It’s late April and for the first time in years I couldn’t care less. I have no anticipation, nor dread for the NBA playoffs. I only feel indifference.
Partly because I know only one of two teams can win the championship this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers or the San Antonio Spurs. This conclusion comes from looking back at the last 35 years of NBA history. The only championship team during that span that did not have a truly transcendent otherworldly all time great player are the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Every other team from Magic Johnson and Kareem’s 1980’s LA Lakers to Dr. J’s Philadelphia 76ers to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls to Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks all had a player that was impossible to stop. With Kevin Durant injured the only players that qualify are LeBron James with Cleveland and Tim Duncan with San Antonio. The media has tried to portray Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors as just such a player, and he is a hell of a shooter but I’ve seen his story before in another Stephen who was too short to come up big in the playoffs in Steve Nash. These Warriors remind me a lot of Nash’s Phoenix Suns and are destined when a bigger defender like James or the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard guarding Curry at the end of games to have their hearts broken in the playoffs.
But the main reason I don’t care about the playoffs is I have no dog in the race. My Miami Heat stunk it up this year, leaving me with only two options of who to root for in the playoffs, whoever is playing against LeBronedict Arnold James’ Cleveland Cavaliers or the New Orleans Pelicans since they feature the only ex-Heat player not playing for Cleveland, the young fella, Norris Cole.
When I look at teams that made the playoffs instead of the Miami Heat like the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks and I see how much more talent the Heat roster had my immediate reaction for this year’s failures is to blame the coach, Erik Spoelstra. For years I hated on the guy, but after coaching Heat teams that won two championships I started to believe he wasn’t as stupid as he seemed. After this past trainwreck of a season where they could only win 37 games to 45 losses I wondered if Spoelstra’s previous incompetence lowered my expectations. Looking back at The LeBron years I still believe an excellent coach should have led that team to 4 championships during the 4 years as well as every regular season winning 60 games. Those Heat teams did the exact minimum not to look like underachievers through the lens of history with 2 championships and a single 60 win season.
But God, I miss that team.
Every game was an adventure, each quarter assuring a jaw dropping play of athleticism. This season’s Heat roster did not have a savant like LeBron James, nor a 3 point marksman like Ray Allen. From the start of the season you could see this Heat team was not a championship contender. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade had their moments, but the off-season acquisitions like Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng were bums. Everyone could see it, which is why I’m willing to give Spoelstra the benefit of the doubt this season because there’s a good chance the Heat were intentionally awful.
See, in order to sign LeBron James to a maximum 6 year contract many moons ago, the Heat had to give up a first round draft pick. Little did the Heat know, that James would break out of his contract after 4 years and the Heat would be giving up a draft pick for nothing. There was one caveat, if the Heat were one of the league’s 10 worst teams they could keep the pick. And what do you know? With 37 wins the Heat are one of the 10 worst teams. So perhaps what looked like terrible end of game play calling and substitutions that made no sense were actually building for the future. Maybe this mysterious season ending ailment that forced Chris Bosh to sit out the last half of the season was caused by Draftitis. Now the Heat have what seems like a Hall of Fame center in Hassan Whiteside, an all-star point guard they traded for in Goran Dragic, along with a top 10 pick (previous #10 picks include all-stars like Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Caron Butler, and Paul George).
Hopefully next year will be brighter. Wake me up when it comes, cause this year’s playoffs looks like a snoozer.