The Miami Heat couldn’t have asked for a better duo of teams to open the season against, earning convincing wins over the NBA Champions Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics, just the teams to let the LeBron James – Dwyane Wade gang soar and flourish.
It’s not just the style, and the fact that both the Mavs can’t run with the Heat at this moment. Yes, everyone has pointed out how hard it is for old teams or more like slower teams in this shortened NBA season. Athleticism covers up for bad training, especially when it’s backed by a huge amount of talent and not too many changes to the core of your group.
The entire Celtics bench looks different. Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and the ailing Paul Pierce are still there, but it’s a different team, talking about a last chance to win one together before they finally get too old or just sold for scrap. The Mavericks have those and other problems, but the story here is the Miami Heat.
Revenge, proving a point, call it whatever you want. It’s a strong force, and the Heat needed to come out firing in 2011-2012. LeBron James more than anyone else. He gave a Christmas day performance for the books against the Mavs, he was excellent against the Boston Celtics as well. LeBron, who has taken more Heat and criticism than any other athlete who hasn’t done anything illegal over the past 18 months, knows what it will take to erase his fourth quarters from the 2011 NBA Finals.
There have been changes, not big, but evident. The Shane Battier signing will pay off in the end, especially defensively. The Heat are a team that thrive on defense, on their ability to get stops and create easy points. They’re unstoppable on the break, and Battier will be another piece and a veteran leader type of player to pull up from the bench. The bigger surprise is Norris Cole.
The out-of Cleveland State rookie showed impressive signs against Dallas on opening night, but did much more than that against the Boston Celtics. Not just his 20 points and 3 steals, but the confidence, and shooting in the clutch, hitting the big shots when the Celtics made noises of a comeback. A Microwave type of player was missing on the Heat’s bench last season, that desperately need someone not called Dwyane Wade or LeBron James who can create shots for himself.
Too early, yes, still in the first week of the season, to declare the Miami Heat as the favorites for the 2011-2012 NBA title. They can’t be this good for so long, and the Bulls will catch up at some point. That’s what makes sense. The West will be more than just the Thunder at some point.
Nonetheless, their start and the potential it demonstrates has to be an intimidating factor not to only the teams that they’ve beaten, but those waiting in line to face the best basketball show East of the the Los Angeles Clippers. There’s hunger in this team, especially in LeBron James. If that hunger and aggression stay with him all through the season and remain there when it matters the most, this is the best team in the NBA.