Most NBA teams would gladly trade places with King James and the reigning two-time champions. There is no shame in posting a winning percentage close to 70, after all.
After losing seven of their last 11 games, though, the Heat find themselves inching toward a panic button, and James is starting to feel the weight of botched expectations.
"It’s the toughest season we’ve had since Year 1 just because of everything that comes with it," he said, per The Palm Beach Post's Jason Lieser. "Just going out every night where you’re the target and everyone gets up for you and we have to find our own motivation every single night. It’s not always about our opponent. It’s about ourselves, too."
Pressure in Miami is greater than it is everywhere else. That's what happens when a team plays host to three superstars pursuing a dynasty.
Stress levels reach new heights during rough patches. Anytime the Heat do something wrong or lose a game or two (or seven), it's used as a means to humanize them.
But nothing will ever compare to what the Heat went through that first season, or so said James himself last year.
Not even these 2013-14 Heat?
Not even these 2013-14 Heat.
Unlike 2010-11, James and friends can see a light at the end of their shadowy tunnel. They know that winning championships silences all, so this is not foreign territory for them.
If they can piece together their act in time for the playoffs, they'll be fine. Marching toward a fourth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals appearance can be their cure-all.
It doesn't hurt that James is no longer the NBA's billboard for villainy, either.
Three years ago, he was portrayed as a self-serving diva who might never win a title. These days, he's a champion, nearly flawless in the eyes of many.
In 2010-11, now would have been a time for the Heat to fear what's next, to lash out and doubt the cause. As Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes pointed out while diagnosing Miami's tactical sicknesses, this isn't 2011, and it's no time to panic.
"You’re gonna go through bumps in the road and we’re not above that, no matter how many Finals we’ve gone to," Wade explained, per Lieser. "Hopefully these struggles are lessons for our team and we’re learning from these lessons."
The Heat are nearly four seasons removed from the Big Three's inaugural uncertainty. Now is a time for concern, adjustments and upticks in energy, not widespread dismay.
No matter what they're going through now, it's nothing they haven't encountered and subsequently conquered before.
Not yet, anyway.
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