Nothing like another Josh Richardson dunk of the night to draw national attention to the Miami Heat and away from the non-races of the Western Conference. Originally scheduled on local television, TNT added the Heat-Pistons game to their NBA line-up, bumping the Wizards-Bulls contest off the national stage. Two days later, TNT will feature the Heat-Bulls game on April 7.
The Heat currently are 5th in the Eastern Conference, while the Pistons are 8th and the Bulls 9th. The Bulls and Pistons must win their games against the Heat for a chance to make the playoffs. Playing opponents whose backs are against the wall and facing elimination, Miami will find those games extremely competitive and difficult to win.
The excitement of the Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Richardson trio often replaces the Heat's legacy players in the top-10-plays list. TNT has noticed the Heat's high-octane scoring games, and is rewarding them by giving audiences live performances, instead of needing to wait for next morning's wrap-ups.
Basketball fans may have become overexposed to the Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson show dragging on night-after-night for the entire season. The revitalized fast pace of the Miami's game gives viewers must-see events with fresh faces, who are not well-known outside the Miami area. Unlikely as it seems, Goran Dragic joined the dunkathon.
To show how hot Richardson is, his Hollinger TS% of 0.595 is fourth in the NBA among qualified guards. That's better than James Harden, Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, and other All-Stars. Among shooting guards, Richardson is #3, Tyler Johnson #8 and Dwyane Wade #49. The Heat will have a pleasant problem of fitting Tyler into the back-court rotation next season.
As the Cavaliers and Spurs stars age, the Heat's roster this season has gotten more exciting featuring the breakout performances of their young players. The emergence of the bench mob and return of TJ makes keeping Whiteside a priority, rather than breaking the bank for a run at the often-injured Kevin Durant.
Heat's next project involves increasing Winslow's offensive production over the summer. Stephen Curry overcame his negative scouting report with an unrivaled work ethic. Hassan became an 80% free-throw shooter through intense practice. The common theme between Curry and Whiteside lies in their determination to prove doubters wrong. Can Winslow silence his critics by having a breakout scoring season?
Should Justise become a 20-point threat, the Heat should not only get a larger, although sometimes hostile TV following outside Miami — they can become a legitimate title contender. That does not take into account the possible return of Chris Bosh to the line-up this autumn, provided he doesn't retire or is traded for someone like Carmelo Anthony. Whatever happens, the new, more exciting Miami Heat is helping making the team must-see television for basketball fans.