After every Heat loss, the media tries to speculate about what's going wrong with the team that was supposed to be a can't-miss champion: Is it the coach? Leadership problems? Too many stars? Lack of an experienced point guard? It's not like the Heat are at risk of missing the playoffs, either. They're just not winning nearly as many games as they were expected to, but when they were supposed to challenge the all-time wins mark, a 55-win season seems like a disappointment.
Riding a four-game losing streak, which seemed impossible last summer when the team assembling a roster of talent, Miami is now facing these questions and has to figure out how to resolve whatever is going wrong. But several members of the sports media today, instead of focusing on whether this is LeBron's team or Wade's, asked a new question: Is it ever okay to cry in the locker room? This stemmed from comments that Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra made after a tough loss to the Bulls. Spoelstra revealed that at least one Heat player was shedding tears over the team's woes.
But he's stepped back since. "This is a classic example of sensationalism, looking for a headline," Spoelstra said today. And despite Wade's assurance that the team is fine, not everyone is buying it. For a different team, the crying might represent deep passion or personal commitment to winning; for this Heat team, that's already so vilified, it's taken as something else, something sorrier. Here, a look at how basketball writers are responding today:
They deserve it: "We're not reveling in the Heat's misery as much as celebrating the idea that two superstars and an all-star can't join forces and dominate the league just by showing up," says Mark Potash in the Chicago Sun-Times. We're just happy that the Heat didn't make it so easy for themselves - we're "against the idea that anything can be that great without working for it." The players are crying because they know they have to work harder than they originally thought they would.
Call their decision-making into question: We all love it when the Heat lose, says the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Terry Pluto, because "any person with basic basketball knowledge realizes Miami could fix its late-game misery with a simple play" - a pick-and-roll that opens up options for both Wade and James score. But James doesn't like to set picks, and the Heat have lost games because of it. The crying shows just how far the Heat are from making better late-game decisions.
How did Spoelstra mess this up? "With a stronger head coach in place than Erik Spoelstra this might not be a problem," says Christopher Gasper in The Boston Globe. Spoelstra "erred in revealing that crying took place in the Miami locker room after yesterday's defeat, opening his team and its unholy trinity up to more derision and criticism when all he was trying to do was humanize them to the haters." Instead, the players just seem "fragile" and are still seeking their "seat at the cool kid's table." But enjoy it while you can because eventually they'll get it together.
Let's back off, guys: Look, "a true show of emotion is always OK. In this boring, passionless world, it's great to have people who actually care -- and show it," says Jamie Samuelsen in the Detroit Free Press. "If you like the Heat, you should be far more concerned about its in-game meltdowns than postgame meltdowns." Crying isn't so bad, after all: "It shows you care." That's a good sign for the Heat right now.
Follow Danny Groner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DannyGroner