On the Heat, LeBron, titles and pride
By Zac Jackson
FOX Sports Ohio
December 15, 2010
A few things about LeBron, the Heat and the Cavaliers as we prepare for Wednesday night's game...
1. He's back. Well, he's not back in sunny Cleveland, but he's back in the local headlines. Back on your television. Back playing the Cavaliers again. If you've been watching the Cavs, you're not sure this is the best time for another Heat game. If you're a Cavs fan who's been watching the Heat, you're darn sure this is the worst time for this game to take place. The Heat are, um, trending upward. They're clicking. It's not just that they've added a couple quality wins while continuing to bury inferior competition, it's that Dwyane Wade is healthy and playing extremely well, LeBron is playing like LeBron and the other guys are following their lead. That's what this grand plan was supposed to produce, and though it's only December and these games mean absolutely nothing in the long run, the Heat are playing much better than they did in November. And doing things like winning in Utah and absolutely clamping New Orleans in the fourth quarter can only boost the confidence of a team that came in feeling like opponents should lay down for them but soon realized that wasn't the case.
2. The Heat are scary. Scary-fast, scary-good at the defensive end when they want to be, scary because they're never out of a game and can bust out of a rut with the type of attack-mode spurt most teams can't put together. It's what I wrote back at the beginning of the season: Miami is going to have streaks when every second of every game is must-see TV. Right now, the Heat are in one of those grooves. The Cavaliers are going to need to move the ball, really be good on the defensive glass and force LeBron to shoot jump shots. Of course he made almost everything he threw towards the basket on Dec. 2, but you have to take your chances and dare him to do that again rather than let him get to the rim. J.J. Hickson got absolutely posterized by James Harden Sunday night, but because that was a Sunday game in Oklahoma City the highlight made its rounds and died quickly. These LeBron highlights, as you may remember, have a little staying power.
3. I will say this, and you can call me a homer but I believe it's true. LeBron and the Heat, but especially LeBron, didn't prove anything by beating down the Cavaliers a few weeks ago. They sent the Cavs into a tailspin and maybe pulled the curtain on some harsh realities, but they didn't prove or accomplish anything. LeBron isn't playing against these identity-less Cavs. He's playing against what he did here, what he accomplished here, what his team was and became last year. That includes lots of wins, lots of progress, lighting up the whole city and energizing the fan base, two MVPs, the Finals, all those things. He left because he said he wanted/needed a better situation and more wins, right? Even this win streak is measured against the Cavs' streaks from the last two years.
4. The ultimate and only measure, of course, is the Heat winning championships. Remember that ridiculous rap concert in Miami on July 9 when the Big Three emerged from the smoke and LeBron counted to seven titles? Nobody's laying down or handing them anything. The East is better as a whole, and Carmelo might be coming. Right now the Heat are having fun, showboating, throwing ridiculous alley-oops and laughing through fourth quarters (remember those days?), but these games mean zip-squat-nada come May. The Heat still don't have a point guard or a center, the two most important positions come playoff time and the two positions the Magic, Celtics and Bulls most definitely have. I don't think the Heat can match those teams' depth, either. But I also know that Wade and LeBron are both walking triple-doubles, both create their own shots and play multiple positions and do things mere mortals can not. People will be watching. David Stern will be smiling. It will be a heck of a ride.
5. For the Cavaliers, the goals tonight are simple and basic. Play hard. Keep it close. Execute the game plan, don't get caught yapping with LeBron, knock him on his butt when the chance presents itself. After what happened 13 days ago, this game is about pride. And defense. And until the Cavaliers can get out of this rut, every game is about the Cavs -- playing to their strengths, developing confidence, building something. There are no positives in losing eight straight by an average of 20 per night. It's going to be a long climb out, and I honestly believe that -- right now, anyway -- Byron Scott and Chris Grant would settle for seeing signs that guys want to be here, are tired of getting blown out and are committed to getting this thing right. It's not a moral victory league, but tonight can be a change-of-direction night for the Cavs, much like Dec. 2 was. Or, if James goes crazy and Wade flies to the rim and the Heat win another laugher, it could be more of the same.