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NBA Season Preview: Miami Heat

Dec 15, 2011, 12:00 AM EDT

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade AP

Last season: 58-24, second seed in the East. We all know how this turned out — Miami made it to the NBA Finals in its first season with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, but lost the title to Dallas in six games.

Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra, who interestingly enough has not yet been offered a contract extension, and will be coaching this season in the final year of his current deal.

Key Departures: Mike Bibby, who shared the starting point guard duties with Mario Chalmers, went to the Knicks as a free agent.

Key Additions: Shane Battier, who chose to to ring-chase as a free agent instead of re-signing with the up and coming Grizzlies, should help in several areas, especially with Mike Miller sidelined for a couple of months due to injury. Eddy Curry is in training camp, although it may be premature to call him a key addition just yet.

Best case scenario: The Heat are the favorites this season to win the NBA title, but it may be more due to changes in the other contenders than to any improvements the team made to its roster. While contending teams like the Mavericks, Lakers, Bulls, and Thunder either underwent major changes, got worse on paper, or simply stood pat to this point in free agency, Miami retained its core of James, Wade, and Bosh, and added Battier for some veteran leadership, on-ball defensive help, and semi-reliable spot-up shooting.

Wade and James reportedly showed up to camp in tremendous physical shape, as did Bosh, who added significant bulk to his frame. And the fact that the team is virtually the same may be an advantage for the Heat as the league is forced to play a compressed and shortened 66-game schedule. A trip to the Finals is certainly within reach once again for this Miami team, and the experience gained a season ago may be enough to get them over the top this time.

For that to happen: The regular season shouldn’t pose much of a problem for this talented Heat squad. And, with a healthy Udonis Haslem in the fold — a player who understands his role and how to fit in on both ends of the floor — Miami will be a little deeper on its front line than last season. It’s all about preparing for the postseason run, and for the Heat to reach their ultimate goal of a championship, the team will need to figure out its late-game, crunch time identity, and then stick with it as the postseason rolls on.

As you may have heard ad nauseam, the Heat struggled mightily to produce points down the stretch of tight games. LeBron James in particular seemed to defer more than observers would have liked late in fourth quarters, and the numbers substantiate what we all thought we were seeing.

The best teams in the league tend to have a Plan A in crunch time — Dallas with Dirk Nowitzki, the Lakers with Kobe Bryant, the Bulls with the ball in the hands of Derrick Rose. The Heat seem to go back and forth between Wade and James, and James seemed too hesitant, and even uncertain at times about his role and whether or not he should take it upon himself to produce when Wade was with him on the floor. If James and Wade can clearly define exactly who is Option One and who is Option Two when the game’s on the line (and it should be Wade and James, in that order), that will make it easier to perform late with that decision already removed from the equation.

More likely the Heat will: Do exactly that. With a season under their belt, and a shorter schedule in place that should allow for Spoelstra to make the necessary tweaks along the way with his core from last year intact, Miami should be able to get back to the Finals, with a better chance this time to take home the league’s ultimate prize.

Prediction: 52-14, best record in the East, and number one overall seed entering the playoffs.

  1. passerby23 - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:12 AM

    Probably about right. I see it playing out much like it did last year – Bulls and Heat for the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics being a tough out, and the Knicks being a team you don’t want to play but can still beat anyway. The rest of the East will feature respectable but non-contending teams. Let’s all get ready for another season of cheering against the Heat!

    • 1historian - Dec 15, 2011 at 7:54 AM

      I’m with you but this season I’m afraid it won’t work as well as it did last year.

  2. rhetoric1 - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:22 AM

    66-0

    • edweird0 - Dec 15, 2011 at 3:45 AM

      I wish.

  3. dirtybird2020 - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:57 AM

    Haha stupid idiot! Nows the time to swallow lebrons load and out of your kings presence! 66-0 lebron must of promised you that record too, lol

    • blueintown - Dec 15, 2011 at 7:55 AM

      Hey, nice blow job joke! Infant.

    • southbeachtalent - Dec 15, 2011 at 3:45 PM

      get help.

  4. norcal031 - Dec 15, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    That’s too funny.

  5. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - Dec 15, 2011 at 2:56 AM

    Wade is clearly the option one. He wants that role while LeBron seemingly does not.

  6. acdc363 - Dec 15, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    0-66

  7. southbeachtalent - Dec 15, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    Championship or bust!

    GO HEAT!

  8. turnmymicup - Dec 15, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    The Heat didnt make alot of noise this offseason. But i think we made enough last year to last a long time. I only see the Heat getting better. Team chemistry should be up compared to last year. Players are more than well rested. Plus we basically have the same team minus Bibby. If Eddy Curry can provide some solid minutes no team will want to play us. CAN YOU FEEL THE HEAT??!!!

    • passerby23 - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:52 PM

      Eddy Curry is a low-risk investment, but almost certainly a bust waiting to happen. In addition to his notorious lack of conditioning, he’s also getting older and less athletic now. Joel Anthony will be logging a lot of minutes.

      That being said, Haslem back and Battier in the fold make this team a lot deeper and more dangerous. Much like the Lakers, the hole at PG is where you need to attack them and their lack of size at center minus Curry. They are going to be really tough to beat, especially since they’re likely to have homecourt throughout the playoffs.

  9. reedme16 - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Heat didn’t need to make a splash in free agency. I’m glad we didn’t waste money on Dalembert, although we do need center help I don’t think its essential. With Haslem and Battier the Heat should be tougher than last year!

    But Billups would help out alot!

  10. 1972wasalongtimeago - Dec 15, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    Going to be another awesome season.

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