Granted, these are the dog days of the NBA. There are a few teams that might already be, dare I say, “positioning themselves” for the draft? Others know there is more ball to be played (and bonus money to be made) once the season ends. Except for a select few, e.g. the Lakers, many are more concerned with keeping their key guys healthy than trying to influence the postseason match ups.
Harlem Globetrotters Miami Heat. The Heat won it all last year (one year too late, some say). One of the concerns last season was whether the team had a reliable three point shooter to kick it out to after penetration. So they got . . . the greatest three point marksman of all-time, Ray Allen. He joined LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh and (most of) the remainder of the team that won it all. Was that fair? There’s nothing fair about building a team in the NBA - the better the executives, the more understanding the owner is that money must be spent wisely (but, make no mistake about it, it must be spent), the slicker the people running the organization, the more likely the team will plug the gaps that are holding it back from being mentioned as a club that can compete for a championship - on a nightly basis.
The Miami Heat knew they were going to - as coaches are fond of saying - get everyone’s best shot. Winning as much as they did during the first part of the year wasn’t surprising. The “Big Three” had shed whatever it was that could have been on their collective backs their initial season (their first together) and they seemed to be playing looser. A similar feeling for their coaching staff.
As the season progressed, injuries hit team after team and, as the post-All Star game part of the schedule moved on, the Heat kept adding win after win. Now, the “streak” became the topic of conversation. With the NCAA’s March Madness fever grabbing nearly every sports fan, college basketball owns this time of the year. Spring training has begun, football and its trading deadline occupies some space and the Blackhawks gave hockey enthusiasts something to talk about post-lockout.
Meanwhile, Miami (the pro hoops team, not the college one) almost bored people with its dismantling of opponents - the “contendas” as well as those who show up because league rules dictate they must. OK, so what about their bitter rival, aka the (aging, but) capable Boston Celtics? The arena will always be rockin’ when the Heat show up regardless of the circumstances. Except that there would be no Rajon Rondo (even though the W-L results have yet to be affected by the little dynamo’s absence) and no KG. What Kevin Garnett gives the Celts, beyond points and rebounds, is a nastiness seldom seen in any sport. Or pretty much in any walk of life. You’ve heard how people say, “If I were in a war, the guy I’d like to have in my foxhole is Kevin Garnett?” Even pacifists feel that way about KG.
So when it was announced that Garnett wouldn’t be available, green flags were about to be flown at half staff. Only this is Boston, damn it! Beantowners don’t surrender to anybody! Somebody would come through with a wicked good game. This time that somebody was Jeff Green who had a personal high (as well as a high for most NBA players) of 43. The Men in Green were often up double digits and led for the entire game. Or so it seemed. Until LeBron hit the game winner after the Heat finally tied it.
Had the Heat been toying with them? To many it might now seem so after watching that game last night, the Heat’s 23rd victory in a row. A person I was with suggested Miami actually would like to see the streak end so they could simply worry about just winning the playoffs. The pressure of back-to-back will be enough of a burden. A winning streak would only be an albatross for the last season’s champs.
Some may wonder if the late, and fiercely competitive, owner of the Raiders, Al Davis, wouldn’t back off (between now and the end of the regular season) his famous saying:
“Just win, baby!”