The Miami Heat: Champions? Not So Fast

Jonathan GoldbergContributor IJuly 16, 2010

MIAMI - JULY 09:  (L-R) Dwyane Wade #3 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat are introduced during a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images


The most overly covered story in sports today is the LeBron James-Miami Heat-Big Three saga.  Everything you, the sports fan, have read about the last few months is, “Where will LeBron play next season?” And by Thursday, July 8th, we were all sick and tired of hearing about it.

With, “The Decision,” came a flood of questions; Why did James leave? Can the new Heat win in their first year? How many titles will they win together? So-on, and so-forth. Here are some speculations answers:

LeBron left Cleveland because he could not get what he wanted most, a championship. People thought that he would follow the money because, after all, James made it publicly known that one of his goals is to become a Billionaire. The Knicks put eleven out of their twelve eggs into this basket. Others thought he wanted the glory of turning around a struggling franchise to solidify his greatness (basically all 5 teams that courted James. Miami is left out here because they had Dwayne Wade. And no, he never planned on leaving).

This lead me to believe that he was going to stay in Cleveland, where both the money and the glory lay at his disposal. But James wants to win now, and Miami (like it or not, I don’t) seems to be the best place for him to win sooner, rather than later.

Can the new Heat win a title in 2010? Sure, they can. Will they? I say no. Most people will say that in order to win a championship, you need at least one superstar, and at least on budding superstar (perennial All Star, who is often out shadowed by his teammate the superstar). Not true (it does help tremendously though), what a team needs is depth.

Think about the Lakers these past two seasons. While the team was built around superstar Kobe, and star Pau Gasol, the team had good talent going all the way down the bench. Players that brought energy (i.e. Shannon Brown or Trevor Ariza in ‘08 - ‘09), and players that knew their roll and played it well (i.e. Jordan Farmar).

Go back to 2004, when the Detroit Pistons were champions. The roster was full of talent, but did not have a superstar caliber player. Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, and ‘Sheed were all stars (as in each one of them was a star), but not one of them were Kobe type superstars. But they had talent. Ben Wallace established himself as one of the best defensive player in the league at the time (as well as the scariest man in the NBA since Charles Oakley), and both Tayshaun Prince and Mehmet Okur proved to be very promising draftees.

The Heat have two Alpha-dogs in one ring (if you don’t know what happens when two alpha-dogs are pitted against each other, you can go ask Michael Vick, or Qyntel Woods... how’s that for a name-drop?). I say two, not three, because I don’t believe Bosh is a top tier player.

Bosh was the best player in Toronto (especially after the departure of Vince Carter), but the Raptors were never a great team. Always hard pressed to surround Bosh with enough talent to make it through to the 2nd round of the playoffs, Bosh was the only go to guy. And because of this, it made him look better than he is.

Good players should not be offered close to max money. One past mistake that stands out is Kenyon Martin; The Nuggets gave him the max, and essentially payed him to be injured. When he is healthy enough to be on the court, he only puts up mediocre numbers. That’s not to say he hasn’t been a key member of the team, but his production proves that he is overpaid.

This season will prove that Bosh is nothing more than a good player, and one who is probably being overpaid for his services. But Chris shouldn’t worry about being the most over paid NBA player of free agency 2010. That title will belong to Joe Johnson, but I digress.

This brings me to James and Wade, Miami’s own Siegried & Roy. Remember how your mom always told you to not play with fire? Well, someone really should have told these two not to play with tigers. It will be interesting to see who assumes the roll of Montecore on this new team. For those of you not up your Tiger Taming, Montecore is the tiger that attacked the German born Roy, and left everybody going, “oooh scheiße!” (scheiße means shit in German).

In his career so far, James has proven that the only thing bigger than his wallet is his ego. And no, taking a pay-cut to win a championship does not change that. Perhaps if he had not held his, “decision,” over everybodys’ head, he would be commanding more respect as a person (let-alone an athlete and a roll model) right now.

What makes his decision most unbearable is that he chose to take a backseat to Wade. He could have gone to any team, and would have made them a contender. Imagine if he had gone to the Knicks, it would have been the 90’s all over again. Starks & Ewing vs. Hardaway & Morning would have been reborn as LeBron & Stoudemire vs. Wade and Bosh. But in the end, LeBron went down to Miami. The smartest thing the Heat can do now (other than fill out their roster with bottom tier players, although it is more of a necessity than anything else) is to not let the new signings go to their heads.

The NBA is a war; fought between 30 teams, and the Heat are heading into battle dressed up in clown costumes to the sound of a full on marching band. Every team in the league can see you Miami, and they are all gunning for you. While each player on the Heat will have, “Their own spotlight,” they will be taken down by the teams that actually play team basketball. Individual players don’t win championships; teams, with team players, do.

The new big three may work in international play, where they have to get along for only 6 games or so. But, in a regular season, I don’t see it working out through 82 games. Then again, it is unlikely for the big three to play 82 games a season, all together.

For their careers; LeBron averages the most games played per season at 78 games/season. Bosh is at 72 games/season, and Wade is the lowest at 67 games/season.  I would expect the number of missed games to rise over the next 6 years, especially for Wade. Two years from now, Wade will be 30 years old. While he will still be playing at a high level, inevitably his numbers will start to decline. James and Bosh are young enough where there game probably won’t suffer until the end of their new contracts, but missing 14 games a season at this stage between the two of them (29 games between the three) is not a good sign for the future.

This team will not have a lot of help coming off the bench. In order for them to be the top team in the league (they may be the best team in the east, but that doesn’t make them the top team in the league, i.e. ‘08/’09 Cavs), all three will need to be playing close to 48 minutes a night. I do expect the team to start the season off on a hot streak. But, by playoff time (and it is safe to assume the team will make the playoffs), the extensive minutes night after night will catch up with the players.

It is hard to make a run deep into the playoffs with worn out bodies. This is why players like Kobe and Garnette limit their minutes in the 2nd half of the season. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately), Miami doesn’t have enough cap space to build a solid support foundation for the big three. Because of this, there will not be much rest time for them this season.

Call me optimistic, but I am not putting my money on the Miami Heat winning a championship this coming season. I love seeing the big teams fall (unless one of those big teams is the Yankees). Once the Miami Heat fall, it will be oh-so-sweet.

In summation, the Heat will be good, very good, but not champions... Also, don’t play with tigers.