This past summer a professional basketball team I have followed since its inception, the Miami Heat, assembled the greatest combination of talent since the Beatles. The president of the Heat organization, Pat Riley, executed what he called, “the triple play” by recruiting LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade. He then used what money NBA salary cap rules allowed him to spend to fill out the roster with extraordinary shooters in Mike Miller, Eddie House, and James Jones and grizzled veterans in Udonis Haslem and Juwan Howard.
The question to me is not whether the Miami Heat will win the championship, but how many games they will win in the 82 game regular season along the way. The record holder is the 1996 Chicago Bulls who won 72 games after trading Will Perdue for Dennis Rodman. Rodman joining Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen meant the Bulls could lay claim to three of the top defenders of all time.
Meanwhile, the modern day Heat have three better players. Obviously, no one was better than Jordan. (No one was better at anything than Jordan was at basketball.) But if anyone ever came close to imitating Jordan’s drive, dominance, and will to win it was Dwyane Wade in the 2006 NBA Finals. And now Wade is joined by a player who is even better than him in LeBron James. LeBron James has the size and strength of a center with the athleticism of the craftiest guard. People complain that he is not a winner, but he is only 25 years old and has yet to play with a bona fide star.
And then there is Chris Bosh, who I thought was just the cherry on the fudgecicle, but has proven to be a revelation in the preseason. He is a six foot eleven inch beast in the low post and has the truest jump shot between himself Wade and James. In one preseason game where James and Wade were both sitting out, Bosh scored twenty points in one quarter. One quarter! And he’s the Miami Heat’s third best player.
With all this talent I think they will easily win seventy games. They should win eight-two, but a combination of injury, poor officiating, and another team catching absolute fire will lead to twelve losses leaving the Heat at 70-12.
Now I know this prognosis is based on opinion and we are told that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I disagree. There are idiots out there whose opinions are worthless. I am awestruck by misinformed fools who believe some team other than the Miami Heat can win this year’s NBA championship. This happens more than you can imagine when one lives in Los Angeles. Lakers fans’ argument for how their team is superior follows the below flawed chain of logic.
A) The Lakers won the championship last year.
Yes, this is true. And while much can be said of the experience built up from winning a championship, the past is still the past. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher are a year older. Their center Andrew Bynum is still recovering from his annual surgery and the Heat have two players with their own championship experience to learn from in Wade and Haslem.
B) The Lakers have more talent than the Heat.
After hearing this nugget I wonder whether California really needs to legalize marijuana as most denizens of LA are already seemingly high. Let’s agree that the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are as good as Wade and Bosh. That still leaves the Heat with the two time MVP LeBron James. The Heat smartly stacked up with excellent three point shooters like Miller and House who when left open will calmly sink three point shots.
C) The Heat will be lucky to get past the Boston Celtics.
After knocking the Heat out of the playoffs last year and making it to game seven of the NBA Finals the Celtics added the post presence of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal to team up with future hall of famers Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. I would be terrified of this team if this was the turn of the century, but we are almost in the year 2011 and basketball is a contact game for the young (as my broken wrist can attest). Shaq is 38. Ray Allen is 35. Kevin Garnett is 34. Paul Pierce is 33 and Jermaine O’Neal is the oldest and most brittle 32 year old on the planet. They are a fine, savvy team, but have lost to a man no one can beat, Father Time.
D) Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will be outfoxed by Laker coach Phil Jackson.
This is my one concern. I feel the Heat’s talent should trump poor substitution and a lack of clever strategy, but stupidity can at times trump all.
The versatility of the Heat in the hands of a mastermind like Phil Jackson would make them unbeatable. LeBron James could serve as a post presence. Wade could rest on offense and concentrate on being a pure defensive stopper. Fortunately if the Heat falter at all, they have the architect of this mad experiment, Pat Riley, waiting in his secret headquarters to take over and motivate this squad toward greatness.
This should be an exciting season as the Miami Heat will not only compete against the rest of the league, but also against history.