At least LeBron James didn’t get benched in crunch time. (Jim Urquhart / Reuters)

Remember last season, when spring turned to summer and the Miami Heat celebrated an NBA championship?

Suddenly, the Big Three are having crankypants issues on a long January trip, there’s a report that the team might be interested in Greg Oden, there’s another report about the Cleveland Cavs being interested in pursuing LeBron James in free agency and now they’re having the dreaded “internal issues.”

This is more like it.

Players are carping and sniping and pointing fingers, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports, at one another and at their coach, Erik Spoelstra. It’s kind of understandable, given that they’re 1-3 on a six-city, nine-day Western swing. The latest loss came Monday night in Utah with Chris Bosh playing only 40 seconds in the quarter and Dwyane Wade playing zero.

After the 104-97 loss, Wade had little to say about Spoelstra’s decision to go with James and four bench players, whose fourth-quarter rally fell short. “I just always stay ready. Coach makes the calls. I’m just a player.”

James’s explanation, after his 44-minute, 32-point performance? “I was just playing the game with the guys that were out there. We just tried to make plays. If Coach decided to put D-Wade, put Chris, put our guys back in, we were going to continue to try to get stops and make shots offensively.”

And Bosh? After campaigning most of the day for All-Star votes on Twitter, he had only one rebound in the game, along with 16 points. “Well, you know, sometimes I’m in a position where I have to compete with my guys for the rebound,” he explained. “And sometimes I do get beat. I’m human. You know, I’m a ballplayer.”

Hey, it’s a long season and teams go flat at times with what Windhorst says are “internal issues.” Despite being 4-6 over their last 10, Miami still has a 24-12 record, best in the Eastern Conference. “It’s really showing up in the things they’re saying publicly,” Windhorst writes, “which makes you wonder what they’re saying privately.”

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