Attending a pre-season basketball game between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs I got a little misty eyed. What if as many pundits are saying, this was the last season LeBron James were to play with the Miami Heat? For this particular exhibition it seemed like it would not matter. The Heat handily routed the Spurs by 30 points even with LeBron sitting the game out. They played (with one notable exception) a fluid, smart game that involved every teammate and made you want to get on the court and play with them. But there were none of the spectacular leave your seat moments that only LeBron James can provide. None of the gravity defying dunks, none of the impossible to imagine passes, nor the out of nowhere come from behind blocks. The Heat instead played like the Spurs. Flawless three point shooting, crisp passes, and timely defense.
I never thought I’d say this in a non-ironic way, but Coach Erik Spoelstra has turned this Heat team into a finely tuned basketball machine. How intuitive and balanced this team has become grew even more apparent when the Heat’s off-season acquisition Michael Beasley stepped on to the court. Beasley was once considered the Heat’s savior when they drafted him in 2008, but his off court penchant for the high life and his knucklehead play had the Heat evict him to Minnesota. They considered it addition by subtraction, but after a drunk driving arrest made Beasley available again for a cheaper price the Heat have given him another chance. This chance will not last long. As soon as he entered the game the ball’s purposeful movement ceased every time he got his grubby hands on it. Beasley’s ball stopping offense is anathema to the way LeBron and this collection of high IQ performers perform. If they keep Beasley and play him in meaningful moments, I believe he is one of the few factors besides injury that could derail the Heat from a third straight title, as none of the other teams are worthy adversaries.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have Kevin Durant, but with Russell Westbrook out for at least another month, that’s about it.
Coach Tom Thibodeau always has the Chicago Bulls playing at the apex of their potential and I could foresee them having a better regular season record than the Heat, but they have no answer for in the playoffs when LeBron James covers their frail point guard Derek Rose.
If this were 2008 the Brooklyn Nets would be a formidable challenge, but Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce,and Jason Terry are old and battered.
With the referee’s help the Indiana Pacers last year were able to push the Heat to seven games, but when the game is called fairly as it was in Game 7 the Heat blew out these rough and tumble thugs and won;t have the opportunity to beat them again as I see them losing in the first round this year.
The Heat’s biggest challenge will come again from the San Antonio Spurs who last June came thirty seconds from being the champs, but I feel their core players are too old to beat the Heat four times in a series.
LeBron is at his peak, and I can’t see anyone but injury or too much Beasley stopping him and the Heat from their third straight title.