People around the nation are celebrating at the demise of the Miami Heat. The narrative that it is poetic justice for a team of veterans that played smart and was better than the sum of their parts would defeat the Heat seemed like poetic justice for many.
But Miami will be back. They are only going to get better.
With very few exceptions in this league, teams (and players) need to learn how to win at the highest levels. We think of Michael Jordan’s Bulls as mythic and forget the three years in a row they got smacked down by the Pistons in the playoffs before they won. Front offices learn what roster tweaks need to be made — Miami has a lot of those — and players learn lessons about sacrifice and stepping up on the biggest stage.
Miami just learned some hard lessons. Ones they can apply in future years.
For one, they have three great players — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — and three solid rotation guys (Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers). After that… nothing. Pat Riley had to put together a roster of minimum players after putting together those top five and Chalmers, and it showed. In every finals you need the unexpected guy to step in and make plays — Brian Cardinal made key plays for Dallas, as did Ian Mahinmi — and the Heat had no guys capable of that on the roster.
Now Riley has another summer to put in role players that fit, and guys will want to come for the chance at a ring. Exactly who and how is impossible to say until we see what the new Collective Bargaining Agreement looks like, but Riley will find a way.
Also, the Heat players also are learning how to trust one another.
When Dallas stepped up its defensive pressure, LeBron seemed to get passive and the movement off the ball would come and go. Remember the late first quarter turnover where DeShawn Stevenson decided to put some light pressure on LeBron in the back court, then rather than just blow past him LeBron froze, picked up his dribble and tried to throw the ball to Mike Miller, who was not looking? Miami had a whole Game 6 of that. They looked completely out of synch.
On the other end, did it ever seem like Dallas took a bad shot in this series? When one Heat defender would over-help on rotations (which happens a lot with them) there would be two quick passes and Miami would pay by watching Dallas get an open look. Dallas adjusted to the athletic wings of Miami and started to hit shots with the closeouts coming as the series wore on.
Miami never came close to that kind of team efficiency. There were flashes of it, little spurts. But if they were kept in the half court it was spotty. The Heat stars played next to each other not off each other.
That is not on coach Erik Spoelstra — he does not design plays that have guys standing around off the ball. He did his job, but the veteran Mavs executed their coach’s plan in a way the Heat did not. Spoelstra will grow and win a lot with this team if Miami gives him the chance. They should. But there is a lot of pressure there to win fast, so who knows.
Miami will be back. This is not the best we will see of them. Their key players are in their primes, they will get better playing together (we saw that even during the playoffs) and the players around them will improve. This is not the last you’ll see of the Heat.
But this was not their year, it was Dallas’ turn.