Paul DePodesta, one-time protegee to Oakland A's general manager and baseball analytics proponent Billy Beane, once described chemistry as a three-game winning streak. For many subscribers of advanced stats, chemistry has always been a bogeyman, an unquantifiable abstraction used to explain away failure or credit success in the absence of empirical data. But the current state of the Heat has challenged ardent subscribers to advanced statistics not so much to reconsider chemistry -- even the most serious diehards understand that basketball isn't baseball and synergy on the court is a very real thing. But it has prompted advocates to define chemistry. At Basketball Reference, Neil Paine does a stellar job of doing that with regard to the Heat's three stars: "[T]here's been no synergy between the big stars this season, with each defying the rules of 'Skill Curves' and actually decreasing their efficiencies despite reduced offensive workloads. That's a chemistry issue -- talents of this magnitude are supposed to take their games to a new level when combining powers, not fizzle to near career-lows."
Tom Ziller, in his farewell at The Works, wonders if Spoelstra is a bad fit for the Heat, even though he's an indisputably smart coach: "[W]e know, emphatically and empirically, that Spoelstra is not a bad coach. He took last year's version of the Heat to a 47-35 record ... Spoelstra is part Pat Riley -- a grinder at heart, a guy who works 23 hours a day and demands the same from his players -- and part Lawrence Frank -- a X & O whiz kid. But because of the very nature of Miami's three 'chill' bros, Spoelstra has had to be a bit heavier on the Riley, all while maintaining a delicate balance. That hasn't allowed his L-Frank side to come out. Or, these superstars are so heavy-handed that the Xs and Os have to come with a heavier dose of Drill Sergeant than Spoelstra can muster in his tenuous position. So, while Spoelstra has both the chops to command this team and the brains to make it sing, he just isn't in the right spot to execute it all. It's just a bad fit."
If you're an opposing coach charged with the task of stopping LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, what's the best you can hope for? Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: "Watching the Heat's offense, something jumps out immediately. When both James and Wade are both in the game, they are almost never on the same side of the floor. Sometimes, that means both are waiting as Carlos Arroyo or another perimeter player handles the ball. More often, it translates into either James or Wade initiating the offense (typically out of a pick-and-roll) while the other spots up on the opposite wing. For opposing defenses, this is essentially an ideal situation. Though James and Wade can still create problems by driving off a cross-court pass, their presence on the weak side usually limits them to serving as stand-still shooters at best and decoys at worst. Scouting reports around the league encourage defenders to force James and Wade to become outside shooters, neutralizing the danger they pose off the dribble, in the paint and at the rim. For a variety of reasons, Miami has managed to do exactly that to its own stars."
Yesterday, we reported that Dwyane Wade is prescribing more isolation sets as an antidote for the Heat's offensive struggles at times. Wade feels that the Heat's heavy pick-and-roll offense invites too much ball pressure from the defense. Reading Wade's comments, Rob Mahoney of the New York Times' "Off the Dribble" blog recalls a presentation at MIT's Sloan Conference called "The Price of Anarchy in Basketball," by Brian Skinner, a graduate research fellow at the University of Minnesota. The paper posits that, even though it seems to make sense to go to the most efficient play call as frequently as possible, a team must vary its offense to achieve maximum efficiency -- even if it means mixing in some less efficient plays. But what if Miami's problem isn't that thy're relying too heavily on the pick-and-roll, but that they're doing so with a lack of creativity? "Maybe the problem is that the Heat are utilizing the pick-and-roll too simplistically. Perhaps each screen, drive, or dish to the roll man is seen as the primary end, when instead the entire sequence should be acting as a mechanism in a more comprehensive offensive plan. Utah Coach Jerry Sloan has milked the pick-and-roll for all it’s worth by implementing it as a crucial part (but only a part) of his flex offense, and while that level of offensive structure may not serve this Miami team, the principles behind it might."
When Mahoney isn't pondering the Heat's offense, he's taking a close look, as part of Hardwood Paroxysm's "Have Ball Will Travel" series, at whether Wade got away with a travel on Monday night against Washington.
According to StubHub, fans in Cleveland have paid an average of $209 to see Thursday night's Cavs-Heat game, making it the most expensive regular season Cavs home game since the secondary ticket broker came online ten years ago.
According to Dwyane Wade, Quicken Loans Arena has some of the best chicken wings in the NBA.
A picture book of screen shots from Kyle Weidie of Truth About It that captures some of the fireworks that went off in Monday night's Wizards-Heat game.
Heat training camp invitee Kenny Hasbrouck has found his way to Greece, where he'll suit up for Aris.