The Miami Heat’s big three are back for their second season together and things feel different from the start. Last years circus started with the WWE like entrance of the big three and ended with LeBron telling his critics that they have to "wake up tomorrow and have the same problems they had today." It was a series of PR nightmares that made the Heat the most hated team in recent sports history led by the sports worlds most hated athlete in LeBron James.
So why is this year different? For starters nobody went on national TV and proclaimed they were "taking their talents to South Beach." The guys have been relaxed and in good spirits through this training camp and for good reason. For the first time since coming together they have not been the number one story in the NBA. The Heat organization should be sending thank you cards to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Paul’s move to the Lakers and then move to the Clippers after David Stern nixed move one created a ton of controversy, but the resulting move sets up one of the most exciting young teams in the league.
Dwight Howard’s impending move to well, somewhere, has been the second biggest story of the off-season. So what have the Heat done this off-season? Stay quiet, and as far under the radar as they possibly could. The team saw their media day attendance drop from the low four hundreds a year ago to the low one hundreds this year. The Heat are far from out of the crosshairs of the national media and NBA fans around the country but for the time being they can focus on basketball and let someone else steal headlines for a bit.
On the court the Heat should be much improved with some nice off-season acquisitions. Shane Battier was the biggest free agent signing the team made and he should be able to contribute in many ways for the Heat. Battier is an excellent defender, outside shooter, and he is a great "locker room guy." Perhaps Battier can provide some veteran leadership and help some of the younger guys deal with the off-court attention the team receives. Center Eddy Curry was brought in to try and help a position that was a major issue last year for Miami. The Heat rely mostly on the 6-9 Joel Anthony to hold down their five spot but Joel has struggled against the leagues better big men. Curry is a 7 footer who has struggled with weight issues, but at age 29, a motivated Curry could make an impact.
The Heat’s most glaring weakness a season ago was at point guard. Mario Chalmers had a strong post-season but was wildly inconsistent during the regular season. Mike Bibby was not much better as a late season addition. Bibby is gone now and the Heat will rely on rookie Norris Cole out of Cleveland State to pick up a good amount of minutes. It is also very possible that Cole, who had a big training camp could eventually become the starter if Chalmers struggles early. The Heat will look to keep some younger players at their disposal this year by adding Mickell Gladness and Terrel Harris and cutting Eddie House. Miami also has a healthy Udonis Haslem to start the year. Haslem should make a huge difference as he is a major impact player when it comes to defense, rebounding, and adding overall toughness to the team.
All of the Heat’s roster moves should make them an improved team but at the end of the day it comes down to the big three. LeBron James will have to forget his dreadful Finals performance and move forward. Chris Bosh must try to get more aggressive and try to increase his rebound totals to over 10 per game. Dwyane Wade is now pushing 30 years of age and he must adapt his game accordingly. Wade takes as much punishment as any NBA player and the injuries are starting to really add up. Wade must refine his game and try and stay healthy especially with the brutal shortened schedule.
The Heat and their big 3 enter the season as the odds on favorite to win the NBA title. No team in the East made enough moves to make them more talented than Miami. If the Heat can stay healthy than a return trip to the finals should be in order. A championship banner will be raised in front of the Heat on Christmas day. Unfortunately that banner will have a Dallas Mavericks logo on it. That should be all the motivation the Heat need to get off to a red hot start this season.