A shortened NBA season would be perfect for ready-to-win Heat

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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The shorter the regular season, the better for the star-driven Heat. (US Presswire)  
The shorter the regular season, the better for the star-driven Heat. (US Presswire)  

Dwyane Wade got a little frosty with NBA commissioner David Stern the other day when players and owners met to discuss possible solutions to the lockout now threatening to cut into the regular-season schedule.

The Heat superstar said he felt disrespected by Stern during the meeting, and reportedly told him, "Don't point your finger at me! I'm not a child."

Stern almost certainly was shocked by the rejoinder itself, and probably moreso by the man speaking it. Wade, though he absolutely is more dangerous on the court when he plays angry, doesn't seem the sort to escalate a confrontation in the manner he apparently did with Stern.

But it's possible Wade had an ulterior motive.

Maybe he was delivering a veiled message on behalf of the Heat.

Perhaps he was informing Stern that he and LeBron James and Chris Bosh don't care if the NBA regular season is shortened, because it might be the best thing that could happen to them and the Heat.

The regular season is a forced march. It's a compulsory exercise before the important (see: playoffs) stuff.

That's especially true for the league's highest-profile teams, and Miami is at the top of that heap.

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Nobody will care what Miami's record is during the next regular season unless it's abominably bad, which it won't be, or astonishingly good, which it won't be, either.

Heck, the Heat won't care.

They didn't care while going 58-24 last season in the formative year of the Wade-James-Bosh core, and proof came when Miami shrugged upon failing to win the top-seeded position in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat, playing from a home-court disadvantage in the Eastern Conference championship series, eventually beat top-seeded Chicago for the crown, but then -- playing with a home-court advantage in the NBA Finals series -- lost to Dallas. They closed out the Bulls on the road, and were closed out by the Mavericks at home.

So, really, why wouldn't or shouldn't the Heat be fine with, say, a 50-game regular season that would reduce physical stress? And, please, don't suggest that a more modest schedule somehow would diminish a champion's accomplishment. Since when does regular-season performance validate what happens in the NBA tournament?

It's true that the Heat could use whatever break they can get from the hate.

They are the team fans outside the Miami precinct love to see ... and despise. The venom likely won't be as pronounced next time around, but the Heat undoubtedly still would welcome fewer trips into hostile environments even though they'll have a better awareness of how reviled they are.

Nor should Miami require as much time learning how to play most effectively as a team as it did last season when the blending of the Wade-James tandem, in particular, seemed a constant work in progress. Seven players who were in the streamlined rotation at the end of last season -- Wade, James, Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony -- figure to be in it from the start, if competition resumes.

The Heat's tight circle will tighten ever more deeply. And quickly.

There probably won't be a need -- or the preseason time -- for the team to pen itself into Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle as it did last year on a mission of self-discovery. The experiences of the 2010-11 season ought to serve the Heat well enough in that regard.

Now, losing the entire 2011-12 season to a lockout would damage the Heat severely, because it is so primed for excellence in the present. A whole year taken away from the Wade-James-Bosh bloc would increase already-obvious frustrations stemming from the Year One failure and rob Miami of an opportunity to make immediate amends.

But an abbreviated regular-season schedule?

One in which the weight and intensity level of the games are heightened, but the grind of a longer season is lessened?

The Heat happily would sign up for that arrangement, which might have been a hint dropped by Wade to the commissioner.

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