Erik Spoelstra Talks about How the Injuries and Playing Different Lineups Will Help Them As the Playoffs Get Closer

January 21, 2011 – 10:05 am by timgunter

After starting off the season amid controversy with his players questioning whether or not he was the right coach for this team, Erik Spoelstra has since righted the ship and silenced his critics, at least for now.  In the month of December and into the second week of January, the Heat won 21 out of 22 games but since then they have lost four straight.  During their recent stretch of games, Miami has dealt with slew of injuries to LeBron, Bosh and Wade, which has forced them to test their unproven bench.  Although injuries and setbacks are tough to deal with, Miami has no choice but to see what they really have on their bench in order to gauge what production they can get out of it in time for the playoffs.  Throughout the long NBA season, teams will face adversity and have their ups and downs.  It is the way they deal with it and how they respond that matters most.

Erik Spoelstra joined 790 the Ticket in Miami to talk about how unpleasant the first part of the season was with people questioning his ability to coach and the team’s performance, if his players like him and whether he cares if they do, and why the team played so poorly against the Hawks late in the game after crucial timeouts.

How unpleasant the first part of the season was with people questioning his ability to coach and the team’s performance:

“With that guys, I honestly don’t take that personal.  I have been around sports enough that, obviously, coaches are always going to be held accountable and often criticized to extreme levels, in every sport.  You see it all the time so I didn’t take it personal and I didn’t read a lot and I didn’t listen to all the was out there but I wasn’t naïve at the same time.  I was just focused on what we could do to get this on track.  We had a different timeline than everybody else so we were not panicked like probably everybody outside of Heat nation was.  We knew there was going to be a process.  I was confident in that stability of our organization so that was never a thought, and so what I have always told my players, I probably in a sick way enjoy those uncomfortable moments.  I don’t mind being uncomfortable.  I don’t mind being uncomfortable with the players and I don’t mind when it is uncomfortable during the season because I truly feel that is when you have your biggest breakthroughs, individually but also as a team.”

Why he likes the part of his job when there are uncomfortable moments with players:

“I don’t know, because I think sometimes with crisis and conflict is good.  It is inevitable in this league.  We are around each other way too much.  It is a long season.  Hopefully it is eight or nine months for us and it is natural.  Human nature, human condition when you are going through a lot of highs and lows and travels and tough schedules, and then all of the media speculations, and this is extreme with this team.  As much as we prepared for it and thought we were ready for it in July, August, September, you never know what it is like until you are in the storm.  I like those times, but you gain the most ground when it is tough but you also feel uncomfortable as a coach when everything is going well.  At the end of December for us we had won so many games in a row that we were starting to get a little bit stale, a little flat that you could see this was coming, what has happened to us in the last ten days.”

If his players like him and whether he cares if they do:

“Who knows?  They probably don’t like me most of the time.  I don’t think any player likes their coach, so, no, that does not matter.  I think we are all starting to trust each other, that is the most important thing, and it is a symbiotic thing.  I have told that to my players.  Yes, I have got to work my butt off and perform for them and earn their trust.  Regardless of my experience or age you have to do that as a coach.  You have to prove yourself every single day but don’t think for a second that they don’t have to do it for us as well, and that should be a symbiotic relationship.”

Why the team played so poorly against the Hawks late in the game after crucial timeouts:

“Yeah we will be better with that.  We will be.  I think it was an important game for us to go through.  Having some of these injuries actually is allowing us to play some different lineups that we had been planning on playing in short bursts, it just forced my hand earlier on and we are having to learn what is effective and what is not and one of the things that we have learned right now is Chris has been a crutch, a bailout for us.  He has been arguably our most important player right now and when he was taken out of our lineup with the injury it really affected our rhythm offensively because we have always been able to play our offense through him when we need to and it facilitates ball movement and getting other people involved and because of his skillset we can do it in different ways.  We can play through him in the post, we have our whole offense running through the high post through him, and we can of course run all the pick-and-rolls with him and through it back.  You take that element out we are having to explore new things and quite frankly there are a lot of lineups and combinations that we had the other night that have never been on the floor together but I think it is good for us and we are going to need that in the next 40 games and as we get into the playoffs.”

Erik Spoelstra on 790 the Ticket in Miami with Dan LeBatard and Stugotz (the interview starts at the 24:35 mark)

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