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Enough Talking, Already

One of coach Erik Spoelstra's best characteristics as a rookie NBA coach seems to be his open line of communication with his players.

You have to respect that. I'm sure the players do. Spooneal_3

If there's a problem, Spoelstra is approachable and honest about where things stand.

If there's a rotation issue - judging, at least, by what the media's told - Spoelstra has already explained his feelings to one particular player or the other affected by an increase or decrease in playing time. He's not going all Don Nelson on folks.

But at this point, on this particular issue, what more could there be to say?

Spoelstra apparently met with recently acquired center Jermaine O'Neal for the second time in three days. That's two more conversations than O'Neal had rebounds in the first half of Monday's game.

O'Neal has been his own biggest critic since he arrived from Toronto in that Feb. 13 trade. Since then, the six-time All-Star is barely averaging more than a dozen points and slightly less than half a dozen rebounds.

O'Neal, respectfully, would like a bigger piece of the offensive pie. But as things are going these days, this is not only Dwyane Wade's house O'Neal has entered, it's also Wade's bakery. No way this offense will slow down to incorporate a significant amount of sets for O'Neal. At least not now. Not while Wade is on this binge.

You could probably count on one hand the number of actual plays the Heat has run in recent weeks. There's the pick-and-roll. There's the zone break. And then there's the pick-up-the-ball-Dwyane-and-do-whatever-you-need-to-do set, just to mix things up a little bit.

O'Neal has talked frequently about being patient in this transition, but he's also put an enormous amount of pressure on himself to perform. He mentions the fact that he's getting paid a lot of money ($21 million this season and $23 million next season) to do a job, and that he needs to start doing it.

Spoelstra has tried to convince O'Neal there's production in his presence alone, that everything else will come. This is clearly a case of two men wanting the same thing (overall team success, first and foremost), but they are taking different views on the matter.

This Heat team was headed to the playoffs with or without O'Neal on the roster. The hope was that he would make life a bit easier in the post once the postseason gets here. For now, O'Neal seems to be fitting into the offense about as well as Shawn Marion. But that should change.

When O'Neal sat on the bench for both overtime periods in Monday's win against Chicago, he didn't just have one of the most expensive seats in the house, he WAS the most expensive seat in the house.

"Everybody's been so critical of his individual play, and sometimes, that's the challenge with team sports," Spoelstra said. "I don't look at it maybe like the fans do, and look straight at his box score. All I know is there is a correlation with the way we're playing. Our offense is more balanced and Dwyane's numbers are better also. Some of that can be attributed to Jermaine and his presence."

But there seems to be a thin line between presence and productive opportunities, depending on which end of the conversation you're on.

O'Neal seems to want to show the Heat he can still be the player he was during his prime in Indiana. Miami would simply settle for a handful of low-post baskets, a put-back or two, a key blocked shot and more rebounds than, say, 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson might snatch on a good night.

Spoelstra and O'Neal have communicated enough.

But talk will continue to be cheap (as cheap as $44 million in conversation comes) until Spoelstra's playbook and O'Neal's post-game stat sheet start to speak the same language.

O'Neal smooth-talked his way into getting around a team rule to wear his headband.

It's now time he got his head exclusively into the game.





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