Once again, the world rallied together and rooted for "Not Miami" in the NBA finals. Not nearly as strongly as when "Not Miami" won in the form of the Dallas Mavericks, but the sentiment was still there. This time, the San Antonio Spurs blew out the Heat. Embarrassed them in three straight wins where Miami looked, slow, unathletic, and lazy.
Now it's time to think about the outcome.
What happens with LeBron's legacy?
This is an interesting question to me. I've heard and read about how LeBron can never pass Jordan after losing for the third time in the finals. I don't think finals losses really mean anything to me though. Does Jordan get extra credit for losing to the Pistons a bunch of times instead of making it to the finals more?
I don't see how you do. I don't like the ring argument for the greatest player ever, or else Bill Russell should grace everyone's top five list and should be seated at #1. That said...
The overall point is correct, it just wasn't made last night. It was made when he lost in Dallas or the final two years in Cleveland where his team had the best record. When he joined up with Wade who was a top five player at the time in the first place as well as another top 10 player in Chris Bosh to stack the deck.
Those things already ensured that he'd never pass Michael Jordan. To many moments chocking in the clutch were already in his resume. We forget how great the past players were when watching the present.
These finals didn't cement him below Jordan, they now bring up the question as legitimate in terms of how does he compare to Magic, Bird, Shaq, Kareem, and the other guys you'd want to put in the top five. LeBron's legacy now is to fight for #2. I've long thought he was the second best player in the NBA, but his tendency to get lost in big games for huge stretches makes me wonder.
In these finals, you saw a LeBron James who couldn't sustain greatness for any period of time.
He had quarters like Game four Q3 or Game five Q1 that were dominant, but then he was empty the rest of the night. The Heat needed some 50 point type games out of him, and he couldn't deliver. No one else could do anything, and the Spurs weren't really throwing the kitchen sink at him on defense either, they were still covering up everyone else well.
He had match up chances but either couldn't hit shots or inexplicably wouldn't take them. He kept on "playing the right way" when his team needed him to dominate individually instead. I don't blame LeBron for passing so much, it's part of his DNA as a player. He was the only one on the Heat playing well, but simply didn't assert himself enough.
That said, even if he did, it likely wouldn't have been enough to stop three straight blow outs, just enough to possibly keep the games close. Which brings us to...
What the .... happened to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh?
No seriously? WHAT THE?
Dwayne Wade single handedly doomed the Heat in this series. He lost all his athleticism. He looked fat (by NBA standards, I'd kill to look that 'fat') and slow out there.
He was awful defensively, and on offense, the Spurs were able to single cover him with pretty much anyone on the roster without any negative impact. The fact that Dwyane Wade couldn't win any one on one match ups really eliminated the Heat's chances of doing anything.
My guess is that Wade had some type of injury problem. Most likely his chronically bad knees simply couldn't hold up to playing all those games in a row in the playoffs when he wasn't afforded regular rest. If that's the case, then it means there's simply no recovery for him in the future either. His body can't stand the wear and tear anymore.
Wade had a fairly poor playoffs in general. He scored sub 20 in two thirds of his games, but it wasn't until he played the Spurs where his shooting percentages simply fell apart. It's odd, because while the Spurs are certainly good on defense, they aren't as good as Indiana whom he played much better against.
Chris Bosh had nice percentages in the finals. He shot the ball at a 54.5% clip, but he had low volume, averaging only 14 points per game. The Heat simply needed much more from him, but he has been slowly Spoelstra'd out of being a star.
Maybe Spoelstra's seen something the rest of us haven't and already knows Chris Bosh is the next Carlos Boozer, but other wise trying to convert him from a stretch four instead of trying to convert him into a more physical guy who plays in the paint seems like a colossal mistake.
Yeah, maybe it opened up a little space, but when you needed Bosh to create his own shot and run offense through him, he was well out of practice. LeBron needed a number two out there, and four years ago Chris Bosh could have been a number two. Now he looks like a glorified role player making superstar money, and it feels like that's been coaching mismanagement unless his game has gone all to hell and is being covered up.
Now what for the Heat? For free agency?
Do these guys all opt in? Do they opt out and ask for new long term contracts? Does the loss convince them to try and bring Melo in to create a big four? I think it will be awfully interesting to see how this plays out.
Wade is owed about 41 million over the next two years if he opts in. Bosh is owed 42. Neither of these guys are getting more money by opting out over the next two years.
Maybe some team would give Dwyane Wade 4/60 so he might make more in total, and he might not be able to get much of anything in two years when his knees might force him to retire, so it's possible he could come out ahead. Miami could do some salary cap circumvention here if Wade and Miami both feel this is the case by offering Wade a five year deal knowing that he'll only play two of it.
Chris Bosh won't make up that money if he opts out, and he's likely to still be worth a decent contract in two seasons as well, so it's definitely a financial loser for him to opt out. Adding Melo also likely cuts into his playing time, forces him to play center full time, and further marginalizes him as a scorer.
I'm not sure if I'm Chris Bosh how interested I am in this big four and being pushed out even more. Bosh doesn't need to win more rings for his legacy, and winning them as potentially the fourth best player on his team wouldn't do much to improve it anyway. If he gives up huge money in order to bring in Melo then he should win the all time unselfish award.
LeBron, meanwhile, needs to decide if he wants to continue on with these guys. The whole bench will need to be reworked as well, and Miami won't have any money to really do so unless all three of the big three take significant pay cuts, not just the 1-2 million dollar type they took before, but we're talking 5-6 million dollar per year cuts.
LeBron could jump to the West and possibly sign with the Rockets if they can somehow free up enough space. This would give him a new big three where he gets to play against the best much more frequently and has teammates that fit him better than his present ones do. He could jump to Chicago, but if he's scared to bank on Wade's knees it's unlikely he'd want to bank on Rose's.
He's probably in a position where rolling the dice with Bosh/Wade is better than any other viable alternative other than Houston, but these finals make you wonder if LeBron is in play.
It wasn't the loss. It was the complete and total annihilation. It was how Miami didn't stand a chance in three of the five games and how the Spurs had double digit leads in four of the five.
It's probably not likely, but free agency could get awfully interesting if the Heat break up and go their separate ways. Not 2010 interesting, since Wade and Bosh aren't nearly as attractive now as in 2010, but if the best player in the world has a shot at changing teams? It's a pretty big year for the NBA.