Since LeBron James rightfully took his talents to South Beach, the basketball world examined the Miami Heat in the finest detail; greater than a jeweler studying his or her diamonds before they attempt to sell the precious item. Some wanted to see The Three succeed, while the masses anticipated seeing the Heat fail.
After wrapping up the series at four games to two in Game Six, the eventual NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks dismantled the Heat 105 – 95 on Miami’s home court. The basketball universe had a party and slept soundly that evening knowing The Three Kings failed to win it all in their first season together. Even experienced, well-respected columnists dropped their guard as professionals and allowed their inner fan to expose themselves at the game’s result.
Well folks, there is some good news and bad news. The good news is that the better team did win the NBA title and two of the NBA’s greatest players – Dirk Nowitzki (the Finals MVP) and Jason Kidd – avoided suffering the same fate that many other greats have: that of not winning a championship.
The bad news (according to the backlash) is that the Heat did not lose.
The media and fans are similar to children at times when it comes to hearing what they want to hear. When a child is told to stay out of the street, they only hear “the street” and they will run into it. But if they are told to stay on the sidewalk to avoid any traffic, they will stay on the sidewalk. When James said, “not 5, not 6, not 7” championships, he never said, “starting this year”. The Three (not The Big Three because they have not won anything yet) only signed to be with each other for six years. So common sense would indicate that this 26-year old millionaire was living in the moment and talking out of his head.
James is a public figure and we (the media) tend to hold individuals to their spoken words – just not always every word.
Should James apologize for “The Decision” and his past comments? Not at all, including the infamous words he stated from his post-game conference.
“At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail – at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today,” said James. “They have the same personal problems they had today …
“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point.”
Since “The Decision,” when James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Heat, many did not like the fact he left Cleveland to join two other All-Stars in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. There was also a majority who did not blame James for leaving though many fans and media did not approve of the announcement via a nationally televised show.
Individuals with power tend to do crazy things at times. But if the opportunities are there for people with great influence to exercise their advantage, taking advance of them is not wrong, especially if their action does not harm anyone or destroy lives.
The reaction to James’ post-game conference comments suggests how many Americans feel about professional athletes.
The job of “professional athlete” continues to be thought of by many individuals in society as not a true occupation. Watching men and women playing a child’s game is great entertainment for all. But the athletes are not respected as true success stories because of not finishing school or not climbing the corporate ladder like businesspeople, teachers, doctors, or lawyers do. And to top it off, many professional athletes are either millionaires or make six figures because of their talent, which angers many in today’s society.
Many people in society want professional athletes to be humble and grateful for their income, and to be silent. For the most part, professional athletes are.
Unfortunately, James is probably now viewed by many to not be humble after his post-playoff comments. This is understandable since the drama that surrounds him and his team is over and it’s time to move on until next season.
Countless other public figures make statements that make them appear arrogant and they are not held accountable – why should an athlete be?
The Heat’s bench was always a concern as a support system for The Three and NBA experts knew they would need to make changes.
Thanks to the Mavericks, the Heat organization knows what type of pieces to put around The Three to help bring titles to South Beach. Some size, physical players and shooters who would commit to playing defense is what the Heat needs.
When the Boston Celtics’ Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen was assembled, they battled for years and never won, so they knew what it took to win. The Heat’s trio has not been around long enough to witness such heartache like the Celts. For Miami to have gone to the Finals was truly an overachievement this past season. Thanks to the Mavs, The Three now know where they stand, and they will have to improve their individual play and chemistry.
“You can’t just say, “OK, since you’re a driver, I’m just going to become a shooter,” said Wade on Tuesday in the team’s final conference of the season, according to The Sacramento Bee. “That’s not what the organization wants me to be. That’s not what we want (James) to be. That’s not what our fans want. Obviously being similar players, that makes us dynamic. That makes us a special team because we have similar capabilities.
“No one can come in and just automatically be great at something,” he continued. “Obviously, it’s been teams that won a championship in their first year together, but those are real, real veteran guys. They have to really be great complementary players to each other.”
The Heat will not have a major issue getting out of the Eastern Conference next season, thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which could hinder a part of the 2011-12 season if the NBA owners and players union cannot agree on a deal in a timely matter.
The new agreement will ultimately force the salary cap to be less. This means no team will be able to sign three major free agents and would be fortunate to sign even just one. The Chicago Bulls will not be able to sign a major free agent because of the players that are under contract. The Celtics and maybe the New York Knicks, if they can sign Chris Paul or Darren Williams, could be the Heat’s only threat. However, the Celtics key players are older and the Knicks may not be ready to take that next step.
Unlike this past season, the Heat and James will be settled in their roles with each other.
“That’s only going to get better as we get comfortable with each other and as our games continue to grow,” said Wade. “Obviously for LeBron, he’ll even be more comfortable next year in his surroundings. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to just make that adjustment to being in this new situation.”
In the big picture, the Heat’s loss to the Mavs was probably the best thing for them… not because of the hatred towards them but for the appreciation of where they journey will take them.
The Heat will have to replace seven players who are unrestricted free agents. Mario Chalmers was extended a qualifying offer Wednesday which makes him a restricted free agent. This puts Miami in the position to match any team’s offer during the summer.
“We’re encouraged by Mario’s progress,” said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra after the team’s exit meetings, according to the Associated Press. “He’s a combination guard and he’s a guard that can start under the right circumstances. He’s also a great fit coming off the bench because of the energy that he provides and his ability to change the game, either with his scoring or defense or playmaking, and that’s a unique quality to have coming off the bench.”
The Heat will be a handful for their opponents for years to come and they will be great for the National Basketball Association. James will not have to apologize for his decisions, action or comments but he will have to change as a person and make some changes in his game.
The basketball world will then reflect on the 2010-11 NBA season and understand exactly why that year was a victory for the Heat. A title – or “2 or 3” – will soon be a reality.