Phil Jackson sees Heat under pressure
Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson isn't surprised that the revamped Miami Heat are struggling initially, but he thinks if they don't get it together soon coach Erik Spoelstra's days could be numbered.
After adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh to go along with Dwyane Wade, Miami has limped to an 8-6 record. Wade has been banged up, Mike Miller hasn't played a game and now Udonis Haslem could miss significant time.
"That record, I think, says a lot about coming together with some real talented guys, and not having a base," Jackson said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. "And then some things happened to them, Wade getting hurt.
"They're still kind of searching out how they're going to find a role and work their roles together," Jackson continued.
Jackson acknowledged public sentiment is working against the Heat at the moment instead of rooting for them to turn it around.
"I think a lot of people are looking at that kind of hoping things go wrong instead of hoping things go right because of the way they were formed," Jackson said. "There's a lot about public feelings. There's a lot about this that hoIds sway over how things go for people and I think they just have to have some good will in them and get it going."
With expectations so high going into the season after team president Pat Riley assembled his dream team, the pressure is on Spoelstra to deliver. When the Heat struggled to an 11-10 start to the 2005-06 season, Riley shocked the league by replacing Stan Van Gundy on the Miami bench. He hadn't coached since the 2002-03 campaign but led the Heat to the NBA championship.
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"The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited -- Bosh and James -- by Pat Riley and Micky Arison, the owner, are going to come in and say, 'We feel you [Riley] can do a better job coaching the team. We came here on the hopes that this would work,' and whatever, I don't know," Jackson said. "That's kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don't straighten out here soon, it could be the Van Gundy thing all over again."
Jackson expanded on his thoughts during comments to reporters before the Lakers played the Chicago Bulls in Los Angeles Tuesday night.
"I think eventually, if things don't turn around, I think eventually the weight's going to fall there where [without] the success they were hoping for, there will be a real drive for the players to have some kind of change," Jackson said. "It's easier to change coaches than to would be to change teams, after they made all those player adjustments.
"There's a chance for that, I would say. It would take a lot more losses like the ones we've seen."
The two-time defending champion Lakers are cruising along again at 12-2. The Boston Celtics, whom they faced in the 2010 Finals, are still the beast of the East, according to Jackson.
"The Celtics have a defense you have to plan for. Their defense is overwhelmingly a factor in the ballgame," Jackson said. "They're going to smother. They're going to really contest. They're going to body guys. There's going to be double-teaming underneath the free throw line. There are a lot of things that go on there that you have to start planning for.
"Right now, Miami hasn't kind of shown -- the defense has improved recently -- they haven't really shown this is something you really have to plan for. You have to plan how to defend these great individuals that they have. And that's going to be part of the planning. Boston still gives you a multiple effect as a basketball team."
Jackson preached patience before turning in a final evaluation on the collection of talent down in South Beach.
"They haven't had really an opportunity to get that all together. They still need another couple weeks probably to get it all together to try to figure out the roles and how they're going to do it," Jackson said. "There's always an element of settling in kind of, with new players, or when there's a shift of personnel and the pecking order of how that role development falls in line takes a while. Until that happens, there's a little bit of competition or maybe bantering or stuff that media can focus on or pick apart and then the team starts to look at themselves in the mirror and stuff like that."
The 65-year-old coach stood by the statement he made in Denver several weeks ago declaring the Heat, not the Lakers, have a shot at winning 70 games sometime in the near future.
"Maybe not this season, but with the personnel they have and the youth they have, they have enough talent to do that," Jackson said.
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.