There is a lot to be worried about after watching Miami's abysmal effort against Charlotte on Saturday night, but I've narrowed it down to three major points.
Dwyane Wade's foul trouble. This is beginning to look like a trend. The beauty of Wade's play as a rookie, in the Shaq years and with the Olympic team this summer was his ability to fill a role. Now, it may have been a major role, like that of primary offensive option on the '06 Heat, or a more limited role, like that of offensive-minded point guard as a rookie or sixth man energy boost with Team USA (though he ended up leading the team in scoring).
The point is that Wade has always excelled when he knows what's expected of him, even if that's a lot. The problem now is that Wade's job description with the 08-09 Heat can best be described as "everything," even, as Ned Flanders once said about the Bible, the stuff that contradicts the other stuff. He needs to carry the offense while getting other guys involved. He needs to play lockdown defense on the other team's best perimeter scorer while also forcing turnovers. He needs to gamble defensively and make things happen without leaving his undersized big men protectors exposed. He needs to help on the boards and get out on the fast break. He needs to reestablish his own star in the context of the daily NBA grind while providing veteran guidance to two hard-headed rookies, like an honor student whose grades suffer because the lazy teacher makes him help the kids that are struggling.
Wade can be the best player on the best team in the league. He's already proven that. But if he is to fill that role, he needs guys that fill theirs. I don't know that anyone on this team knows what his role is, not to mention whether he can capably fill it. It's early yet, but this can't become a lost season before such things are figured out.
To get back to the original point, I think Wade's foul trouble is a by-product of his futile attempt to be all things at all positions. Of course, that only compounds the issue because the team will fall behind without him, and he will feel an even greater need to overcompensate when he returns.
Pressure on the ball. Mario Chalmers has been better than expected, but his limitations are obvious. And he's one of apparently four point guards on this roster that can't break full-court pressure without taking all 8 seconds and risking a series of dangerous cross-court passes. The issue was glaring enough for Erik Spoelstra to look to Chris Quinn, who could have played his way back into the rotation had he not had similar troubles in setting up the offense under duress. This game established a valuable scouting report for Miami's future opponents: pressure the ball, and you've crippled the offense. The Heat's only options in overcoming this are internal improvement from their point guards (not likely to happen overnight), a Marion trade for a point guard upgrade (which would shatter Chalmers' confidence) or piling that job on Wade's overflowing plate as well.
Shawn Marion's role. Or to be more precise, the fact that he doesn't have one. Ira Winderman wrote a spot-on assessement of this situation for the Sun-Sentinel, and I agree that Marion is killing his value with his middling efforts so far. He makes the occasional play just because he's immensely talented, but it's clear he has no idea where to be or what to do while he's out there. It's honestly hard to watch at times. With Udonis Haslem's stellar play so far and Michael Beasley adapting reasonably well, there's no reason why Marion can't be traded for a center, point guard or shooter. I'm assuming Pat RIley's waiting for the right offer to come along, and that might mean this will drag out until February. Here's hoping it's cleared up far sooner than that.
It's kind of early in the year to be thankful for a respite, but Miami's off until Wednesday night home game vs. Philly. The break comes at a good time.