Words by Phlip
And now for the champs…
I hate to give this team (as they came to finally be) credit, but the fact remains that I was back and forth on their readiness last season, and was proven right, right and ultimately right all over again in the end. And I didn’t want it to be, simply because I have never actually liked LeBron James.
Anyway, I am not going to go in on that, as I have done it ad infinitum down through the last couple of seasons. I am going to talk about next season and how the Miami Heat, in spite of the moves made at the top of both conferences to catch them, are still the team to beat next season.
One thing they have done well is draw in (comparatively) low-cost free agents who are willing to play their roles in exchange for a championship. Everyone knows that a championship ring is like a 401(k) to us working folks, in that it provides a means of relevance and to income once the balls stop bouncing. Shooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis signed on with Miami this summer. Allen did so despite the possibility of keeping the “big three” together for one last crack at it up in Boston. Rashard Lewis did so at a deep discount compared to what he had been making, but that is the fun part. See, “what he had been making” is still due to him, as he was an Amnesty casualty and will still be PAID his old contract, just not at any detriment to his old team’s salary cap. That is all the reasoning someone like him needs to just latch on with whatever competitor wants him.
With both of them, their only jobs will be to keep LeBron James and Dwyane Wade from having to hoist 3-pointers all season. As accomplished 3-ball shooters, they will rotate to position, wait on the ball to come back from someone’s drive to the basket or out of the post and hoist that shot before help defense arrives. Since both have a very high and quick release, they have made careers of doing just that.
Enough on them.
The Heat have lost one of the only people on their roster who was physically up to the task of playing Center in the NBA in Rony Turiaf, who left as a free agent to the up-and-coming Clippers. As a former Laker, I am guessing that he, like Lamar Odom (who ironically has ALSO played for all 3 named teams in this paragraph) is just more comfortable with Orange County living. Otherwise, their roster reads like the same capable set of willing role players that just won the championship, and they are said by their higher-ups to play a “positionless” game, where any given player on the court can play/defend the next position up or down from what the media guide lists them as. For this, they can thank the likes of LeBron James and Shane Battier who can defend all 5 positions on the floor.
So where does this leave us?
Well, with the seemingly major changes in the league being largely relegated to what amounts mostly to “positioning for next (as in not this coming) season,” the Miami Heat are in the enviable position of having gotten visibly better without losing anything of extreme value while their most recent plausible threat (OKC) has largely stayed the same.
What everyone reading this, though, has been waiting for, is mention of the OTHER team out west who everyone is talking about… The Lakers, as newly constructed, might be the only other team that can present Miami with the kinds of fits that it would take to unseat them as champions. They overmatch the Heat at the crucial PG and Center positions, are a wash at SG, at a slight advantage at PF as long as they keep Gasol and NO ONE can match LeBron James. Right now, it looks like NBA fans (and front offices) will get that Kobe vs LeBron NBA finals they have been bastermating over for the past 4 seasons. And this is where I worry…
With Mike Brown at head coach, I am not as confident as I would be with Phil Jackson in the same seat.
With that said, I reluctantly see Miami going back to the mountaintop, but LORD knows – for the sake of my fanship of the Lakers and non fanship of LeBron – I hope I am dead wrong.