Toss this hot take into the ever-growing pile of takes about the Miami Heat hitting the web over the past week that would have seemed downright senile just three weeks ago: Erik Spoelstra has delivered the best coaching performance of his career in 2017. The fact that this take didn't just burn a hole through your computer screen, drop onto your keyboard, and roll into your lap is reason enough to call this one of the oddest Heat seasons of all time.
It's true. This season has seen a better coaching job by Spoelstra than any of the four seasons that resulted in an NBA Finals appearance during the Big Three era. To recap, this just happened:
On January 13, the Miami Heat was 11-30.
Today, February 13, the Miami Heat is 24-31.
James Johnson. Wayne Ellington. Dion Waiters. Rodney McGruder. Luke Babbitt. All big contributors on a team that just won 13 straight games.
It's not just sportswriters marveling at what Spo has wrung out of this roster. His peers are also taking notice of what he's been able to accomplish over the past month. Stan Van Gundy recently did everything but tongue-
"Erik's done a great job of getting those guys to play to their strengths and implementing a system that really works for them. Certainly, in my mind, and there's a lot of 'em going on — but certainly in mind, it's the best coaching job that's gone on this year," Van Gundy told ESPN's
“I’ve said it for years, but because I worked with him I'm biased and nobody writes it: but there’s not a better coach in the league than Erik.”
Spoelstra, for some reason, has always had a segment of Heat fans who refuse to do anything but give him shit. Win with elite players? He should do that. Lose with the worst players? He should be fired. Even though he has
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Van Gundy agrees it's time to give credit where credit is due.
"People discounted him because he had LeBron [James] and [Dwyane] Wade and [Chris] Bosh. Nobody — Gregg Popovich is one of the best ever, Phil Jackson, nobody goes to four straight finals. Nobody. He did. Those other great teams have not. But even before he had those guys, he had 'em in the playoffs. And now look what he's doing in Miami," Van Gundy said.
It's not just the Heat's amazingly solid record that makes this season Spoelstra's finest. It's the fact that Miami never quit even when it looked at the standings and saw only one team worse off than itself after 40 games. Spoelstra is capable of coaching any sort of talent on the fly. It's not his system; it's the system he uses at any given moment to adapt to the talent he has.
All Spo asks is that