Everyone wanted the circus to end. That is, until the circus actually ended. Such is life for the Miami Heat now, heading into the offseason. A season of intense scrutiny, criticism, attention and intrigue ended without a championship, and while getting out of the spotlight for a while this summer may be of some consolation to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, nothing will completely soothe the fact that Year One of the Big Three ended with a loss in the NBA finals.
“There was really no way to prepare for a season like this,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday, after Miami gathered for its exit meetings. Even at the end, James found his some of his words overly dissected and, he said, misinterpreted. His offseason began with a clarification of something said after Sunday’s night’s season-ending loss to the new champion Dallas Mavericks, when part of his answer to a question about people being happy to see the Heat lose included the phrase “they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today.
They have the same personal problems.” On Tuesday, James tried to clean up the mess he inadvertently created. “Basically, I was saying, at the end of the day, this season is over and with all the hatred not only myself, everyone else has to move on with their lives as well,” James said.
“They have to move on with their lives and their day-to-day, good or bad, and I do, too. At the end of the day, I’ve got to move on with my life. So it wasn’t saying that I’m superior or better than anyone else, any man or woman on this planet. I’m not.” James’ fourth-quarter offensive struggles in the finals are still a talking point, even with the series now over and Dallas celebrating its crown. There were some reports Tuesday that he had skipped the team meetings for a vacation in the Bahamas. Privately, some team members told him at times during the season to stop paying attention to news reports about the team entirely. “I always feel like LeBron does a great job of dealing with things,” Wade said.
“No one, no athlete gets scrutinized more than he does, for good or bad things. And I always commend him for the way he handles it. A lot of people can say a lot of things about him, but if you’re not in his shoes, if you don’t go through the things that he goes through than you don’t understand, you don’t know how you would react to things and respond.” James offered some respect to the new champs later Tuesday.
He posted a message on LeBronJames.com where he congratulated the Mavericks, especially Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. He also lauded the Miami fans, teammates, coaches, team president Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison. James closed the message with this: “A lot to learn from this year, a lot to build on, and a lot of work to do this summer.” That was largely the theme of Tuesday for the Heat. “If you get to the finals,” Wade said, “you’re a pretty good team.” Udonis Haslem revealed that he’s not 100 percent recovered from surgery to repair a ruptured foot ligament in November. Mike Miller will soon have surgery to repair his left thumb. In time, Miami will start making roster decisions.
The Heat have the first pick in the second round of next week’s draft, and will hold another workout for prospects on Wednesday. Spoelstra said he’s immersing himself in that work, not the lament of losing the title shot.
“We weren’t able to get it done,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the disappointment that we’ll have to live with this summer. As disappointing as it is, the championship was won and now today starts the next day for the new challenge of next year’s championship. Even for myself, it’s back to work. There will be some time where we’ll be able to decompress. The time is not now.”
James and Wade are both planning trips to China this summer, along with some charitable events and camps. The uncertainty over the league’s labor deal — the collective bargaining agreement expires in about two weeks, and a lockout could start as early as July 1 — could make certain aspects of the summer more difficult than usual. Bosh will have some stressful moments as well: He’s got a wedding planned for next month. No one was thrilled to see it end, but Tuesday, they all said they enjoyed the ride. “I had fun with this season. That’s what it’s about,” James said.
“There are times when you don’t always have fun because losing is never fun, pitfalls are never fun, but at the end of the day, the game of basketball should always be fun when we approach the court from the bus to the locker room to the plane. It’s definitely up there with one of the best seasons I’ve had as far as individually and as a team. But, no, I won’t have enough fun until I’ll be able to hoist that trophy.”