Erik Spoelstra Pumps Up LeBron James with Passionate Shove in Miami Heat Win

MIAMI — Push had already figuratively come to shove for the Miami Heat, with the recent struggles of this season threatening to pull them apart. But Erik Spoelstra has spoken of translating pure intentions into positive action, and so he decided to demonstrate during Monday’s second quarter.

With his own momentary lapse of sanity.

That’s what Spoelstra, at the morning shootaround, said the team could probably use in the midst of its struggles. Here, LeBron James had just stormed down the center of the court against a pair of Blazers—Dorell Wright and Damian Lillard—losing his headband but winning two free throws, then clapping at the crowd for even more energy. Before he could get back to the bench, to take part in the timeout huddle, Spoelstra—gritting his teeth—blindsided him at the baseline with a celebratory two-handed shove.

James barely broke stride.

This sequence spoke to how far coach and star come since a long-ago—and much more concerning—time of crisis, the pre-parade days of December 2010, when a bump in Dallas signaled dissension to most of America. This one was a playful push, on a night the Heat got a 93-91 win they desperately needed to restart their pre-playoff push. As always with the Heat, it wasn’t as much about what they accomplished (pulling within a game in the loss column of Indiana prior to Wednesday’s showdown) as what they avoided (a complete fourth quarter collapse on the heels of Saturday night’s no-show in New Orleans).

But what about that shove?

“I saw him coming toward me,” James said later, laughing. “But I didn’t know he was gonna shove me.”

Spoelstra said it was spontaneous. But it also had an objective. The coach had liked the team’s early energy, yet had seen James get flustered when not getting calls.

“Just wanted him to continue to attack,” Spoelstra said. “I wanted LeBron to be aggressive, and everybody else would follow. But that energy was terrific on both ends of the court. That last six minutes of the second quarter is what we were talking about the last 48 hours.”

Those last 48 hours had started with a lamentable loss, and some stinging self-analysis, with Chris Bosh declaring “we suck,” and James finally shooting down the team’s series of ongoing excuses. It was followed by a playtime pause, a 30th birthday party for Bosh at a rented-out Marlins Park, where James and Dwyane Wade took turns dousing Spoelstra in the dunktank.

Then, Monday, the news came that Wade would miss his 19th game of the season, this one due to a sprained ankle. In his pre-game media session, James spoke vaguely of the “elephant in the room” that the team had addressed, and even implied some annoyance with others’ absences, by simply saying his own ankle was sore, but “I’m active, I’m on the floor, and it’s my obligation to make plays for our team to win.”

He then took a dozen shots in the first quarter, missing often with his jumper, but not slinking back into a shell. Meanwhile, Portland, without LaMarcus Aldridge and reduced to long-range shooting, kept missing from deep, 27 of their first 34 attempts from 3-point range through three quarters.

The Heat led by 11 entering the fourth, and soon by 17, not playing perfectly, but certainly passionately—especially James (32 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals) and Chris Andersen (13 points, 11 rebounds in 23 minutes).

Then things started to slip. Again. Portland started making the types of shots they’d been missing. Miami stopped moving the ball.

“Harrowing,” Spoelstra called it.

After Mario Chalmers passed to Norris Cole near the corner, Cole lost the ball and fouled Mo Williams, and Williams made two free throws, it was tied with 30.9 seconds left.

That’s when Spoelstra called a 20-second timeout.

With Wade sitting, there wasn’t any question who would initiate the action against the Blazers’ 2-3 zone. Spoelstra had designed several different layers. The later ones weren’t necessary.

“LeBron made the right read,” Spoelstra said. “Saw a gap.”

James used a Chalmers screen of Lillard, got to his left hand, and laid the ball in over Robin Lopez.

James said that he felt, after two late turnovers and passing up other some other opportunities, “it was time for me to shoot one.”

Portland still had 11.4 seconds left, and a timeout, but chose not to use it.

“We kind of figured (Lillard) was gonna try to go for the win,” Bosh said. “He’s had a couple game-winners from three. Norris did a good job of running him off, and making sure he didn’t get the shot that he wanted.”

Still, Lillard got in the lane.

Bosh, who had called for more determination and communication, was the Heat’s backline.

“As soon as he picked the ball up, I was able to just follow the flight of the ball, and be there for help defense,” Bosh said.

If he hadn’t been, after all he’d said, he certainly would have heard it. Bosh had not only called out his teammates, but himself, on Saturday, feeling he’d let them down with his defense of late.

“No. 1 was the one that made it, OK,” Spoelstra said of Bosh’s jersey number. “If you’re going to go out there and put it on your shoulders, you have to make those plays, and he did. Lillard had daylight, he really did. And that’s what good defensive teams do, you have to make plays that are out of the box.”

The Heat made just enough, on a night Spoelstra got out of the coach’s box, and got in a physical show of approval.

A shove that James said he loved.

“It was great man, the enthusiasm, we had it back tonight,” James said. “We were flying around, we played Miami Heat basketball. You get wins when you are true to who you are.”

Now the Heat will try to stay this way, as they try to shove Indiana out of the top spot.

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Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra Gets Win No. 300

With Sunday’s 93-79 win over the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra became the sixth-fastest coach in NBA history to reach 300 career regular-season wins.

He needed just 448 games to accomplish the feat and now owns an impressive 300-148 record—good for a .670 winning percentage—since taking over as Miami’s coach before the 2008-09 season.

Spoelstra‘s first two seasons in Miami didn’t exactly set him on the right path for reaching milestones, as the Heat averaged 45 wins and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs both years. Those first two teams were heavily reliant on Dwyane Wade, who would soon be joined in Miami by fellow stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Since the Big Three joined forces before the 2010-11 campaign, the Heat have gone 210-74 (.739 winning percentage) in the regular season, with a strong 46-21 playoff record (.687) to boot.

Wade, Bosh and particularly James get most of the credit, but Spoelstra finally seemed to garner the warranted respect last season when the Heat put together a 27-game winning streak on the way to a memorable NBA Championship. 

The 43-year-old Spoelstra further proved his coaching chops Sunday, as the Heat didn’t miss a beat with James sidelined by a broken nose.

Oddly enough, while Spoelstra is the sixth-fastest coach to 300 wins, Heat team president Pat Riley was actually the fastest. As coach of the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s, Riley only needed 416 games to reach the 300-win mark, meaning that he owned an incredible .721 career winning percentage upon reaching the milestone.

That winning percentage is undoubtedly excellent, but it falls short of the .739 regular-season mark the Heat have compiled since signing Bosh and James. 

When Riley reached the 300-win mark in December 1986, he already had two championships and a pair of NBA Finals losses to his name. Spoelstra can match the two titles, but has only made one unsuccessful trip to the Finals.

As much as the sixth-year coach has done to prove himself, Spoelstra‘s place in the record books may ultimately depend upon the length of James’ stay in Miami. If the superstar forward heads elsewhere after this season or next, Spoelstra will probably have a hard time matching Riley’s six rings as coach.

Of course, there’s always a chance that James will look to bring Wade and/or Bosh to his next stop, in which case it would probably make sense to bring Spoelstra along for the ride.

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Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says Greg Oden is getting stronger

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday that center Greg Oden continues to strengthen his knees. The 25-year-old Oden, who signed a one-year deal with the Heat in August, isn’t expected to premier until roughly February. After the Heat used the amnesty provision on Mike Miller, the 7-foot, 285 pound Oden chose Miami over the Spurs, Kings, Mavs and Pelicans. Capturing consecutive Larry O’Brien Championship Trophies in June, the Heat will eventually benefit from Oden’s size, physicality and interior defense. More importantly, on a squad of stars, Oden won’t face brutal Heat or overwhelming pressure in Miami. The former … Continue reading →

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Erik Spoelstra receives painting no one would want to display

It’s a portrait of Spoelstra and his bosses.

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Erik Spoelstra receives odd painting while Heat are in the Bahamas

A Bahamian artist painted a strange portrait of Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra along with president Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison.

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Erik Spoelstra says his time with Miami Heat has gone fast

Spoelstra said the organization has come together to help the team win

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Erik Spoelstra’s Extension Again Shows How, for Miami Heat, Continuity Counts

Erik Spoelstra should have been gone.

That’s what some in the national media argued.

That’s what some websitessuch as the infamous FireSpo.comscreamed.

Spoelstra could have been gone.

That’s what even he has told associates, as he’s reflected on three pressure points in his tenure as Miami Heat coach: the summer of 2010, when the Heat were aggressively recruiting free agents; the second month of the 2010-11 season, when they started 9-8; and the summer of 2011, after they fell flat in the final three games of the NBA Finals.

But that’s not how the Heat have operated under owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley, a period that extends back to 1994 and has seen so many of the same people stick around, even if they’re now stuck with several more pounds and a few more silver strands.

They backed Spoelstra in ways that other organizations wouldn’t have, and he has rewarded their faith with two championships. Now, they have finalized what seemed a foregone conclusion, announcing Sunday an extension that will keep Spoelstra from becoming the NBA’s hottest coaching free agent after this season.

The Heat, as is their custom, refrained from offering numerical specifics, in terms of years and salary. But they don’t really matter, any more than it’s mattered that Riley has tended to conceal his own contractual details.

What matters is that Spoelstra knows he can continue to shape the team without concern for his future status. What matters is that the Heat’s prominent potential free agentsincluding LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Boshknow that he’s in charge, not just this season, but into the future, beyond their upcoming opportunities to opt out of their contract.

While James, Wade and Bosh have all each had some bumpy moments with Spoelstra, they’ve all also experienced a payoff, and Spoelstra’s presence at James’ wedding was another sign of the evolution of their relationship.

As training camp opens this week, don’t expect Spoelstra to enjoy discussing this subject, if he addresses it at all. It’s not his style. While he has become increasingly confident in what he offers, he has also downplayed his role, laughing off situations in which others still confuse Riley for the team’s coach and stating simply, “My job is to land the plane.”

Now, he’ll have that job at least two more seasons. If Gregg Popovich retires during that time, Spoelstra will become the current longest-tenured coach with a single team.

It all calls to mind something Spoelstra often said, if not for the cameras, during that turbulent first season with the so-called “Big Three.” He said that he could keep everything in perspective by reminding himself that in 25 years he’d be able to say he coached this team. These all-time great players.

He’ll still be able to do so.

And chances are, he’ll still be standing on the Heat sideline when he says it.

Ethan Skolnick covers the Heat for Bleacher Report.

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Erik Spoelstra, Heat close to extending contract

MIAMI — It was a question of not if but when. And the when will be soon.

Erik Spoelstra, who has won two straight titles as coach of the Miami Heat, was in line to become a free agent next summer. But the Heat dont want that to happen.

Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday that Spoelstra is about to sign a contract extension. The Heat will hold media day Monday in Miami and have training camp Tuesday through Friday in the Bahamas.

Spoelstra this season will be vying to become just fourth coach in NBA history to have won three straight titles. The ones who have done it are John Kundla of the Minneapolis Lakers, Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics, who actually won eight in a row, and Phil Jackson, who did twice for the Chicago Bulls and once for the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I really like the coach,” Kundla, 97, had said last July about Spoelstra.

So does Heat president Pat Riley, who never had a “three-peat” during his legendary career even though he has patented the term.

Riley before the 2011-1

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Erik Spoelstra signs contract extension with Miami Heat

Spoelstra has led the Heat to back to back titles

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Erik Spoelstra and Miami Heat Reportedly Agree to Multi-Year Contract Extension

Erik Spoelstra is staying with the Miami Heat for the long haul. According to a report from Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the two-time NBA Finals winner has agreed to a multi-year deal to remain the head coach of the club.

The deal was finalized just ahead of the team’s training camp in the Bahamas and approximately a month prior to the 2013-14 season tip-off.

While Spoelstra wasn’t set to hit the open market until next summer, the Heat brass were wise to lock up the 42-year-old for the foreseeable future. He’s been instrumental to the team’s success and should continue to be.

Had his contract expired, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports found that a handful of competing organizations were “prepared to pursue Spoelstra with the zeal of a star free agent.”

It’s not hard to see why.

Since taking over for Pat Riley as head coach in 2008, Spoelstra has compiled a regular-season record of 260-134. He’s also been to the postseason five times, going 50-29 with three Eastern Conference titles and two NBA championships under his belt.

Spoelstra has displayed an uncanny ability to manage the personalities, expectations and pressure from the overwhelming media presence surrounding this team, all while consistently getting the most from both the superstar talent and the rest of the players on the roster. That’s a quality Dwyane Wade touched on last season to the Associated Press, via ESPN:

What’s overlooked for him is the management of the team. It’s not the coaching part of it. It’s, “Can you manage these egos, these personalities, without having one your damn self?” He’s done it.

Although there have been some bumps in the road, Spoelstra has a great relationship with his stable of star players that includes four-time MVP LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

With the possibility that all three hit free agency in the 2014 offseason, this extension should give the Heat a leg up on keeping the trio in South Beach.

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