Miami chill

It all began on July 8, 2010 with “The Decision.” As you all know, two time NBA MVP and six time all-star LeBron James decided he would “take his talents to South Beach,” joining fellow Team USA Olympians Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat for the 2010-2011 season. James stated that he expected to win “multiple championships” in a very short amount of time.

Throughout the summer leading up to the start of the NBA season, the hype surrounding the Miami Heat has been enormous. Sports analysts and former players were picking the Heat to easily finish first in the Eastern Conference, make the NBA Finals and deliver Miami their first championship in five years.

Many thought this could be one of the greatest teams of the last 20 years. Some predicted that the Heat could compete for 70 wins in an 82 game regular season, a feat that would draw comparisons to the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls, a team that included likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. The Heat, however, started their season 5-4, one game over .500. They have since improved to 8-5 as of Nov. 20 but many people have been asking questions of just how good this team could be. There are some reasons, though, why the Miami Heat have struggled early and, similarly, good reasons why fans shouldn’t panic just yet.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Heat have played some excellent teams in the early parts of this season. While this is not an excuse when you have three superstars in your starting lineup, it certainly can make it hard to come together as a team early on. Miami opened the season on Oct. 26 with an 88-80 loss to the Boston Celtics. The Heat then won their next four games, including a 96-70 win against the Orlando Magic, their main in-state rivals. James, Wade, Bosh and co. then lost three out of their next four games to the New Orleans Hornets (who started 9-0), the Utah Jazz and again to the Celtics. They won their next three games, then dropped a decision to Memphis and now sit at 8-5 on the season.

Out of their 13 games played thus far, Miami has met six teams that made the NBA playoffs last season. At this point, though, what the Heat need to realize is that they have a target on their backs. Every team is going to bring their “A” game when they play Miami and the Heat need to be ready to respond.

Schedule aside, taking a look at the team itself, one should still be at least somewhat surprised at the early season record. The team has had trouble playing together early on and some of this can be attributed to the fact that Bosh, James and Wade were previously the only superstars on their respective teams. Each player is accustomed to being the main attraction, playing a pile of minutes and getting the majority of looks at the basket. Now there are three all-stars on the same team and some sacrifices need to be made if this team is to improve during the season, sacrifices that include a pass first mentality to get the best shot instead of trying to force difficult points.

Additionally, the “big three” must realize that there are always two other Heat players on the court with them. Opponents will try to neutralize the impact of the superstars, which will allow open looks for other players that include Udonis Haslem, Eddie House and Carlos Arroyo. Once the Heat learn to play as team and get comfortable in their new surroundings, this team should be difficult to play against.

Finally, in the last 20 years, five teams have started 5-4 or worse and went on to win the NBA title. The 2006 Miami Heat team that won the championship series 4-2 over the Dallas Mavericks started the season with a less than impressive 6-4 record. Based on past history alone, it’s way too early to hit the panic button.

One example to note is that the 2007-08 Boston Celtics made some similar deals in the summer of 2007 to bring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston to join all-star shooting guard Paul Pierce. That team won 66 total games in the regular season, finished first in the Eastern Conference and went on to win the NBA title in six games over the L.A. Lakers.

The Miami Heat must realize that their season will be defined by what they are able to accomplish in the playoffs. Baring a complete implosion that would surprise all fans of the game, the Heat should easily make the playoffs. All three superstars have experience in the playoffs, but only Wade has won a championship. Even if the Heat do make the NBA finals, however, they will have to overcome their toughest obstacle yet.

The Los Angeles Lakers are two time defending NBA Champions and their team is loaded with talent. One can assume that Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher want nothing more than to meet the Heat in the NBA Finals to prove they’re still the toast of the town. Basketball fans won’t have to wait until June to see the Heat and Lakers play, though. Miami travels to L.A. to play the Lakers on Dec. 25. As long as the Heat play consistently good basketball, no team will want to play Miami come playoff time in April.