Miami Heat address crying comments

Updated: March 8, 2011, 9:58 AM ET
By Michael Wallace | ESPN.com

MIAMI -- Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the widespread reaction to comments he made about tears being shed in his team's locker room after Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bulls is a crying shame.

Spoelstra said Monday that he didn't regret revealing during his postgame news conference on Sunday that "there are a couple guys crying in the locker room right now" because of the disappointment from faltering yet again at the finish and extending the Heat's losing streak to four games.

The embattled Heat coach also claimed his remarks were taken out of context and blamed the media for overanalyzing his comments. Neither Spoelstra nor any of the Heat's players revealed Sunday or after Monday's practice who actually shed tears in the locker room following the 87-86 loss to the Bulls.

Spoelstra even went as far as to backtrack a bit from his original comments and said Monday that he wasn't certain that he saw actual tears when the team gathered immediately after the game.

"This is a classic example of sensationalism, looking for a headline," Spoelstra said after the team's two-hour film session and workout on Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena. "I really think you guys are probably reaching for this. Guys were very emotional about it in the locker room. Heads were down. I saw glossy eyes, but that's about it. I think everything else is probably an exaggeration."

Spoelstra This is a classic example of sensationalism. ... I saw glossy eyes, but that's about it. I think everything else is probably an exaggeration.

-- Erik Spoelstra

Spoelstra said he wasn't aware that his reference to players crying was even a big deal until he was told by Heat media relations executive Tim Donovan that the issue had garnered national headlines. He also dismissed the episode as "CryGate" and joked that he would follow the coverage of it after practice. After beating the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony reportedly were among New York Knicks players who mocked the Heat after learning of Spoelstra's comments.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade's remark that "the world is better now" because Miami is struggling also didn't sit well with some in the league. Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy shot back at the Heat on Monday as his team prepared for Monday night's game against Portland.

"I do chuckle a little bit when they complain about the scrutiny they get," Van Gundy, a former Heat coach, told reporters in Orlando. "My suggestion would be if you don't want the scrutiny, you don't hold a championship celebration before you've even practiced together. It's hard to go out yourself and invite that kind of crowd and celebration and attention, and then when things aren't going well, sort of bemoan the fact that you're getting that attention."

Van Gundy was referring to the lavish news conference and arena celebration the Heat held after they signed Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh to long-term contracts as free agents in July. The scene is far less festive these days around the Heat, who dropped to third in the Eastern Conference standings.

During the losing streak, doubts have been raised about everything from the Heat's mental toughness to the ability of their star players to execute against quality opponents late in close games. Miami (43-20) is 2-5 since the All-Star break and has blown double-figure leads in three of its last four losses. The game that wasn't close was Friday's 30-point rout in San Antonio, the Heat's worst loss of the season.

Stan Van Gundy My suggestion would be if you don't want the scrutiny, you don't hold a championship celebration before you've even practiced together.

-- Stan Van Gundy

"We have to pick ourselves back up, go to work and try to fix this," Spoelstra said as his team prepared for Tuesday's home game against the Portland Trail Blazers. "We're going through adversity right now and we all believe that ultimately, for whatever reason, this group, we need to go through it. It does not take away the pain and the frustration we're going through. But we have a resilient group that came in here [Monday] with the right mindset to find a solution."

"Everybody responds differently," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant told the "Max and Marcellus" radio show on 710 ESPN in Los Angeles. "If guys are crying in the locker room, guys are crying in the locker room. That doesn't mean they're chumps. That doesn't mean they're soft. It doesn't mean anything."

James apologized to teammates for "failing them late in games" after he missed a potential game-tying or go-ahead basket in the waning seconds for the fourth time in two weeks. Wade has repeatedly voiced his frustration with his role as a second or third option late in games.

But the two catalysts stood side by side after Monday's practice and made light of Spoelstra's comments about players crying. Actually, they were in a laughing mood this time around and joked about the difference in scrutiny the team received when it won 21 of 22 games earlier this season and the media attention amid the losing streaks.

"We're worried about ourselves and getting things right in here," Wade said. "I'm not necessarily worried about what's said on the outside about the Miami Heat. We understand in the world of sports, you've got a lot of bandwagoners. Personally, I'd like it better if we only see three of you guys [reporters] tomorrow. But when we're losing, we see them."

Wade and James then playfully started to point out reporters who haven't been around the team on a regular basis. James would not say if he felt Spoelstra violated some level of trust with the players with Sunday's comments to the media. But he did say the coach still has their support.

"We stay together," James said. "Spo is the captain of this ship and we're behind whatever Spo says. It doesn't matter. Spo can go out there and say whatever he wants about the team, and we're going to stand behind him."

Even in times of discomfort. At least that was the message from all sides on Monday.

"We all feel uncomfortable right now," Spoelstra said. "We can make our biggest breakthrough during these times. We do need to change some habits. These aren't easy habits to change. Everybody's just got to do a little bit more. More sacrifice. More commitment. More attention to detail."

But a little less emotion and panic coupled with a bit more bigger-picture perspective.

"It's not anger; it's not panic or anything like that," James said. "We're 43 and 20. Ain't nothing embarrassing about that."

Michael Wallace covers the NBA for ESPN.com.

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