We knew that South beach was the home of Dwayne Wade and that he had already won a title with Shaquille O’Neal and a cast of misfits in 2006. Shaq is now three teams removed from Miami, and most of the misfits are gone (only D. Wade and Udonis Haslem remain). Add to this new mix a power forward with range and the best player of the past 10 years, and the Miami Heat have become a juggernaut, at least on paper.
No team has ever won a championship on paper, no matter how great the individual talents may be. You can’t win anything unless you fill out the roster. Role players are needed, bangers are needed, three-point specialists, towel-waving energy guys. Each of them has a role, and each need to be counted on to come through, if only for five minutes in a game. Those five minutes have to count.
Miami doesn’t have that. Mike Miller was brought in to shoot the lights out. With all the attention Lebron or Bosh would command in the paint, Miller would have 20-plus wide open jumpers per game. He fractured his thumb in practice and will have missed nearly half the season before he’s scheduled to return in January. Zydrunas Ilgauskas followed James to Miami out of loyalty, but Z is 35 and can’t take the daily pounding against the other big centers in the East. The rest of the roster is filled with well-traveled veterans who chose Miami for one simple reason: to play with Lebron, Wade, Bosh AND live in a tropical paradise. Only they could never have thought it would be this bad this early; nobody could have.
The NBA season is only eighteen games young, and Miami is already treading water at 10-8. They only have two wins on the road and are 5-5 in their last 10. When this "super-team" was officially assembled in July, pundits and basketball writers wondered aloud how many games the Heat would win, and whether they could break the record for most wins in a regular season. We know that is not happening this year, but the groundwork is there for the future. This is a team built to win now, but it’s also built to win for the next five-plus years.
The problems that Miami had filling out its roster were obvious before the season tipped off. What wasn’t so obvious were the problems the Heat would have with their big three. How do you take three franchise players off their respective teams, put them on a court together, and get them to share the ball and the limelight? Last season, each of them was that person taking the final shot in a tight game. Each of them is used to having the ball in his hand when his team needed a basket. Now, instead of playing off the ball, they are each forced to play off each other (and at times it really looks awkward).
Miami still has 64 games to figure things out before the playoffs start, and they will make the playoffs. The question is how many teams can they beat in the East, a conference dominated by strength down the middle. That was the glaring weakness before the season started. How would the Heat handle the likes of Dwight Howard and the big bodies of the Celtics? That weakness will be there all season unless the team makes a trade, but the Heat have no one to trade. That means they’re going to have to outscore their opponents, but you can only do that when your best players are running on all cylinders, which we have yet to see.