The funny thing about the current grousing is it’s not coming from the usual outsiders, the Heat Haters. It’s almost exclusively coming from the Heat’s own fans, the people who were so protective of their team when it seemed the entire country was rooting for their downfall.
The biggest problem fans see with this team is they just haven’t seemed to hit their stride. And it’s 32 games into the season, past the one-third mark and approaching halfway.
Heat fans want to see aggressive rebounding, not the hit-and-miss effort they’ve seen so far. You may recall Miami defeated Minnesota despite being outrebounded by 28 in a 103-92 victory on Dec. 18.
Well, on Friday the Heat lost to Chicago, 96-89, after being outrebounded by 20.
Miami is second-to-last in the NBA in rebounds at 39.1 per game and there’s no end in sight. The Heat are a smallish team, same as they were last season when it didn’t seem to be such a worrisome obstacle.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team hasn’t played a meaningless regular-season game since the Big Three joined forces three seasons ago, is taking his usual pragmatic approach to the fan upheaval.
“You have to deal with a lot of ups and downs during the course of an 82-game regular season,” Spoelstra said. “It can be a grind. You play it for a reason. You play it to get better and to prepare yourself for when it really matters.”
There’s also concern among fans that James is playing too many minutes. They worry he will be worn down “when it really matters.” James is averaging 38.3 minutes, seventh in the NBA. That shouldn’t be a huge matter considering James averaged 38.8 minutes two years ago, his first with the Heat, and 37.5 minutes last season, when they won the title.
But all of sudden, everything is a big deal to Heat fans. They are acting as though their perception – the Heat are sputtering – is reality.
And maybe that is the reality, relatively speaking.
Heat fans, however, are past the point of silent worry. They have channeled their concern through Twitter, message boards and radio call-in shows. It’s becoming a feeding frenzy.
Arison had heard enough Sunday. It was why he felt the need to rap his fans on their knuckles with a ruler.
Through a team spokesman, he told the Miami Herald he wants fans “just to chill and enjoy the ride. We’re not going to win every game.”
Heat fans are wary of that type of attitude. They are worried that they have seen this movie before, in 2006-07 when, admittedly, the defending champion Heat were under much different leadership. That team had the same relaxed, nothing-to-see-here gene.
No one is thinking this season’s Heat team will have a first-round flameout in the same fashion as the 2007 squad. That won’t come close to happening.
The concern is this team won’t reach its full potential, meaning they won’t repeat as champions.
Heat players have expressed mild concern about the rebounding and the road record. But it’s nowhere near the concern of a large contingent of their fans.
HeatNation is worried. If the Heat doesn’t produce immediate results on this six-game road trip, expect that worry to spread.
Chris Perkins is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com, covering the NBA and the Miami Heat. His columns appear every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter.