Is it guaranteed that the "Big Three" will even win ONE Championship? I'm not so sure...
The Miami Heat since July 2010 has epitomized what could be described as an overanalyzed topic. Everything they have done in the last 14 months has been highly scrutinized to the max. Why? Quite simply because they possess three of the best players in the game, two of the league's most dominant forces, and they formed in a very controversial way.
After forming together in dramatic fashion in July, many speculated that this could be a group that could go on a long, sustained run that would yield several championships. Many thought that it may not happen in 2010-11, but once this team jelled with their immense talent, there would be no answer for them. Some even thought it would be almost unfair to play against them.
The Heat definitely showed flashes and sustained moments of showing how really good they could be last year. They went into Cleveland into one of the more hostile environments the NBA has ever produced and completely blew them off the court. They had win streaks of 12, 20 of 21, 8 and 11 of 12, looking downright dominant at times. There was no question that at times the Heat looked like they were worth every bit of the hype they had garnered going into the season and could be special in June.
The Heat seemed to really kick into gear and show championship quality in the playoffs when they outlasted and overwhelmed the Sixers, Celtics, and Bulls. In each series, even in adversity, they looked like a team that just had too much and had really hit their stride. The “Big 3” consistently produced large numbers, and members of the supporting cast stepped up in timely fashion to help them advance to the Finals.
In the end, even after getting off to a great start in the Finals against the Mavericks and looking like they would win Game 2 with a 15 point lead in the 3rd quarter to grab a commanding 2-0 lead in the series, it was if the basketball gods said, “This cannot be!” The Mavs went on to come back in dramatic fashion and win Game 2 on the road and the series changed from that point forward. After winning Game 3 on the road to regain home court advantage, the Heat seemed poised to overcome adversity and come out on top as they had done so many times last season. Instead, the Mavs took full control of the series and were very convincing in the clinching of their 1st NBA Championship.
So where does this leave the Heat? Was last year just a trial run? Was that their best shot? Will the Heat always find a way to lose despite their overwhelming star power? Or will there always be one reason or another why the Heat never won a championship despite LeBron James’s famous declaration of them winning a seemingly infinite amount of championships together. He said the playing part would be easy, they at least found out that that will never be the case. Especially if there is a media around them to heavily scrutinize their ever move, and they are the hunted around the league.
I have had the same opinion since the team formed, and still feel strongly that the “Big 3” version of the Miami Heat will NEVER win a championship. Here are 10 reasons why:
In life you often get what you deserve...
There really is no way to prove this, but I have a feeling that one-way or another SOMETHING will happen each year to prevent them from glory. It was strange how they lost this year, seeing arguably their best player struggle like he had never struggled before on a big stage, and in the future it could be something else. Drama and in-fighting, injuries, poor performance, you name it. Something tells me that no matter what they do, like many great teams in sports, something will prevent them from winning it all. Maybe this is a lesson on how to treat people, cities, and franchises and that there are no short cuts to success. Who knows?
I don’t know why he gets such a bad wrap, I really don’t. I’m as guilty as anybody for it, but this guy is a top 15 player in the league, played a key role on the 2008 “Redeem Team” and is a perennial All-Star who was once the face of the Toronto Raptors. He’s an extremely smart, intelligent, and well-rounded individual who you will never hear about in the bad part of the news. He willingly sacrificed offensive production last year in Miami, and even withstood criticism for everything from being soft, to crying, to not rebounding enough, to not being consistent as the 3rd fiddle. He gave up being the face of an organization to become a high-priced supporting cast member. With all that said, for some reason there is something about Chris, despite his strong playoff performances down the stretch that makes me think that this team cannot win with him because he has the hard job of producing solid numbers without having the offense run through him much. He has the task of trying to find a way as the 3rd star player, that most teams do not have, that can produce huge numbers. Psychologically, that is a task that I think he really struggled with last year, and I’m not so sure he will always be satisfied with being known as the “other guy”. It was blaringly clear at times both on and off the court how he was separated from the “Big 2” in press conferences and in terms of the respect that some players and fans had for them. I truly believe that Chris Bosh’s ability to handle this very delicate predicament will be a major challenge that could have huge implications on the Heat’s success in the future.
Can they avoid the injury bug for the next several years?
Injuries are not something you plan for. They just happen. This year it was Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, two key role players that played an important part in the plans for the 2010-11 Heat. Next year it could be other key role players, or even worse one of the “Big 3”. All three players were banged up briefly this year, but in the future if any of them were to suffer a significant injury, the Heat come back to the pack (talent wise) quickly. I definitely do not wish injury on anyone, but they could play a big part in the legacy of the Heat. All three players are getting older, as Wade is months away from his 30th birthday, and LeBron and Chris are into the latter half of their 20s. This only heightens the chance of injury.
It seems like Miller is expected to make every one of these...
Quite frankly, it is a lot to ask of a team of 15 human beings and a coaching staff to endure the scrutiny and constant pressure to win like the Heat did last season. Every time the Heat lost it was a lead story on SportsCenter and the sky seemed to cave in any time the losses were not pretty or came in plural. LeBron and DWade may be built for this type of pressure, but it’s fair to assume that the supporting cast from Bosh on down to the young rookies are not ready for such a task. This was shown last year, when it seemed that different role players took turns disappearing at different points over the course of the year. It is draining, when you are normally a lights-out shooter like Mike Miller, and all of a sudden every time you get the ball around the 3 pt line off of a pass from Wade or James you are expected to make every shot. It’s tough to play a great floor game at PG when you often do not have the ball in your hands and have to differ like Mario Chalmers does, and not everyone thrives off of the vile and animosity that this team has faced and will face for the foreseeable future on a nightly basis.
Could the lockout have lasting effects on the Heat's ability to sculpt a winning roster in the future?
Hard cap?? If in fact the new CBA yields a hard cap or increased restrictions on how much money you can spend on players, the Heat will be affected greatly. As it stands now under the current CBA, the Heat have been able to take advantage of the system and sign a bunch of slightly over the hill supporting cast players that were formally stars. In most cases, players like Bibby, Ilgauskas, Magloire, House, Howard, and Dampier, have been willing to sign at bargain price in exchange for an opportunity of a lifetime to win a championship that in most cases has alluded them. It is safe to say that the role players will change from year to year in order to fit around the Big 3 and a few others like Haslem and Miller, with the intent of sculpting a workable team to support the massive top end talent they own at the top of the pecking order. Should the new CBA place restrictions on that, the Heat may be severely handicapped by the huge contracts they offered to their stars and be limited in their ability to sign quality and workable talent to fit around them. This is something to keep an eye on because the “Big 3” cannot win it on their own.
These aren't spring chickens anymore...
Yes, the young, next generation of the NBA, the group of characters that were assigned implicitly to take the NBA into the next century and fill the gaping hole that Michael Jordan left, has reached their late 20s and in Wade's case, pushing 30. Dwyane Wade has notoriously taken his share of bumps and bruises and as his athleticism starts to tail in his 30s, he is set up for a greater fall than LeBron because he relies on his athletic talent so much. LeBron on the other hand, is as much reliant on his power as he is on his speed and leaping ability and has a more reliable jump shot, so at age 27, LeBron is more likely to stay at a high level as his athleticism tails off. Along with Chris Bosh being 28, if they do not win in the first 2-3 years of being together, their athletic declines and various nagging injuries may become a hindrance. As stated before, any situation that takes one or two of the three out of the lineup brings the Heat back to the pack talent wise.
The Media does not plan on letting up anytime soon...
I do not anticipate the ‘Hate the Heat’ campaign letting up anytime soon. I see how people hate the Yankees for not nearly as intense and passionate reasons without relent. I notice how Americans, in general, feed on the fall of evil, and the pursuit of for what is pure and just and how ESPN will not stop shoving the Heat down our throat until people regurgitate it and protest it. At the end of the day, it’s interesting. The Heat formed in a very unconventional and in some ways disgusting way. They made a mockery of the league, owners, teams and fans, and pretty much exercised their right as free agents to the nth power. You cannot take that right away, but there are consequences. As long as these three players play together and are relevant, the Heat will continue to be hated and their every move and action will be under heavy scrutiny. You could see the unrelenting, “no answer/comment is right” pressure really weighing down the Heat late in the season. It showed in their monumental losses against Dallas to drop them to 9-8, the loss to Chicago to complete a season sweep leading to “crying in the locker room”, and most certainly during the Finals. These are strong and tested public figures, but at times, it was clear during press conferences that they could only put up their fronts for so long. The negativity and unforgiving nature of the media and fans really bothered them, and at their weakest moments, they showed sign of frustration and defeat. Can they continue to fight title wave that they must continue to struggle with and end up on top? I’m not so sure… There will be different issues every year, and I am not convinced that LeBron James and Chris Bosh are made to rise above them to be honest. They both care too much about what people think and are affected behind the fronts they try to put on.
Is he a champion? The jury is still out..
On that note, I must call out the best player in the league. Whether you like him or not, his talent and for the most part his accomplishments are undeniable. You can say he’s not clutch, but he’s had more than his share of huge game winning shots and huge moments on the big stage. You can say he can’t carry a team, but he did it for years in Cleveland. You can say he’s not a winner, but he’s won at every phase of his life and made a horrible Cavaliers team into a perennial winner this decade and instantly helped the Heat become a title contender. Despite the reality that he has done it all (at some point), for some reason in the last 2-3 years, he has managed to show some limitation or weakness at key points when it matters. It’s hard to explain. 2010 NBA Playoffs vs. Boston, 2011 NBA Finals are the two most notable occurrences that just make you wonder if LeBron is the type of special player that can regularly be associated with the word ”champion”. Like I said, he wins…a lot…but when faced with the best opponents and greatness on the greatest stages where more is required of him as a player and a leader, can he stand up to that challenge?
Is he the man for the task?
Now I really, really respect Coach Spoelstra. He gained my respect before the whole charade began last year. His story is inspiring and his ability to gain the respect of his star player DWade in the past caught my attention. He is a sharp coach and seems to be generally fit for the job. He sticks to his plan, is unraveled by the scrutiny and he is detailed oriented, but I question whether he is the man for this job. I believe that when you put together this level of star talent and ego, a mastermind coach with instant credibility is needed. The names Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, and maybe Doc Rivers or Gregg Popovich come to mind. It’s a very short list. These are guys that have won at a high level and demand respect and garnered respect from their star players. Coach Spoelstra certainly earned the respect of his players this year and did a marvelous job most of the season this year, but in the end, I believe that there is still a gap in his handling of these monstrous egos/personalities. Even if DWade and LeBron are friends that are determined to speak a consistent message, they still are competitors and have the same unwavering confidence in their ability to lead. I feel that his handling of the end of the game situation, and inability to inspire LeBron and DWade to adjust their games appropriately to beat a great team like Dallas was a major reason for them falling short in June. I think that the guys I mentioned earlier would find some creative and convincing way to get LeBron to work effectively off the ball, manipulate his advantage in the post , and would convince DWade to maintain his defensive effort at a dominant level regardless of the situation or who he was guarding. Lastly, I feel that it would be determined and clear as to whom the closer is for that team. I think a great coach would realize that although LeBron is the more talented and generally better player, Wade is a better closer and a demoralizing playmaker. This was not always evident last year.
Who's team is it?
Piggy backing on that point, who is the leader on this team? Whose team is this? Up until 2010-11 season, DWade from ‘06 on verbalized it several times that it was his team and his arena. LeBron was the man in Cleveland for seven years. All season the players deflected the issue and were willing to tag team as the kings of Miami. However, knowing the egos both players have, and their absolute belief that they are the best, how natural do you think this situation was? Wade wanted to share the riches with his friend and superstar addition, while LeBron wanted to just fit in on Wade’s team. This led often to passive play by one player while the other went off, or in the Finals when their back was to the wall, in my opinion it led to childish and selfish behavior. There are rumors that DWade finally declared the team his, and I’d have to think that LeBron also looking to develop his legacy might have taken exception to that. This is a legitimate issue. I feel that every team should know who their “guy” is. If it was DWade, then LeBron has to find ways to support and dominate up until crunch time, or find ways to make plays in other phases of the game. The same goes vice versa. Instead, it appeared that LeBron took this declaration and assertive on court and off court behavior as a slight and more or less said “ok, you da man, go win it!” Many people have the human inclination to act that way, but you’d hope that stars would rise above this. But then again, how many times have superstar larger than life players had to yield to another similarly capable person. I think this is an issue that will continue to re-surface until it is figured out. When it is figured out, there is some damage control needed to keep the “Robin” engaged and feeling good about his role. This is a task that I’m not sure can be done. Both speak with humility, more often than not, especially Wade, but I think it’s very clear that both have tremendous confidence in their ability and feel they are the best there is. In order for the Heat to prove me wrong, they have to get this figured out.