The Miami Heat have promoted team camaraderie to a level where the concept appears to hinder the aggressiveness needed to win games. The champion Detroit Badboys were not known for having particularly pleasant personalities on the basketball court.
This season, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are winning games due to a "chip on their shoulder." The Warriors lost without Draymond Green, who is noted for his chippy attitude. LeBron James played with anger while with the Heat: just ask Mario Chalmers.
In the Heat's 24-point win over the Dallas Mavericks on New Year's Day, their biggest victory margin of the season so far, coach Rick Carlisle said afterwards, "The bottom line tonight is they played an angrier game."
Contrast that with Miami coming out flat in the second half against the OKC Thunder Sunday night with little left in the tank at the end of their long road trip. Their point total was the lowest of the season and they suffered the biggest margin of defeat thus far this season.
In losing five out of their last seven games, the collective fighting spirit was there, but too many missed assignments or needless hand-offs not wanting to take control of the ball were made. In other words, let the other guy fix the problem. Individual responsibility seemed to be sorely lacking at times, especially on the offensive end, where everyone should contribute putting points on the board, i.e. making one or two baskets in a game makes life too easy for the other team.
In the last three contests the Heat blew a double-digit lead against the Clippers, overcame a double-digit deficit versus the Nuggets, and got blown out by 20 points in second half in Oklahoma City. The Heat had "A" and "B" sides during these games. The ferocious "A" side of the Heat certainly dominated or made life very difficult for their opponent.
In getting together to build team chemistry, the "feel good" persona can carry over onto the playing floor where a calmness and lack of energy seems to take hold after taking double-digit leads. Assuming teammates will cover each other's mistakes shows up as sloppy play and costly turnovers.
Trust between players is essential, but what happens when a players feels he can make dumb plays and the other guy will cover up for him? That has shown up way too many times in recent losses with lackadaisical ball-handling and lazy shots being taken.
Each player needs to tighten up their own game, much as Stephen Curry relentlessly elevates his own skill set. Curry works on his own shot, dribbling and passing to his highest level. He does not expect other players to bail him out. The same could be said about Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant: they all worked on rescuing their team, not the team saving them.
Being a ball-stopper or ball-hog doesn't win games either. Winners have a combination of talent and determination not to let the other team prevail. Whenever other teams go on 20-point runs against the Heat, it looks likes the trust factor has gone too far: players expect their teammates to be the stoppers.
As Rick Carlisle noted earlier this month, the Heat win when they get angry. Even James said the Cavaliers need to play with a sense of rage to win a championship, which every winning team had in them.
An added note on keeping a winning focus: don't whine about the referees. Too often Heat players lose a step on defense while they plead their case for a foul not being whistled. Or they waste time talking to refs instead of planning what to do on the next possession. Who cares what the referee thinks? That's idle chatter.
Heat players go back upcourt slowly still sulking about the last play, a step behind their assignment. The energy and anger are misplaced more on being wronged by the official than getting back on defense during crucial possessions.
The Miami Heat have the talent, now they need to take responsibility for their own actions and not expect their teammates to win games for them. That includes highly-paid players in street clothes, who cannot win games as observers. Choices need to be made by management on the reserve players with the Heat at the midpoint of their season.