But here’s where the wily part of Spoelstra’s plan comes into play. He picked three guys – Wade, Bosh and Haslem – whom he knows won’t take this move the wrong way. At least that’s what Spoelstra is banking on.
He knows these guys. He knows how they likely will react and how that could boost the rest of the team.
Spoelstra’s strong relationship with Wade has been well-documented. When Spoelstra was an assistant and Wade a young player, Wade often would walk into the gym at night, tap on Spoelstra’s window, and the two would work for hours on Wade’s jumper.
Their relationship was tested – and questioned – publicly during last year’s East semifinals vs. Indiana when Wade yelled at Spoelstra on the sideline during a Game 3 loss. They endured, and the Heat went on to win that series and the title. Spoelstra is thinking their relationship will outlast a one-game speed bump.
The same goes for Haslem. He is a trusted veteran and perhaps the hardest worker on the team, James included. And Bosh is such a team-first guy and intelligent player, he will likely commit to working harder – which the Heat need to resolve their rebounding problems.
Spoelstra attempted to deflect when speaking about the Heat’s issues after the game.
“Everybody in our locker room – staff, players, everybody included – has to give more, and that’s the bottom line,” Spoelstra said, “We have to give more to get us over the hump and get a quality win.”
But it was clear Spoelstra was hoping to make a statement by benching some of his best and most-trusted players.
And there’s no reason to play mind games with James. He’s the Best Player on the Planet and seems to be getting better every week. He is 18 points shy of becoming the youngest player to reach 20,000 points, which would beat Kobe Bryant’s mark by a year.
But with the next-level players – Wade, Bosh and Haslem – Spoelstra saw an opportunity and took it. Wade was playing relatively terribly with 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting, Bosh had only one rebound in 27 minutes and Haslem was scoreless with five rebounds in 19 minutes.
Spoelstra’s decision wasn’t without consequences; the Heat fell to 8-9 on the road and 1-3 on their current six-game road trip, which ends with nationally televised toughies in Golden State on Wednesday and Los Angeles against the Lakers on Thursday.
But let’s face it: By benching those guys, Spoelstra took a calculated risk in an unwinnable game. His action wasn’t without thought. It won’t have negative repercussions.
Most likely, Spoelstra will talk to Wade, Bosh and Haslem individually today just to smooth things over and make sure there’s no lasting damage. It’s all part of coaching, and so far Spoelstra has done it pretty well.
Chris Perkins is a veteran Miami-based sports journalist who covers the Miami Heat for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.