Hate Mail: Overreacting to Newton
The Miami Heat are the most reviled NBA team since the 1980s Detroit Pistons, but in hindsight we've been too harsh. Don't get me wrong -- we were right this summer to dislike the Heat for so blatantly trying to cut the corner to greatness. Free agents bundled themselves together like a cord of firewood, stacking Mike Miller on top of Chris Bosh on top of Dwyane Wade on top of LeBron James.
It looked unseemly, weak. It looked like a shortcut to the title and most people instinctively recoiled. The Heat were going to run roughshod over the NBA, and that jersey-popping egomaniac, LeBron James, was going to take his talents to the NBA championship. That's what we foresaw. That's what we hated.
|LeBron James rises above Paul Millsap on this play, but it was Millsap who lifted the Jazz to victory Tuesday. (Getty Images)|
Point is, the Heat don't deserve our hate, not if that hate comes from fear -- because the Heat aren't all that scary. They're certainly not who we thought they were. Those shortcuts they took this offseason? Those weren't shortcuts to greatness -- those were shortcuts to summer vacation. The way I figure it, the Heat should be done with this pesky basketball season in mid-May, around the time the best four teams are playing in the conference finals.
Because the Heat aren't one of the best four teams in basketball.
Never thought I would write that sentence. Not this season. But there it is.
They're not unbeatable. They're not even great. They're a talented but flawed team that will mangle its share of similarly misshapen opponents this season but will lose, like it already has lost, to more complete teams.
The Miami Heat are 5-3. Did you know that? They have the third-best record, and not in the NBA. Not in the Eastern Conference. They're third in the Southeast Division, behind Orlando (5-2) and Atlanta (6-3). Not saying those standings will hold up all season, but it didn't take long for opponents to find the way to beat the Heat: quality size and a good point guard. You know how many NBA teams have quality size and a good point guard? Lots of them. Boston does. New Orleans. Utah. Those are the three teams that have beaten Miami this season, the most shocking defeat coming Tuesday when Utah took its 3-3 record into Miami and beat the rested Heat 116-114 in overtime.
Utah power forward Paul Millsap led all scorers with 46 points. He's a decent interior scorer. Above average? Probably, but not much more than that. But Millsap, who averaged 11.6 points in a reserve role last season, picked on Miami's interior for 46. Before Millsap it was New Orleans' Emeka Okafor, a decidedly below-average offensive player who managed 26 points -- on 12-of-13 shooting from the floor -- in the Hornets' 96-93 victory Friday against the Heat.
The Heat have all the perimeter talent in the world, and that includes Bosh, a Pau Gasol knockoff. But they have no size. No guts. No heart.
And that includes LeBron James, the phony.
What should you do, LeBron? How about this: less self-serving Nike commercials, more game-winning shot attempts. Try demanding the ball in the final second of a one-possession game. That didn't happen in either of the Heat's past two losses, where the Heat's final shot was taken by
LeBron James Dwyane Wade Chris Bosh Eddie House.
James, the gutless wonder who quit on his Cleveland team in the playoffs then ran to Riley's star-studded womb rather than trying to help his de facto hometown team win an NBA title, is the same guy who let Eddie House try to beat New Orleans and Utah in the final second.
Sometimes, being selfish is good. Don't tell me I'm a hypocrite, because I was thrilled in 2007 when James went one-on-five against Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals and pulled it off, beating the Pistons by scoring Cleveland's final 25 points.
That LeBron, surrounded by that cast, had no choice but to be assertive. This LeBron? Not his problem. He can defer to Wade or Bosh or Eddie Friggin' House. Because he's gutless.
Okafor torched that group for 26. Millsap had 46. What's Dwight Howard going to do next time he plays the Heat -- hang a hundred?
Poor Heat. All that hype, all that pressure.
All for nothing.