Tuesday, October 30, 2012
10/30/2012 08:00:00 AM | Posted by Ray Harris | Edit Post
(Las Vegas) - It was just a few short months ago when I was traveling from my gorgeous Summerlin, Las Vegas home to Eastern Las Vegas to watch the USA olympic team practice, scrimmage, and prepare themselves for what would eventually be a gold medal in London. 25% of the team, was riddled with members of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had just lost to the Miami Heat weeks before in the NBA Finals.
James however, was the only member of the Heat that played for the squad. Not because James was the only player worthy, Bosh and Wade are more than capable and deserving of representing our country on the world finest athletic stages, however injuries sidelined the other members of the Heat from participation. Practice after practice, interview after interview, the question that presented itself to Durant, Harden, and Westbrook was simply "How do you guys play with him?" The question was being asked by journalists, beat writers, amateur website writers, and just plain old fans in the mall. The fact that any member of the Thunder organization could wake up daily, knowing they would have to see, smile, and make friends with James must have been excruciating.
After all, as I mentioned earlier, it had been just weeks since James defeated the Thunder and won his first NBA championship. Yes, you heard me correctly. James defeated the Thunder, not the Miami Heat. Basketball is in a state of transition, it is evolving similar to the Egyptian hieroglyphics of the ancient cave man who drug his fingers on the ground, to the modern day man who walks upright with a smirk of confidence. In the present day NBA, a team doesn't need plays, doesn't need a center, there is barely need for even strategy, all you need is James.
The Miami Heat, the dreaded Darth Vador of the NBA, finally got the monkey off their backs and won their first NBA championship together last season. Riding phenomenal play from their "BIG 3" Miami was able to overcome 1 game deficits in three of their playoff series in route to a game 5 Finals victory of Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder. The question now for the Heat is, are they satisfied with themselves?
The Miami Heat took their limited financial resources this off season and upgraded significantly on the perimeter adding sharp shooter and future Hall-of-Famer Ray Allen and former All-Star Rashard Lewis. Both should be quality additions to the Heat, however the team again failed to address their largest glaring deficiency, they have no NBA quality starting center. The frontline for Miami remains incredibly thin, and small. At times, it seems that the Heat are drastically under matched on the interior. Having being dominated inside by the likes of Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert, and Kevin Garnett since the roster has been assembled, it would seem that acquiring help inside would be a priority. However Miami isn't interested in improving their team in that manor, their team design is dependent on spreading the floor, and suffocating defense. Which brings in to question the largest obstacle in front of Lebron James and the Miami Heat's chances of repeating. How long can they sustain this effort? When is enough enough? How many games over a three year period before Miami hits the wall and falls on their faces?
For most teams, 3 years is the maximum that a championship window stays open. This isn't because of anything except plain old fatigue. 300 games over the course of about 36 months was enough to sideline the Lakers a season ago and force the trade of Lamar Odom. That "championship" team was basketball reasons away from being blown up and reconstructed around Chris Paul. The worst part about losing in the finals, is the amount of games it took to get there and the physical toll it takes on a team to get back to the finals the next season. This was Miami's journey to the first NBA championship for this era, and though the last season for the NBA was a shortened one the physical toll remained. My questions about Miami being able to repeat are less about the talent they have on their roster, and more about that organization being able to remain focused for 36 months on a common goal and achieve it, twice.
As we sit here on the eve of the NBA season, it is without question that Miami will enter every game with the courts most talented roster. it without question that Miami will spread the floor and get to the free throw line. It is without question that Miami will suffocate most teams with their patented chest to chest defense. Lastly it is without question that Miami will conger up creative ways to isolate Wade and Lebron in situations where team defense or help isn't possible, leaving most defenders helpless hoping only to not lead Sportscenter with the highlight they are seconds from allowing. The questions hovering in the front offices of America Airlines arena is about focus and discipline. Because if Miami displays these two things with a level of consistency, coupled with the conditioning it takes to sustain a high level of play over the course of 36 months, the leagues in trouble.
This team doesn't need a "big man", a seasoned coach, nothing. They need to keep James motivated and focused, while not forgetting that Bosh and Wade are also All-Star players that need their ego stroked. The Miami Heat, with a coach that has barley been around long enough to be relevant, have changed the way the NBA is played. The chess match played between coaches was never more evident than during last years Finals. Spoelstra all but made Kendrick Perkins irrelevant when playing James at the 4. Then sending James to guard Harden during strategic stretches that all but crippled Harden mentally. Harden was diminished to the point of irrelevancy because of James defense and offense. harden could do nothing if James was merely on the floor, guarding him or not.
How do I see the season going for Miami? There is only one assortment of players constructed today that can compete with Miami in a seven game series. It's not the Lakers, Thunder, Nets, Knicks, or Spurs. This Miami team only can beat itself. After all, they have James.