LeBron James is searching for answers.
The Miami Heat star forward has seen his team go through spirited practices, detailed film sessions and brutally honest performance evaluations in the past few days. But on recent game nights, those productive practices, the corrective measures from video breakdowns and much of the accountability sessions have proved about as useful as a flattened basketball.
Perhaps that’s one reason why James didn’t go overboard Thursday about how meaningful the Heat’s lengthy film session was before they took the court for practice at Temple University to prepare for Friday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
It’s no longer about tactics, tape and talk as the Heat look to emerge from their worst funk of the season. Having lost three consecutive games, and four of their past seven, James suggested it’s time for the all of the words to stop and the work to resume when it matters most.
“It just has to be done on the floor, on the game court,” James said. “Every time we practice, we have a great practice. But we’ve got to translate the practice mentality and the focus into the game situation. We had another great day [Thursday], as far as the film session and what needs to be done to help us get better. Guys got their individual work in. But we have to do it on the floor as well.”
The Heat are coming off arguably their worst performance of the season. They trailed Washington by 34 points, closed the deficit to nine and went on to lose 114-97. There have been struggles at both ends of the court in recent weeks. Miami has given up at least 102 points in each of the past three games, with nine of their 11 losses on the season coming against teams with losing records.
The Heat also have consistently gotten off to slow starts in which they routinely fall behind by double figures. Offensively, James has struggled with turnovers and Miami’s primary 3-point shooters, including Ray Allen and Shane Battier, have been in a deep freeze while trying to play through nagging injuries.
The team’s chemistry has been disrupted by injuries, with as many as three starters having missed games during this six-game road trip. But the effort, energy and focus have also waned. After Wednesday’s debacle in Washington, James said the team is playing like it’s drained from the start.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra tried to get to the root of the issues with Thursday’s extended film session.
“We reviewed everything,” Spoelstra said. “Certainly we’ve had slippage defensively. Today was really about getting in and watching it and seeing how far we’ve slipped. We have to take care of that end. Our offense is part of that. When we’re efficient offensively and making other teams have to work, getting the type of shots we want, we can get our defense set. So it does work hand in hand. It was about getting our standards together. Today was about trying to catch it before it gets any worse. We’ve had a practice. We’ve had a shootaround. We’ve had film. It’s a matter of doing it now.”
James said part of the problems offensively stem from settling for jumpers and not attacking.
“We can’t allow our offense to get us in trouble,” James said. “When we’re not shooting the ball well, we have to do a better job of getting into the paint, slowing the game down and getting to the free-throw line. We saw ways we can clean things up. I’m looking forward to seeing how we’ll play [Friday].”
After playing his first NBA regular-season game in more than four years, Heat center Greg Oden said the last thing he thinks about on the court is whether he might injure his knees yet again.
“Honestly, when I was out there [Wednesday], I didn’t even think about my knees,” Oden said Thursday, a day after he finished with six points and two rebounds in eight minutes against the Wizards. “So it’s just a matter of if they feel good. I’m not worried about what’s going to happen. I’m worried about just getting out there and playing.”
It’s not clear when Oden’s next shot at playing time will come. The Heat play a back-to-back set Friday against the 76ers and Saturday in Charlotte before wrapping up the trip Monday in Atlanta. Spoelsta said Oden will continue to go through his normal conditioning and test regimen before a determination is made on his availability.
Oden said he didn’t experience any abnormal swelling or pain in his knees in the aftermath of Wednesday’s game, which was his first live action since Dec. 5, 2009 with the Portland Trail Blazers. Oden acknowledged Thursday he still needs to get into better condition in order to play longer than short spurts. He also insists he’ll remain patient with the process he’s followed since signing with the Heat last summer.
Oden said getting a dunk on his first touch of the game gave him an adrenaline boost.
“I was pretty excited,” he said. “I think it allowed me to go a little bit longer than my wind would have me. So that was a good thing.”
Heat starting point guard Mario Chalmers (Achilles tendinitis) practiced Thursday and hopes to return to the lineup Friday. Chalmers has missed the past five games. Center Chris Andersen (knee) did not work out Thursday and will be re-evaluated Friday but is likely to sit out against the 76ers.
Did You Know?
Spoelstra said newly acquired guard Toney Douglas was headed to Miami to complete his physical examination and might join the team on the road over the weekend. The Heat dealt backup center Joel Anthony to the Boston Celtics to acquire Douglas as part of a three-team trade with the Golden State Warriors.
Quote Of The Day
“Sometimes you just need to take a step back and clean up the house a little bit -- give it a good summer cleaning, instead of always just making up the bed.” -- Heat guard Dwyane Wade said Thursday of the Heat’s mindset as they look to correct problems amid their three-game losing streak.