Heat have no excuse not to win title
There are those who believe, and not without justification, that the NBA postseason is a two-month tutorial on the virtue of experience. If you’re among them, like so many in the coaching and commentating sects, then you’ll agree that no team is set like the Miami Heat.
In Dwyane Wade, they have a Finals MVP still in his prime, a player who dominated the championship round like nobody since Michael Jordan.
In LeBron James, they have a two-time MVP who somehow managed to drag Boobie Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic into the championship round.
Then there’s the Chris Bosh guy, who is merely a six-time All-Star.
What the Heat do not have is an excuse. I’m not talking about getting into the Finals, either. I mean winning a championship. There’s no excuse for them not to, especially now that the Los Angeles Lakers have been eliminated.
Pat Riley’s disciples like to speak of "the journey," as if they were hero protagonists in an epic poem.
Journeys are long. The course of the 2010-11 Miami Heat only feels interminable because the star players have been the subject of incessant talk and conjecture since July. But this hype, remember, was not foisted on them. They weren’t innocent bystanders. Rather, they courted the attention. They encouraged the expectations. And now, 10 months into the most publicized experiment in team sports, it’s finally time for the results to match the rhetoric.
If not, this team will be remembered as an embarrassment. Really, it will be. Ordinarily, there’s no great shame in not winning. But to this point, the Miami Heat are best known for an uncanny ability to keep celebrating nothing.
First, and most famously, there was James’ televised mishap "The Decision." Now, he finally has shown some contrition – not for doing what was his right, but for doing it so pompously.
"I apologize for the way it happened," he said. "But I knew this opportunity was once in a lifetime."
OK, great. Unfortunately, "The Decision" was only the beginning. "The road to history," he tweeted, "starts now."
That night, the Heat staged a WWE-inspired pep rally – dubbed “Yes. We. Did.” – attended by 13,000 fans at AmericanAirlines Arena. There were lights and smoke and effects that approximated the sound of cannon fire. James promised the fans multiple championships. Five? Six? Seven? But who’s counting?
Actually, as LeBron’s main patron has sloganeered: “We are all witnesses.”
The "Three Kings," as they were christened that night, hint at a problem that suffuses not just sports, but American culture itself. Mere acquisition isn’t cause to rejoice. Possibility shouldn’t be confused with accomplishment.
Now the Heat react to beating the Boston Celtics in the second round as if they had exorcised some terrible demons. As only James could sum it up: "Finally getting past this team, everything I went through this summer. All the backlash ... very emotional."
Finally? Did I miss some kind of storied rivalry?
Again, the Heat celebrate nothing. Or rather, they celebrate the relief of not losing to guys they should beat. That’s all that happened: The Three Kings and their supporting cast beat an old team with no center and a one-armed point guard.
Still, after a dreadful first half Sunday, James turned (quite dramatically, I’m sure) to Wade and said (or was it announced?): "I got your back."
How come Knicks legends Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe never had to tell each other that?
It’s worth noting that Boston basically gave up on the season when Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins. I don’t know what James and his pals are talking about when they speak of finally getting past Boston. But I do know that they faced a green-clad Perkins three times this season, and each time they lost.
Yes, the Celtics had championship experience, too. But there’s a tipping point at which experience becomes old age. Paul Pierce is 33. Ray Allen is 35. And at only 34, Kevin Garnett is a veteran of 16 full NBA seasons. Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal, meanwhile, were each done midway through the last Bush administration.
James is 26. Bosh is 27. Wade is 29.
Of course, they should crush the Celtics. They should beat everyone left in the field. That means Chicago in the Eastern Conference finals, then Dallas, Oklahoma City or Memphis.
They have the talent. They have cachet. They have the experience.
They have everything but excuses.