So exactly how embarrassed is the NBA about the rest of its product?
How uncomfortable is the league with its other 29 teams that after an offseason of decrying the arrogance of the Miami Heat and the team’s Big Three, the league jumps aboard the hype express?
If you haven’t seen yet, TNT announced it is sending its wonderful pregame crew to the Heat’s season-opener next Tuesday in Boston, as well as to the Heat’s Dec. 2 visit to Cleveland.
Yes, the very Charles Barkley who decried the “punk” behavior by the Heat and LeBron James this summer will be there when James & Co. debut.
On the very same night that the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers will also be featured on TNT, receiving their championship rings, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Barkley will be on the opposite coast, focusing on a franchise that has not won a single playoff series since taking the 2006 NBA title.
Then, in December, TNT will be erecting its (we assume bulletproof) pregame set at Quicken Loans Arena for a homecoming that certainly will be anything but a celebration of the game.
How much greater of a punk move can there be than chronicling, in person, the suffering of a basketball populace? (Although we do eagerly await the Dan Gilbert pregame interview.)
There is no doubt that “The Decision” remains a television disaster right up there with “Manimal” and that the Heat’s over-the-top July 9 AmericanAirlines Arena celebration was a turnoff in 29 other NBA markets.
But it wasn’t the Heat that summoned ESPN to spend a week in the Florida Panhandle at a remote Air Force installation.
It wasn’t the Heat that requested the presence of ESPN.com’s “Heat Index” for blow-by-blow details of the upcoming 82 games and beyond.
And we can think of a lot of other people Erik Spoelstra would prefer to run into in Boston and Cleveland than Sir Charles.
David Stern was emphatic during his recent round of Europe media sessions about what he envisions as “our most successful season.”
The Bulls and Knicks are on the rise. The Lakers are the twice and still defending champions. The Magic is a preseason colossus. There are compelling stories from coast to coast, in a season when even the Clippers apparently will matter.
Yet the focus remains singular.
That’s a shame.
And on the latest counts, for once this offseason, you can’t blame the Heat if the NBA chooses to be, well, a non-stop Witness.
Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.