I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. The lockout has lifted, we have a season, can I get an Amen? (Amen.) And in the spirit of renewal, our shiny new cadre of writers is putting together previews for all 30 teams in true HP style. From where teams are going to what their disgrace is to explorations of pop culture, we are about to rock, salute us, can I get an Amen? (Amen.) So sit back, relax, and ponder the awesomeness of this fully operational Hardwood Paroxysm 3.0. -Ed.Â
TO BEGIN, A BRIEF VIDEO PRELUDE
By Danny Chau
Erik Spoelstra, in response to losing in the Finals with one of the most highly anticipated teams in league history, has decided to update his playbook by ripping out pages from our dream logs and stapling it to the front. Spoelstra will play upon the team’s unique interchangeability.Â Â The Miami Heat have an incredible amount of defensive potential, but if all goes well, we’ll be witnessing an offensive awakening. Be formless, shapeless. Be water, Superfriends.
QUO VADIMUS (WHERE ARE WE GOING?)
By Curtis Harris
To discuss the Miami Heat, we must slough off all the unnecessary baggage and get to the basketball core. That means The Decision, as poorly conceived as it was and as ill-received as it continues to be, must be put aside. The WWF spectacular that greeted the arrival of The Heatles? Youâ€™ve got hide that disdain away.
Looking solely at the on-court, basketball dimensions of the Heat, what they pulled off last year is quite commendable. The roster consisted of only 4, maybe 5 players youâ€™d want starting on a championship roster. Sadly, none of them played point guard or center. Thereâ€™s the two bona fide Hall of Famers in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Chris Bosh when his career is through will be a borderline Hall of Famer at worst. Udonis Haslem is the type of sturdy and dependable role-player that melds together championship teams. Thereâ€™s your four high-quality players. The fifth possible member is Mike Miller who was on-the-court, off-the-court all season long battling various injuries and ailments. Hopefully he can regain his health and eschew the passive mindset that crippled him in Minnesota and Washington.
The rest of the Heat roster last season was best served coming off the bench as 2nd- or even 3rd-stringers but they were forced into heavy rotation. Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony are serviceable backups that were pressed into startersâ€™ roles. The corpses of Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mike Bibby, Carlos Arroyo and Juwan Howard haunted the Miami rotation all year.
Despite it all, the Heat dispatched the 76ers, Celtics and Bulls 4 games to 1 in each of their playoff series. Certainly there were some lackluster and underwhelming performances in the Finals against Dallas, but the Heat still won 2 games in that series and easily could have taken two more (Games 2 and 4). Was last season a total success? No. Nothing ever is unless you win the title.
But that was certainly a hell of a start for Miamiâ€™s Big 3 and this season portends better things. For starters, thereâ€™s the benefit of continuity. Having a seasonâ€™s worth of experience of playing with your mates and knowing their instincts and seamlessly playing off one another. That cannot be discounted. Furthermore, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem will be healthy as the season begins and the addition of Shane Battier further allows more rest for the Heatâ€™s big guns.
Roster deficiencies remain outside of those players but LeBronâ€™s a year better. Bosh as well. Wade is holding steady and may yet improve some more. These are all scary thoughts for the rest of the league considering Miami was a mere two games away from a title last season.
POPULAR THEORIES IN BASKETBALL-CULTURAL CROSS-REFERENCES
By Connor Huchton
In DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, the plot’s primary villains are the Globo-Gym Purple Cobras, led by villain White Goodman and his band of seemingly unstoppable dodgeball athletes. They’re deemed unbeatable by most dodgeball experts, and seen as overwhelming favorites to win the tournament championship.
Unlike the Purple Cobras, who were eventually defeated by the team from Average Joe’s (against all odds, of course), the Heat don’t have to face the crux of movie endings. They control their own destiny, and that destiny (in 2011-2012) probably doesn’t involve an unlikely underdog’s challenge. The Heat isn’t a team comprised of villains in reality, but it’s a role they’ve largely accepted.
WILL YOU REMEMBER ME, I WILL REMEMBER YOU
By Sean Highkin
LeBron James is not the villain anymore. He may still be the most hated player in the NBA who has not divorced a Kardashian, but Miami’s “Big Three” experiment isn’t the focus of every popular narrative going into this season. Chris Paul is a Clipper. The blowback from the lockout and the shady circumstances surrounding the blocked CP3/Lakers trade have left LeBron unscathed. Dwight Howard may or may not become a Laker or a Net. Carmelo Anthony will play his first full season with a newly tricked-out Knicks team. Even the Cavs fans have Kyrie Irving and the satisfaction of the Heat’s loss in the Finals to distract them from full-ol LeBron vitriol. In the grand scheme of things, nobody really cares about The Decision anymore.
What this means is that this is the first year in which the Heat are just a normal part of the NBA. This season’s playoffs results won’t be painted as a referendum on LeBron James as a person by the media and NBA-consuming public like they were last year. All that matters is the team they have assembled, which should be better than last year’s. The 2010-11 Heat made it to the Finals purely based on the on-paper talent of their shiny new free-agent acquisitions, with no mind paid to chemistry or role players. With the addition of Shane Battier and the prospect of a full healthy season from Udonis Haslem, plus the chip LeBron will have on his shoulder after last year’s full-on vilification, we’ll be looking at a more complete team than we saw last year. Get used to this, because it could be the future.