Thursday, February 23, 2012
Heat Rising: How Much Pressure Is On The Heat To Win It All This Year?
(Image from: live.drjays.com)
The Miami Heat currently possess the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 26-7, and they are tied for first overall in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Heat fell just short of their goal of winning an NBA championship last season; but with the Dallas Mavericks adding new faces, the Lakers with a new coach, the Bulls facing injuries, the Thunder still climbing the ladder, and the Celtics too old, this year's NBA title is sitting right there for Miami to easily take. If the Miami Heat do not win the NBA Championship this season, it is going to be a MAJOR disappointment.
Despite moving heaven and earth to land both Chris Bosh and LeBron James to accompany Dwyane Wade, anything short of a championship this season would force the management of the Heat to step back and reevaluate where the team is heading.
Brian Windhorst, who writes for ESPN.com has covered LeBron James since high school, and is a native of the Cleveland area. Being one who is currently covering the Miami Heat for ESPN, he was interviewed on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption to discuss the Heat, the "Big 3", and LeBron's future. Windhorst said the chances of the Heat trading one of the "Big 3" is "extremely high" if they don't win the title this season. He also said that LeBron James could very well end up a Cavalier down the road, if not in 2014, then maybe in 2019 or 2020.
The point is, there is no lock that the Miami Heat keep Wade, Bosh, and James together if they don't win the title this season. I can't tell you for sure who of those 3 that they'd deal, but if LeBron James already is starting to show signs of having one foot out the door, don't be surprised if LeBron gets dealt should they fail to win a title this season.
Another key reason they'd break up the "Big 3" is for financial reasons. Windhorst pointed out that the new labor agreement makes it possible, but extremely taxing to hang on to all 3 guys. If they can't win a title together, then why spend all the money? It comes down to dollars and cents in the NBA, and there is no NBA franchise willing to far exceed the luxury tax if the result is failure. Now I'm not one to say that losing in the Finals is a failure, but to the Heat it is failure, particularly with the way they all boasted about "not 5, not 6, not 7..." in reference to the number of titles that they would win. After all that talk, to come up short twice would look embarrassing. It would be devastating for the entire Heat Nation to come up short and not win it this season, especially with the circumstances that other teams are going through.
Overall, what are the chances the Heat win the NBA title in 2012? I think they are extremely high. I think right now, the Miami Heat are the clear cut favorites to win the NBA Championship. With all the struggles and concerns of all the other contenders, there is no reason the Heat shouldn't win the title should they stay healthy. If one of the "Big 3" goes down, they are in serious trouble, and they probably don't win it. But if they stay healthy, then there is no reason to pick a different team.
The pressure is extremely high on this Miami Heat team to deliver an NBA title this season. Because if they don't, they very well may abort the mission and start again from scratch. With the way everybody is expecting them to win the championship, it will be stunning if they fall short. Absolutely stunning.
There are only 4 teams that have a legitimate shot at beating them in a 7 game series: the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks. With Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, the Bulls have shown that they have the star power to defeat them, and maybe do it over the course of a series. In the rare event that Carlos Boozer actually shows up, the Bulls can hang with the Heat and maybe edge them out with their deeper bench. The Thunder because they have the most star power to rival the Heat player for player. They got 2 guys that are arguably in the same level as the Big 3 in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Not to mention a better supporting cast of guys in James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins.The Lakers due their star power as well as their inside game which can give the Heat nightmares. The Heat have absolutely no answer for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and Kobe Bryant's versatile game can bury them as well. The Mavericks have the luxury of knowing that they have beaten this Miami Heat team in a 7 game series, and there is no good reason to not think they can't do it again. Dirk Nowitzki poses great matchup problems for them, and they seem to be deeper than either Chicago, Oklahoma City, or Los Angeles. If they can get Vince Carter and Lamar Odom to fit in, maybe the Mavs can beat the Heat in a 7 game series for a second time.
But at the end of the day, it is still all about the Miami Heat, and whether or not they can live up to the hype and expectations that THEY put on themselves. If they win the title they will do what was expected of them. If they don't then the whole sporting world will once again be bearing down on them. It will be very interesting to see how the second half of the season will go for the Heat after the All-Star break.