Saturday 8 p.m. update: LeBron's message; Interesting words from Haslem; NBA Finals chatter; Analysts lash out at Heat
Highlights and nuggets from the Heat and Spurs media availabilities today on the eve of Game 5 of the NBA Finals:
### Here's what LeBron James said he will tell his teammates Sunday, with Miami trying to become the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA Finals:
"Why not us? Why not us? History is broken all the time. And obviously we know we're against the greatest of odds. No team has ever come back from a 3‑1 deficit in the Finals, but there was a point where no team came back from a 2‑0. There was a point where no team came back from a 3‑0. There was a point where no team came back from a 3‑1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals, and then Phoenix did it. One of our teammates was on that team, James Jones.
"There is a point where no team came back from a 3‑1 or 3‑0 deficit in the ALCS, and then the Red Sox did it against the Yankees.
"So history is made to be broken, and why not me be a part of it? That would be great. That would be a great story line, right?
"But we'll see what happens. I've got to live in the moment, though, before we even get to that point.
### James, who is averaging 27.3 points in the series, said: "I've been telling myself I need to do more. Is it too much to ask myself? I don't know. I don't know. I need to do more because what I'm doing isn't enough."
### On pace to set a record for allowing the highest field-goal percentage ever in an NBA Finals, Heat players reiterated Saturday what they’ve been saying for a week: The defensive breakdowns need to stop.
A tape posted on Deadspin.com displays numerous examples of delinquent defense by Dwyane Wade in these NBA Finals. But among Heat players, he’s hardly alone.
“It’s shocking – the way they’ve been scoring, it’s almost like we have no defensive presence out there,” Rashard Lewis said Saturday. “It’s almost like they’re an offensive juggernaut right now. It felt like everything we did, we were a step slow in all our rotations. We were always late.”
Lewis said “more than anything, we have to control the penetration. When they penetrate and get into the paint, it creates those wide open threes and dump-off layups.”
LeBron James said Saturday that “great offense beats great defense any day. But we’ve had some mistakes.”
### Erik Spoelstra, asked if he expects to use Udonis Haslem more, said:
"Possibly. He's on my mind. These are the type of games where he's proven himself, and you need somebody to rely on that's been there and has proven that those tough things, when your back is against the wall, but we'll see."
### Haslem wondered if the Heat has fallen “into the trap” because there’s no hostility toward the Spurs.
“Everybody knows we don’t like Indiana,’ he said. “Everybody knows we don’t like Brooklyn, going back to the Boston days. These guys, when Tim Duncan gets an offensive foul, he’ll grab you and ask you if you’re OK. You kind of fall into that level of relaxation against these guys. Right now, I don’t want anybody helping me up unless they’re on my team. Don’t help me up when you knock me down, Tim. And I’m not going to help you up.
“We’ll have that discussion. It’s not to say, ‘Go out and play dirty.’ That’s not what we’re going to do. Definitely, there needs to be more of an edge, make things tougher. We have the personnel to get their field goal percentage down.”
### When a reporter told James he seemed in a pleasant mood and asked him if he was angry the past couple of days, he said: “Of course. I was extremely upset, sad, very emotional to myself after Games 3 and 4.”
But he added: “I’m in a good place in my life. It’s basketball.” He said having “two championships” helps his peace of mind.
Several players said the team’s mood is upbeat. “We have no time for shock and awe,” Chris Bosh said, “or the same thing will happen Sunday.”
Said Lewis: “Guys on this team stand up to challenges. We play at our best with our backs against the wall.”
### Wade told TNT's Rachel Nichols that Bosh invited Wade, LeBron and Haslem to dinner last night to talk about the series.
### Asked if he would get on teammates who are making mistakes, James said: "I hold guys accountable. I don't let things slide."
### James said his ankle, which he “turned” in Game 2, is “a little sore, but it hasn’t limited me much. As the night goes on, it gets a little worse.”
### Wade said physically, he is “totally fine” and “way better than I’ve been in a long time.”
Of his 3 for 13 shooting in Game 4, he said: “That doesn’t happen to me often.”
On an off day Friday, he went to the arena “to feel the ball and wonder why I missed so many floaters. I’m high percentage around the basket, so I don’t like missing those shots.”
### Yahoo! reported that Chicago and Houston are the favorites to sign Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who likely will receive a call from the Heat when free agency begins. Anthony reportedly will opt out of his Knicks contract.
Even though the Spurs have a 3-1 series lead, guard Manu Ginobili said the fact the Spurs squandered two chances to close out last year’s Finals gives them pause for thought heading into Game 5 on Sunday. “We were match point last year twice and they still beat us,” he said.
And Tim Duncan said that lessens the likelihood of the Spurs feeling comfortable heading into Game 5.
“We go back to last year and we learn from that,” Duncan said. “We're 30 seconds away [in Game 6]. We feel that we have it in the bag and it slips out of our fingers. We know that they're back‑to‑back champs and they've been in this situation before and they have all the confidence in the world that they can win these games.”
### The Spurs ran nearly a mile more than the Heat during Game 4, according to SportVU data. And yet whereas the Spurs played crisply and efficiently and with great energy throughout, the Heat seemed a step slow and sluggish at times.
There are several reasons for this. Because Heat players have been beaten off the dribble so much the past two games, other defenders have needed to leave their man to help, leaving other Heat players scrambling to defend the shooter that’s often left open as a result.
“Moving the ball, changing sides, anyone would struggle with that,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “And keeping that [fast] pace maybe hurts them.”
But are the Spurs a better conditioned team, as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith keeps insisting? Ginobili and Danny Green were reluctant to touch that topic, but Green suggested one difference in energy level probably results in how Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has limited the minutes of his starters.
Consider: Over the past three regular seasons, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have combined for 20,888 regular season minutes. Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili have played 15,699.
“We just have a very deep bench that helps us,” Green said. “All season we haven’t had to play anyone more than 30 minutes per game which is big for us. Nobody has played crazy minutes.”
### Green said he is “shocked” the Spurs have won the past two games by a combined 40 points. “We didn’t expect to win both like that,” Manu Ginobili said.
### Tim Duncan, asked if he might retire after this series, said Saturday: “I'm not saying I'm retiring. I'm not saying I'm not retiring. I'm not saying anything. I'm going to figure it out as it goes. I've always said if I feel like I'm effective, if I feel like I can contribute, I'll continue to play. Right now I feel that way, so we'll see what happens."
Duncan has a $10.3 million player option for next season.
### Chris Bosh said the Heat is surprised every time Kawhi Leonard attacks the basket, but Leonard doesn’t understand why. “I’ve been driving the basketball all year,” he said.
Leonard has scored 49 points over the past two games after Popovich implored him to be more aggressive. “That’s the reason Pop’s been riding him and pushing him to be the guy,” Green said.
### Green said the Spurs are assuming Wade will not have another night like Game 4, when he scored 10 points and shot 3 for 13.
“D-Wade younger was more explosive but it doesn’t mean he’s not efficient,” Green said. “I still play him and think he’s D-Wade. We know he’s not going to shoot like that game.”
As Ginobili noted, “He was pretty quiet in Game 6 last year (14 points) and came in Game 7 and killed us” with 23 points.
### Parker said the fact he has been able to experience this run with Ginobili and Duncan “makes it all worth it. All three, we took less money to stay here and to win championships. So it makes it even better to have been able to play my whole career with Timmy and Manu and experiencing those great moments we're never going to forget our whole life.”
### The Spurs can’t stop raving about the impact of Boris Diaw, who became a starter in the third game. “He’s been fantastic in both games,” Ginobili said. “Attacking the rim, finding a teammate open, punishing them with mismatches.”
### Through four games, The Finals are averaging 14.9 million viewers, compared with 14.8 million for last year’s Heat-Spurs Finals. San Antonio produced a far higher rating than Miami-Fort Lauderdale for game 4 --- 47.4 to 28.8.
In the wake of another Spurs’ blowout win, national TV pundits unleashed a torrent of criticism toward the Heat on Friday. Among the notable comments:
### TNT/NBA TV’s Charles Barkley: “These were two beat downs. This series is over. I was 100 percent wrong. I picked the Heat to win the series. As much as I respect what they’ve accomplished, they can’t beat the Spurs. Boris Diaw made Chris Bosh ineffective” because Barkley said Diaw can defend Bosh by the three-point line better than others can.
Barkley said LeBron James “doesn’t have that Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant thing. He let the lead increase (in Game 3) and he never became aggressive. As great as a player he is, that’s the one thing he doesn’t have. At some times, I wish he was a little bit more selfish. He’s just a nice guy. He doesn’t have that nasty instinct.”
“Kawhi Leonard is one of the few players that can make him work. He is athletic enough and strong enough physically. The biggest problem with LeBron is that he is quicker than most guys and he’s stronger than most guys. Kawhi Leonard reminds me of the great Scottie Pippen. He can guard a guy. He’s quick enough and has some meat on his bones.”
### ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith: “It’s over. They don’t have anything outside of LeBron James. Nobody else showed up. It was a pathetic performance. Kawhi Leonard again looked like the best player on the court. If they win, it will involve divine intervention.
“The Spurs are not just a better team; they are a team in better condition. The thing that has gotten me depressed is [the Heat] were tired in the second quarter. In the first quarter, Dwyane Wade was heaving. With this sense the Miami Heat is no longer good enough, you’ve got to get LeBron help. If you don’t, LeBron may say goodbye.”
### ABC’s Jalen Rose: “Bosh didn’t show up. Gravity caught up with Wade. Rashard Lewis and Mario Chalmers would not be starting on teams this elite if they didn’t have [the Big Three] to play with.”
### ABC’s Bill Simmons interjected: “I don’t think [Lewis or Chalmers] would be playing for teams this elite… I saw a guy [Wade] who looked really tired, played three games in five days. He had no lift, wasn’t hustling. He’s not the same two-way player any more.”
### TNT’s/ NBA’s TV Shaquille O’Neal: “When the Heat turns to one-on-one, they’re not that good. When they hold the ball, they’re not a very good team and they’re showing it right now. The Spurs want it more. You need to have a lot of energy and effort. The Heat don’t seem to have that. They miss… Mike Miller.”
### ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: “No energy. Defensively lost. They have no idea what to do. They were shell-shocked.”
### But noted Heat critic/ESPN pundit Skip Bayless warned: “It’s not over. If any team has the psyche to make history, it’s” the Heat.
James, asked if the Heat needs to make tactical adjustments, answered this way: “They put you in positions that no other team in this league does, and it’s tough because you have to cover the ball first, but also those guys on the weak side can do multiple things. They can shoot from outside. They can also penetrate. So our defense is geared towards running guys off the three-point line, but at the same time, those guys are getting full steam ahead and getting to the rim, too.”
James said the other “challenge” is Diaw’s insertion in the starting lineup beginning in Game 3. “That has given them another point guard on the floor.”
### The Heat is the first team to lose by at least 40 points combined in consecutive Finals games since the 76ers did against Portland in 1977.
### Before the Heat did it this week, no team had trailed by at least 20 points in consecutive NBA Finals games since the Nets against the Lakers in 2002.
### Before this week, the Heat had not trailed by as many as 19 points in consecutive home games since December 2008, against Atlanta and Milwaukee.
### The Heat has played 86 playoff games over the past four seasons, the most in history, breaking a tie with the Celtics, who played 85 from 1984 to 1987.
### James’ 19 points in the third quarter of Game 4 were the most by a player in a home Finals game since Michael Jordan had 22 in the second quarter of a 1993 Finals game against Phoenix. “I had a huge third quarter but it meant nothing,” James said.
### Udonis Haslem’s contract situation seems pretty straightforward: He has a $4.62 million player option for next season, the last year of his contract, and he said Thursday that his plan is to opt into that contract, as everyone would expect.
But there’s a variable that could leave him with a more complicated decision to make this summer.
If the Heat believes it can somehow convince Carmelo Anthony to join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, the Heat likely would ask Haslem to opt out and sign a multi-year deal for less money.
Even if Anthony proves to be an unrealistic target, the Heat would still have the option of asking Haslem to opt out and take a pay cut to lessen its onerous luxury tax burden, in exchange for a new multiyear contract.
Haslem made clear Thursday that he would love to spend several more seasons with the Heat.
Asked if he would be willing to take less for a longer deal, Haslem said: “It’s something I would sit down and talk about with my family and Hank [agent Henry Thomas].”
Haslem, who turned 34 on Monday, has sacrificed for the Heat before; he took a five-year, $20 million contract in 2010 instead of five-year deals which could have reached $35 million with Dallas or Denver.
The Heat has shown loyalty to Haslem, declining to pursue a February trade with Philadelphia that would have potentially sent Haslem and other pieces to the 76ers for Evan Turner.
Haslem, 6-8, noted: “If I was an inch or two more, I would be making $2 million more. But if I’m not the size I am, maybe I’d be lazy and not have the work ethic I have.”
### Twice in this postseason, James has publicly called for more minutes for James Jones. And after Game 1 of the Finals, Dwyane Wade publicly implored Erik Spoelstra to go deeper into his bench.
Do any of these comments by the Heat’s stars bother Spoelstra? The coach indicated they do not, adding: “There’s open communication about it.”