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NBA FINALS: HEAT v THUNDER


June 21, 2012


Erik Spoelstra


MIAMI, FLORIDA: Game Five

Oklahoma City Thunder - 106
Miami Heat - 121


COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: I'll turn in my game card, lineups in a few minutes.

Q. An odd question to start with, but Dwyane Wade, can you describe sort of the different role that he played with this year as opposed to when he was a champion in '06, and just how much he had to sort of grind through a little bit of some of the injuries and everything that he went through this year?
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: Yeah, you know what, it shows the evolution of a champion. To have the maturity and the perspective to accept a little bit of a different role than he was used to. He had to step aside to an MVP player that was really going to drive us in so many different ways, and yet he could still impact the game in winning ways as well as anybody in this league. You know, offensively still making plays, he's added new dimensions now; he's a post threat. But to have the maturity to lead us with his voice, lead us on defense, still be the heartbeat of this team, still be the great talent that he was in 2006, but to drive us in a different way.
I've seen him now for 10 years, and to see him grow from that young kid that came here his rookie year from Marquette to who he is now as a two‑time NBA champion. His leadership this year was probably the biggest difference from 2006. He was kind of just playing the game and didn't want to step on anybody's toes back then.

Q. You've lived these last two years with LeBron, you've seen it all from the outside, you grew close to him as a person. How satisfying is it for you to see him reach this moment, but also to see him reach this moment as the person he is now, and what he's matured into over these last two years?
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: You know, we're all so proud of LeBron, and none of us understood it. When you get to know LeBron, you don't understand why he was such a lightning rod for the criticism, and all of just the incessant critiques about a player who embodies all the qualities you want of a champion.
I mean, first of all, I mentioned this before, you spend ten minutes with him, you absolutely love the guy because he's so engaging. He's one of the most charismatic people I've ever been around. He's giving. He's an incredible teammate. He gives everything and sacrifices and does everything for the team. He's never been in trouble. He does so many things that you want a team player to do, and yet he was criticized, and that's why to go through this journey, he had to get out of his comfort zone to leave the place where he grew up to start fresh with a new team, not many people would have had the courage to do that.
And then to go through all those trials and tribulations to get to this point, he's earned it, and we're so proud of him.

Q. Juwan Howard 18 years, Mike Miller 11 years, I can't even think, you have a lot of guys in there that waited a long time for this. For as much attention as LeBron and Dwyane and Chris deservedly get, how nice is it for some of those other guys collectively?
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: Yeah, it was a special moment. Our guys have so much respect for Juwan Howard, but with five minutes to go Dwyane and Chris and LeBron mentioned in the huddle, hey, two more minutes, let's get this thing done so Juwan Howard can get on the court in this game in The Finals to get the championship.
You know, he's earned this. We'll all be working for him some day. He'll be a GM or a coach, whatever he decides. That's what he was acting as this year anyway.
Mike Miller, I don't know how this guy was playing. I literally only planned on playing him three or four minutes tonight. That's all I thought he could go. Dwyane got in foul trouble, then he started knocking down threes, so we left him in there. It was pure adrenaline and competitive will.

Q. For as much Heat as your guys have taken, obviously you've taken your share, a month ago speculation was you were in trouble when it was 2‑1 in Indiana. What does this mean to you as far as silencing the noise that you speak of so often?
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: You know what, all of us are in this‑‑ I know I'm in this for the competition. That's something you don't really get to have probably in any other vocation in life. There's some, but the competition to be able to put together a team, to sacrifice, to give to something that's bigger than yourself, that's what's gratifying. And you go through those tough times.
We have a brotherhood now that you don't necessarily have unless you've been through the fire together, and two years of it made us all more closer, and it makes this moment that much more gratifying.

Q. For so long this has all been about the Big Three. Talk about the importance the role players played in this series.
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: Absolutely, but we never thought of it as the Big Three. That was the theme outside. But we knew other guys would have to contribute. This was a perfect example tonight. Everybody stepped up, Shane, Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, the list goes on, Udonis Haslem. Everybody had to sacrifice something except for our draft picks, but the guys who had an opportunity to choose to come here, they sacrificed something, either pay, minutes, shots, opportunities that they would get with some other team. That just doesn't happen in today's game very often. And that's why this is a special group.
You know, while we didn't really spend much time worrying about it or concerned with it, it was a little puzzling that guys were criticized as much as they were, because we sacrificed a great deal.

Q. Looking back to last year, was the biggest difference between this year and last year the fact that LeBron James dedicated himself to the post and learning the four position, which allowed you to unlock your versatility with Bosh at the five, as well?
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: Yeah, there's a lot of different factors. Shane Battier helped with that because they're both so versatile, we can play both of them as forwards and do it seamlessly during the course of a game. But there's no question, we all knew that this team was built a little bit differently, and we needed to absolutely embrace what some would see as unconventional. We would need an inside presence to be able to play inside out. LeBron knew that, as well. We were all on the same page about it. He dedicated the summer to develop that game, and that allowed us to play like the power teams that you see with a big center, but to do it with a versatile power forward, small forward, and to be able to play inside out. Dwayne Wade also helped with that.
And so people saw us as small, but we played a power game, attack the paint, inside out, play out of the post, things of that nature. And LeBron was really pivotal in that.

Q. Was using that flexibility a risk for you as a coach, given how much talent you had on this team? Was that a risk for you to say, we're going to go completely unconventional and go without a traditional five?
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: Yeah, at some point we had so much time to think about it in the offseason, and we knew. I mean, starting two years ago at about the All‑Star Break we started to play a little bit more unconventional and utilize our versatility.
Another big step was Chris embracing the center position, and that really took our team to another level because of his speed, his skill set, he could defend multiple positions. But as a center, he became one of the tougher covers in the league.
You know, he really had to sacrifice quite a bit and to get out of his comfort zone and things that he was used to in Toronto. That helped us take another big step forward as a team.

Q. Have you been assured you're going to come back next season? I'm kidding. Really, do you ever feel like a field goal kicker in the Playoffs where the only time we notice you is when you miss and lose, and really nobody talks about what you did to assemble a lot of different parts?
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: You know what, I never really concerned myself with it because of the relationships and the loyalty that's been built up with this organization. You know, Micky Arison has always prided this organization on loyalty. There's no secret, it's not a coincidence that a lot of us have been here for 17 years. Pat and I have been together‑‑ I've worked so many different positions under Pat, and then to see how far our relationship has grown, I never felt in jeopardy. Pat and I would talk every single day. He was in the trenches with me. You guys have no idea how much he wanted to make this work, and Micky wanted this blueprint to work. I had their confidence all the time, but it was more of a working relationship. All of us were investing our energies in the same direction.
You know, it's more about that and the competition than all the noise outside.

Q. Your team trailed in each of the last three series, and that had never been done by an eventual champion. What do you feel like the test or the tests came this spring particularly, and what was it that saw you guys through?
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: I think we started to build that resiliency last year. We went through so many moments that felt so much more intense than normal NBA regular seasons. Two years ago we went on a five‑game losing streak. It felt like the Playoffs. And you start to figure it out pretty quickly, and you come together‑‑ you can either go the other way or come closer together, and you start to build some toughness.
Last year's pain that we went through, even for the new guys, they inherited that pain. We told them that. And you go through those experiences together, and you're able to survive it, it's a great teacher and motivator, and I think that helped us in all the tough times this year.

Q. Along those lines, what's it going to be like next year when every pair of back‑to‑back losses doesn't lead to calls for the breakup of this team?
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA: Do you think that'll actually happen? Who knows what to expect, you know, with the story lines next year. But I don't think we'll be able to dodge them completely.
Thank you, guys, for everything this year.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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