MIAMI — It’s time for another Heat mailbag.
@iamtzamac: What does it mean when a team ranked fourth in the Eastern Conference doesn’t have any players in the All-Star Game? Are the Heat’s players highly underrated? Or do the Heat just have an elite coach? Or both?
Anthony Chiang: A little bit of both, but please appreciate coach Erik Spoelstra. If you weren’t convinced that he’s an elite coach, you should be convinced by now. What he’s done with this starless roster is incredible. The Heat are 57-31 over their past 88 games despite not having that superstar that’s so important in today’s NBA. This season, Miami owns the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference and is just one-half game behind the No. 3 Cleveland Cavaliers, which feature LEBRON JAMES (!!!). The Heat are also ahead of the Washington Wizards (which feature All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal), the Indiana Pacers (which feature All-Star Victor Oladipo), the Milwaukee Bucks (which feature All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo) and the Philadelphia 76ers (which feature All-Star Joel Embiid) in the standings. Spoelstra has found a way to max out the Heat’s roster, and that’s hard to do in the NBA. Just take a look at underachieving teams around the NBA like the Wizards, Hornets and Bucks.
Before Saturday’s win over the Hornets, I asked James Johnson what makes Spoelstra such a good coach and he didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“His ability to lead everybody different, to talk to everybody in a different way, but still gets his point across,” Johnson said. “He don’t sugarcoat nothing. But he knows the time and the opportunities when to talk to you. Some guys can take it, getting lectured in front of the group. Some guys break down when they get embarrassed or what not. And then there’s some of us that can just take corrective criticism for what it is and move forward. I think he does a great job of that.
“Every day you’re learning something, every day you’re looking at the game through his lens and his willingness just to give the team to you. If you deserve it, if you work for it. The whole team, he wants us to be able to know how to correct ourselves, know how to fix something. When you have a coach like that, you just want to play extremely hard for him. Every time you step on the court, you want to do your best, not only for your team, but for a leader like him.
“I think it’s because of the standard he holds every one of us to and his ability to know everyone and know your tendencies and know your strengths regardless whether your Jordan Mickey, me, Hassan. He knows your strengths. He knows how to get you in the right position. He knows how to get a group of guys wanting to play together and work together on a string.”
When I thanked Johnson for his long answer on Spoelstra, he responded, “No, thank you. It’s easy talking about that guy.” Yes, the Heat’s players deserve a lot of credit for the team’s success. But it’s pretty clear that Spoelstra does, too.
@HeyJimbo99: You think Wayne Ellington will be in the 3-point contest? We need the Golden Arm there.
Anthony Chiang: I don’t know if Wayne Ellington will make the cut, but he definitely deserves to. Ellington ranks fourth in the NBA in 3-pointers made this season with 140 behind only Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and James Harden. And among the 33 players averaging six or more 3-point shot attempts, Ellington’s 3-point shooting percentage of 40.6 ranks seventh-best in the league. Even without an All-Star, the Heat should be represented in Los Angeles because of Ellington’s shooting ability. Put him in the contest.