I was going to compare being a fan of the Miami Heat this year to being in an abusive relationship, but that would be insensitive.
Insensitive to me and all the other fans of the Miami Heat.
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh were introduced in July as teammates of Dwyane Wade we immediately fell head over heels in love. This was a real hunk of a team that would treat us right for the rest of our natural lives. But then they started smacking us around. They gave away twenty point leads like they were venereal diseases. They’d lose every close game they were in. But just as you were ready to run away from them, they’d seduce you again only to break your heart and self-esteem all over.
Now with the playoffs drawing near, the Miami Heat almost have me believing in them again. They won fifteen of their last eighteen games including a twenty-three point thrashing of the hated Boston Celtics. I compare their roster with every other team and I don’t see how the Heat can possibly not win the championship. But I’m the same schmuck who predicted the Heat would win 70 games this season. I put my money where my mouth was and it ended up costing me when they only secured 58 victories.
After a close look at the season schedule, you discover the Miami Heat lost fifteen games where they had a lead in the fourth quarter. They were also a league worst 2-8 in games decided by three points or less. There are two ways to look at this. I’ve been coming from the pessimistic viewpoint that the Miami Heat’s coach Erik Spoelstra is one of the dimmest Cro-magnons to ever walk the earth. His inability to inspire confidence in his troops has left them nervous messes in the closing seconds of games while his play calling and substitutions make me wonder who ties his shoes for him.
But a sunnier perspective might remember basketball can also be a game of luck. When a contest is close the way a ball bounces can decide the outcome. Perhaps the Heat have been extraordinarily unlucky and in the postseason the fates will balance things out.
Maybe. But with the Heat’s four toughest rivals all helmed by sharper minds, the Miami Heat can not be involved in close games if they hope to win the championship. Fortunately, with the talent the Heat possess it is a distinct possibility that they can rout any of their flawed challengers.
The Boston Celtics appear as though their advanced age has caught up with them. Perhaps they are playing possum as last year they also struggled at the end of the regular season only to come four minutes away from winning a championship. But they are all a year older and a majority of the team a step slower. They traded away their center Kendrick Perkins and now must depend on two Irish guys named O’Neal whose best days were at the turn of the century.
The San Antonio Spurs are also filled with crafty veterans. They raced out of the gates to the NBA’s best record, but the long season has worn them out. They’re going to need to pull out all their old man tricks just to make it out of the first round.
The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have also fallen to the ravages of age. Kobe Bryant plays with more intelligence, but at any moment can still sabotage his team with a parade of impossible shots. His coach, Phil Jackson, is the best in the business and the only man alive who could reign in Bryant’s massive ego, but with their young center Andrew Bynum again struggling with knee injuries and back-up point guard Steve Blake infecting the lockerroom with a post-mature case of chicken pox, it will take all of Jackson’s moxie to grease another championship from this Lakers team.
The popular favorite is the Chicago Bulls. In a single season their rookie head coach, Tom Thibodeau, turned the Bulls’ biggest flaw, their defense, into a strength. It is to his credit that he was able to eke out over sixty wins with mediocre talent, but they have played as well as they can with the soon to be declared most mediocre MVP Award winner Jalen Rose. This MVP award was originally meant to reward the league’s best basketball player. But at some point it became an amalgam of a popularity contest and a variety show. When Michael Jordan was at his peak the award would be handed to second tier superstars like Karl Malone and Charles Barkley for diversity’s sake. And now the same silliness is happening to LeBron James. True, LeBron’s team had less victories than the Bulls, but nearly every one of LeBron’s statistics are superior to Rose. But because James is considered a jerk for leaving Cleveland and Charlie Rose is a “good guy” the award will go to Chicago.
I hope Pete Rose cherishes the trophy because with a lack of scorers his Bulls will lose in the second round to the Orlando Magic. This year’s title is LeBron James and the Miami Heat’s to lose, helping all the damage the Miami Heat inflicted upon their fans during the season fade away.