Coast to Coast is my bi-weekly column here at Fansided, where I take a thought provoking topic, and put my spin on it. Feel free to disagree, because I’m sure you will anyways.
In speaking with the Los Angeles Times, TNT analyst Steve Kerr talked about the chances the Heat have to win the Eastern Conference for the 4th straight year:
“There’s a reason these teams don’t do it,” TNT analyst Steve Kerr said. “Emotionally, it’s just exhausting to keep doing it year after year, particularly when you have to deal with everything Miami has to deal with on a daily basis, just the constant critiquing and scrutiny on the team, and then you factor in the injuries with Wade and Bosh and their health. I don’t think Miami will get out of the East this year.”
Kerr has a point, as the last team to make 4 straight finals was the 1984-87 Celtics. It just doesn’t happen. The key thing to remember here, is that the Heat didn’t get worse by subtraction. The only key member of last year’s team that is gone is Mike Miller. They still have Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, so what makes this upcoming season different than last season? There are many factors that can have an impact on a team’s title run:
The reason it’s so hard to make multiple runs is in direct correlation with the roster. The last team to win three straight titles, the 2000-02 Lakers, had very little turnover. Of the players who were top 7 in minutes on the Lakers 2000 championship team, only 3 players weren’t on the 2002 championship team. Though some role players were replaced, the main core was in tact. The other thing on the Lakers side was age. The average age of the starters on the end of their 3 year run was 28. By comparison, this year’s Heat team will bring out a starting 5 with the average age of 30. The roster as whole is one of the older ones in the league. The Heat have basically made all role players expendable, replacing them with a set of new veterans who are hungry for a ring, and will play for the minimum. In case you forgot, the 2011 Heat had Mike Bibby and Eddie House playing significant minutes in the Finals.
As I mentioned earlier, the Heat didn’t necessarily get worse, but the East has gotten much better. Though the bottom of the East will be
tanking rebuilding , the top is as good as it has been in a long time. Vying for a chance at the Finals, there will be 5 legitimate contenders in the East besides Miami. The Nets, Pacers, Bulls, Knicks, and even the Hawks can make noise in the playoffs–if things go as right as possible.
Lets start with the Knicks. They were the number 2 seed last year, and in the regular season, they went 3-1 against Miami, looking like they match up well. Now, although Carmelo Anthony thinks they’ll be better than last year, they didn’t necessarily make the moves to get better. They traded for Andrea Bargnani, and signed Beno Udrih and Metta World Peace, but those moves don’t bode well for improvement. The Knicks are still a contender though, and if Mike Woodson can fit all the pieces together, they won’t be too far off of what they were last year.
The Pacers are viewed as the team poised to dethrone the champs, and that isn’t far fetched. They pushed Miami to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and if Paul George had allowed Lebron James to catch the ball, instead of trying to prevent the catch in game 1, they might have won the series. They exploit the Heat’s lack of size with Roy Hibbert, and use their slow, bruising style to counter the Heat’s strengths. They had an issue with offense at times last season, and that ultimately became their downfall. They had a great off-season, trading for Luis Scola, and signing Chris Copeland and CJ Watson(that means no more DJ Augustin). They also get Danny Granger back, and have instilled confidence into Lance Stephenson. If they pushed the champs to 7 games last season, and only got better, watch out.
The Nets went from terrible, to the 4th seed last year. With their move to Brooklyn, there was a new found excitement surrounding the team. They fired Avery Johnson after a 14-14 start, and PJ Carlesimo took them to the playoffs. They ran into a Bulls team who was broken and battered, and frankly got embarrassed. Being cash strapped and stuck with bad contracts, GM Billy King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov seemed to be out of options in terms of improvement. Somehow, the rich Russian pulled it off in spectacular fashion. With Boston GM Danny Ainge deciding that the Celtics were going to
tank rebuild, that suddenly meant that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were available. On draft night, they traded for Pierce, KG, and Jason Terry, moving Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks, Keith Bogans, and Kris Humphries. After signing Andrei Kirilenko, Alan Anderson, and Shaun Livingston, the Nets were looking more and more formidable. They drafted a nice prospect in Mason Plumlee, and re-signed Andray Blatche as well. Oh yeah, they also hired newly retired Jason Kidd to be their new head coach. The Nets look to be much improved on the defensive end, and they could be toting out the most talented roster in the league.
Then there’s the Bulls. The Bulls had a courageous and proud playoff run last season. They were without their star in Derrick Rose all season, and they didn’t let that slow them. They won 45 games, and advanced to the second round, and pushed the Heat more than Miami would have liked. Without Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler emerged as effective options. Of course, the insane Nate Robinson is no longer there, but with Rose coming back, the Bulls should be right where they were 2 years ago. The Bulls met the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, and they were no match. Now, with a healthy Derrick Rose, and a more confident team around him, they have a great chance of being the top team in the East. They added Mike Dunleavy Jr to help on offense, and they appear to have the depth of 2 years ago. They also have the size and defensive skill like the Pacers, that can cause Miami issues.
People talk about titles like they come from the ice cream man. They are viewed as something that can be waved down and handed out of some imaginary truck. There is so much disrespect to former players when it comes to legacy. Charles Barkley and and Patrick Ewing will be viewed as great, but they are slighted because they didn’t have the luck and the 1000 other factors that go into winning a title. Winning a championship is so hard in the NBA, and “count the rings” is the most disrespectful saying in the history of basketball. You have to avoid injury, lethargic attitudes, management, and even unfair suspensions–just ask the 2007 Suns about that. The Heat will even tell you that they have been lucky to get through these 3 seasons and reach 3 straight Finals. Although players should get credit for championships, you shouldn’t just blindly throw out titles without context or research.
Ultimately, Kerr said that the Bulls will take down the Heat this year, and there is a great chance that could happen(Kerr played for the Bulls, so there could be some bias in there). The talent in the NBA is ever increasing, and teams are only getting better and better. The West is as deep as ever, and we may see less and less teams repeat. The Heat are still the favorites, but the road will be harder than it was last season. With so much player movement, and as long as veterans keep taking pay cuts to win rings, teams will be harder and harder to beat. This may be the last stand for Miami, as all three of their stars can opt out, and they won’t have much cap space. Wade is older, Bosh is confused with his role, and the East is better, so we may see a different Heat team after this season. Pat Riley talked about a 10 year run with these guys, and Lebron said not 1, not 2, not 3, but it doesn’t look like either of those predictions is coming true.
Check out last week’s Coast to Coast here.