hasn’t produced good results.
“How about running a play like the Celtics do?” Broussard said. “Doc Rivers goes out of every time out and they run a great play and usually score. At the end of the game, whether it’s something for [Paul] Pierce, something for Ray Allen — and even if it’s for one of those guys, there are other options. If Ray doesn’t have it, you have [Kevin Garnett] as an option somewhere. If Pierce doesn’t have it, Ray or KG is an option somewhere.”
Broussard said Boston’s late-game options are bolstered by the Celtics’ mindset to win.
“I don’t see the mental toughness to make me believe [the Heat are] going to win this game, and I see plenty of mental toughness for the Celtics,” Broussard said.
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