At the time, Spoelstra experimented at center, starting Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf and Udonis Haslem on various nights. He got spotty play from Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole at point guard, forcing him to call more frequently on rookie Terrel Harris. Miami, which finished with an 18-15 record on the road, posted a 19-13 mark from March on.
“We needed to address our consistency and identity and make sure we were playing at a high level going into the postseason,” Spoelstra said. “Three weeks ago, we weren’t. It was a frustrating time for us. We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Even while cracks surfaced in various corners of the Heat lineup, James remained steadily spectacular. He averaged 27.1 points on 53.1 percent field goal shooting with 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
He said he has rediscovered his love for the the sport in his second season in Miami, while also taking on a more active leadership role. His play has ranged from jaw-dropping to surprisingly functional; he has helped mask the Heat’s primary rotational weaknesses at the point and center by improving his post-up game and running the offense when called upon.
“Last year was a tough year for him,” Wade said. “It was the first time he’s ever been out of Akron, Ohio. He was trying to figure things out. . . . He’s playing the game as one of the best players to play the game, [and he’s doing it] every night, consistently. . . . That’s the LeBron James we all know and love, and the LeBron James we wanted to play with.”
Wade, meantime, looked sluggish late in the season when he wasn’t sitting out to rest his weary body. That, however, worries absolutely nobody in Miami.
“We’re not concerned about him,” said shooting guard Mike Miller. “He’s got a different level that comes out in the playoffs, a special knack for that. We expect nothing less in the playoffs this year.”
Wade says he is ready to go. The test begins Saturday.
“A lot of teams are eager to get to the playoffs,” Wade said. “This season’s been a long short year. . . . Last year’s team went to the Finals. We’ll see where this year’s team stacks up compared to that team.”