By Ron Leyba
Pro wrestler Ric Flair is famous for saying, “to be the man, you gotta beat the man.” That’s the approach the Miami Heat are taking in regards to the Eastern Conference in 2014. Granted, they just lost the best player in the world and two of the main contenders in the East had arguably the best two offseasons in basketball, but that hasn’t stopped the Heat from approaching the upcoming 2014/15 with the same goal as always – win the NBA Championship…and they might be just crazy enough to pull it off for these reasons:
Spoelstra is arguably one of the best NBA coaches of the past two decades, not only in an X’s and O’s standpoint but also in the way of managing team chemistry. LeBron James was never much of a me-first star, but the media attention that he brought to every single game can be quite a distraction. The 2014/15 season may seem like a vacation for Spoelstra and many of the Heat veterans who have been through the rock star lifestyle for the past 4 years. Plus, Spoelstra has a new challenge in proving that he can win without LeBron James and that his successful coaching record is not just a product of having a superstar loaded roster.
The Return of Chris Bosh
Bosh is back after refuting the courting to return home to Houston in the offseason, of course 5 years and $118 million didn’t hurt. More importantly, NBA fans may see the return of CB4 the 24.0 PPG, 10.8 rebound monster that roared through the streets of Toronto in 2010. By all means there was great chemistry between Bosh, James, and Wade but perhaps no player looked more awkward in the system than the 6’10” power forward. Bosh’s game transformed into a formidable inside presence to more of a stretch 4 that would spot up in the corner and wait until Wade and James decided what to do. Bosh’s return to a dominant big man could lead the way for the Heat.
No one player is going to replace James, but a formidable veteran trio is sure going to try. The Heat were able to sign Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, and Danny Granger to add depth to their bench. In addition, Miami drafted electric point guard Shabazz Napier out of UConn to form a solid lineup that also includes Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, and Birdman Andersen, all who have big game experience.
The final reason Miami could make another deep postseason run is because of reduced expectations. Miami can approach every game with a calm demeanor and they won’t have the same target on their back each and every night. In addition when Miami comes to opposing towns this season it won’t be a concert event for fans to wring out their vengeance and bile – it’ll be just another game…which will be a nice breath of fresh air.
The Heat were under huge pressure over the last four seasons. The Big Three were playing with their backs against the wall almost every night. One loss and all those critics’ voices started commenting on the Heat’s future and the team’s chances to win it all. This time around, Miami can play with no pressure.
The Cavs and Bulls are greatly improved in the East, but the Heat still own the crown for now.