Miami Heat squad members have dismissed suggestions of tanking as they try to get their season on track
After getting off to a dreadful start - losing eight of their first 13 games - rumors began to surface, and who would blame any team for looking forward to someone like Zion Williams, RJ Barrett or Cameron Reddish if they aren't likely to compete with the big fish?
The Heat, though, are trying their best to bury the accusations and have won four of their last five games, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 121-98 at the Staples Center on Saturday night.
Per The Athletic, the side has no plans to lie down and will fight for every game until the end.
“It’s f*****g dumb,” Tyler Johnson said in reference to the claims regarding their supposed tanking. “If you really think that as a fan, I don’t think you’re a true fan.
“Why would you ever not want to put your best product out there? We were a playoff team (last year). People jump ship at the first sign of trouble. In today’s society, that’s like built in. Any time something is too hard, you just don’t do it anymore. You just quit. I think that’s what’s so satisfying about the direction of this team. Every season is different. We had to go through a lot of stuff early. We don’t make excuses about it, but you see that we’re trending in the right direction.”
The Heat were a playoff team last season and fell just one game short of a spot two seasons ago, despite an 11-30 start. If anything, they're one of the gutsiest sides in the NBA; and with no recognized star, save the aging and outgoing Dwyane Wade, they aren't left with much of a choice but to rely on their defense and grittiness.
“It is disappointing to hear (tanking talk) because I guess that’s the way of the world now,” Johnson continued. “You can’t find yourself as a person or as a team if you don’t go through difficulty.”
Couldn't keep those eyes open long enough to enjoy Miami's late tipoff last night in LA? We got ya covered!— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 9, 2018
The squad put on a show inside Staples Center during their win over the Clippers, attacking the rim from all angles. Dunks, on dunks, on dunks!
🔥🎥 #HEATHighlights pic.twitter.com/vJRZDNo3U1
“We play for each other,” forward James Johnson chimed in. “It’s as simple as that. We know what we want to accomplish in this locker room. We know who’s got each other’s back in this locker room. As far as the fans and all that, we love them, but at the same time, we can’t listen to that outside noise. Tanking never comes across our locker room. It is what it is. We’re going to play how we want to play, and we’re going to play for each other like we always want to play.”
Rodney McGruder, a player trying to make a name for himself in the NBA after going undrafted in 2013, has hailed the team's culture as they strive to repair their season under the watchful eye of head coach Erik Spoelstra.
“If you look at the whole team and you look and Dwyane and (Udonis Haslem), that was the pedigree of this team years before we got here,” McGruder said. “That’s just the Miami Heat culture. The Miami Heat, they do a great job of just finding Miami Heat guys.”
“I’ve never considered tanking,” Haslem said. “That’s never been in my vocabulary. I don’t even know how to tank. I’ve got a fish tank at home. That’s the only tank I know about. That’s not in my DNA. I’ve got to be able to sleep at night.”
"That was a Miami HEAT win."— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 9, 2018
See what the guys said it took to pull off a 23-point victory over one of the top Western Conference teams with just 8 healthy bodies in 'Sound On' presented by @JBLAudio. #JBLxHEAT pic.twitter.com/y72B3qVXhz
What This Means
As Johnson said, any true Miami Heat fan would know not to pay any attention to claims of the team purposely losing in order to obtain a top pick in the draft.
Spoelstra's side is just outside the playoff bracket with an 11-14 record. But there's a lot of basketball to be played between now and the end of the regular season and Wade will hope to extend his final NBA campaign just a bit longer and go out on a high.