You know Steve Nash is watching this.
The Miami Heat are imploding again. Chris Bosh is out with an injury. Dwyane Wade is hurting. LeBron James, two years removed from “The Decision,” that forever changed him into villain in the eyes of so many, continues to add to his MVP trophy collection while his ring fingers remain bare.
Can Miami come back off the deck, down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers? Of course they can. The Pacers are deep. They are playing well. They have size and defined roles.
They don’t have a LeBron or a D-Wade, who has yet another gear inside their tired bodies if they choose to believe all the necessary effort is worth it. When you consider that either Oklahoma City or San Antonio will be waiting at the end of this road, these guys might decide to fight another day.
But let’s say it doesn’t happen. Let’s say Bosh’s injury and Wade’s weariness and LeBron’s curse are too much to overcome, and the Heat are bounced in the second round. Let’s say Erik Spoelstra is fired — which is a little like saying “Let’s say tomorrow will be a day of the week which ends in Y” — and that Pat Riley doesn’t want to come down from the ivory tower for another round of “Coddle the superstar.”
What to do? Let’s check the free agent market, keeping in mind that you’re looking for (a) A point guard who is more interested in a championship than one more payday and (b) A coach with a similar mindset that will — over Riley’s dead body — roll out the ball and let the boys play.
If it please the court, may I present Exhibits A and B: Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni.
Nash is a New York guy, but would he even think about touching the grease fire that is the Knicks? Do you want to play with LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony? OK, that’s settled.
Can you see Nash orchestrating the offense, finding LeBron on the break and getting Wade shots he doesn’t have to create for himself? Can you see Nash working the two-man game with Bosh or planting him at 20 feet and drawing the defense with penetration? He would make the defense pay for sagging back with his dead-eye 3-point shooting, and knock down free throws in the clutch (sorry, LeBron) like layups.
Nash has three years left. The Heat have three championships to win. And D’Antoni, with $24 million of battle pay in his pocket from Knicks owner James Dolan, would come at a reasonable sticker price. The re-shaping of his reputation being the real payoff.
The most likely scenario is Riley coming back and doing it his way. But I like Plan B a lot better.
•The Los Angeles Kings are a runaway freight train at this point and they deserve to be on the verge of closing out the Phoenix Coyotes. In the process, Coyotes fans are finding out, up close and personal, the difference between a team with a $65 million payroll (and rising) and one living day-to-day on a $50 million allowance by the NHL.
Shane Doan is the highest-paid Coyote at $4.55 million. The Kings have three players who make at least $5.2 million. The Coyotes have three players who make more than $3 million the Kings have eight, and most are signed to the kind of long-term deals that Phoenix GM Don Maloney can’t even consider without a solution to the Phoenix ownership problem.
•A word about coach Dave Tippett’s decision to call out the Kings — and the rest of the NHL — for over-the-top flopping that has become commonplace in the game today:
First of all, he’s exactly right – it is over the top and it was on display for all to see in Game 3 with Jarrett Stoll, Travis Lewis and King Thespian Dustin Brown leading the way (Brown’s delayed reaction to Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s hit in the third period on Thursday night was the kind of move usually reserved for a 1970’s Bruce Lee flick. Hey, if you need an actor, you call Hollywood, right?
Tippett’s argument is spot-on, but the timing needed as much work as Brown’s. Tippett’s team is playing hard, but after two playoff rounds the Coyotes are wilting while the Kings are getting stronger. The calls are poor and the penalties are unbalanced, but that’s not why the Coyotes are on the verge of elimination.
If Tippett talks about this topic on an off day in mid-January, he would be lauded for his honesty. Down 0-3 in the conference finals, it sounds like sour grapes.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.