MIAMI -- There are six danger signals for the Disease of Me, the affliction common among teams that leads to the Defeat of Us:
1. Chronic feelings of underappreciation -- focus on oneself.
2. Paranoia over being cheated out of one's rightful share.
3. Leadership vacuum resulting from formation of cliques and rivalries.
4. Feelings of frustration even when the team performs successfully.
5. Personal effort mustered solely to outshine one's teammate.
6. Resentment of competence of another.
Thursday night, in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, we saw the danger signals for the Disease of Me-lo, the affliction undermining the Miami Heat's bid for a three-peat:
1. Chronic inability to rotate defensively to San Antonio's constant ball movement.
3. Leadership vacuum resulting from prolonged toleration of an inferior point guard.
Yep. The Disease of Me-lo has turned this Finals into a one-sided romp. Just as in Game 3, the Spurs controlled Game 4 from the outset, building an enormous halftime lead and padding it in the second half as they cruised to a 107-86 victory and a commanding 3-1 series lead.
"This was probably the biggest surprise of the series," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Game 4 rout. "I think everybody came in expecting something dramatically different than this."
The Disease of Me-lo is brand-new and completely unexpected. In the four-year history of Miami's Big Three, the organization has never doubted its ability to win it all with its highly-talented-but-flawed lineup. But doubt has certainly crept into the hearts and minds of the Heat. The leak this week that the organization has quietly been plotting for months how it can add Anthony to LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh is the deadly sign of weakness that Pacers madman Lance Stephenson hoped to expose by blowing in LeBron's ear.
Pat Riley, the architect of the Heat, has given up. The Big Three isn't good enough anymore. Miami needs a Big Four. The truth is, Miami needed a Big Four a year ago, but the Heat got lucky. The Heat feasted on an injury-riddled and inferior Eastern Conference, and the Spurs blew Game 6.
Put the Heat in the West, and James and Wade are not playing in their fourth straight NBA Finals. Put the Heat in the West, and the Big Three would have developed the Disease of Me-lo or the Disease of Chris Paul or the Disease of Dwight Howard two years ago.
You want to understand Game 4, how the Heat got blown out at home in consecutive games? It's not the fatigue of four long years. The Eastern Conference has provided plenty of rest the past two years.
The Heat are getting blown out because they don't believe anymore. They know the Spurs are better. They know Wade can no longer be a reliable explosive scorer when James needs a break. They know they can no longer hide Mario Chalmers as their point guard.