If all goes well for the Miami Heat …
Virtually all the denizens of Sports America (and beyond) are in a fever over the Heat.
Understandably so, because if all of the superstars and minor luminaries in the Heat’s universe are perfectly aligned, then Miami could easily enjoy a record-setting championship season.
For Miami, here is the best scenario for the upcoming campaign:
Most importantly, none of the key players suffers a debilitating injury. LeBron James (soon to be 26), Chris Bosh (26), and Dwyane Wade (28) are still young and in their respective primes. Of these, Wade’s career has been checkered with the most serious injuries. However, since he no longer has the pressure of having to unilaterally carry the team, Wade should be healthy for the duration — although his current hamstring strain is certainly a concern.
LBJ will avoid doing Cavs redux and be more willing to play without the ball. Plus, James will expend more energy while playing man-to-man defense. And his jumper will continue to improve. Moreover, he will temper his dominating personality in the locker room.
Wade will likewise concentrate more on individual defense, which already is the most accomplished on the team. Also, the wide-open looks defenses will grant him as they necessarily cluster around LeBron’s powerhouse ventures into the paint — and are therefore unable to interfere with LBJ’s on-the-money, kick-out passes — will improve Wade’s perimeter shooting.
Bosh will slip and slide around — and shoot over — his defenders. The Heat’s thin man will also capture enough rebounds to enable his teammates to get out and go.
The combination of Carlos Arroyo’s savvy and Mario Chalmers’ quick-stepping scoring punch will prove sufficient both to facilitate and to spread the offense.
Mike Miller will greatly benefit from the huge number of open shots that will result from defenses having to converge on LBJ, Bosh and/or Wade.
Udonis Haslem will supply the defensive glue and the unsung hustle from baseline to baseline.
Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire will combine to give Miami a formidable presence in the paint at both ends of the game. Anthony with his shot-blocking; Z with his offensive rebounding and mid-range shooting; and Magloire with his aggressive physicality.
The Heat compensate for the defensive shortcomings of Bosh, Miller, LBJ, Ilgauskas, Magloire, Arroyo, Chalmers, et al, with total intensity and with precision baseline rotations.
Unselfishness will reign supreme in South Beach, with no public or private ego clashes to disrupt team harmony.
LeBron will avoid making unnecessary provocative comments to the media.
The team enjoys the rock-star treatment and refuses to be distracted by it. Along these lines, their pre-game and end-game adolescent celebrations (inspired by LBJ) will be eliminated or at least toned down.
The avalanche of negativity by Heat “haters” will become a prime source of motivation.
Erik Spoelstra does a masterful job of balancing playing time, ball time and shot opportunities (especially in clutch situations). Spoelstra will not be intimidated by LBJ’s imperial attitude and will also ensure that over-confidence is never a factor.
Pat Riley will stifle his own gargantuan ego and leave well enough alone.
The players will battle their way through the rough spots in the regular season (which are inevitable simple because every elite opponent will be especially inspired to beat them) without fingers being pointed and/or gripes being grumbled.
Once the playoffs commence, Orlando will offer minimal resistance because Dwight Howard will be in chronic foul trouble when LBJ and D-Wade consistently drive to the rim and wind up in Duperman’s lap. Wade will embarrass Vince Carter both coming and going. The passivity of Rashard Lewis will enable Bosh to play like a whirling dervish. The Heat’s offense will be superior to the Magic’s defense.
Boston will also be a cakewalk because: Neither of the Celtics’ over-the-hill O’Neals can exploit whatever weaknesses Miami may have in the middle. LBJ has the physical power and the willpower to play successful bump-and-grind defense against the aging Paul Pierce. Wade possesses the requisite quickness, strength and grit to wear down Ray Allen. Bosh will out-quick Kevin Garnett. Any possibility that Eddie House gets his chops way up in Beantown? Besides which, with Tony Allen elsewhere, Boston has nothing resembling a defensive stopper.
The Lakers will be a tougher nut to crack but, in the best of all possible universes, Bosh can run with Lamar Odom and easily outmaneuver Pau Gasol. Wade can outquick Kobe, then LeBron will lean on him, and Bryant will react by forcing his game. Ron Artest doesn’t have the lateral mobility nor the sheer muscle to hinder LBJ. The Heat will decimate L.A.’s stiff-legged defense by attacking the defending champs’ Achilles’ heel (i.e., their attempts to contain opponents screen-and-rolls). And playing the Lakers will inspire peak performances by everybody in every aspect of the game.
Should all, or even most, of the above situations come to pass, then there’s no question that the Heat will cruise to 70-plus wins and the NBA championship.
Monday: Worst-case scenario for the Heat.