The Miami Heat were outshone, outplayed, and outclassed at times during the 2014 NBA Finals as the San Antonio Spurs proved that team basketball was capable of overcoming a franchise built around now departed superstar LeBron James.
Crisis of confidence
Everyone could see that there was something not quite right as they watched the Spurs dismantle the Heat 4-1 back in June. And now one of their returning stars, Mario Chalmers, has voiced his opinion on exactly what went wrong for the South Florida franchise, and himself, during the five game series:
"You know, for the first time in my career, I felt like I wasn't...yeah, my confidence wasn't there," Chalmers explained to Bleacher Report.
"Going through that whole San Antonio series, I just felt like in the playoffs I kept getting worse and worse every round. I just couldn't figure it out."
Chalmers' honesty isn't too far off the mark.
In the 2013-14 NBA playoffs the six-year veteran was down pretty much across the board; posting 6.4 points and 4.6 assists per game in contrast to 9.8 and 4.9 during the Heat's regular-season schedule. His minutes in the Finals series were also limited as Eric Spoelstra cottoned on to Chalmers' confidence issues.
Sharing the blame
Mario Chalmers took a lot of heat as the Heat's role players struggled to step up in the same was as their San Antonio counterparts during the NBA finale.
But he was by no means the only one to under perform during the five game series, and he wasn't afraid to let his teammates know about it this week:
"Everybody in my ear, talking about 'We need you, we need you to do this, we need you to do that'," he explained.
"And then when it comes to the game, I didn't feel involved, Like, you all talk about how y'all need me, but y'all didn't put me in position to do anything. In previous years, if I was in that position, I would make sure I would go get the ball, I would put myself in position to score.
"I felt like this year, we all just took too much of a back seat in the Finals."
What now for Miami?
Since their humbling Finals defeat the Heat have undergone some fairly major changes.
LeBron James of course has returned home to the Cleveland Cavaliers whilst there have been plenty of other comings and goings as the Miami Heat roster takes on a new look in the post LeBron era.
Miami have also re-signed the likes of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to key new deals and of course Mario Chalmers has returned this summer despite a period of uncertainty regarding his future.
And the point guard is excited about what he, and the Miami Heat, can achieve going forward:
"I feel like I've finally got a chance to shine, show my real game.
"Me, (Chris Bosh), D-Wade and the rest of the guys, we're going to pick it up, we're still going to play Miami Heat basketball, and we're still gonna be a competitor."
There will certainly need to be some changes at the American Airlines Arena going forward if they are to remain atop the Eastern Conference - especially with Chalmers' former teammate LeBron looking over his shoulder in Cleveland.