As much as preseason games can be indicative, yesterday’s Florida derby between the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic taught us two things – The Heat, with LeBron James in extra-championship-hunger mode look like the Eastern favorites once again. Dwight Howard, on the other hand, just wants out.
The Miami Heat, who on first impression look like the most together team out of all the rest entering the season, steamrolled a disjointed Orlando Magic team. The whole Dwight Howard trade issue is clearly having a negative impact on the team, as Howard himself plays with no passion, no will, looking like his mind just wanders, waiting for the moment Oraldno put him back on the market.
J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson showed some impressive shooting from the bench (both finishing with 22 points), but really, there’s nothing to be excited about right now for the Orlando Magic. Their captain and best player by far watns to be somewhere else. Los Angeles, New Jersey, anywhere. A team that in 2009 made the NBA finals have just regressed instead of making that extra step. Howard leaving them, just like Shaquille O’Neal did over a decade ago, for better prospects elsewhere after reaching the NBA final, will put the Magic in rebuild mode probably.
For Miami, it was a fun night. LeBron James led the way with 19 points and one impressive off the backboard dunk. The Heat haven’t taken care of the two problematic issues for them – A point guard and someone who can score in the paint. Relying on Udonis Haslem to be fit for the season and LeBron James to put the terrible series against the Dallas Mavericks behind him.
Summer is rough on those who lose in the final game of the season, and even rougher for LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Especially for James, who took the bullets from the moment he chose to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers. From the jersey burning to criticism and plain hate. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh got tagged along for a ride in the whole experience that didn’t involve basketball.
Villain, good guy, popular athlete, hated athlete, it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s not about public perception or the love of the fans. The Miami Heat, despite the disappointing ending, had a very good season last year. It was only the second time in franchise history they got to visit the NBA finals, with Dwyane Wade being part of both trips, winning the first against a very different Dallas Mavericks team.
It wasn’t just about making Miami a good team, they’ve been good and contenders for a while now as long as Wade was healthy. It was about the Miami Heat becoming THE team, even if not for all the right reasons. The most interesting team in the league, which brought a whole new narrative to the NBA season, which made it one of the most watched in recent history.
The Heat look hungry from first look. They’ll be remembered not for just one season that ended with a loss in the NBA finals after leading 1-0 and 2-1. They’ll be remembered for how much this team wins under James and Wade. I put them at at least two NBA titles in six seasons after the move was made. It’s only preseason, but the Heat are my favorites to win this season.