…But your enemies closer.
So I skipped over the heads of Dwyane Wade, Lebron James and Chris Bosh and went directly to the source of all things Miami.
His name is Matthew Bunch and he runs the ESPN TrueHoop Network website, http://www.HotHotHoops.com/, which has become one of the busiest sites since the free agency frenzy.
Seeing how most analysts and fans see Boston and Miami meeting in the ECF, I thought it would be interesting to get acquainted and somewhat more familiar with a true insider of the Miami Heat circle.
And although we will come to hate each other in the Spring, I found Matthew to be nothing short of a gentleman and a scholar. Check out what he had to say:
Have you gotten any kind of readership/following increase since Bosh and James have arrived? As a LOYAL Heat fan, how do you react to the "newcomers?"
"We received a huge traffic spike though the month of July. It’s settled down a bit, but it’s still much higher than we were. As for the new traffic, I welcome it. As 'hardcore' sports fans, we all too often look down our nose at 'bandwagon' fans. But this is a unique experience for this city, so if someone wants to jump aboard, I welcome it."
Can you talk about the amount of pressure that sits on the shoulders of the "Super Friends" and how that may impact their game in the post season.
"The pressure is obviously immeasurable, but I would say it’s almost a relief for LeBron. Dwayne is hungry to return to the top, and Chris is hungry just to get noticed, but LeBron has had the expectation to win titles with below-average players at best. Now, he gets to fall into his most natural role as a distributor and share the load."
What are you HONEST thoughts on the manner in which James left Cleveland?
"'The Decision' wasn’t necessarily the best PR move for him to make. But everyone portrays it as though he went around and punched everyone in Cleveland in the face. If he had any inkling he wasn’t staying in Cleveland prior to July 1, he shouldn’t have done it. But it wasn’t the worst thing ever. And no one has been let off the hook more than LeBron with the Dan Gilbert Comic Sans letter."
Chemistry, aside from talent, is arguably the most important factor in determining success for a team. What concerns do you have, if any, about the pending chemistry in Miami?
"Dan Le Batard frames it best when he says the chemistry issues everyone seems to be hanging on to crop up after winning, not before. When you’re hungry for a ring you’ll put up with a lot of crap. But once you’ve reached the mountaintop, that’s when the ego issues start to arise. That’s why I don’t buy the 'jelling' argument for next season. They’ve played together before and they’re three of the top 10 players in the league. They’ll figure it out and be great out of the gate. Now, four years down the road, they may be ready to opt out. But not now."
It’s become apparent that Miami and Boston are now sworn enemies—would you agree that the Celtics stand to be Miami’s toughest opponent and biggest obstacle in terms of reaching the Finals?
"I’m sorry to say, Boston fans, but the C's aren’t the greatest challenge in the East. I have my eye on Orlando. Obviously, the presence of veterans helps, but at some point 'veteran presence' becomes 'old and broken down.'
"You saw what Jermaine O’Neal did in the playoffs this year, and Shaq will provide mass down low, but the biggest vulnerability to the Heat will be a dominant inside presence, and if Dwight Howard can add some type of offensive game to his defense, it would be attacking this team’s Achilles’ heel. I still don’t think it will be enough, but I just don’t thing the 'Big Three' of old will be able to make another charmed run like last season."
Can you fill the readers in on how important it is that Wade, Bosh, and James are surrounded with a team that they, too, can depend on? So far, what has Pat Riley done to try to fill in those voids?
"It’s been fun to watch over the last month, as new signings seemed to crop up every day for about two weeks on the Twitter feed. It’s pretty much everything you could want considering the money available.
"The trio took the pay cut so they could be loyal to Udonis Haslem. The Heat used the little money left available to pick up a fantastic outside shooter in Mike Miller. And with the minimum guys, they got Carlos Arroyo back, picked up LeBron’s bud Zydrunas, your former buddy Eddie House plus some other important pieces. Considering the constraints, not a bad haul. I’d like a little more size at center, but complaining about that from a Heat follower will evoke about 30 millions songs on the world’s smallest violins."
Do you think Pat Riley will shoot in and nudge Erik Spoelstra aside? And if so… how quickly?
"I’d almost be willing to bet my life that Pat Riley will never again coach the Miami Heat. He said it in the press conference after the big post-signing shindig, but I believe it; the players don’t want him on the bench. He is the taskmaster of taskmasters, and Erik Spoelstra is much more of a player’s coach. Erik worked with Dwyane on his jumper out of college and got him to where he is today. I’m sure the guys want to work under a coach like Erik Spoelstra more than they do a Pat Riley. They have to love the prestige and the Armani suits, but they like it in a box a few levels up.”
Honestly: how much of a factor will it be if Delonte West is picked up by the Lakers, Celtics, Magic or Hawks?
"I’m sure wherever Delonte West goes, it will provide a boost to that team. He’s a quality player and we all wish him nothing but the best [tiptoeing around internet rumors]."
Is there any level of intimidation (as a fan) when Perkins and Rondo come out and dismiss the even thought of Miami proving to be their biggest threat?
"No. That’s what they have to say. Everyone understands it. There will be plenty of chances to figure out who’s a rival to who, and who’s the best. We’ll find out soon enough."
Can you explain why Chris Bosh’s tweets are so damn annoying? (Had to ask)
"I compare Chris Bosh to the really nice girl who lost a ton of weight before her 10-year reunion. She was a sweetheart but no one ever paid attention to her. Now, she’s ready to put on a show. But deep down, she’s still really nice. I’ve been a Bosh fanboy for years, I love his carefree style, and I’m really excited for him to have the chance to show his superstar talent on a stage where people will be watching. As for his Twitter, aren’t everyone’s tweets annoying and self-involved? Why single him out?"
What were your initial thoughts when you heard the season opener was Miami at Boston?
"My best friend’s a Celtics fan who may be in Miami for the last week of October, so I was all kinds of geeked up. It’s the kind of marquee event which is what makes the NBA so great. Galactic names colliding. I don’t really hate the Celtics, it’s the Boston sports fan post-2004 I resent (here come the angry commenters), so there’s not a lot of venom there, but as the reigning conference champion, there’s obviously a target there. I’m hoping for a tight game."
Ok. It’s the ECF. Boston and Miami. Game Seven, tied. Four seconds left, Miami ball. Who takes the shot, Wade or James?
"Silly, that game won’t be tied. But if you want to delve into hypotheticals, here’s mine. James drives, kicks out to Wade, who puts up the three but misses. Bosh gets the tap-in. Celebrate good times, come on."
Thanks again to Matthew Bunch, Executive Editor of Hot Hot Hoops http://www.HotHotHoops.com/
- David Acosta