LeBron James manages to influence the Miami Heat's quest for a home-court edge in the standings although he is a thousand miles away in Cleveland. The speculation of James pairing up with Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul sent Miami media into such a frenzy, they practically ignored an important game in San Antonio that evening.
After the loss to the Spurs, Miami fell from third place to fifth to lose home court advantage in the first series of post-season play. That is how tight the Eastern Conference race is for playoff positioning. The Heat won't have the easy schedule they are counting on either. On Thursday, March 24, the Cavaliers lost to the Nets 95-104, and the Bulls lost to the Knicks 94-106. Those games should remind the Heat they are competing against NBA professionals, regardless of the standings.
James famously "goes dark" to eliminate all outside chatter to focus exclusively on basketball. Perhaps Heat players and management should follow the same course and eliminate all non-basketball related activities from their consciousness, until after the season ends. The double-digit loss to the Spurs exposed the Heat as a second-tier team, which is not yet on the same level of mental preparation as the Spurs or Golden State Warriors.
The record-setting play of the Sioux Falls Skyforce sets an example of focusing solely on basketball. Located in desolate Sioux Falls, the team receives no media attention, which is fine with them since their lives revolve around finding ways to win. Their 37-8 record speaks for itself.
Coach Dan Craig has a very simple technique to motivate the team: he circles the number 38 on the game plan to remind them of the NBA D-League record for wins. A definite and concrete goal beats a vague call of "identity" every time. Coach Erik Spoelstra did the same with Josh Richardson when 69 three-point makes out of a hundred was not good enough. Nothing less than 70 of a 100 would do.
The chatter in the media of if and when Chris Bosh or Tyler Johnson will return distracts from what the Heat need to accomplish for the rest of the season as a team. The number 50 with a circle around it would give them a concrete goal of 50 wins for the season. That definiteness of purpose would crowd out all the noise, such as who gets what nickname. That goal would also unite the team as a singular unit, instead of each playing chasing their own particular agenda.
Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, blogs, etc. accounts going dark would leave the players free to focus on the business of basketball. Richardson mentioned his three-point shooting improved after banning playing video games on game days, because video games sapped his mental energy. Once he let his mind think only about making baskets, his turnaround was astonishing. Coming off the bench he was the top scorer against the Spurs.
Ironic how the bright lights of New York and Los Angeles have recently made the Knicks and Lakers lottery teams. Anthony and Paul have yet to win a ring, even though they play in cities that never sleep. Maybe that is their problem, because San Antonio offers little else to spend time on besides win basketball games. The fact is the only place where any of the four won any rings was in Miami.
Perhaps James has a smiling face and hidden agenda to take the Heat's attention from winning 50 or more games this season. Each loss prevents the Heat from reaching their goal. There is no unimportant game when the team looks at each one from that angle. Going dark to block all media chatter may be the only way to combat the possible mind games players and organizations are using to stop the Heat from winning it all.
Even the mighty Spurs have never, in their storied past, won two NBA championships in a row like the Heat did. In the last 25 seasons only a single team, the Boston Celtics in 2008, have gone from a lottery to a championship team the next season. In 2007 the Celtics were 24-58, then went on to win 66 games in 2008 and the NBA Finals.
David Berri notes, "Since 1985, only two teams (the Miami Heat in 2006 and the Houston Rockets in 1995) have managed to win an NBA title without winning at least 66 percent (54 wins in an 82-game season) of their games."
As a lottery side note he wrote, "In fact, in the lottery era (since 1985) only the San Antonio Spurs (with David Robinson and Tim Duncan) have drafted a player number one and won a title with that player."
By going dark in social and other media in order to focus on a single "worthy ideal," as Earl Nightingale put it, the Heat may be able to recapture their unexpected 2006 triumph and join the Celtics as the only teams to go from lottery to supremacy.