When it comes to this NBA season, I think we can all agree that there are only a handful of real championship contenders. The Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Magic and Mystery Western Conference Team That May or May Not End Up Being the Spurs are the teams most likely to end up in the NBA Finals, and I don’t think you’d find many people who would argue against those five teams. People aren’t dying to put the Milwaukee Bucks atop the Eastern Conference, if you know what I’m saying. (You know what I’m saying, for sure.)
But of those five teams — literally a handful — only one of them completely changed the makeup of their team by adding two All-Stars, a bunch of hilarious centers and Eddie House. As such, the Heat are going to have do a lot more of figuring things out than those other four teams. They know that. From Brian Windhorst at ESPN:
“Boston, Orlando and the Lakers are going to be ahead of us,” [LeBron] James said Monday. “We’re a little behind those teams.” [...]
“We’re still behind,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “Our goals that we set is to be the best but right now we’re behind Boston and Orlando.”
“Honesty is the best policy” is something that people say for some reason, and I think it’s applicable here. The Heat added, oh, a billion new players this past summer, very few of which have spent time on the court together. Plus, as Windhorst notes, Dwyane Wade’s pulled hamstring kind of hamstrings the Heat right now. It’s hard to learn an offense that is missing a big part of the offense, obviously.
Furthermore, those other competing teams? They’re pretty well-established. This will be the Lakers third full season together, and it’ll be the fourth for the Celtics. The supporting cast on the Spurs keeps changing, but the core has been the same since 2002. The Magic might have taken a step back last year, but they’ve still been together for a while, Vince Carter excepted. For as much as the Heat has changed, these other teams are used to hooping together. That’s an advantage.
That being said, the Heat are a bunch of best friends who all love each other like the Flint Tropics and are going to want to prove to anyone who cares about basketball that they didn’t make a mistake. Maybe that helps the learning curve. But if not, and the Heat falter to start the season, things are going to get bumpy, and not in the good, rap music way.