The rollercoaster that was the 2010-2011 basketball season is finally over. Unfortunately for the residents of South Florida, many of us are left feeling nauseous after that wild ride, a ride that consisted of extreme highs and lows like none before.
To make it worse, as we exit the theme park today the ice cold reality of June 13, 2011 punches us in the face – the Miami Heat are not champions of the basketball world. Instead, the Dallas Mavericks are the ones celebrating. They were the ones who got to head out to South Beach and celebrate with the Larry O’Brien Trophy; they were the ones who would return home to thousands of happy fans.
The Heat players would do nothing more than head quietly back to their respective homes, thinking of what could have been. Heat fans are left to defend themselves on Twitter and Facebook from vicious comments about their team as they eagerly await the tip off of next season.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh will have to wait at least one more year before their fingers are sized for the first time. Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamaal Magloire and Erick Dampier’s windows at winning an NBA championship may be sealed forever.
There’s no sidestepping it, no sugarcoating the issue – this one hurts. A lot.
However, as strange as it may seem to some, there's still plenty of reasons why this season can be viewed as a success for the Miami Heat.
The Issue of Expectations
The simple concept of expectations can alter a person’s perspective of anything in life. The Miami Heat today are a prime example of that.
Heading into the season, this team faced a mountain of expectation higher than Mount Everest itself. However, it must be noted that none other than LeBron James himself formed a majority of that pressure as well as many in the Heat fan base.
The basketball universe heard James loud and clear at last summer’s welcome party in the American Airlines Arena. He proudly proclaimed it was “gonna be easy” and guaranteed that he and his super friends would bring “not one, not two, not three”….well, you know the rest. Dwyane Wade, someone who has been on top of the basketball world once in his career, couldn’t do anything more but shake his head and laugh. He knew better.
But naturally, once James boldly announced those words to the thousands of Heat fans in that arena, the expectations rose off the charts. Title or bust, all or nothing. The casual fan was positive the Heat were bringing home a title this year.
The outside media, though? Not so much support from their part. As a matter of fact, only two analysts in the preseason picked the Heat to go all the way – Chris Broussard and Jeff Van Gundy. Everyone else vehemently argued this South Beach experiment would never work.
James and Wade couldn’t share the ball. Bosh was soft. You have to play defense to compete in the league. (This was without a doubt the most ridiculous argument made against the Heat.) Erik Spoelstra doesn’t know how to coach.
Essentially, you had two extremes – those proclaiming the Heat would never work out, and Heat fans anxious for June to arrive so they could once again host a parade on Biscayne Boulevard.
They all were wrong.
How the Heat Proved Their Doubters Wrong
It was believed the Heat couldn’t get past the Boston Celtics. Five games later, after the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs concluded, the critics were proved to be wrong.
Then came the Chicago Bulls. They were surely a better team who shared the ball and had a more complete roster. They had the league MVP in Derrick Rose. All fair arguments, but they were wrong yet again. After just five games, Miami was crowned Eastern Conference Champions.
Then came the Dallas Mavericks. By this time, there were some in the media who had started to change their mind regarding the Heat, myself included as I had predicted preseason it wouldn’t be until year two that everything would come together for this team. However, there were still plenty who never gave the Heat a shot.
And after game one, it looked like everyone was on their way to being wrong for a final time. Then game two happened, and the rest is history. The Miami Heat in a sense failed, coming up short of the ultimate goal of any professional athlete – a world title.
But it wasn’t a failure, as a matter of fact it wasn’t even close to being a failure.
Sure, the overconfident Heat fans of last summer were wrong, but so were the doubting members of the media. They demolished the Boston Celtics; they handled the Chicago Bulls. They made it to the NBA Finals, something not many thought was even remotely possible when they sat at an average 9-8 at the end of November 2010.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James proved they can play together, sharing the ball with ease and creating highlight reel plays on a nightly basis.
Chris Bosh proved he is worthy of being called one of the big three, having outplayed great power-forwards in each round of the Eastern Conference playoffs – Elton Brand, Kevin Garnett and Carlos Boozer.
However, not shockingly, the Heat’s doubters and national media who were proved wrong countless times this season are rushing to bury the Heat and proclaim the experiment a failure. They’re jumping for joy and dancing on the Heat’s misery, despite the fact the team they hate so unreasonably much did so many things they said they could never and would never do.
Irrationality is in no short supply when it comes to coverage of the Heat today and in these coming months.
All of the sudden, widely heralded sports writers are once again beating their chests and pointing out that James and Wade cannot play together. Really? Where was all of this talk when they were steamrolling through the Eastern Conference?
LeBron James isn’t clutch, or so they say. Have the memories of the Boston and Chicago series already escaped their minds? They must have the attention span of a goldfish.
With that being said, I’m not in any way excusing James’ performance. That’s for another time.
Now back to the haters.
Many are calling this Heat big three a failure, although they went places those exact people said they could never go prior to this season. It’s time to break up them up, LeBron or Bosh surely need to be traded.
Huh, is it 2014 already and are the Heat still ring-less? Like I said, irrationality is everywhere right now.
Though many of the Heat’s detractors will never have the courage to admit it, the truth about this Heat team is blatantly simple and glaringly obvious. If you were going to beat this team, this was the year to do it.
They’re only going to get better from here on out.
With three superstars and an average rest of the roster at best, they almost climbed to the top of the basketball universe. As a matter of fact, the 2011 title was theirs for the taking, they just didn’t seize the moment.
Without a real center, with questions surrounding the point guard slot all year and perhaps the most inconsistent bench in the league, the Heat still managed to give themselves an opportunity at the ultimate goal.
With two key pieces injured all year long, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, the Heat still found a way to obtain the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
With a young coach who may not be truly ready for a team with this star power, they still managed to reach the NBA Finals.
Can you not see it now? According to basic basketball logic, this Heat team shouldn't have even found itself competing in the final round of the NBA season.
They weren't supposed to be better than the more experienced, well-rounded Boston Celtics, but they were.
They weren't supposed to be able to beat a deep, complete team like the Chicago Bulls, but they did.
They were not the most complete or best team, but there's little doubt that they were the most talented. And in a sport where teamwork defines success, they almost willed their way above their issue of below average help from their teammates.
The Dallas Mavericks simply took advantage of a golden opportunity – they beat the Miami Heat in a year that will prove to be their worst over the next five years.
No, it’s not time to trade one of the big three. Pat Riley will make the needed moves, as even he acknowledged the Heat were a big man short of legitimately contending for a title back in March. If there’s anything the basketball universe should have learned from these past 12 months, it’s to never count out Riley.
A center will be signed for Miami; the bench will be bolstered. The questions will be answered. The incomplete areas of the team will be completed. James, Wade and Bosh will be surrounded with the parts they need to compete for multiple titles.
No, this series does not send LeBron James' legacy burning in flames. He's 26 years old. If he and the Heat start reeling off titles beginning next year, 2011 will be no more than a mere after thought.
Vegas odds makers have already released the odds for the 2012 Finals and they’ve placed the Heat as 2-1 favorites. They know the Heat roster will be completed. Everyone does, there’s just a lot who will never admit it.
All those who hate the Heat, enjoy your fun while it lasts because it won’t for long. Enjoy dreaming the Heat are finished, you’ll have to wake up sooner rather than later.
Heat fans, sit back and relax; put a smile on your face. Don’t overwhelm yourselves with grief of this season’s shortcomings, but ponder the glory and excitement that lies ahead.
The best is yet to come.
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter @MIAHEATInsider.