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Question of the Day: Is it panic time for the Miami Heat, or can it still win a championship? [Updated]

Question_300 Writers from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the recent struggles of the Miami Heat, who have lost five straight going into Thursday's game against the Lakers. Check back throughout the day for more responses, and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Actually, it's time to stop panicking. And if the Heat do that, the team still can win a championship. 

The trouble started when Coach Erik Spoelstra tried to get too creative, essentially engineering the panic that now is engulfing the team.

Believing he could get more out of his team, Spoelstra first inserted Mario Chalmers into his starting lineup at point guard and then moved to Erick Dampier as his starting center. He said he made the moves because he felt his team could move to another level.

That's the level Miami is stuck at right now.

What Spoelstra and the Heat have to do is get back to where they were in January, winning with defense, finding scoring spots for Chris Bosh, and appreciating that it's the Big Three or bust.

In trying to become more of a team, the Heat coaches and players have turned themselves into less of a contender.

[Updated at 11:02 a.m.:

Barry Stavro, Los Angeles Times

The Heat’s freefall puts the team in a spot where it likely faces the task of winning three road series to win a title.

Even now, Miami's transition game is dazzling. But in the playoffs half-court sets and lower scoring games are the norm, and the Heat’s half-court offense is static, largely dependent on isolation plays with LeBron and D-Wade (and sometimes Bosh), with the rest of their team playing worried cameo roles.

Worse, there’s no big man to provide key defensive stops (think Garnett, Howard, Noah, Bynum, Duncan, Perkins).

In the good news department: Going home early this spring gives Pat Riley extra time to retool for next season.

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

Neither, really, since I never thought this team, as currently constructed, could win the NBA championship. It has deficiencies at point guard and center, two positions that are critical come playoff time. And its bench is inconsistent at best. Plus, the loss of Udonis Haslem hurts this team more than people realize.

Look, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are two of the top five basketball players in the world. But countless informed NBA opinions, ranging from Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen, sounded the alarm way back in August. It takes a team to win an NBA championship.

People can try to draw comparisons to the Celtics' "Big Three" title season all they want. That team defended, rebounded and shared the ball. That was a team. This is a one-on-one tournament more often than not.]

[Updated at 1:46 p.m.:

Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel

Hard to believe we are even having this conversation about the exalted Heatles. Geez, the way these guys are playing, they should compare themselves to another famous rock band -– the Pretenders. Or, at the very least, with the way they are now crying after regular-season defeats, perhaps they should remake the Beatles famous song: “While my guitar, er, superstar gently weeps.”

Everybody in America is having a grand time rooting for and ridiculing the Heat’s misfortune, but this is premature exhilaration. Don’t ever forget this, the only two things in sports more meaningless than the NBA regular season are college football recruiting rankings and Mel Kiper Jr.’s mock draft.

Before the All-Star break, the Lakers had lost three consecutive games and the critics were saying they were too old and no match for San Antonio in the West. Guess what? The Lakers have now won eight straight and annihilated the Spurs in San Antonio on Sunday.

Last year, nobody gave Boston a chance when they were struggling during one stretch of the regular season. Guess what? The Celtics came within a victory of winning the NBA Championship.

The Heatles may be down right now, but John, Paul, George and Ringo will be the first to tell you:

 The NBA season is a “long and winding road.”]

Photo: Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra. Credit: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

 
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