The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are set to do battle in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals beginning on Wednesday, May 22, and chatter between the two teams is already adding intrigue to the series.
UPDATE: Monday, May 20, at 9:50 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
"Sorry sports world, the words 'just another team' never came out of my mouth," he said. "Great respect for LBJ and the champs. Looking forward to [a] great series."
---End of update---
ESPN's Michael Wallace originally reported Pacers head coach Frank Vogel made a dismissive comment with regard to the defending NBA champions following his team's closeout victory over the New York Knicks in Game 6 on Saturday.
Vogel stated that Miami is "just the next team" in the way of Indiana's quest for the Larry O'Brien Trophy, and Heat superstar and reigning MVP LeBron James took issue with that in Sunday's practice.
Wallace documented James' response to Vogel's barb at AmericanAirlines Arena on Sunday:
We're not just another team. I don't understand what he's saying. But we're not just another team. That's not true. He said we're just another team in their way. We're a great team. If we're just another team, you really don't prepare for just another team. You have to prepare for us. ...
We're very confident. We'll be ready for them. We don't need bulletin-board material. We've heard everything, we've seen everything. But I would say we're not just another team, though.
Galvanizing a team as talented as the Heat doesn't seem like the soundest bit of strategy for Vogel to deploy, despite James' contention that his team doesn't need any added fuel in its pursuit of a repeat.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman, who covers the Heat beat, feels the apparent controversy is a manufactured storyline being blown out of proportion by the media:
Ira Winderman @IraHeatBeat
Mostly manufactured b.s. at Heat practice today, responding to Vogel's innocuous quote of Heat being the next team in his team's way.5/19/2013, 6:36:56 PM
The Pacers are a hard-nosed defensive squad that did take a 2-1 series lead on Miami in last year's conference semifinals. They were the Association's top rebounding team during the regular season, while the Heat finished last in that category.
For what it's worth, Indiana also beat its impending opponent two out of three times during the 2012-13 campaign. As Wallace notes, though, the final double-digit loss drove the Heat to their 27-game winning streak—the second-longest in NBA history.
This series promises to be entertaining, and this exchange in the press between Vogel and James only increases the buzz.