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Heat players on why they think Spo is better; UM freshmen impress; Heat, Fins, Marlins notes

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

He has been criticized by fans, yelled at by Dwyane Wade and blasted by Charles Barkley for not giving the ball more to LeBron James late in games. But Erik Spoelstra has also begun to earn something else from his players and opponents: credit.

There was James’ unprompted testimonial after Thursday’s win at Indiana: “He coached a spectacular series to put us in position to succeed. He made some unbelievable adjustments.” (James asserted earlier in the playoffs that because of Spoelstra, "We're never blind-sided by anything.")

Then there was Bulls guard Richard Hamilton gushing on NBA TV: “Spoelstra doesn’t get enough credit for the job he has done with that team. Awesome job.”

In private interviews, Heat players cite several reasons why Spoelstra is a better coach than a year ago: improved communication, more flexibility and a willingness to take their input.

Not everything has worked, such as starting Dexter Pittman in Game 3 against Indiana. But many of his moves paid dividends recently: starting Shane Battier in Chris Bosh’s absence and having him defend David West; fronting Carmelo Anthony in Game 1 of the Knicks series (which flummoxed him) and often fronting the Pacers' big men (Roy Hibbert said the Heat kept them from getting the ball as much as they wanted); and moving Bosh to center late in the season.

But Heat players said Spoelstra's best adjustment in the final three games of the Pacers series was putting West, instead of Hibbert, in pick-and-rolls "where LeBron and Dwyane can get past him and attack Hibbert," as Battier explained.

And of Spoelstra drawing a $25,000 fine Friday for talking about how much James and Wade are hit in the head, Wade said: "I love it - coach stepping up for his guys."

Contrary to conventional thinking, Battier asserts, “Spo’s job is maybe the most difficult in the NBA because of the level of talent, the expectations. It would be hard to imagine someone else coaching this team. He’s detail-oriented and prepared, and in this league, if you don’t have the details, players know it. He has done as good a job as anyone can with this team.”

Last summer, Spoelstra met with Oregon football coach Chip Kelly, who plays a relentlessly-attacking offense, and implemented some of his ideas on spacing and pacing. The up-tempo approach worked for a while, but players couldn’t maintain it after the All-Star break because of the compacted schedule and mediocre rebounding. “Offensively, Spo’s been more open to thinking outside the box with this team,” Battier said.

But Haslem noted a subtle defensive shift that players appreciated: “We’ve always been a protect-the-paint, non-gambling defense. Now we pride ourselves on being disruptive defensively more than any year I’ve been here. To get our guys in the open floor, you have to maybe gamble a little defensively.”

Bosh, before his injury, said: “You can tell how much effort and hard work Spo put in during the offseason. He’s just gotten better all over the board. You can see in the way he carries himself and delivers his message.”

Bosh said Spoelstra’s willingness to relinquish most of the play-calling during the regular season “was a huge thing because he wants to put his imprint on every game. Sometimes, you just have to let players figure it out.”

Mario Chalmers said Spoelstra called only about 10 plays a game this season and “it made us a better team. We play more freely. I don’t have to look over at him. Last year, he called plays on every possession” except fast breaks. Chalmer said Saturday that Spoelstra is calling more plays in the playoffs "but we're on the same page."

Also, Haslem said this season, “communication between the coaches and players is at the highest it has ever been. This year, Spo’s been real open to a lot of suggestions from players.”

In Wade’s eyes, here’s the biggest change in Spoelstra this year: “Trusting people, everyone from the assistant coaches to the players. When you’re a young coach, you want to control everything. He’s shown the ability to let go some. We commend him for that.” Naturally, appreciation from most of his fan base will come only with a championship.

CHATTER

### What’s the Heat’s best lineup without Chris Bosh? In the playoffs, it’s James, Wade, Battier, Chalmers and Joel Anthony, a unit that is plus 31 in 53 minutes. The Heat is minus two in 41 minutes with starter Ronny Turiaf instead of Anthony paired with the other four, but Anthony is more comfortable coming off the bench.

### Spoelstra said Bosh, at this point, is only able to ride a bicycle and do conditioning work, but no on-court work, which would suggest he's not going to be ready for the early stages of the Eastern Conference Finals, and potentially beyond. Spoelstra said he is "still out indefinitely."

### Game 6 of Heat-Pacers was ESPN’s most watched program since the BCS national championship game. The 17.4 rating in Miami-Fort Lauderdale was comparable to the 17.7 average Dolphins rating last season.

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has noticed a shift in sentiment: “With Jeff Ireland, now you see people are recognizing, maybe the guy did have a plan! Maybe we did do something right!”

Conversations with players have convinced Ross the coaching has improved: “Everything I hear from the players is, ‘This is different. We’re happy with what’s going on.’” And this is the first time I’ve been able to have my imprint on the team. I inherited an awful lot of what Wayne [Huizenga] did.”… The Dolphins are among a handful of teams that have been receiving consideration to appear on HBO’s Hard Knocks training camp series.

### There’s some support on the Marlins coaching staff to try to trade for Houston first baseman Carlos Lee, earning $18.5 million in the last year of his contract. But the front office has not pursued that, believing the Marlins have enough at first and that demoted Gaby Sanchez will get back on track. Lee (.306, four homers, 27 RBI) is 35 and subpar defensively.

### With Emilio Bonifacio out, the next six weeks will be critical for outfielder Chris Coghlan, who hit .321 and won Rookie of the Year in 2009 but has hit .241 in 674 at-bats since, including a 5-for-48 start this year before his big home run Friday. The Marlins are puzzled by the decline; Coghlan attributes it to injuries and not playing everyday. “I’ve been hitting the same way since college,” he said. “I know I’m a good player, but I need to stay out of my own way, not over-think.”

### Teammates’ eyebrows were raised when running back Duke Johnson and cornerback Tracy Howard, both five-star recruits, arrived on UM’s campus a week ago. Maurice Hagens saw enough in one week to call Johnson “amazing.”

“Wow,” Eduardo Clements said of Johnson. “Last week, in 7-on-7s, he caught a pass, made a move, ran for a touchdown, and I’m like, ‘Damn.’ And Tracy is everything everyone makes him out to be – the footwork, breaking on the ball.” Several Hurricanes like what they have seen of receivers Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart.

### Former players love how they have been welcomed back by Al Golden, but when Clements saw Clinton Portis on campus last week, “I was scared to say something. He’s a guy I look up to.” So good guy teammate Mike James got Clements on the phone with Portis, who counseled him about sharing carries with two other backs – the likely scenario for James, Clements and Johnson this fall.

Comments

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TInSouthMiami

As for Ireland, we all know he sucks but we are less vocal as we are now resigned to our fate as one of the bottom 2 teams in the AFC East

DolTail

They better be right on Tannehill or Ireland won't keep his job past 2 more years.

Penguin

Glad that Spoelstra is getting some recognition!

Dom

Canes r gettin deep. Those 2 howard and johnson were the top RB and Cb, #1 rank, nationally. Nice Job AL. good luck tracy and duke. team needs a year to gel and by 2013 we shuld b back playin for titles. Too much talent comin in. already 3 of the 5 committs r espn 150 players, and 1 unranked is Ray Lewis JR who we know has it in that DNA........Nice Job AL.

WE WANT BOSTON HEAT FANS. END THE BIG 3 ERA WITH A SWEEP. I dont think they can keep up with us. Dont go by regular season. last game bench players played. We r waitin for boston to send a message

TInSouthMiami

I guess someone didnt want to leave my comments about the HEAT having a Sh!tty coach posted

sflafan

Lock it in. If the Canes coaches give him the touches, Duke Johnson will be a freshman All American. Tracy Howard should be one of the starting corners when they kickoff the ball game #1. Both are that good.

Matt

Boston should take 2 games, but I can't see them winning any more. Rondo will destroy Miami as usual, but the old guys don't have enough to match up. Heat in 6

OK City or San Antonio should win regardless of who is in the Finals. Those teams are better than Miami even if Bosh is back... going to be changes this offseason.

Dashi

Fire Spo. Title or else. The man only calls 10 plays a game and he still doesn't have time to make substitutions. The guy is a joke. Manny pac Jr. Doesn't know squat about basketball

TimHeat

Spo really isn't that bad. He's an easy scapegoat. Everybody always wants to fire the coach.

Joe

Yep.......somehow..........it seems that Ireland had an excellent draft.Picked mostly all fan favorite players.Intelligent move for the first time.However......90% of the players seem legitimate and will help the Dolphin depth immensely and with much greater speed...for a change.A fast team on both sides of the ball it appears.In regards to the new young freshmen at the U..........sure hope they can IMPACT this new ....mostly Golden players team.Seems like the U is on the verge of building something spectacular.Golden seems well on track.If only he can improve the OVERALL INTENSITY and CHEMISTRY of this new TEAM.GO CANES.

mike

TInSouthMiami, maybe because you're a moron know nothing.

mike

Dashi, I guess you can't read either. The player are more happy with the way he's coaching this year because last year he called plays at every time out, this year he's calling less plays and letting the player be creative, It shows you have never played competitive sports. Because you'd know better if you had/

rboud

It's so easy to rip the coach whenever anything goes wrong. I'm glad coach Spo is finally getting some credit. The Heat will struggle without Bosh against Boston. Wade and James will have to continue their superhuman efforts to win the series.

TInSouthMiami

Good stuff Mike.

The players are "more happy"? Maybe it's you that's the moron

Dashi

First off I'm the only one out here saying "FIRE SPO", and what u read I saw, they all said it with a BS grin on their face. Correcting my grammer has nothing to do with arguing my point. Hey clown if I can't read I can't write. I didn't know I was getting graded. Shucks, oh well guy.

Everybody says he's great. Yet what has he done. Underachieved both years. I've already said some of the things he's does wrong. Can someone please state what he does good.

Again, I could be an autistic quadrapeliegic and my opinion will matter as much as urs

Dashi

Quadriplegic before the principal comes

The U is back!

No Jacory! Yes! Cant wait for Saturdays! The U!!!

Lt. Lois Einhorn

Dashi, Spoelstra convinces a team of stars to swallow their pride and play team-first, defense-first basketball. He translates the vision of the team's president and architect onto the court.

He's juggling lineups where LeBron James and Shane Battier are the only power forwards available and Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony are the only centers.

Coach Spo is just a scapegoat - he called every play last year and they're better this year just letting the offense flow. So I guess he was right to call less plays, huh?

Who are the upgrades to Coach Spoelstra? Pat Riley and Phil Jackson and almost no one else. Riles isn't coming back. Jackson is on peyote.

Ray Finkel

Agreed

miaheatblog.com

Best Xs and Os article on the Heat in a while.
Respect.

Dashi

I just expect a little more out of him. Mike Dantoni, Jerry Sloan, That Punk Jeff Van Gundy, and my pick ZO. I know he's never coached before, but he knows Riley's vision better than anyone. He was there with Riley went they went to visit Lebron. Not Eric

Juwan Howard, Dexter Pittman, James Jones, Norris Cole, and Terrell Harris are not hurt why aren't they seeing time "Consistently" (5 minutes a Game at least). 3 of the 5 shoot better than Shane with their eyes close. I know JJ can. Lebron is playing 42 minutes a game and u have "SPO" saying he needs to play more (Hercules , Hercules). No, U need to coach better U got 12 players use them. Last year we had no bench, No good big men, yet he still played Z, magloire, and Dampier more minutes. He let Bibby sabotage games with his Poor Shooting (Sort of how Shane does). He didn't let Chalmers Develop and Grow as the PG. Picture Chalmer next year running the team. U only get better by playing. I understand in playoffs U shorten rotations, but during the regular season u develop ur players(Celtics, S.A.). Since the regular season doesn't matters? (Use it as 66 practice games) I don't know why they say that. Jordan and Bird always wanted first place in the NBA. That means home court advantage in the Finals. It also usually means that u already beat everybody a couple times and are first at something.

SPO is not a Scapegoat. He is the weakest link on the team and U are only as Strong as ur weakest link.

Dashi

"when they went". before i get yelled at

Lt. Lois Einhorn

A 15 man rotation? Juwan Howard, Dexter Pittman, James Jones, Norris Cole, and Terrell Harris seing 5 minutes a game? Spoelstra didn't let Chalmers grow (!!!)? Play the reserves in the regular season but win as many games as possible to get home court advantage?

Forget it bro, I don't negotiate with logic terrorists.

Dashi

Popavitch must be bin laden? What's wrong with playing everyone on ur team? The game is 48 minutes long. That would mean ur starters avg 38 min a game not bad in my book. Maybe lebron won't get tired/choke if he played under 40 min a game.

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