It goes without saying that the Miami Heat have a lot to prove in the 2011-12 NBA season. After falling short in the NBA Finals last year and having to wait until Dec. 25th to play their first game, the Big Three have the sour taste of defeat in their mouths.
Good news for the Miami Heat, on Christmas Day they have a perfect opportunity to get that taste of defeat out of their mouths by matching up with the defending champs, the Dallas Mavericks.
The Dallas Mavericks have somewhat of a new look, after losing Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler to free agency. The lack of chemistry with the Mavs' new additions, Vince Carter and Lamar Odom, will help the Heat earn a much needed win over the reigning champs, allowing them to send some clear messages to everyone in the NBA.
First and foremost, with a big win over the Mavs the Miami Heat can prove to everyone in the NBA realm that they are back and better than ever. Whether LeBron wanted to admit it or not, even after telling everyone to get back to their "normal" lives, he hated losing in the NBA Finals after taking his talents to South Beach, and so did his compadres Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
No professional athlete likes to be told "I told you so" by anyone, nevertheless hundreds of thousands of sports writers and Heat haters, but that is exactly what everyone said after LeBron's NBA Finals debacle. With a big win over the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, the Miami Heat can turn the "I told you so" to every NBA fan by showing us just how great they are going to be this year.
A Miami win on Christmas Day will also put on display the fact that we're about to see the best, most dominant LeBron James we've ever seen. In a recent interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols, LeBron talked about his transformation from being a player fueled by proving people wrong to becoming a player fueled by his love for the game. While I know a majority of people are in a "we'll believe it when we see it mentality," I believe LeBron, and on Christmas Day he will prove most importantly to himself that he is a new man.
In addition to proving that he's changed, LeBron will also prove that Hakeem "the dream" Olajuwon is the best post game teacher in the world. LeBron will put his new "Olajuwon taught" post game on display in Dallas, dominating no matter who tries to defend him, whether it is Carter, Odom or even Dirk (yes I know that's a stretch).
In addition to what LeBron's off-season training will bring to the table, the Miami Heat, as an entire unit will bring something new to 2011-12 that they lacked for a majority of the season last year, chemistry. The Heat will show the world that the lack of chemistry that plagued them last year early on and in the NBA finals is now nonexistent. The Miami Heat will put on display their newfound team chemistry, the kind of chemistry that you see in potential NBA champions.
A big part of that chemistry continuing to develop and grow is rooted in the development of free-agent acquisition Shane Battier, and on Christmas Day Battier will show the world that he doesn't need much time to fit into the Heat's system. The Miami Heat don't need much from Shane Battier other than tough, physical defense, and he will do just that. I imagine Battier will be matched up with guarding Dirk Nowitzki, and Battier will do what the Heat couldn't do all during last year's NBA Finals. Battier will slow Nowitzki down.
The Miami Heat will show the NBA world that signing Shane Battier was one of the biggest steals of the shortened free-agency period of 2011. I'm not saying the Big Three will now become the "Big Four," but Battier will make his mark on the Miami Heat early on in the year, starting with a big defensive game against the Dallas Mavericks.
Most of all, what the Miami Heat will put on display on Christmas is the fact that the NBA Playoffs and NBA Finals will go through Miami. I don't see how the 2011-12 regular season can end without the Miami Heat securing the top seed in the east, and the best record in the entire NBA. Doing both of those things will secure the Heat home-court advantage throughout the finals, if they do indeed make it there.
Sure, beating the Mavericks will be just another notch in the win column come the 2011-12 NBA Playoffs, but early on it will set the tone for the Miami Heat. It will tell the world that they are back and better than ever. More importantly though, it will show the Heat themselves that they now have what it takes to be NBA champions.
With a new, improved and more mature LeBron James, and a legitimate lock-down defender in Shane Battier, the Miami Heat will show the world on Christmas Day that they are ready to truly be the best team in the NBA.