The Miami Heat have had a very successful postseason so far. They have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in fewer games than anyone predicted and Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have found a great balance in leading this team.
Erik Spoelstra has shown an unheralded gutsiness by playing lineups barely used during the regular season in critical games. Plus, their defense, which was one of the best in the league throughout the regular season, has been the best in the postseason.
In fact, Miami is the only remaining team to not give up 100 points yet in the playoffs. Nevertheless, the Heat critics, fearful that their preseason predictions of doom for Miami’s Big Three may very well fail to come to pass, have ratcheted up the anti-Heat rhetoric to nullify the team’s accomplishments.
Here are seven ways to distinguish the individuals that are simply offering constructive criticism of the Heat and the ones that simply wish this team’s plane would fly into a mountain.
Shortly after James' emotional breakthrough against the Boston Celtics in Game 5, he spoke about his fans and team back in Cleveland, saying that to beat the Celtics he couldn't "do it by myself," implying that his teammates in Cleveland did not allow him the opportunity to beat a team like the Celtics which was inundated with All-Stars and Hall of Fame caliber players with the ability to back each other up in order to win.
Surely, some in Cleveland will not accept the apology and dismiss James' claims as a cop out. But I challenge them to do this for me:
Look back at Mo Williams' performance against Rajon Rondo in 2010 or against Rafer Alston in 2009. Can you honestly say that Williams played like a legit second option in either series?
When Delonte West was posted up at will by Rashard Lewis in 2009 and KG backhanded Antwan Jamison and took his lunch money, can you honestly say that the Cavs could have won despite those glaring mismatches?
When you see Dwight Howard posterize Big Z in 2009 and Kendrick Perkins shutting down Shaquille O'Neal in 2010, can you honestly say that there was anything humanly possible for James to do when his teammates are getting outplayed?
Finally, I put the ultimate challenge to the Heat-haters: Name me one series that has ever been won in NBA history where the winning team won the series despite losing four matchups on the floor.
I'm not psychic, but I can bet you are staring at fewer than two results right now.
In both the Celtics series last year and the Magic series the year before, the Cavs won only one matchup and that was at small forward. They won not one more. How is that possible if they are a true title contender?
In an age where an athlete can be forgiven for everything from spousal battery (Jason Kidd) to dog fighting (Michael Vick), I refuse to believe that LeBron James changing teams is so egregious, so beyond the pale, so callously unredeemable that it needs to be mentioned over and over and over again almost one year after the fact.
“But it wasn’t the fact that he left, it was how he left,” they will say pointing to the ESPN “Decision” broadcast which LeBron James has already acknowledged was a bad PR move.
Is James’ apology enough for a Heat-hater? Of course not. Because apparently the Heat-haters are the only ones completely free of sin and thereby have the right to cast as many stones as they so choose.
Look, I would be the first to admit that with the benefit of hindsight, James’ “Decision” was unnecessary, but the Heat-haters treat it like a well they can constantly go to when they are looking for a way to attack James or the Miami Heat.
Do they ever mention the money the broadcast raised for Boy & Girls Clubs, for which I’m sure the inner-city kids that benefited would certainly be appreciative? No.
Do they mention how much James gave of himself while he was in Cleveland despite never having a legit second option like Kobe or Duncan did? Not really.
Do they ever focus on the classless manner in which owner Dan Gilbert decided to address the decision and perhaps surmise that that behavior was a factor in James’ choice? Nope.
It’s just blame James.
During James’ last year with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the organization was looking to strengthen its roster prior to the playoffs. The team had a choice: It could trade for long-in-the-tooth power forward Antawn Jamison from the Washington Wizards or Amare Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns.
Well, suffice it to say, they made the wrong choice.
Part of the reason James’ Cavs were beaten by the Boston Celtics in that playoff series was because Kevin Garnett played so dominantly against Jamison on both ends of the court. Jamison barely cracked 11 points in the series. Granted, Stoudemire has never been a great defender, but he would have offered James at least another legitimate 20-plus ppg scorer to alleviate the defensive pressure on him.
This was one of the many largely unmentioned miscues that the Heat-haters simply refuse to discuss.
When you tell them about this blown opportunity to get Amare, they blame James. When you show them how the stats of James’ teammates all dropped in the 2009 and 2010 postseasons, which obviously contributed to the series loss, they blame James. When you tell them that in seven years James never played with a 20 ppg scorer, they say that it was James’ fault for being a ballhog.
Apparently, James did everything wrong and the Cavs organization did everything right. Right, I guess that’s why the Cavaliers organization is still looking for its first title in franchise history.
There have been numerous articles chronicling the Miami Heat’s title chances. In all likelihood, these articles focus not on the team’s strong points and then their weaknesses, but instead spend 90 percent of the time blasting the team’s “problems” while offering no acknowledgement of Miami’s greatest strength: They will have the two best players on the floor in whatever series they play.
The last time I checked, this was a tremendous advantage for a team in the postseason, especially when rosters get smaller and stars have the biggest impact on deciding a series. But apparently, the benches of the Heat’s opponents will decide a series more so than Wade, James or that team’s superstar.
The Heat-haters talk a lot about the team’s poor interior, yet never bring up the fact that Miami had one of the league’s best post-defenses. They talk about Miami’s “lack of a bench,” yet dismiss great outings by James Jones (who had 25 points in a playoff game recently), Mario Chalmers (who had 20 points in the game before) or Joel Anthony (who objective observers have acknowledged as a key contributor off the bench this postseason) as "flukes."
How can you give an honest assessment of the Heat’s “title chances” when you can’t even admit they have strengths?
The analysis of the Heat’s opponents, however, is biased in the other direction. The closer we get to the Bulls-Heat Eastern Conference Finals, expect to see articles claiming that the Heat won’t be able to stop Derrick Rose and he alone will make up for the Bulls glaring mismatch at the shooting guard position.
Analysis is not about simply pointing out the flaws of teams you don’t like while emphasizing the strong points of the ones that you do. Real analysis acknowledges that every team that makes it to the final four of the NBA clearly has strengths and weaknesses and that no analysis can be complete without objectively looking at both.
The Heat-haters don’t realize this.
Remember when Coach Spoelstra said that during the Miami Heat’s five-game losing streak that “A few players were crying after the game?”
It may have just been an acknowledgement of the team’s unhappiness with their play and a somewhat candid peak into the locker room. Yet, even this benign statement became a scandal for salivating Heat-haters as it became a new means of attacking the team.
Somehow, players crying after games was a sign of weakness and the Heat were on their way to imploding. Even though I can think of plenty of games in which Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan were seen crying following the outcome. There’s nothing wrong with showing emotion.
But the point isn’t just that the Heat-hater chooses to focus on these things; it’s that it's all they do focus on regarding this team.
When something goes wrong for Miami (a tough loss, a blown lead, a bad coaching move, etc.), the brigade of Heat critics come along to ascribe some hyperbolic relevance to it.
“Does the Heat losing a playoff game mean that James will never win a title?” Um…no, it means they have to play better in the next game.
There is such an intense desire to pounce on any bad news regarding this team that it forces all coverage of the team to sound more apocalyptic than it needs to. Part of it is the sorry state of sports reporting, which is just looking for a solid negative story minus the context that real writers strive to find.
The haters are just looking for more ammunition to fuel their hate. The bad news gets oft-repeated and pushed to the forefront; the good news is roundly ignored.
Heat-haters have this fundamental inability to “give credit when it's due” when the Heat are playing well, instead choosing to dismiss the Heat’s performance altogether or chalk it up to “suspect refereeing” because obviously Miami cannot win on its own.
Remember when the Heat began the season 9-8? There was not an analysis around that didn’t say that the losses were reflective of this team’s “deep and obvious weakness.” However, when the Heat went 21-1 afterward, it was only a reflection of a favorable schedule and not a reflection of stronger play.
It has occurred once again in the playoffs.
Just prior to the Boston Celtics series, all the Heat-haters had come out to predict the Celtics would put the Heat in their place and win the series in six or seven. It would be the experience and “team dynamic” of Boston that will win the series over Miami's "overrated Big Three."
“Miami won’t make it out of the second round,” the Heat-haters declared. But when Miami won the series 4-1, their attitude changed. Suddenly, their worst fear had been realized and they couldn’t acknowledge that they were wrong, so they had to resort to the old conspiracy theory to explain the Heat’s success.
“The refs were clearly favoring Miami all series long!” they began to argue, suggesting that it wasn’t great play by James, Wade and Anthony that has allowed the Heat to win in the postseason.
No, it was all a conspiracy by the NBA front office to get Miami to the conference finals. The Heat-hater refuses to use the words: “Miami is playing well.” Because it goes against their season-long theories of Miami’s early postseason exit.
Have you noticed how even articles that are not even related to the Heat somehow have the tinge of Heat bias?
Perhaps the article is focusing on an game-winning jumpshot by Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose and the author will have an unexpected digression like: "Now that's how you come though in the clutch; those guys in Miami could learn a thing or two from them."
What does the Heat have to do with a game-winning shot made by a player on a completely unrelated team?
How about the double standard when they write an article about certain players voicing their desires to win titles as "will to win," but when a Heat player voices a desire to win it is "arrogant sense of entitlement?"
Funny, I never remember anyone calling Kobe out for his statement "I want 10 rings cause I have 10 fingers" comment as sounding like a player who has a sense of entitlement.
Did Isiah Thomas feel he was "owed" a championship just because he believed that as a superstar it was his "obligation to win multiple titles?"
It can also be seen when fans swear allegiance to a team that they would otherwise never have bothered to just because that team has a chance of beating Miami.
With the Bulls-Heat series quickly on the horizon watch how many Celtics fans, Lakers fans and Spurs fans suddenly become Bulls fans for the duration of the series just because they want to see Miami lose.
The haters are well within their right to root against the Heat, but when they simply abandon their team of allegiance and declare the Chicago Bulls "clearly the superior team," without much real knowledge about the team prior to the ousting of their team, it smells of disingenuousness.