To crack the code and decipher the Miami Heat’s current malaise ahead of LeBron James’ return to Cleveland, let’s turn to that bible of significance, the Oxford English Dictionary.

Healthy – “producing good health; beneficial.”

Conflicts – “clashing (of opposed principles); be incompatible.”

“I truly believe these are good for a team,” claimed Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “As long as you can survive these, it’ll make you stronger.”

As James awaits Cleveland’s first-hand response to his acrimonious departure last summer, the Ohio faithful must be rubbing their hands in glee. The grass isn’t always greener, they’ll say (only, one imagines, in more impolite terms). The disarray is some kind of karma repaid, LBJ’s admission that he isn’t having much fun in his new hometown his just desserts.

James said he was going to “take his talents to South Beach”. And so far, we’ve seen plenty of them. A presumption that the franchise will revolve around his whims. A subtle grab of the coach’s divine power. A need to dominate the ball. A double-speak which suggests that, as good as he is, the responsibility for failure lies elsewhere.

Cleveland was well-used to it by the end. And they had no rings and banners with which to console themselves. To avoid a similar miserable fate, Miami only have one option: to stand behind Spoelstra in these tricky times and give him the relentless support he needs. Otherwise, the young coach will lack the authority to cajole, command and – if necessary – demand more from James. Without it, the Heat’s quest for dominance is utterly doomed.

James and Bosh have not generated much Heat so far (NBA/Getty)

With a 10-8 start, the Heat’s playcaller is already experiencing the pressures which inevitably come with matching the high, if unrealistic, expectations which were placed on this team. Observers wonder if the burden is getting to him. “My job is to prepare this team and to get us ready for the games and continue to help us get better,” he replied. “That keeps my days full and my nights.”

Being a head coach isn’t easy. In the NBA, in the BBL, anywhere, there is a delicate balancing act. Be too tough and risk alienating your players. Be too soft and the players will do as they please. When egos collide, it is combustible. You don’t need a Hadron Collider to know what the resulting explosion can cause.

Yet, behind closed locker room doors and on practice courts free from prying eyes, these blow-ups happen every day.

“A coach-player relationship in this league often will be confrontational at times,” Spoelstra acknowledged. “And other times, it’s smooth sailing. But just the dynamic of the competitive nature of everybody, expectations, results — all these things combine, yeah, sometimes it will get testy.”

And that’s no bad thing, he added.

“Especially when people have a pure heart and mind about getting better, that just shows that the sides want to make it right. I’m going to demand. I’m going to push and prod. And a lot of times, players don’t know what is needed for a team to break through. The guys have been good about it. They understand they need to be coached, they need to be pushed, and that this is a process. We do need to do this together. But we need to get better.”

Which means, in the absence of alternatives, James will have to play a lot of point guard and improve at it. Wade will need to shake off his apprehensions about shooting the ball. And Bosh must show why he is the highest-paid member of the Big Three by not saving his best work for YouTube.

They will require nothing less on Thursday. The return of the hometown hero turned villain will be an emotional torrid occasion where the Cavaliers – and their fans – have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

In such circumstances, the Heat must pull together rather than dividing and inviting conquest. Miami must unite behind its coach or risk implosion.

“I have Coach Spo’s back or whatever the case may be,” James said on Monday, following his meeting with Spoelstra. “This is who we have.”

This is what he chose, what he engineered. Already damaged goods for the manner of his exit from Cleveland, James needs to show he can flourish amid adversity.

Because how the Heat deals with its internal conflicts will not define Spoeltra’s reputation. Only James.

No dictionary will be required to explain the significance of that.

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