Erik Spoelstra: “We have not shown greatness yet”

January 10, 2011 – 10:00 am by Chris Fedor

The Miami Heat are finally playing like the team that everyone expected them to be when they got together this offseason. After getting off to a slow start this season and dealing with a number of injuries in their rotation, speculation started that maybe Erik Spoelstra was not the right coach for Miami. All that talk was ridiculous to begin with and is now a thing of the past as the South Beach All-Stars have won 21 of their last 22 games. During their winning streak they are showing everything that it takes to win an NBA Championship. They are one of the best defensive teams in the league, the offense looks more and more in sync every single game, and their three stars, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James are playing like the best trio in basketball. I’m still not sure that Miami is good enough to overtake Boston in the Eastern Conference, but I am sure that Erik Spoelstra is the right coach to try and lead them there.

Erik Spoelstra joined 790 the Ticket in Miami with Jorge Sedano to talk about what he has been most impressed with when it comes to his team, what he made of all the rumblings about him possibly being on the hot seat, the defensive mentality of the team, and what he thinks Miami has to do to be a great team.

On what has impressed him the most about his team:

“I don’t know if impressed is the right word, but we were able to weather a storm early on and collectively gather ourselves and put together a productive five or six weeks of basketball where we took another step as a team. We’re playing very confidently right now and there’s an expectancy of the team which is great, we want to be confident, but we also want to remain humble and hungry because I truly believe there is another level or two that this team can go to. We need to make sure we have the right state of mind to get to that level.”

On how he dealt with all the comments about him not being the right coach for Miami:

“I don’t take that personal. I really don’t. That’s the nature of sports. Every coach in every profession, you understand that’s the nature of this business and I don’t take it personal. The second thing is we have great stability with our franchise and that stems from Mickey Arison and Pat Riley, where we have a specific plan with this team. We knew there would be some struggles and that’s not the only storm we will have this year. I think we learned that we can handle it collectively now and became stronger from it, but we will have one or two moments of crisis or conflict coming the rest of the season, but we will be able to overcome that. The stability of this franchise gives you a lot of confidence as a coach in this seat.”

On rewarding the team for playing great defense:

“I think some of it is overstated. I want us to defend at a championship level. That started 15 years ago with Pat that we would be a defensive franchise. We all believe in that. To win the whole thing, you have to be able to defend and do it consistently, and the players have to buy into it on that side of the floor. But we also know with this group we have to get out in the open court. With the way that every team is playing us, packing the paint, enticing guys to shoot early jump shots, we have such great gifted attackers that can get into the paint and to the free throw line, well that’s tougher in the half court with the way the guys are playing us. We need those relief baskets and the guys enjoy playing that style, but we also had to develop that habit of running. It’s not as easy as people think. People say they want to run but until you actually work on it and see what it actually means to get out in the open court, it takes some effort.”

On what it will take for Miami to be great:

“I don’t think we all know exactly what it is. I do know what we say is greatness is consistency. We have proven that we can be great, we can be great on the defensive end of the floor, but we have not shown greatness yet. We do not do it on a possession or every single minute of the game mentality yet. We’re moving in that direction and I think our guys understand that this isn’t where we want to stop. To play really at the elite level, and we’re talking seven game series, we need to be more consistent with that and that’s what we’re striving for and working for every single day.”

Listen to Erik Spoelstra on 790 the Ticket in Miami here (Audio begins 1:09:35 into the podcast)

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