Miami has now hit the 20 game mark of a 72 game season, which is when most teams would normally have an idea of what they are. For the Heat, that hasn’t been the case for reasons out of their hands. But things aren’t as simple as merely blaming COVID protocols. Questions and frustrations are starting to add up at a rate that can’t be ignored. And now they find themselves at 7-13 and tied for 11th in the East in this bizarre NBA season.
*record scratch* *freeze frame* Yup, that’s the Miami Heat. You’re probably wondering how they ended up in this situation. For starters, the team has had 14 different starting lineups already, and Jimmy Butler has played only 8 games. They’ve had to play Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and Chris Silva more minutes than anyone should feel comfortable with. It’s not even that they’re getting minutes, but that they’ve been relied upon to do more than what they’re capable of in their prolonged stints. That’s been the tip of the iceberg that continues to threaten to sink the Miami Heat season. But the time for excuses has seemingly run its course on the fanbase. No longer does anyone want to hear about “getting everyone back” and seeing what you have. The very same glaring holes the team had coming into the season are still there. The same holes you had even before a game that should never have happened in D.C. started a protocol tailspin into sports hell.
“What you have” is a defense that is still struggling to contain dribble penetration and giving up 3s at an almost historical rate. Not to forget the turnover and rebounding problems that have lingered and stuck around like an unwelcome houseguest. Losing to the Magic and squeaking by teams like the Wizards, Hornets, and Kings on a nightly basis isn’t going to calm anyone’s worries. That very first game of the season against the Orlando Magic was a precursor of things to come. A game where they had everyone on hand yet allowed 113 points and gave away the ball like a Panda Express employee giving free samples at the mall. That game showed the flaws that are still apparent to this day.
While it’s true that the team has been hit hard by COVID protocols, it shouldn’t blind people to the fact that they aren’t good enough as is. They haven’t proven it in their limited time out there. Even going back to last season, the team was at .500 when the calendar flipped to 2020. It was until the team finally answered their questions at the Power Forward position and started a reinvigorated Goran Dragic when they reached its best and most cohesive form. A form that found the perfect balance of defense and offense they wanted all along. That form eludes them now, as both the team and fans clamor to fill those very same gaps that they had filled before. They didn’t answer those questions in the offseason as they struck out on every free agent power forward that would help their current situation. They were hamstrung by wanting to leave space for the 2021 offseason, which was supposed to have some major stars available. But now that all those stars are off the table, it makes it all the more frustrating that you were left with an empty plate. A plate that includes a generous portion of Moe Harkless that hasn’t filled up a starving appetite.
So you can understand the frustration being shared amongst everyone involved as time runs out in a shortened season filled with so many uncertainties. They just saw you go to the Finals and come within 2 wins of another title. Please don’t blame them for having even just an ounce of expectations for you. The organization itself knows competing for a title is first on their mind, especially after their comments that spoke of owing it to Jimmy Butler to win now. So why shouldn’t fans feel the same way? They’ve seen what a championship-contending team looks like — and what they see out there is a team in desperate need of a tune-up.
There’s a certain point where a never-ending avalanche of questions overwhelms you as you continue to struggle for answers. You can’t find yourself staring at a 9-15 record before a 7 game west coast road trip is at your doorstep. And that’s what everyone is afraid will happen unless things change in the immediate future. There is a genuine and terrifying chance that things could get even worse soon. You want to hopefully get the ship somewhat afloat before the sinking can even begin. You can imagine just how frustrated the actual players must be. They want to win as desperately as any Miami Heat team before them. But the answers are more than likely not on the team, which could be tough to swallow for them as they’ve grown so close together. The timelines of some of the player might not line up with where the Heat want to be. It’s why you see so many people clamoring for a trade. The answer could lie in a move similar to the Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala trade of last season. It might have to be even more moves than that, to be honest.
Are you willing to wait until the trade deadline to possibly find that answer? You might be too late at that point, which adds even more throbbing to the headache. Make no mistake about it; if the team wins a few more in a row in the current “soft part” of their schedule, many of the same questions will still be there. It will just be a nice bandaid to a hemorrhaging patient. You’ll still need the tourniquet and sever what isn’t working. Most of the time, it feels like people want a trade just for the sake of a transaction, but this team is in genuine need of a change-up. Maybe it’s for the long-desired PJ Tucker along with Victor Oladipo? Or even a guy like Otto Porter Jr or Thaddeus Young, along with a swing at Lonzo Ball, might help. At this point, it’s just about who, not when—someone to spark that same magic and fill those gaps that you got at last year’s deadline.
Hopefully, things will get better soon, but you can’t simply hope. There will need to be some action. Whether that’s improved play on the court or a move that’ll reignite everyone, it needs to come soon. Time is ticking on not only this season but for the clocks of Jimmy Butler’s best years and Goran Dragic’s waning career. The frustration around this year will soon either be put to a stop by the team, or it’ll boil over into a wasted year that no one wants. Hopefully, the team and organization soon figure out how to stop the dam from breaking before the drowning starts.
Marco Romo (@Marco_Romo) is a new contributor to Five Reasons Sports Network.