Given the fact that Stephen Curry won his first ring with the Golden State Warriors at age 27, the team took six years to figure out how to maximize his talents. The Miami Heat have only this season to get their act together, before Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, Luol Deng, among others, make decisions on their future with the Heat next summer.
Many fans and commentators believe small-ball is the only way to win a championship. Looking at the record though, Curry won his first ring in his sixth NBA season after five seasons of failing to reach the Western Conference finals. In his first three seasons, his Warriors were lottery teams. In his fourth season, the Warriors were knocked out in second round and in the season after that one, they were eliminated in the very first round. For five seasons prior to the championship year, his jump-shooting team had a total record of 183 wins and 211 losses during the regular seasons.
The Miami Heat have the players to reach the NBA Finals, if and only if they use the talents they possess to the fullest, which is staying true to being the NBA's most dominant and efficient team in the painted area, along with an elite defense.
The Detroit Piston's game exposed what happens when the Heat stray from doing what they do best. Early in the game with Whiteside, Chris Bosh, et. al., they built an 18 point lead. Going small-ball later with Udonis Haslem, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, they lost the momentum and the game.
The team simply does not have a Curry or LeBron James to consistently win small-ball games relying on perimeter shooting. Especially if Gerald Green is not available for whatever reason in May and June. Bosh may be their top 3-point shooter, but then the Heat lose the rebounding battle and high-percentage scoring at the rim when he is stationed near half-court.
The Heat had Chris Andersen, Amar'e Stoudemire and Jarnell Stokes available on the bench to go big against the Pistons, but the box score listed all of them as DNP. Incidentally their contracts also expire this season. Planning for the future compromises this season's revenue stream, i.e. any money lost this year is gone forever. The Heat's future will take care of itself after the season ends.
What they need now is to live in the present, while they still have the players to reach the NBA Finals. Wade and Whiteside both know the clock is ticking on their careers in different ways. Hassan, at 26 years of age, got a late start in blossoming, and will be 30 in only four years. Father time, who remains undefeated, will catch up to him sooner rather later.
The heavy favorites to win the East Conference title, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love as a big three, but after them the talent pool drops sharply. The Heat have Wade, Bosh, Whiteside, Deng, and Goran Dragic, who form a deeper and more balanced starting five.
A winning attitude comes from believing in and using what the Heat have, instead of thinking that by getting a lights-out three-point threat all their problems will vanish. They may not have the most physically talented team for a ring, but desperately need to display the hunger and fire from current players to win the first one for the eleven players, who do not have a single championship ring on their finger, by making the hustle plays.
An example is Haslem, who joined the team as an undrafted rookie, but contributes with a championship effort and grit. Justise Winslow in the Hornets and Magic games is starting to show signs of life offensively. Winslow will surprise many people as he gets more confident in in his scoring abilities as the season wears on. Him and Dragic work well together running open court plays from rim to rim, due to their fearless nature going to the basket.
This is the only year the present Heat team will be together as it stands today.
Even if a player may not need to prove he is champion for himself, he owes a duty to his teammates to help them win their first ring. When he does not make that championship-caliber effort every minute he is on the court, he is not only letting himself down, but depriving his teammates from getting their first taste of celebratory champagne.