Friday, March 4, 2011

Miami Heat vs New York Knicks For The East Finals: A Dream Come True

Two of the most celebrated franchises in NBA history.

Five superstars who have legitimate chances at making the Hall-of-Fame.

High octane offenses that want to get up and down the court with scores near 120.

Sounds like the beginning of a new great rivalry in the NBA.

If Sunday’s immensely-hyped match up between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks showed anything to the public, it’s that this is the start of something special. Whether it’s Dwyane Wade throwing a lob for a left-handed thrashing at the rim by LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony sticking King James at the end of the game and getting a help side swat by Amar’e Stoudamire, this was a preview of what’s to come in the next five years for these two.

Now, the public can only hope for one outcome come playoff time: an Eastern conference final between these two squads.

Getting that dream to come true will be tough for both teams this season.

The Heat are one of the top seeds in their conference after a slow start to the season and are loaded with talent thanks to their big three with James, Wade, and Chris Bosh. What may stop them from reaching championship status is their lack of toughness and size on the defensive interior, while also dealing with concerns of a shaky outlook at the point guard position.

With the Knicks, their biggest problem is timing. While the Heat were able to gel the team since the offseason, the Knicks will look to take the crash course on molding a group together with only 23 games left in the season. They also have holes in regards to protecting the rim and issues swirling around the effectiveness of their complimentary players.

Along with their own personal questions, the Heat and Knicks face the dilemma of a new look in the league based upon geography.

The West has owned the title of being the elite conference since the 1990s. Teams that were dominant since that time are now hovering near the end of their runs with their stars entering the twilight of their careers (Spurs with Tim Duncan and Lakers with Kobe Bryant). Of all the current top four teams in the West, only the Oklahoma City Thunder have a face for their franchise under the age of 30 (Kevin Durant).

The dominance that has been the signature of the West is now slowly filtering over to the East. In regards to the top half of the current playoff standings in that conference, three of those teams have superstars in their mid to early 20s. The Heat’s big three are all in that age gap, along with Chicago’s Derrick Rose (22) and Orlando’s Dwight Howard (25). With many of the squads on the Eastern half of the United States improving and creating a strong core based upon youth, just getting to the conference finals will be difficult task for any of these teams, let alone a highly hopeful New York vs Miami matchup.

Yet, sports are never pre-determined, so a final of this magnitude is still quiet possible. Not only is this outcome achievable, but it would be extremely promising.

Of course, many will be screaming and clamoring for one half of the East Finals to feature the usual Celtic, especially after their hardship last season and their four year supremacy nearing the end. As deserving and enticing it would be to see a youthful team try to topple the veteran Celtic team, no other match up would have more hype and be more mouth-watering than to see New York and Miami go at it.

As former teammates on the U.S.A Olympic team in 2008, the five superstars are close with one another and all equally dying for a shot at the title. Only Wade and James were lucky enough to even reach the pinnacle that is the NBA finals, with the former Marquette superstar being the only one to actually taste success by winning it. Stoudemire, Anthony, and Bosh have all been superstars on their former teams, but never had enough to make it to that next step.

The star power of this matchup is the biggest draw of all. The idea of having all five of these players on the court, trying to out do one another, and being the key standout to win the series is fascinating. Imagine if either one of these players were to emerge as the main force carrying his team to the next level while beating the other out to earn a berth in the Finals. The concept that one of them could hold that above the others for the rest of their life would give them the gas they need to give it their all from the tip off at game one to the last horn sounding off to signal the end of the series.

If both teams were able to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, it would be a premature start to this new rivalry. Last Sunday’s matchup between the two only gave a microscopic look as to how intense and alluring this rivalry could be. Both will continue to improve with a stronger complement of players and time to gel with one another, leading to the magnitude of a rivalry that the public has never seen before.

Just as the Lakers vs Celtics rivalry changed the scope of the NBA in the 1980s, the Knicks and Heat rivalry will undoubtedly alter the landscape of the league and usher in a new era of professional basketball in the 2010s.

Maybe, if we are all lucky, we can see that time begin in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.

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