By David Schulz
“James catches, puts up a three! Won’t go, rebound Bosh, back out to Allen, his three-pointer. Bang! Tie game with five seconds remaining ! ” Remember that? Game six of the 2013 NBA finals. It’s time to bring the Heat back there.
The Miami Heat are going to the finals this year, plain and simple. They are the number two seed in the Eastern Conference right now, and it starts with the team president: Pat Riley. Pat Riley has always been about establishing a no-nonsense, no-loadmanagement, no-fluff culture. He works every day in making sure that the organization is running at its peak and only wants people who feel the same way under the team.
Hassan Whiteside — remember him? The highest-paid player on the Heat? His feelings were hurt from lack of minutes, and he became an expensive lackadaisical mess. Well, that “nonsense” and character is not tolerated by the culture Pat Riley wants to maintain. He’s gone. The Heat have a dedicated, hard-working Head Coach in Erik Spoelstra. The experience of coaching stars such as Dwayne Wade and LeBron James to championships is one impressive resume in itself. But that was years ago. Yet his energy and work ethic is just as notable as it was; he has the energy of a puppy on six Red Bulls, but the wisdom of the wisest owl.
Under Pat Riley, The Heat have Bam Adebayo, who not only averages 16 points-per-game and 10 rebounds, but SLAMS that basketball down the rim as if every dunk is his last. The Heat refers to it as a “Bam Slam” (Flintstones reference). He leaves everything on the court every night. Tyler Herro, known by the Heat as the man with the “Herro Ball,” can literally sink every clutch-three point buzzerbeating shot necessary. Did I mention it’s his first year in the NBA? Duncan Robinson — it’s his first season too, and in the 2019-20 season, he is 43 percent from the three-point line, with J.J. Redick being the only one ahead of him. It doesn’t stop there. The Heat have a potential rookie of the year in Kendrick Nunn. It’s not uncommon to see NBA teams up-and-coming with a bunch of young talent. But the Heat have a leader, who also fits right into this culture the Miami Heat are all about: Jimmy Butler. Butler is hungry for a title, and he finally has found the team for him in Miami.
The NBA is different now; gone are the days of it being the “Warriors Invitational.” And I know what you, reader are thinking right now: “There’s no way they can get past the Bucks!” “There are a lot of teams that will get the piece they need to be championship contenders by the trade deadline.” Let’s go through the Eastern Conference right now. The Milwaukee Bucks, an awe-inspiring team led by Giannis Antekounmpo. The last time the Bucks met the Heat, the Heat won in OT led by Goran Dragic with 26 points. Oh, right, I forgot to mention Dragic! The Heat are just that stacked this year. Historically the Bucks’ problem has been everything needs to flow through Giannis. If Giannis has a bad night, the team has a bad night. Apply that equation to the playoffs last year, Giannis was stopped and had no supporting cast to help.
This year, to the Buck’s credit, Brook Lopez has finally stepped up to the plate, giving Giannis a wing-man to support him on the offensive end. That’s great, but including Goran Dragic, I listed five sensational Heat players. Considering the notion that five is greater than two, I think it’s safe to say the Bucks will burn from the fire the Heat radiates on the court. Jokes aside, the Heat is really a team to look at this season.
Everyone always asks me why I’m a Heat fan if I’m from the Bay Area. “Why aren’t you a Warriors fan? Dub Nation bro!”, they say. Don’t even give me that toxic ideology. And for the record, I was a Heat fan since I was five years old. So no, I’m not a “bandwagon” from the “Big 3” era. Anything can happen. So when you watch game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals and witness this Miami team winning the finals, don’t bother texting me unless you want a thousand “I told you so’s” back.