Updated Oct. 21
A funny thing happened when the Heat became the obvious choice to run away with the NBA championship this summer.
People started picking against them.
Nit-picking, I call it.
|Heat newbie LeBron James jokes around with his teammates during the preseason. (AP)|
They worried about the Heat's lack of depth. Ha. It says here: Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the best supporting cast any NBA superstar will enjoy this season.
They noted improvements made by the Lakers, Celtics and Magic. Actually, there's another name for that: Sweeping up the trash after the Heat metal detector had separated out the gold.
And they started taking shots at James himself, magnifying everything from his lost endorsement deals to his lower Q-rating.
Heck, there were even some who began predicting World Championships star Kevin Durant would win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award this season. Believe it or not, all this was done with a straight face.
Despite the naysayers, the Heat remain the clearest choice to be NBA champions since Michael Jordan last dribbled a basketball for the Bulls. And that's because Miami employs a force even more powerful than Jordan -- James.
The two-time MVP should be better than ever this season. For starters, he'll actually have NBA-caliber players surrounding him.
But here's the clincher: He now has something to prove. Only he is powerful enough to turn all this negativity into a positive.
What should we expect? Oh, quite a bit.
Not only will the Heat waltz to the championship, but James will be the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson accomplished the feat almost 50 years ago.
Heck, James might lead the league in scoring, rebounding and assists if only his coach, Erik Spoelstra, would let him play the fourth quarters of all of what will inevitably turn into Heat blowouts.
Without question, the Heat sit atop my season-opening CBSSports.com NBA Power Rankings for 2010-11. The battle is for No. 2, just as it was in the James sweepstakes this summer.
And in that battle, there is no winner.