I know this is a regional sports blog, however I feel to be a legitimate sports news website you have to talk about a newly crown champion in a particular sport. You don’t need this article to report the “news” that the Miami Heat won the 2012-13 NBA Championship so I want to discuss the several key points we’ve all learned as NBA fans this 2012-13 NBA season, a season recap if you will.
The Monkey off LeBron’s Back
Many people mistakenly saw last year’s championship title as LeBron James getting the “monkey off his back”. I was the few that knew it meant no such thing. One ring means nothing as far as Legacy goes. To go down as a legend you have to win multiple championships (fair or not, I didn’t make up the rules). Not only do you have to win titles you have to have multiple signature games in the Finals that standout historically. At that point in time I knew LeBron did not yet accomplish this. At the time he “only” had one title out of 3 tries (most people forget about his 2007 Finals appearance as it was the lowest TV rated Finals in NBA history).
On top of that there were many flaws in his game. His outside shooting was suspect and inconsistent and he was an average at best free throw shooter, shying away from the moments in crunch time in order to avoid going to the free throw line (see playoff games against the Celtics in 2008 and 2009 and against the Mavericks in 2011).
Everything I mentioned above is why, from a basketball fanatic’s trained eye, you can see there was still a “monkey on his back”. This championship and his performances in the Finals has changed all that and anyone that questions LeBron’s legacy as an individual basketball player doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. Now let me be clear, I’m speaking of his own individual legacy, it is now an accomplished one in its own right, even if he doesn’t win another title the rest of his career. However don’t get this confused with “comparing” his career/legacy with other greats like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Kareem, and Bill Russell because he still has a long way to go on that front. However he has “secured” his own legacy. James secured it because for the first time in his career he “carried” his team in crunch time in multiple games in the NBA Finals. When everyone was feeling the pressure and it seemed like the game was getting away from the Heat, he came through. He had two signature “LeBron” games in game 6 and 7 with game 6 forever going down as the “head band” game. He was finally able to accomplish these feats due to the fact that he drastically improved his outside shooting and increased his free throw shooting percentage as well (for the playoffs).
He now has a complete game and almost no weaknesses. The only thing standing in his way to reach MJ or Kobe status (as far as accomplishments) is time itself. He’ll be 29 this year and there’s only so many years left in an NBA player’s prime when you start pushing 30.
Dwyane Wade Has Three Championship Rings
With all the LeBron James legacy talk it gets forgotten Wade has one more championship ring than LeBron James.
Chris Bosh is Going to Be Traded
This playoff run for the Heat showed they can live without Bosh. Bosh had a subpar and inconsistent playoffs and Finals. The Heat have to dump one of the “big 3’s” salary and it’s not going to be Wade or James, leaving him as the odd man out (though I’m sure he’s use to that by now). The Heat have enough scoring without Bosh and all the Heat needed was a big that rebounds and play defense and his name is Chris Anderson. The Heat will take the extra money and get younger role players and bigs to surround James and Wade. Pat Riley is too smart of an executive to not know that is the winning formula to continue to win in the future.
Mario Chalmers is Having a Better Career than Derrick Rose
The reason why I make this comparison is because they are from the same class in 2008. Chalmers lead his Kansas team (in college) and defeated Rose’s Memphis team in the National Championship game (where Rose missed crucial free throws). Rose was the number 1 pick of the 2008 draft and Chalmers was the 34th pick. What people don’t’ know is there was a good chance Rose could have been picked up by Miami back in 2008 (can you imagine a “real” big 3 of LeBron, Wade, and Rose, scary) but the Bulls beat the odds and got the number 1 pick (they only had a 1.8% statistical chance), thus the Heat picked up Chalmers.
Ironically, Chalmers, as the Heat’s starting point guard has defeated Rose (a former NBA MVP) and his team multiple times since college (and yes this year counts because Rose could have played) and now has two NBA titles to Rose’s zero.
How Not to Handle an Injury Situation
The only story bigger than the Heat this year was that of Derrick Rose’s injury debacle. Rose and the Bulls showed the sports world how to fumble (putting it nicely) an injury situation. Rose’s and the Bulls’ public relations team failed miserably. The Bulls failed by medically clearing him (they could have just lied and avoided a lot of this). The Bulls failed by never shutting him down for the rest of the season knowing full well he wasn’t coming back. And Rose failed by being too honest. Rose communicated that he could be back at any time. He admitted he was physically fine and good to go, but mentally wasn’t ready. Even if that is the truth you don’t admit that. Some may say, “so he should have just been a big fat liar about it all?”. In the show/entertainment business (because that is what professional sports are) yes. Yes, you lie.
Dwight Howard is Not a 1A NBA Star
Dwight Howard had the potential (and I guess still does) to be a 1A NBA star. He was exposed when he went to the Lakers. He was a “system” star. Meaning he thrived in Orlando because of the system. The system was you surround Howard with 3 point shooters. This makes the defense have to choose, do they double team Howard and leave shooters open or do they play defense on Howard 1 on 1. Every Orlando game and their success came from making their opponents “pick their poison”. Once this system was gone in LA, Howard was significantly less effective. He has a career average of only 18ppg and for a player that is always the biggest human being in the arena this doesn’t cut it. His lack of post moves and horrible free throw shooting hampers him greatly in being more of an offensive threat. You can’t be a 1A Star and only average 18ppg (to put it in perspective Loul Deng averages 17ppg). You need to get the job done on both ends of the court.
We learned that Mike D’Antoni should not be an NBA coach. His coaching philosophy just does not work in the NBA realm (it would be a great college system). A Run and gun and high scoring game plan doesn’t win in the long run.
We also learned that Kobe Bryant only has a few years left in the league.
You Need a Half Court Offensive System to Win
Several teams suffered greatly in this year’s playoffs due to lack of half court offense. Before Russell Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus injury my only concern about the Thunder was their lack of half court offensive execution. I thought the same about the Clippers but did not expect it to be exploited in the 1st round (I was wrong). The Nets suffered the same fate as they had too many role players on their roster that weren’t reliable scorers (Bogans and Wallace to name a few), so offense would get stagnant. The Bulls however do run half court offensive sets well but fail to actually convert. This is because of a second problem a lot of teams have and that is no back to the basket scorers, so defenses can stay home on their man in a half court defensive set. And a team needs to be able to score easy baskets to win it all and a post presence can give you that. The Bulls don’t have any (Boozer is a jump shooter), Clippers don’t, and the Thunder do not either. The teams that were successful (Pacers, Spurs, Memphis, and Heat) do have post up scorers (for the Heat it’s LeBron).
Super Teams Are Here to Stay
In the last 4 years Super Teams have won two titles or have made successful runs in the playoffs (with the only exception being the Lakers). The Knicks finally became post-season relevant since 1999. And we all know the success the Celtics had from 2008-10.
This will only encourage General Managers to go the super team route if they can. It may not land them an immediate championship, however I believe the expectations have slightly changed and GM’s will go this route to simply just win again (in general) and go from irrelevant to relevant.
I have a feeling the Lakers will get their act together next year and become a title contender (for real this time).
As Long As the Heat Keeps Winning We Will Continue to See This
LeBron’s Head Band
We learned that going forward, whenever LeBron is struggling and needs a boost he will take off the head band, throw it into the stands and yell “BY THE POWER OF GRAY SKULL!” and turn into basketball He-Man. But until then he’ll continue to use it to cover up that forever receding hair line.