The Miami Heat are the defending champs and the consensus pick to win it again this year. But can anyone beat them?
Obviously, the Miami Heat are overwhelming favorites to win the Eastern Conference and the NBA championship this season. The bizarre struggles of the 2011 NBA Finals are but a distant memory, and given Derrick Rose's injury, Dwight Howard's Westward travels and Boston's inability to crack the Heat in the past two postseasons, Miami is without an Eastern rival. The Thunder and Lakers loom large as potential Finals matchups, but that's a long time from now. Until proven otherwise, it's the Heat's title to lose. Can anything derail what seems like inevitability? Oh, I think so ...
To be fair, that whole paragraph was Ziller's lead in to several things that could happen to "derail" them. Still, I like to think that the Celtics shouldn't be dismissed as unable to "crack the Heat" quite so fast. LeBron couldn't "crack the Celtics" for several years either. Then he did. Sometimes things are true until they aren't.
So, you might have heard that they picked up a shooting guard in the offseason. It was apparently a big deal in some parts. ....ok, so we can't stop talking about him here. But there seems to be a feeling that adding the greatest shooter in the game to the defending champs is a case of the rich getting richer. That may be so, or it might not be as big a deal as some are thinking.
That said, I'd caution against thinking that Allen will make as big a difference to the Heat as he did with the Celtics. Why? A couple reasons. First and foremost, I'm not sure Allen is ever going to be fully healthy again. He limped around with bone chips in his ankle for all of last season, and it resulted in his worst season in recent memory. In the playoffs, he suddenly lost his shooting touch, hitting only 39 percent of his field goals and 30 percent of his threes. He had surgery to fix things over the summer, and yet, just a couple days ago, he told the media that his ankles still weren't fully healthy. In a related story, Allen has made just eight of his 27 three-point attempts in the preseason.
So, are there any other chinks in the Heat's armor? How about the lack of a decent big man beyond Chris Bosh and Haslem (who's on the downside of his career)?
While they don't have talented big men (who does anymore in today's NBA?) they do have an assortment of multi-skilled players that aren't afraid to crash the boards and defend the paint to make up for it. Wade, Lewis, Miller and Allen are all coming off surgeries and/or significant rehab from the offseason and Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony haven't played yet during the preseason. Health concerns aren't new for any team but what the team is currently dealing with are relatively minor setbacks and the team by and large appears healthy and ready for the regular season.
I don't care. People are welcome to crown them all they want. They are the defending champs and they deserve much, if not all the praise that they get. Until someone knocks them off the hill, they have the glory. I just don't think it is too far fetched to think that a team like the Celtics could do the knocking off.