The Eastern Conference Finals has pushed this Miami Heat team to the edge. The Miami Heat has been forced to attempt to close out the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami for Game 7.
This series has proved tougher than many of the experts thought it would be. Some predicted the Heat in six; others predicted the Heat in five. Not many experts thought the Heat would be pushed to a seven game series.
The only player that has consistently showed up to play this series has been LeBron James. LeBron James playing big was expected, however, who could have expected that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (the other two from the big three) would be a non-factor in the series.
Dwyane Wade has tried to play through his pain, but has been largely inefficient. Chris Bosh played well in Game 3, but has also been inconsistent. The latest ankle tweak did not help matters at all for Bosh.
We saw Haslem and Mario show up in Game 3, and Game 5. They have been the better two players behind Chris Andersen and LeBron James. The Birdman has provided energy and has been as efficient as you can get on offense (100% Field Goal shooting) and has been an effective defensive force. However, his actions towards Tyler Hansbrough did not help the Heat's chances in Game 6 at all. The Miami Heat should not need to rely on Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem to produce as well as they did.
Shane Battier has not been productive from three point range at all. Battier played just four minutes in Game 6. Ray Allen had another night of 1-4 from three point range. These two were supposed to provide three point shooting and stretch the defense for LeBron and Wade to drive to the paint.
The Heat will need everyone to step up if they will get past the Pacers, and possibly beat the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.
However, the playoffs has provided for some skepticism in regard to the future of the Miami Heat.
Dwyane Wade has not been the player he once was. He should still be able to be productive, but hasn't shown any production for much of the Indiana Pacer series. People may argue that an off-season will give Wade time to recover, and be more productive again next season. While this may be true, and I believe he can be the Wade we all know and love again, there is much cause for concern when looking at the future of the Miami Heat organization.
We have seen the emergence of Paul George; who is just 23 years old. The entire Pacers team has got much better. Roy Hibbert is becoming a defensive and offensive force. The Indiana Pacers match up well against the Heat, and will continue to get better.
Let's not forget about the Chicago Bulls either. Derrick Rose will return from his injury that kept him. The Chicago Bulls always play the Miami Heat hard and getting Derrick Rose back will help the Bulls. The Bulls had a great run without Rose, and played the Heat tough in the playoffs, despite losing the series in 5 games.
The continual rise of the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls are cause for concern. These two teams will give the Miami Heat a big challenge next season in their quest for the NBA Championship.
The possibility remains that LeBron could leave in 2014 and head to Cleveland. LeBron may have a more elite core of players to surround him if he returns to Cleveland. He would most likely be partnering with the youthful core of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters. The ability or inability to win championships while LeBron is still in Miami may affect LeBron's decision to either stay or leave to play somewhere else. If LeBron decides to leave Miami, their championship hopes would fade dramatically.
Dwyane Wade will be 32 in 2014, and may want to receive a max contract. Signing Wade to a maximum contract would be a major hit to their salary cap situation, and may affect their chances at remaining championship contenders. If Wade's current and recent play continues to be on the decline, the Miami Heat's front office may also decide to turn in a completely new direction.
Even if LeBron, Wade, and Bosh stay in Miami beyond 2014, we have seen what the future holds for the Miami Heat. The continued journey for the NBA Championship will only get harder for Miami. And watching LeBron attempt to lead the Heat to championships will become an all too familiar sight unless Wade can somehow get healthy, and show us that he can still will a team to victory like he has in the past.
The Miami Heat invested so much in this Big Three with the hopes of winning multiple championships. If the Miami Heat are only able to achieve one championship by the time 2014 comes around, this big three may be put to an end.
This is a critical time for the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade helped build the big three, and Miami needs him to help save it.