Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t known as a quotable interview. Though hardly the gruff bully of his San Antonio Spurs counterpart, Gregg Popovich, Spoelstra still sticks to a finely-tuned script with the media, mostly avoiding specific answers and relating every question to the importance of process. At yesterday’s press conference in advance of Sunday’s Game 2, though, he offered a rare glimpse into a persona usually seen only by those behind closed doors.
Asked if he expected normal participation from LeBron James in Game 2, Spoelstra was non-committal before making light of the embarrassing air-conditioning malfunction that played such a pivotal role in deciding the winner of Game 1.
“We’ll be open to whatever’s necessary. We anticipate we’ll play in a very cool gym – so we’ll have to deal with that now [smiles]. I don’t know if guys will be playing in tights under their shorts or long sleeve shirts. I don’t know.”
The most important takeaway from the above is that Spoelstra seems unconcerned with James’ health. For his part, LeBron appeared casual yesterday too, making headlines with a spot-on impersonation of Allen Iverson’s famous ‘practice’ rant. Though the Heat have taken a measured approach to discussing James’ status, all indications point to the four-time MVP playing close to unencumbered later today.
Miami also deserves credit for taking the high road with respect to the sweltering conditions inside the AT&T Center on Thursday night. Despite an opportunity to criticize San Antonio for a lack of preparation and contingency plan, the Heat have responsibly strayed, instead making frequent light of the situation.
Spoelstra stays that course here, and allows the public a fleeting looks at the part of his personality that’s been so instrumental in his rise up Miami’s coaching staff. Though it’s a distant memory now, many believed Spoelstra – who began with the Heat as a video coordinator in 1995 – was in over his head as this team’s head coach following 2010-2011. Moments like this from November of that harrowing season only lent credence to that perception:
Nevertheless, Spoelstra grew and innovated in the interim, firmly establishing himself as one of basketball’s best coaches over the last three years. He’s had the full support of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh throughout, an often overlooked but instrumental aspect of Miami’s success. Instead of bumps physical and theoretical, interaction like this and this have become the norm for Spoelstra and his players.
Though we’re usually relegated to extrapolating Spoelstra’s influence on the Heat from in-game strategy, the affable nature he displays here no doubt plays a major role in Miami’s consistently even-keeled approach. It’s not crazy to suspect that Spoelstra’s demeanor has been key to the Heat following every playoff loss since 2011 with a win, either. Let’s see if that trend continues in Game 2 tonight.
Will Spoelstra and the Heat win Game 2?
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