Thursday, March 10, 2011

Can The Miami Heat Turn Tragedy Into Triumph?

Being the huge Kanye West fan that I am, a famous line from one of the rapper’s songs should be the battle cry with which the Miami Heat should live by right now:

“Now that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger.”

Strength is exactly what the team needs at this moment. Despite coming up with a big win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the eleven days prior to that victory were a nightmare. With five straight losses during that period, the Heat appeared to be a boxer stuck in the corner as opponents continue to pummel them into a TKO. Even with the occasional bright spots where they seemed to recover, it would be followed with another barrage of punches smashing into their body or a final haymaker in the final seconds to seal the W.

In the first loss to New York, the Heat entered the fourth quarter with the lead, only to see the Knicks battle back to win the final quarter by six points and the game by five. Four days later, Orlando came into town and the Heat maintained control of the game entering the fourth with a nine point lead. All of the sudden, Orlando was able to come up with the magic the team was named after and finish plus-12 in the quarter for a three point victory.

The Heat didn’t even bother to show up the next day when they went to San Antonio, as the Spurs would keep them on the ropes all game long and finish the game with a 30 point blow out. Vowing to bounce back, Miami squared off against Chicago two days later and again were holding all the cards with a two point lead going into the final twelve minutes. The end result was a 24-21 fourth quarter in favor of the Bulls and a one point win for the team from the Windy City.

Miami’s struggles would only continue when Portland came into town. The Blazers slowly shredded the team apart, coming up with a nine-point win and keeping the downpour of losses showering upon the Heat. The forecast called for no end to the horrible losing streak the franchise was dealing with as the faced off against the Lakers. Luckily for them, there was a break in the weather and a 94-88 win over Los Angeles.

Even though they have awaken from their nightmare, Miami should get used to dealing sleeping uneasy. Their recent problems made news all over sports websites and television. All this attention and intrigue over them losing is both unexpected and gratifying to the rest of the world.

When the Heat were formed during the off season and held the big bonanza ushering a new outlook for the franchise, there were only a few groups of people who wanted them to succeed: the team, the front office, and their fans. Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh came before their legion of supporters and vowed to win multiple championships. All three players made the idea of winning inevitable thanks to their signatures on their new Miami contracts.

That’s where they made their first mistake even before they took the court as a team. The utterance of such thoughts to the public is just like Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk: you are just going to get the rest of the NBA and the nation angry, bringing out the beast in your opposition.

When the team landed James after he famously decided “he would take his talents to South Beach”, people around me asked my opinion on how they would do this season. Without hesitation or a moment to process the information, I was able to summarize what they would do in five simple words:

“They won’t win the title”

The game of basketball is built on a team concept and having strong assets, starting from the face of your franchise all the way down to the last guy on the bench. This is why the Lakers have been able to win back-to-back titles; they are a more complete team that can beat their opposition in a variety of ways while being able to handle anything that comes at them.

Miami has a great core with James, Wade, and Bosh, but what about the rest of the team?

Mike Miller is a great piece for the team, but appears to be still adjusting to his new surroundings. Udonis Haslem fits well with what they need for size and rebounding, but has been out for the majority of the season because of injury. The rest of the team is filled with aging veterans (six of the fifteen players are either 32 or older) or unproven commodities (three guys have three years or less experience in the NBA).

That recipe won’t win you an NBA title, even with three future hall-of-famers.

So this current losing streak isn’t shocking in my opinion, nor should it be for the Miami Heat. They should take this experience and cherish it, because it will prove useful for them in the future. For now, and probably until the end of their careers, the microscope will be magnified whenever their playing horribly and losing consistently. That’s because the expectation is that they will always win, a standard that will not only haunt them, but will also not be discussed as thoroughly as their losses.

No one said winning comes easy and now the team is starting to realize that and cherising it deeply with the knock off of the Lakers. They are starting to see that success will come with difficulties, and that losing will be the only news that will be talked about in regards to the Heat.

Their roster will improve during the offseason with young talent they bring in through the draft and free agents that will sign with them down the road. They just need to understand that they will be a powerhouse in the league, but that will come with time. Patience is a virtue that leads to championships in the NBA, a quality that should have been pushed upon them before they threw their victory party over the summer.

For now, they just have to find a way to embrace their challenges and humble themselves into understanding that championships are earned in the NBA, not given.

With that, I leave this discussion with one final quote from Kanye West that the Heat should continue to carry with them on their journey forward:

“But I'm a champion, so I turned tragedy to triumph…”

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