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Heat's depth, and starters stepping up, crucial for team to compete for title

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Heat starters will need to match the intensity of the bench for the team to compete but improved depth has already impressed.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Dwyane Wade's comment about the Heat coming after LeBron James was an example of media trolling. Wade actually said every NBA team was "going after" the Cleveland Cavaliers just because they are the heavy favorites to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

One player cannot win a championship: Michael Jordan did not win a ring until Scottie Pippen came aboard the Bulls. In post-season play, even if the Heat beat the Cavaliers, they must win three other series to become the last team standing. Winning in the NBA means more than getting past only James and the Cavs.

As noted earlier in a game recap on Hot Hot Hoops, "The Heat started off sluggishly and looked as disjointed as ever." The reason for that phenomena stems from the veteran players not taking ownership of their performances. You can tell they are simply going through the motions of doing what they are told, without allowing their unique talents to be displayed.

With decades of basketball experience, players such as Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Andersen, etc. don't need coaching as much as being given free rein to have the game come to them. As Avery Johnson told Gerald Green, "Gerald you can try to fit with these guys if you want to. But you need to try to have these guys fit in with you."

That philosophy works with Green, because nobody likes to be pushed around and the natural reaction is to fight back. The veterans on the team can figure out how to play together and take ownership of the first quarter, if they are given the respect due their All-Star caliber skills, without trying to fit into some preconceived game plan that looks good on paper, but falls apart on the court.

The "meaningless" preseason has demonstrated the Heat could win the championship this season because they have one of the most talented teams, as a whole, in the NBA. They have routinely crushed teams in the fourth quarter because their rested legs and energy have out-hustled either the tired starters or outclassed benches of other teams.

A game lasts 48 minutes, not 36 or 40. By the end of the contest the Heat turn on the after-burners and leave their opponents gasping for breath, just as the Golden State Warriors did to LeBron James during last season's finals.

The Heat have such a deep team that James Ennis, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson didn't even step on the court against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. During the season when normal fatigue, exhaustion, minor injuries take their toll, the knowledge that quality rotation players are available is a luxury the Heat have over other teams. Even Amar'e Stoudemire hasn't hit his stride yet, because once he does, the team will be even more potent.

With the signing of Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers have clearly signaled luxury taxes are not an obstacle for them to win it all. That changes the dynamic of keeping Mario Chalmers, who appeared very comfortable playing alongside Wade at point guard. Three months remain before the February trade deadline, so there is still time to decide on the final roster.

Wade said the Heat are coming for James, but they are also coming after Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, James Harden, and Kevin Durant. If they can demonstrate that they have the NBA's best bench, the Heat will have a legitimate chance to win it all.

Their first unit has one more exhibition game to prove they can take ownership of the game in no uncertain terms: "We own this basketball court, and nobody, but nobody, is taking it away from us." When the Heat starters impose their will during the game, can they hand over leads to bench to finish off the victories when the wins count for real.