I thought the title of this article, "Erik Spoelstra Reportedly Frustrating The Heat," was interesting, because it seemed all backwards to me, yet at the same time indicative of one of the things I think is wrong about professional sports, or at least the way we assign responsibility to the way pro sports teams are playing. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say "Heat Players Frustrating Coach Spo," or "Heat Disappointing Fans," or anything that focuses on the responsibilities of the players?
It must be tough to be a pro sports coach... they get most of the blame when things go badly, and precious little credit when things go well. I love the Spurs players and the teamwork & chemistry they've displayed thus far, but as alamobro pointed out just before this season started, the team's fortunes largely depend on Coach Popovich to "mesh (the diverse talents) into a well oiled machine."
Now, the jury is still out on this -- and will be until the end of the season -- but I'd argue that the Spurs' remarkable performance in the early season of this campaign is largely due to Pop. The up-tempo style that better utilizes the skills of his players, the hard work put in by the players in the off-season (how many coaches can tell a vet, you can take the summer off or work hard with me, but I'll trade you if you choose the former?), the focus of the team despite outside distractions, etc. all can be traced back to Pop. (And yes, Pop would be the first to say that it starts with the big guy, TD, setting the tone.)
Yet the press and blogosphere find more entertaining sport in writing stories speculating that Coach Spo is in trouble, that his players are tuning out, that the Heat's poor performance thus far is his fault, or that he's becoming Riley's scapegoat. Because of course, for them to be wrong in their earlier predictions that the superstars 'taking their talent to South Beach' would win championships (and/or 70 games this year), someone has to be responsible. Why not the coach? After all, it's not as if any of the players had anything to do with the way the team was constructed? Oh wait, that's not entirely correct....
But I think it's simpler than that. Chemistry in fact matters, but off-court friendships don't always translate into team chemistry... it can only be tested in the furnace of an 82-game campaign, and ultimately determined in the cauldron of the playoffs. If the Heat's experience this year teaches us anything, it's that you don't put together real teams like fantasy league teams, not if you want them to win real games.
That, and that Dwayne Wade and LeBron James aren't any better at building teams than the average NBA GM.