Miami Heat Index: Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron wrong to flirt with Cavaliers reunion

February, 16, 2012
Wallace By Michael Wallace
LeBron James
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
We thought Cleveland had seen the back of LeBron James for the last time.

If you're a LeBron James homer – some fans, select media members, flunkies, etc. – here's where you owe Kendrick Perkins a bit of an apology for summarily dismissing everything critical the grouchy Oklahoma City center had to say about Heat-Highness in the aftermath of Blake Dunk-gate.

And if you're a LeBron so-called hater – scorned Cavaliers fans, general "Decision" detractors, other select media members – now's as good a time as any for a slight reprieve, considering the attempted olive branch James apparently tried to extend Thursday in Cleveland.

The same LeBron, whom Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert once cast as Le-Benedict, publicly talked about patching things up with his former fan base and entertained the idea of possibly being a Cavalier again.

Yes, really.

“You can't predict the future,” James told reporters. “I'm here as a Miami player and I'm happy where I am now but I don't rule that out in any sense. If I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.”

LeBron, less than two years removed from tearing the town apart with his messy departure, is on the right path to seek forgiveness on some levels for the way he left. He should be commended for taking that step in his other comments Thursday when he admitted that he, too, made a mistake, as did Gilbert, in their actions before and after the decision was made.

But this deal about LeBron seeking acceptance down the line is simply sad.

Yet again, LeBron has put folks in a position where they don't know which way to turn. All they know is that someone stuck a microphone in his face after the Heat's practice in preparation for Friday's game against his former team. LeBron took the inquiry, spun and turned up court with a full head of steam. He then revved up that massive frame to release another highlight.

Only this time, it wasn't a dunk. It was a set of interesting, unbelievable and disturbingly revealing comments that border on both innocent sincerity and a complete lack of self awareness. This was the basketball equivalent of rejecting Dwight Howard at the rim on one end, and seconds later blowing an uncontested dunk on the other.

Part patronizing, part putrid. Completely baffling. And it probably won't be long before LeBron wishes we were John Lucas III, that his latest mind-boggling move would have gone clearly over our heads.

But it didn't.

Perkins clearly went too far, got too personal and seemed too childish when he ripped LeBron the other week for tweeting the delight he, along with the rest of the NBA, took in that dunk Clippers forward Blake Griffin unleashed in Perkins' face. But the mostly misguided Perkins was dead-on accurate when he suggested LeBron is a bit of a tortured soul desperate to be liked.

As well-intentioned as LeBron was for saying what he said Thursday, the only thing he accomplished was showing that he hasn't really come all that far from the way he handled his decision to leave Cleveland as a free agent in 2010 to sign with the Heat.

That's the only reasonable rationale I can see for LeBron saying that he wouldn't rule out one day returning to play again for the franchise that drafted him, and gave him complete run of the city. He returned the love by drastically inflating the value of Gilbert's franchise and leading the Cavaliers to the cusp of championship contention.

To ask whether fans in Cleveland would accept him back is a rhetorical question. Of course they would. As the song goes, it's a thin line between love and hate. And there's no TSA-type security checkpoint at the border of those emotions that allows you to gather yourself and come to your senses before crossing from one side to the other.

But this is more about wishing LeBron would know better after all of this time, all of these public relations stumbles. He should see a Cavaliers franchise that's just starting to regain its balance and feel-good footing with No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving as the clear face of the future. LeBron should know that interjecting himself into any aspect of that future – even the possibility – is borderline disrespectful to both the franchise his decision left in shambles as well as to his current employer, to which he's promised to deliver multiple cases of championship champagne.

Defenders of LeBron will say that it's OK to want to come home, that a large part of you should always long for a hero's return to the place that made you. But not many of us walk out of our own front doors, turn back to publicly trash the lawn and then bail. Granted, LeBron had every right to leave as a free agent who had given eight years to the Cavaliers. But while he was there, he had enough respect for the franchise not to talk about one day playing for another team.

“There's some things I'd want to take back as well,” James said of the venom that spewed between him and Gilbert two summers ago on the way out. “You learn from your mistakes and you move on.”

That's precisely where LeBron should take his own advice and … well, move on.

He shouldn't even be talking about any future that doesn't first include winning a title or two in Miami within the remaining two guaranteed seasons after this on his contract. I realize he was trying to be kind on Tuesday, but he needs to be more clever.

As Big Worm's character in the movie "Friday" would say, there's principalities in this. Heat president Pat Riley would never come out and say it or even show any sign of it, but Thursday's talk can't be sitting well.

LeBron is having the most efficient season of any player in NBA history, the Heat are playing their best ball since James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together and there's no reason to believe Miami isn't on course to finish the job and win a title after falling short in last season's Finals.

But, even though he had good intentions, LeBron made his first bad move in a long while. If he's privately longing for Cleveland – or one day believes he might – give the Heat a heads-up so they could trade him. If not, don't patronize the public.

If Riley ever let word slip that he'd consider trading the two-time MVP to Orlando for Dwight Howard, how do you think LeBron would take it? My guess is he'd go Perkins on someone, whether he's justified or not.

From my view, LeBron is one of the most gifted athletes as well as one of the nicest yet misunderstood guys I've ever seen in sports. Sometimes, I get the sense that he'd trade it all in for the chance to be loved.

For now, LeBron remains a pure beast on the court who has the basketball gifts of a god. Every once in a while, like Thursday, they're overshadowed by the fact he sometimes has the public relations skills of a gremlin.

He should know that he's got a much better chance to win those five, six, seven championships in Miami than he'll ever have at trying to make everybody happy.

'Temp Check' Show: Heat 107, Cavs 91

February, 8, 2012
Wallace By Michael Wallace

MIAMI - LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 50 points and 12 assists, Chris Bosh grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, Mario Chalmers maintained his hot 3-point stroke and the Heat got boosts off the bench from Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem to shut down the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-91 on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Heat (19-6) used one of their strong defensive blitzes early in the fourth quarter, forcing the Cavaliers to miss 13 of their first 15 shots, and turned a contested game into a blowout to win for the eighth time in nine games.

The highlights? Bosh actually got a bit of payback from the last matchup and dunked on Samardo Samuels, who slammed on the Heat five times when the teams met two weeks ago. Mike Miller also got up high enough Tuesday night to dunk a putback attempt - but whiffed on it when he realized he had no business with his hand that far above the rim.

"I knew something was wrong when I was actually looking down at the rim," Miller joked after the game of his fourth-quarter putback attempt gone wrong. "I haven't been that high up in a long time. I didn't know what to do."

Unless it's against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat can't seem to do much wrong these days. Since Jan. 17, Miami is 0-2 against the Bucks, but 11-0 against the rest of the league.

So where do the Heat go from here? Orlando for Wednesday's game to start a potentially grueling six-game road trip that includes Miami's lone back-to-back-to-back set early next week.

In our latest edition of the Heat Index's 'Temp Check' postgame show, we break down the victory over Cleveland, address your questions and concerns about the team moving forward, and set up Miami's longest trip of the season.

Heat 'Temp Check' Postgame Show returns

February, 7, 2012
Wallace By Michael Wallace
MIAMI - With LeBron James set to face his former team again, and the Miami Heat then scheduled to embark on their longest and potentially most grueling road trip of the season, now seems to be the perfect time to run another installment of our Heat Index 'Temp Check' postgame show.

Here's how it works. You watch the Heat-Cavaliers game tonight, then send us your thoughts, questions, concerns and feelings about the team.

You're ticked off about the Heat playing down to the level of competition? Tell us why. You're wondering why LeBron isn't getting the MVP hype he's deserving? Holler at us.

Are you confident after seeing Shane Battier or Mike Miller bounce back with a solid game tonight? Let us know.

You want to know whether we'd trade Erik Spoelstra for Byron Scott straight up right now as Heat coach? Just ask.

It's that simple. Whether you want to rant or rave about the Heat, I'll be there to address your issue and give you a shoutout to go with it. Just hit us on Twitter, Facebook or reply in the comment section of this post with your questions/concerns during and immediately after the game. I'll pick a few to feature in the 'Temp Check' show, and ...

It's on.

In the meantime, check out our last episode below.

Spoelstra says Cavaliers 'a team on the rise'

February, 7, 2012
Wallace By Michael Wallace

MIAMI - The last time the Miami Heat faced Cleveland, the Cavaliers forced LeBron James into one of his toughest outings of the season and nearly left AmericanAirlines Arena with a stunning upset.

Now, two weeks later, No. 1 draft pick Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers are back to challenge the Heat again Tuesday night. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra spoke after the team's morning shootaround about Cleveland's potential to be a headache for plenty of teams in the East this season amid a push for a playoff spot.

"They're a team on the rise," Spoelstra said of Cleveland, which lost to Miami 92-85 on Jan. 24. "They have a lot to be hopeful for. But that time could also be now."

The Heat, having won seven of their past eight, look to remain hot. The Cavaliers are 3-3 in their last six games, with the victories against high-profile opponents in New York, Boston and Dallas.

Cavs slow LeBron but can't stop Heat

January, 25, 2012
Wallace By Michael Wallace

MIAMI -- The Cleveland Cavaliers took pride in their strategy to slow LeBron James to one of his least productive performances of the season. Evidently, they weren't up to speed on Chris Bosh.

With James struggling from the field and guard Dwyane Wade missing his fifth straight game with a sprained ankle, Bosh matched his Heat career high with 35 points, made all 14 of his free throw attempts and added seven rebounds to help the Heat escape with a 92-85 victory over the Cavaliers on Tuesday.

Typically this season, the formula has been simple for opponents: Slow James, the league's second-leading scorer, and you have a chance to beat the Heat (12-5). But that wasn't the case for the Cavaliers, who held James to 8-of-21 shooting from the field and forced him into five turnovers with their constantly trapping defense.

James grew so frustrated at one point in the second half with Cleveland's aggressive defense and physical play that he yelled at teammates for failing to get him the ball in enough time before a second wave of defenders arrived to bottle him up.

It resulted in the second-worst single-game shooting percentage of the season for James. It was also the fourth time this season he had at least five turnovers. James missed four of five shots in the fourth quarter, but finished with 18 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals in a relatively uneven outing as Miami closed out a five-game homestand with a 4-1 record.

"I don't think we played him straight up," said Cavaliers swingman Anthony Parker, who spent most of the second half as James' primary defender. "We brought help when we needed to. He's a great player and he's going to get points, but we didn't want to give him the breakaways and easy layups at the basket, stuff like that."

James entered Tuesday shooting 54.6 percent from the field, including 45 percent from 3-point range. But the past two games have been a struggle, and it appears that carrying the additional offensive burden with Wade unavailable is starting to wear a bit. James has missed 23 of his past 39 shots from the field and four of five from beyond the arc, which includes Sunday's loss to Milwaukee.

"Nah, I didn't have a rhythm offensively," James said Tuesday. "I think they did a good job defensively. Every time I dribbled the ball, they doubled me. That's when you rely on your teammates. I'm glad I've got some really good ones."

The schedule now seems to be as relentless as any defense James has seen this season. The Heat will play their sixth game in nine days when they face the Detroit Pistons on the road Wednesday. Wade was scheduled to travel with the team Tuesday night, but his status remains uncertain as he recovers from the ankle injury.

James refused to offer any excuses for the recent sluggish play, but he did address some of the challenges many teams face trying to push through injuries and a compacted schedule this season.

"You have no choice -- the schedule is what it is," James said. "It's tough, but you have to just mentally prepare yourself. [There are] going to be times when your legs are just dead. But you've got to try to just go out there and do it. We're not the only team that's playing back-to-backs. We're not the only team that's playing four in five nights. Every team has to do it. We have to do it right now."

James admitted emotions still play a role in his matchups with Cleveland, the franchise he left as a free agent in 2010 after eight years to sign with the Heat. There were times in Tuesday's game when James was jawing with Cleveland players after physical exchanges in the lane. He also shot a few menacing glares at the Cavaliers' bench after he made difficult shots.

But Cleveland's game plan was predicated on not allowing James to get to the basket for uncontested shots or run-out dunks in transition. Parker and Alonzo Gee shared the assignment.

"That's a matchup nightmare for a lot of guys," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said of James, who was held under 20 points for only the second time this season. "Our guys came out aggressive from the get-go. I thought both of those guys competed, played him extremely well. We still had a couple of breakdowns, but that is going to happen in a 48-minute game."

James said he would have been far more frustrated with his play had the Heat lost. But he could more easily dismiss a rare off night because the end result was a victory.

"When I don't play well and we lose, I feel like I didn't do enough," James said. "But my teammates picked me up. We did what we had to do and we got the win."

Celtics, Heat reverse course Wednesday

October, 27, 2010
By ESPN Stats & Info
One night after the Boston Celtics handed the Miami Heat and LeBron James their first loss, Boston falls to James’ old team 95-87 in Cleveland. The Celtics' Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for just 34 points on 12-for-33 (36.4 percent) shooting, as they are unable to match their 49-point, 15-for-31 (48.4 percent) performance from last night.

The Heat traveled down to Philadelphia for their second game of the season and beat the 76ers 97-87 to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2007-08. Only six teams had started a season with two consecutive losses before going on to win the championship, and none since the Bulls in the 1990-91 season.

The trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was much more effective Wednesday night, combining for 61 points and outscoring the 76ers on the floor by five points in the 25 minutes they played together.

Tuesday night the Heat had trouble finding consistency on catch-and-shoot jump-shots, connecting on just 27 percent of their attempts when spotting up against the Celtics. On Wednesday, Miami was able to capitalize when the 76ers' defense collapsed on the interior, going 11-for-21 (54 percent) on spot-up jumpers, including 7-for-13 on contested shots.