One of the biggest misperceptions in sports is that of players taking time off or not giving their all; whether it's away from the game or even taking off plays or two . Fans and consumers - especially in this over-accessible social media driven market - demand so much more from the modern day athlete now that any clue of said athlete putting less than 100% is looked at with scorn and ridicule. We even now have teams this past season taking the word "tanking" and turning it into an art form. (I won't mention any names.)
What does this have to do with the Miami Heat? Well let's start at the beginning.
Being a back-to-back champion and playing in three straight NBA Finals, endurance and mental toughness become the two most overused words when describing and analyzing the Miami Heat. Entering this season it's no surprise that one of Erik Spoelstra's biggest challenges was managing player minutes. During the 82 game grind a lot can happen so having a deep rotation takes a lot of pressure off of the core players. In other words, minute management is of the utmost importance throughout the season. Of course, there will be those landmark games over the course of the season that you want your players to give their all to send a message of some sorts. Yet, the true challenge is knowing when to step on the gas and knowing when to make the smarter decision for a long term benefit.
Case in point....
Following March 26th, 84-83 loss in Indiana, Dwayne Wade proceeded to miss an additional nine games in an attempt to heal his recent string of injuries. In actuality, that may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, because in the process he was also able to rest up for this stretch run. The result since his return to the lineup has been positive. In his final three games this regular season, Wade averaged 16 ppg while most importantly playing efficient basketball, shooting over a 60% clip while playing a manageable average of 20 minutes per game .
Another recent example...
After the loss to the Atlanta Hawks last Saturday night, and with the #1 seed in the East in jeopardy but still in play, Coach Spoelstra elected to sit his other stars, Lebron James and Chris Bosh for the final two games of the season. While Miami did lose their final three games thus relinquishing the #1 seed to the Indiana Pacers, they may have gained much more. Going into Sunday's Game 1 contest vs. the #7 seeded Charlotte Bobcats, both James and Bosh will have had eight days of rest.
Not only is Miami going for that coveted "three-peat", lost in all this is the fact that Miami may also end up appearing in their 4th straight NBA Finals. No team has done this since the 1987 Boston Celtics.
We all know the Heat is both talented enough and mentally strong to put together another championship run. Not to mention they arguably have the best player on the planet in LeBron James, but there is something else not accounted for here.
The Battle Of Attrition
There is a reason why no team has played in four straight Finals in almost 30 years. Not only is it very difficult in and of itself, it's also both mentally and physically draining. Entering this postseason, Miami has played an additional 67 games in the last 3 years. That is nearly an extra season of basketball.
Only 3 franchises in NBA history have won three straight titles (Lakers, Celtics and Bulls). Even more shocking, only TWO, count them, two franchises have appeared in four or more consecutive NBA Finals (Lakers and Celtics).
We all must use this perspective and understand what else is at stake here as we enter yet another Miami Heat playoff journey. The climb may be harder this go around but if the 2013-14 Miami Heat come out of this on the other side and survive they will take their place among the NBA immortals.
And all those "breaks" I mentioned above would've been worth it.