The Miami Heat are on fire. They've ripped through the Eastern Conference, playing inspired team basketball. They are the sum of their parts, a machine working beautifully in perfect concert, an energetic and selfless symphony conducted by the criminally unappreciated Erik Spoelstra — who at the young age of 50 has already put together an undeniable Hall of Fame career.
Erik Spoelstra, Hall of Famer is not a phrase being thrown around very much at Pennsylvania diners or sports-shouting editorial meetings with great regularity, so it may be a bit arresting to accept this reality without digging deeper.
That's fine. Demonstrating the greatness is light work.
Spoelstra has now made the NBA Finals in five of his 12 seasons. Only three coaches have won more conference crowns. He's four wins from his third world championship. Only five coaches in the history of the game have won more. His .591 career winning percentage ranks sixth among leaders who have had tenures of equal length. He's been under .500 only twice, with 37- and 39-win seasons in those so-called "down years."
Miami, as an organization, bobs when the rest of the league weaves. The Heat don't rebuild. They reload. And win. With great regularity. The mere suggestion that taking steps backward to move forward is an affront to the Pat Riley-Spoelstra relationship, which has been both successful and instructive in proving that there's more than one pathway to success.