Updated: January 16, 2013, 6:39 PM ET

1. Heat's Issues Show In Road Loss To Jazz

By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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SALT LAKE CITY -- LeBron James grimaced as he bobbed his head, trying to let the music from his $400 headphones drown out the bite of the cold tub his lower body was immersed in. On this night, just putting his feet in a bucket wasn't going to do.

Chris Bosh was in the shower, though he played only 40 seconds of the last 16 minutes of the game.

Dwyane Wade was fully dressed with a designer scarf and jacket that probably made him one of the more chic people in Utah at that moment. He couldn't wait to get out into a frigid night. He probably won't get out of a locker room faster this entire season.

Dwyane Wade
Russ Isabella/USA TODAY SportsDwyane Wade was not on the court late.

The Miami Heat are cranky.

The latest loss, a 104-97 defeat to the Utah Jazz, isn't what's stinging the most.

It's a tough January road trip out West. Teams routinely talk about "bonding" on long trips, but really that's usually hopeful conjecture before they start out. Going to six cities in nine days, especially when everywhere west of the Rockies is in a nasty cold snap, is rarely much fun.

The Heat are 1-3 on this journey, but that's not too serious. On their five-game January road trip in 2011, they went 2-3. Last year in January, their five-game trip was the same, 2-3. It hardly defined their seasons. This loss, which saw them nearly pull off a 19-point fourth-quarter comeback, was mostly forgotten by the time their charter hit the runway in Oakland sometime after midnight PT Tuesday morning.

Right now the Heat have some more prickly issues that go deeper than winning and losing. Not playing well in midseason is troubling, but not season-altering. The Heat are experiencing some internal issues, and it's showing up in their attitude and their play. And it's really showing up in the things they're saying publicly, which makes you wonder what they're saying privately.

This is not a crisis, but there are several signs of what Heat president Pat Riley likes to call "the disease of me," the challenge successful teams have when trying to keep up sacrifice.

Riley became a field expert at trying to manage the challenges that come from winning a title. He struggled with it amid all his successes. His famous guarantee of the Los Angeles Lakers' winning a back-to-back titles in 1987 was, in part, an attempt to force his team to focus after it had followed up its previous two titles with less-than-stellar defenses.

The Heat are out of focus and they're sniping. At their coach, Erik Spoelstra. At each other. Probably at their friends and loved ones, too.

Wade's been in the middle of it a few times on the trip. Last week in Indianapolis, he scored 23 points in the first half of a game and then didn't get a shot in the third quarter. Monday, he didn't play in the fourth quarter -- calling it a benching isn't accurate -- when Spoelstra decided to play James with four bench players as the Heat attempted a rally that fell short.

"I don't know, I just always stay ready," Wade said curtly but not disrespectfully, much like he treated his disappearance from the offense in the loss in Indiana. "Coach makes the calls. I'm just a player."

Wade's body language said enough. Before the Heat left on this trip, Wade was asked if he missed the days of taking 20 to 25 shots a game. The days before James and Bosh and being relegated to the third option some nights. Wade's response: "Every day."

A few days ago, Bosh said the Heat weren't doing enough to ride players with "hot hands" after he was forgotten in the offense during a night when he shot 13-for-18 in a loss at Portland. He was referring to himself and Wade, the direction of the comment not being clear.

Monday morning he explained why he was going on a push on Twitter to get All-Star votes on the last day for fans to cast ballots. He was just 35,000 votes behind getting his first starting spot.

"Just being competitive," Bosh said. "I saw that I was behind, and I'm like, 'All right, whatever I can do.' It's not everything, but in the spirit of competition, let me do what I can."

Then Bosh got one rebound in 27 minutes as the Heat were whipped 40-23 on the boards and outscored 19-0 in second-chance points by the Jazz. He's averaging just five rebounds a game over the past seven games and is currently averaging the fewest rebounds of his career. It was not being competitive.

His explanation was the following:

"Sometimes I'm in position where I have to compete with my teammates for a rebound and sometimes I do get beat, I'm human," said Bosh. "In the beginning of the game, I guess a few times I'm going to beat my own teammates. I don't pay attention to numbers."

Unless, apparently, they're All-Star voting numbers. Nonetheless, Bosh has been using this friendly fire rebounding excuse often recently. It seems he's finding it harder to say with immunity.

After the tough loss in Portland when the Heat blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead last week, James gave this lament: "We're not the most talented bunch. We're not the greatest team. So we can't afford to just pick and choose when we want to turn it on and off."

Most basketball minds would say this team is the best team, talent-wise, James has ever played on. He is likely playing alongside three Hall of Famers in Wade, Bosh and Ray Allen. But James, who is in the middle of perhaps the greatest all-around season of his career, has been right with his teammates in passively complaining about the state of the union.

When he got out of the cold tub, James weighed in.

"It was low energy. Against a team like this, on their floor, with their crowd -- you can't have low energy," James said of the first half, in which he had his best scoring first half of the season with 20 points.

Of the late-game comeback that happened with Wade and Bosh on the bench, James said: "We played well, we had a lot of energy. Offensively, we didn't care who was shooting the ball."

There's no scandal here. This is a team going through a bumpy ride that is showing its irritation. Thanks to some other brush fires in the NBA, especially with the Lakers, the Heat themselves seem to be taking it harder than fans across the country who relished their struggles in the previous two seasons.

Those years the Heat stayed together, bonded if you will, during those times. Now, though, it seems the majority of the scrutiny is coming from within.

"With this team, it doesn't matter," Wade said. "If we win, we're supposed to win. If we lose, we shouldn't lose. We have to figure it out."


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