An Exploration of LeBron’s Options This Offseason

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Four years ago, when the Big 3 were stunting on stages in Miami and proclaiming they’d be the winners of the next 7 to 8 NBA championships, the thought that their reign of dominance over the NBA could be stripped away after only 4 years together seemed impossible. When the Big 3 came together they were on top of the world. As the most exciting and hated thing to happen to the world of sports ever, the Miami Heat’s time together has been an honor to witness. However, as we all know, good things must come to an end, and this summer might just be it for Miami’s Big 3. Or not… Let’s explore what could happen this offseason with the world’s most talked about sports team ever.

Option 1: LeBron leaves Miami

Not that LeBron would really give two shits, but if he were to sit down with me and discuss what I think he should do this summer, I’d say leave. The NBA is slowly but surely being conquered by young stars, and young teams. I’m talking the Damian Lillards of the world, the John Walls and Bradley Beals, the Kevin Durants and Russell Westbrooks, the James Hardens and Dwight Howards… While this year was surely a year for the veterans, highlighted by the Spurs 5th title since 1999 last night, the future of the league is in the hands of the young. LeBron picked a team in 2010 that was just that. Chris Bosh was younger, Dwyane Wade still had about a foot in the door of his prime and the future stars of the league now either weren’t around or weren’t established yet. Besides the Spurs who are the ultimate exception if you’re talking about teams who can succeed with aging stars, but then again they are the Spurs, the greatest dynasty in sports history and the team who runs the smoothest and beautiful offense ever known to man. Anyway, what’s clear is that in this league where the young stars are on the come up, you don’t want to be on a team like the Heat.

The Finals for LeBron were very reminiscent of a lot of his time with the Cavaliers. He played like he usually does: a bull made out of bricks, but the rest of his team failed to show up.

LeBron's supporting cast didn't show up when it meant most, leading to an embarrassing defeat in this years finals.

LeBron’s supporting cast didn’t show up when it meant most, leading to an embarrassing defeat in this years finals.

Dwyane Wade looked old and tired. Chris Bosh wasn’t making threes, which takes him out of the game completely considering he’s taken a vow not to take shots in the paint anymore. The rest of the role players just didn’t step up when it counted most. Ray Allen shot 17-41 in the Heat’s final 5 embarrassing games. Rashard Lewis, the unsung and unlikely hero in the series against the Pacers was a plus minus king in the Eastern Conference Finals but posted a -31 overall through the Finals. Mario Chalmers forgot how to put a basketball in a hoop. Shane Battier’s minutes evaporated. Norris Cole shot 31% from the field and was a -27 throughout the finals. And all of a sudden the supporting cast that looked so capable and reliable throughout the season and the rest of the playoffs looked amateur and unprepared.

The Heat don’t have the space for real role players because their roster is so clogged up by the salaries of the Big 3. The Heat can beat a team like the Thunder who rely on stars to win games, but when it comes to beating real, dynamic, well-rounded basketball teams like the Spurs of this year or the Mavericks of 2011, the Heat can’t survive because they don’t have the pieces to do it. Having stars is great, but if the players surrounding those stars aren’t showing up, or partly in Miami’s case, very old, then Miami won’t win anymore rings. They cruised through the regular season, largely because the Eastern Conference is so bad, they send teams below .500 to the playoffs. They had an easy trip to the finals but once they got there it was clear as the skies in Miami that LeBron needs help and he won’t get it, and isn’t in a position to get it in the future.

Why would LeBron stay with a team who’s other star is slowly becoming a shell of what he once was. Dwyane Wade is no longer a viable 2nd option for LeBron if he wants to win more championships. He’s getting old, he’s less athletic, his lift is disappearing and without a jump shot, he won’t be able to extend his career the way guys like Vince Carter or Jason Kidd did. Shane Battier has retired, Ray Allen is mulling it over, and while Udonis Haslem might be back, players like Chris Andersen will likely be offered more money than the veteran’s minimum this summer during free agency.

Point guard play was a huge problem for the Heat this series, as was defense. This year the Heat dropped out of the top 10 in defensive efficiency for the first time since the Big 3 came together in 2010 and a large part of that is lack of athleticism and energy on the defensive end. Dwyane Wade used to be an all-nba defender but looking at him now, he doesn’t have the physical abilities to contain quicker players on the perimeter. The Heat lack any interior defensive presence so rotations and help defense is pivotal to their defensive performance. Unfortunately, when you have a team full of aging veterans, rotations will be slow and help defense may not be there. The slower, older players won’t be able to keep up with ball movement or penetration of a team like the… I don’t know… Spurs. LeBron can’t do it all. He played 400 more minutes than any one of his teammates this year and about 1300 more than Dwyane Wade, the guy who was supposed to be the Robin to his Batman. Playing the minutes LeBron did the entire season, and carrying that sort of load means only bad things for him come the playoffs when that load and that grind is inevitably increased. He needs some young talent. He needs to join the current of a team on the rise, instead of fight the current and try to carry a team on the decline. His trip to the finals was easy as it could be this year, but next year will not be as easy. His teammates are only getting older, and the other teams in the East are only getting better. Who’s to say Washington can’t give the Heat a run for their money next postseason? What about a Bulls team with a healthy Derrick Rose? The Pacers never seem to give up either. Staying in Miami with the team he has doesn’t help him while every other team in his way is only getting better.

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LeBron’s Decision Could Decide the Rest of His Career

What are his options? Well, we always hear things about Chicago, Houston and Dallas and their willingness to do just about everything they can to get Carmelo on their team. Well, if LeBron was a free agent, those teams would forget about Carmelo entirely and focus their attention on LeBron. While a Rose, James, Noah superteam in Chicago seems unlikely considering the rivalry between the two teams, a sign and trade with Houston isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, especially when people think Carmelo joining the Heat is a plausible off-season event. Then there are other teams who are less popular options for LeBron but are certainly there. There’s Cleveland who with Kyrie Irving and a No.1 pick coming up in 7 days would welcome LeBron not only with open arms but with a team full of young talent and role players to help out. There’s always Philadelphia and even the Hornets; the Michael Jordan owned franchise who have enough room this off-season for another max contract to join LeBron with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson down in Charlotte. There’s also been rumors of a move to the Clippers. LeBron and his wife, Savannah love Los Angeles and although it would involve trading DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford, the Clippers would love to get LeBron to team up with Griffin and Paul. All of this is speculation, and hypothetical but what is concrete is that LeBron cannot do it on his own. Through a combination of lack of youth and lack of talent off the bench, the Heat aren’t a viable option to win more championships in the future and LeBron has to see that now while he’s still in his prime.

Option 2: BIG 3 Take Pay cuts and Welcome Some Help 

Right now the Big 3 is due about 20 million each this year and even more the next year. They want some help, but ironically their contracts are the things preventing them from receiving that help. While they already took pay cuts to come to Miami in the first place, taking even less might be the thing they need to surround themselves with a supporting cast that can compete with the likes of the Spurs. Dwyane Wade certainly doesn’t deserve to be earning 20 million a year anymore, and for these stars, and especially for LeBron who is still trying to build his legacy by way of rings, cutting salary to create a better team could be pivotal for his future success. LeBron could also look down south in Charlotte and see that there is still money after the career. Jordan just became a billionaire through a combination of larger stakes in the Hornets (previously bobcats) and endorsement deals, of which LeBron has an ocean full, meaning while he may get paid less now, post-career life for LeBron will be anything but lucrative. While its easy to sit here and tell people to take less money, if the real goal is to win championships, which is really the only thing differentiating LeBron and Michael at this point, then why not take 13 million a year instead of 20? Is the lifestyle they’re living really going to change that much? Sure LeBron and the Big 3 won’t be making what they’re worth, but it’s the kind of selfless thing that the Spurs Big 3 did and look where its got them.

Once on top of the world, taking another salary cut may be the thing to get them back there.

Once on top of the world, taking another salary cut may be the thing to get them back there.

 

This 4th player doesn’t have to be of a Carmelo Anthony caliber. Frankly, adding another superstar isn’t what they need. Carmelo wouldn’t help them defensively or athletically, two problems they faced against the Spurs. There are rumors of a Kyle Lowry addition going around, which would surely help the Heat’s lack of point guard play they so severely suffered with during the final stretch of the playoffs. He would likely have to take about 10 million a year and the Heat can afford him if the Big 3 were to cut their salaries immensely. Another addition could be power forward Pau Gasol who has been openly unhappy in Los Angeles for the past few seasons. His price range is probably in the same realm as Lowry’s. Pau could help the Heat with rebounding and a presence inside both offensively and defensively. Pau can still attract a lot of attention in the post and has the ability like Bosh to play a stretch 4 or 5 if he needs to. Bosh has developed into a stretch 4 so there won’t be any issues about a clogging in the paint. Gasol is also a very talented passer and could not only help the Heat move the ball but an inside passing tandem of Bosh and Pau could be very effective.

If they choose not to go with players of that caliber, there is always the smart, yet rarely talked about option of using the large cap space to add several effective role players rather than one expensive star. While the star will bring firepower and more responsibility for opposing defenses, it still doesn’t help the bench problem. Using the space to sign a number of guys like an Andray Blatche, Rodney Stuckey and Evan Turner could be a direction in which the Heat acquire more value and address the problem of depth rather than making headlines with an addition of another star. The Spurs proved it this season that its not about the stars but about the role players and how everyone co-exists and plays together on the floor. Once again, these are all of the most hypothetical order but very possible if the Big 3 would do the usually improbable with famous star athletes: take less money.

Option 3: LeBron Stays in Miami and Waits for Free Agency Next Year

James and Love, both teammates on USA, could both be free agents in 2015

James and Love, both teammates on USA, could both be free agents in 2015

If LeBron were to opt into his contract and play out next season he actually may have the best of both worlds. Here’s why: Although the Heat were embarrassed by the Spurs, you really can’t discredit what the Heat have accomplished in their time together. Like LeBron said, “he’ll take 50%.” If the Heat stayed together they’d likely be the 1 or 2 seed once again and a definite lock at #3. It won’t be as easy as this year as players are only getting older and younger teams are only getting better but a LeBron Heat team is still one of the best in the league. The Heat also have the opportunity to sign some smaller free agent additions that could help reinvigorate them. Rashard Lewis is a free agent, as is Mario Chalmers, both of whom they could let go without feeling uneasy about it. In their place, there are some interesting options for role players on the market. Given the wide selection as well as Pat Riley’s uncanny ability to convince players to take less than what they’re worth puts the Heat in a good position to pull in some surrounding pieces.

There is a plethora of role players on the market this off-season who have the potential to give the Heat a boost in a number of ways, especially in their guard play. These are affordable guys like a Rodney Stuckey, Jordan Farmar, Evan Turner, Mo Williams, Dejuan Blair, and Jodie Meeks… The list goes on and on. Not only are these players cheap as it stands, but also role players do have a history of taking less money to join the Heat. With a few of those type of players joining the already proven, championship caliber Miami Heat team, the Heat can trampoline themselves back to finals success next season. So LeBron could stay, and see what magic Pat Riley is able to pull off and if its not to his liking, and the Heat don’t win a championship next season, he still has the 2015 offseason where he’ll be 30 years old and in a free agent class with superstars like Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, possibly Carmelo Anthony, or LaMarcus Aldridge. Then in 2015 he has the ability to form another superteam with that class of stars, or wait for teams like the Knicks or Bulls who will have much more cap space when contracts like Bargnani, Chandler and Boozer all expire, respectively. So opt-in, play it out, see what Riley can muster up and if he doesn’t win, look at 2015 as a completely fresh beginning with a new crop of stars to team with and a new batch of teams begging at his knees – sounds nice doesn’t it?

Option 4: LeBron Opts Out and Signs An Extension

This to me is the most unlikely of the bunch, but it is possible. Say LeBron opts out and resigns with the Heat. In 2015, Dwyane Wade may face the idea of retirement as he’ll be in the second half of 33 years of age. Chris Bosh will be an unrestricted free agent. And LeBron will have the Heat to himself and leverage to say to Pat Riley, “I don’t want Wade and Bosh back. Bring me new stars.” Or, at that point in Wade’s career, he’ll sign a much smaller contract and play a Manu Ginobili type of role, enabling the Heat to treat his contract as that of a 6th man, and sign other big free agents on top of Wade and James. LeBron will be able to dictate who the Heat sign, and with the expected cap space in 2015 – barring any extended contracts with new players – he’ll be on a team in a position to recruit other free agents to join him. If teams like the Knicks think they’re an appealing place to play, what do you think a free agent is going to be thinking when he has a meeting with LeBron James and Pat Riley and they ask said free agent to join LeBron. Which player in his right mind, looking for championships, is going to say no to not only playing in a place like Miami, but on a championship caliber team with the greatest player in the world and 4 finals appearances in the last 5 years?

It’s appealing, one of the more appealing pitches that teams will be able to offer free agents in 2015. This extension also doesn’t have to be that long. LeBron can sign a shorter extension, something along the lines of 3 years, it doesn’t have to be a 4 or 5 year deal. He’ll also probably opt for an early termination option to give him the freedom to get out of Miami if the new look team isn’t panning out how he planned.

With so many options, hypotheticals and different outcomes at every turn, this offseason will be a complicated one for LeBron. He might be on vacation with family, and might insist to the media that he hasn’t thought about free agency, the only thing on his mind is where he’ll be playing in 2014-15 and where he can win a championship. All we can do now is wait and see.

Heat at Thunder: NBA Finals Preview

This is going to be extremely exciting. The Thunder crowd is going to be absolutely bonkers tonight and that will hopefully be a huge boost to the Thunder. This whole series will come down to the production of each teams respective big three’s and their supporting players. Before I go into this I would just like to go down in whatever history I end up in that the Thunder are going to win in 7 games.

Coming into this series the Thunder look invincible. They won 4 in a row against a team that was considered unstoppable after winning 20 in a row. They are dangerous and have proved themselves as real winners. The Heat came off a strange series vs the Celtics. It was very up and down, they had several moments where they looked invincible and several where they looked like headless chicken running around on the court. The Heat can’t do that, they can’t have off nights, or moments where they’re tuned out because the Thunder obviously aren’t fazed by any pressure. No game is too big and you can count on the Thunder not to have any off nights.

Before we focus on game 1 specifically, in general the Thunder need to take advantage of their strength down low. Perkins has had moments where he’s produced a post game, and Ibaka should definitely take over Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh. If they can attract double teams down low, or just produce down low it takes pressure off of perimeter guys like Durant, Harden and Westbrook, and that will be the difference against the Heat because Bosh is more of a finesse guy and can’t post up Ibaka and Perkins so they will have something the Heat don’t. The Thunder also have the advantage of the bench. They have consistent role players, as supposed to the Heat’s supporting guys who hit some threes from time to time and do almost nothing else. Every guy has to continue producing like they have throughout the postseason because they could win with their second unit. In addition, they have to try and attack the paint as much as possible. The Thunder have a bad habit of settling for jumpers from time to time, if they get a bad bounce or the shot goes long the Heat are going to be breaking. They have to limit the fast-break opportunities for the Heat. The Thunder, especially Durant have to attack and try get the big men in foul trouble because of the lack of depth, and a semi-healthy Bosh. The Thunder also have to continue to play well at the end of games, and well under pressure. They have it all figured out in late game situations and the Heat don’t so if they can exude composure in the 4th quarter that alone will be a huge advantage. I think the Thunder have so many good interior defenders that James will be finding it harder to attack the rim all the time, and will settle for more jumpers. When Garnett was out of the game he had his way inside against the Celtics, the Thunder have to make sure that doesn’t happen. They have to come out aggressive to set the tone down low. The Thunder also have the underrated advantage of Sefolosha on the defensive end. He is going to bother Wade like crazy, in a postseason where he’s already had some offensive troubles from time to time. Sefolosha has guarded star players in every series and will pester Wade like a fly buzzing around his room in the dark. That should definitely bother Wade enough to maybe slow him down and keep him off stride just a bit.

The Heat on the other hand need to make Durant play defense. He is so long and often lurks along the perimeter and uses his wingspan to block shots, or poke away some steals. They should get Lebron into post-up situations vs Durant because if Durant has the length, Lebron has the strength. Not only can Lebron take advantage there but it forces Durant to focus on man to man defense instead of lurking or helping most of the time. I think Wade needs to get going very early, and he should be Spoelstra’s first priority offensively. When he is hot everybody else flows off of him. He has had a very poor series of 1st half’s throughout the postseason and if he can get easy shots early then he will get comfortable early. If he has a night off as he has in 1st halfs, then the Thunder will take over because if one member of the Big 3 is down the other team still has an effective big 3 to counter. They absolutely need to their bench to step up. Battier has been playing well, Norris Cole has played great basketball, Haslem has always been great but other then those three their bench is awful. The Thunder will step all over them if they don’t produce so that’s an essential thing. Lebron especially has to remember the attitude he came into game 5 with and have that same energy every night of the Finals. There is no room to not be that energized in the NBA finals. When he is aggressive and in a scorers mentality he is unstoppable and the Heat therefore, become unstoppable. He can’t be soft, and not attack the rim no matter how hard it may be for him. Wade as well. They both have to be tuned in.

All in all, I think the Thunder will win this series because their bench is a lot stronger. They have home-court advantage and none of their big three has a disadvantage against any defenders on the Heat. Durant averaged 29 points against the Heat this season and can handle Lebron due to his length. Westbrook can handle Chalmers and the whole Heat defense easily due to his quickness, and his lethal jump shot off pick and rolls. He averaged a steady 20.5 points a game during the regular season against Miami. James Harden has a size advantage over Wade and is a great playmaker, and playmakers can play against every team. He averaged 15.5 points against Miami coming off the bench this season. Lebron and Wade will play their games and both average 25+, Lebron will probably get 30+ against the Thunder but Bosh will have more trouble because of the bigger and stronger defenders guarding him. He only averaged 15 ppg against the Thunder in the regular season, the Heat can’t beat the Thunder with only 15 a game from the third of their Big 3.

In game 1, specifically the Thunder need to use the especially rowdy crowd to their advantage and use them as fuel to get them a W. Quick stat, they are 8-0 at home in the postseason. It’s dangerous territory for the Heat to come into and they should be frightened. Both teams need to set the tone and that comes from the production of the Big 3. This will be interesting to see which teams Big 3 comes out attacking first.

Heat Better Without Wade?

This question has been in the midst of c0nversations throughout Dwyane Wade’s injury. Are the Heat better without Wade? Well, let’s look stats before we analyze the circumstances.

With Wade they were 5-4. However, they could’ve been 3-6 had it not been for Dwyane’s game winners against Charlotte and Minnesota. Without Wade they are 5-1. In the past 2 seasons, Lebron James has scored 25 points a game per 40 minutes without Wade on the floor. Chris Bosh has scored almost 20 a game. Without Wade, Lebron has scored 35 points per game and Bosh has scored almost 25 per game. Everyone seems to be making a huge deal over these stats. And excuse me for sounding like a father having the “talk” with his son but it’s to be expected. It’s perfectly normal. When one superstar is off the court the others will step up and carry the load. That doesn’t make them better or worse as a team. But better individually. For example, whenever Melo is injured Amar’e performs better. Last year in the playoffs Amar’e left game 2 with a back injury. Melo dropped 42 points. So it’s a normal thing.

Another thing we have to take into consideration is that a team with 3 superstars are still dealing with chemistry issues and when there are three hot shots on the same floor it’s often that one will take over and the others will take the backseat. When there are 2, well we all know there are two seats in the front of the car. Maybe when there are just two of them on the floor there is more room to operate, more room for them to get their own jobs done.

The other thing we have to consider is that without Wade they would be 3-6, and without Wade the finals last year could’ve been a blowout. Let’s flashback to the 2011 NBA Finals. The Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks. Game 2: D-Wade 36 Points. Lebron and Chris Bosh combined: 32 points. Game 3: D-Wade 29 points. Lebron 18, Bosh 17. Game 4: D-Wade 32 points. Chris Bosh and Lebron combined for 32 Points. So yes, maybe during the regular season where every game isn’t pivotal to a chance at a championship maybe the Heat will succeed better without Wade. And it’s not even Wade specifically who is the one. If any one of the Big three was injured the Heat would perform better. When playoff time comes around, and finals time comes around. You’re gonna regret ever wondering if the Heat were better without Wade.

Exciting Moments Ahead

Only 22 more days till the most anticipated NBA tip-off in recent memory. The excitement is indescribable, already rumours are beginning, teams are practicing and fans are biting their nails, anxiously awaiting Christmas day. Exciting moments are on their way. In the spirit of Christmas I bring to you the 12 most exciting things to look forward to this season.

12. NBA Tip-Off

Although, the NBA tip-off is only one day of a 66 game season. It will begin the domino effect of exciting games. The match-ups all consist of star players and exciting teams. Boston’s Big Three takes their talents to New York to match up against the Knicks Big Three.  A finals rematch in Dallas. Former MVP’s match up as the Bulls take on the Lakers. Superman is flying to Oklahoma as the Magic take on the Thunder. And Bad Blake will begin the hundreds of mind-blowing dunks as the Clippers take on the Golden State Warriors. Merry Christmas indeed.

11. Celtics Too Old?

After the Celtics lost to Miami’s Big Three in the conference semi-finals last year, a lot of people said they didn’t have the young talent to compete with the upcoming teams in the league. Such as, Miami, Oklahoma, Chicago and so on. The Big Three in Boston have a title and know how to win and what it takes to win. Something that is taken for granted through the eyes of fans. Garnett still has his toughness, and maybe he isn’t as quick as he used to be but he still has a killer shot and knows when to step up. Ray Allen, hasn’t aged at all. His three is still lights out, as well as his mid range jumper. And people can say nothing about Paul Pierce, after all his exciting plays this season. This play in particular….

There is no need to even watch past 0:24. I’m just saying, the Celtics still got it and although they may be looked upon as the old timers in a new generation they have some tricks up their sleeves. The Celtics may play with a chip on their shoulder and that means terror for other teams in the league.

10. KD Not Kidding Anymore

After barely beating the Grizzlies last year and losing to the Mavericks in the conference finals, KD knew he could never go through anything like that again. He was done losing, after getting his heart broken by the Lakers in the 1st round in ’10 and losing to Dallas in ’11 he knew he had to change. This summer he has wasted no time improving his game. Here is proof…..

I cannot wait to see Kevin Durant develop more as a player and as a scorer and bring Oklahoma City their much deserved ring.

9. Grizzlies Back on Their Grizzly

When the Grizzlies defeated the number 1 seeded Spurs in the west I was shocked. Heck, the whole world was shocked. The Spurs had been having a picture perfect season. 60 wins and the 1st seed in the West. They thought they had a legitimate chance at a title. Then the young, scrappy, Grizzlies came along and silenced San-Antonio and the NBA world. Then when they forced a game 7 against KD and the Thunder we began to really take them seriously. Unfortunately, they couldn’t push past the Thunder. However, they exited the playoffs with nothing to be ashamed of. They gave two of the best teams in the West a run for their money. They may have failed in the playoffs but succeeded in imprinting their game in everyone’s mind. Now that Mike Conley, Z-Bo, and Rudy Gay are back, the Grizzlies will enter this season as legitimate competition. I can’t wait to see more of their electrifying game.

8. Rookie Class

This year’s rookie class is nothing special. There are no Lebron’s, no Kobe’s, nobody that is an obvious star. However, that’s what makes it interesting. Anyone of the  rookies can jump out and surprise us, almost like Blake Griffin did with his first  NBA dunk. The favourites for Rookie of The Year are Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams. However, Enes Kanter, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette and Ricky Rubio may want a piece of the spotlight. Maybe this rookie class isn’t filled with future stars but they are filled with exciting players.

7. Knicks Gelling

The new look Knicks played 42 games together last season, Melo and Amar’e brought  a glimmer of hope to the one city that needed it most. Now they hope to develop upon that and expand that glimmer of hope into a championship.  Due to Amar’e’s back injury during the 1st round of the playoff’s last year the Knicks didn’t have a chance. I believe if Amar’e had been fully healthy they would’ve played Miami in the 2nd round. The big question heading into this season, is how will Amar’e, Melo and Billups work together. Last season there was definitely some miscommunication on the court, but when these guys learn how to work together. Miami better watch their back.

6. D-Rose 2 Time MVP?

After D-Rose’s breakout season last year and the Bulls surprising success, I’m intrigued by what they will bring to the table this year. Lockdown defense is for sure. But can Derrick Rose match the stellar performance he gave last year.  He clearly has tricks up his sleeve, and if you haven’t seen his highlights from last season then prepare to be astounded….  

 The question is what will he surprise us with this season? A 50 point game? More killer crossovers? Unbelievable hops? D-Rose is unpredictable, but what we do know is that he will be eager to show everyone that last season’s success was no fluke. And that the Bulls and himself are here to stay among the elite.

 5. Lakers Redeem Themselves  

The Los Angeles Lakers suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Conference semi-finals to Dirk and the Mavs. Phil Jackson will try to forget his last series as a coach. He will try to forget Andrew Bynum throwing an elbow of frustration to J.J Barea. He will definitely try to forget being swept by Dallas. Now with a new coach, and a hungry Kobe, the Lakers can start on a clean slate. Everyone knows Kobe is angry and wants back on that throne. NBA fans everywhere, brace yourself for a Kobe overdrive.

4. Miami Back With a Vengeance  

Miami suffered at the hands of greatness last season when losing to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks in the finals. Everyone, including themselves called the season a failure. This summer Lebron, and D-Wade didn’t waste time sulking or lowering their heads. They’re focused on greatness and focused on championships so they’ve been hard at work preparing for this season….

 Now that Lebron, D-Wade, and Bosh have additional criticism and motivation from last season it will be interesting to see how they come back this season. I’m predicting full on domination.

  3. Blake Show is Back  

If you ask any fan what team was most exciting to watch last season I bet you more than half would say the Los Angeles Clippers. This young and talented squad showed true potential last year when the Blake Show came along. They even made the Lakers a little nervous about being the top team in Los Angeles. But, Blake Griffin and the rest of his crew are back with more experience and more flavour this year. I’m eager to see them in action and to see Blake throwing down monster jam’s this season.

 2. Dallas 2-Peat

 After winning a title last year, Dirk and the Mavericks must be careful about their throne. The Lakers will be back and ready to redeem themselves, Miami will have more firepower than ever, and every other team in the league wants a seat on top. Dallas are prime targets this season and the fact that Tyson Chandler hasn’t signed an extension should worry them more. They’re veteran roster must be ready for the new guys in town who will do anything to defeat them. I wonder if J-Kidd, Dirk and Jason Terry will have what it takes this year. It will be more than exciting to see them in the finals once again.

 1. CP3 and Superman

 The best center in the league and arguably the best point guard in the league are free agents next summer. CP3’s agent has released statements that he wants a bite out of the Big Apple and there is speculation the Dwight wants out. We know the Magic and Hornets will try to improve their rosters around their stars before it’s too late. We also know they will trade them to get the most out of them if their stars don’t agree to an extension. This will be the most exciting part of the season due to the impact that these players will make on any team. Imagine CP3, Melo and Amar’e in New York. They’d instantly be best in the East. Or if Dwight went to Los Angeles, the Lakers would instantly be best in the West. After the Melo-Drama and the free agent frenzy of 2010-2011 we have all grown to love stars teaming up. It will be exciting to follow the drama that surrounds these players all season.

Changes Needed: Miami Heat

After a season of stardom, criticism, and losing the NBA finals, the Miami Heat have some things to think about. Playing against the Mavericks in the NBA finals really took their flaws and put them under the spotlight. There was Lebron’s disability to finish out games and their depth not being able to produce.

I think this offseason the thing they have to focus on most is their roster changes. It was clear that if one or two of the big three wasn’t producing like a superstar, their bench couldn’t hold up their load and stay in the game. They’ve won about 55 of their 58 regular season wins solely on the production of D-Wade, Chris Bosh and Lebron James. The biggest problem they knew they were up against in the Finals is the monstrous depth of Dallas’ bench. Jason Terry, J.J Barea, Brendon Haywood all contributed greatly to the success of the Mavericks. From J.J making big shots of pick and rolls, to Jason Terry scoring 27 in game 6, to Brendon Haywood protecting the paint from people like Lebron. Often times when Lebron or D-Wade or Bosh sat down for a break, that’s when the game got a bit out of hand, and they started to lose their handle on the game. Then it was too late to get back into it. The Heat need to keep their eye out for productive role players. Ones who know their place on a team and are willing to do that to win. Players like Mario Chalmers. He was the only helpful player besides Haslem off the bench but they need more then that. They need someone they can count on to pour in 10-15 points off the bench. Someone like Shawne Williams from New York or Delonte West from Boston.

Then they need Lebron to start playing like the label he gave himself. A king. Not a scared little boy afraid to get physical in the paint. C’mon Lebron you owe the NBA better then you have given us this year. This summer it’s not his skills or his endurance or his jumpshot that needs refining but it’s his self confidence, his ability to make big plays when they count and his aggressiveness back. In the first 3 rounds of the playoffs he was attacking that basket like a man fighting for his life. He saw the basket, and drove straight to it. That was the Lebron we expected in the finals but unfortunately for some people and fortunately for those Lebron haters it wasn’t the one we got. He passed the ball away too many times in big moments to players like Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller. What does he expect those guys to do with the rock in their hands in the biggest moment of the game. I was so disappointed with how he played, and this summer he has to look in the mirror, start listening to the criticism, get angry, and translate that into his play. For the big moments there is no way to practice those until your actually in the big moment but Lebron’s problems are all in the mind. That’s harder to solve then the play itself. But he is the king, isn’t he?

It’s not all him though, Lebron isn’t perfect, he wasn’t exactly given a plan in the 4th quarter. He had had to improvise which is hard to do when the pressure is all on his back. Erik Spoelstra was out coached during the finals in his aspect of 4th quarter planning. They ran no plays for Lebron or D-Wade. I bet if Lebron or D-Wade were given a play to run in the 4th quarter and a plan to work on then their 4th quarter production would be much greater then it was.

To be honest the Miami Heat played a great series and with some slight depth changes and some determining of their 4th quarter star then the Miami Heat will be the ones with the parade after next season.

 

 

 

Championship Team

6-10 championships. That’s what they said. The Big 3 boldly stated that they could win 6+ championships with the Miami Heat. Everybody including themselves called this season a failure without a championship. I guess that’s what this season was for them a big failure.

When the finals rolled around, the veteran Mavericks were the underdogs. Rick Carlisle said it best, ” We don’t run fast or jump high, but we have a great team.”

A great team. That’s what wins championships. Not the superstar power of three players and a few points off the bench. No. It takes a Hall of Famer committed since the day he was drafted, to win a championship in Dallas. It takes a 6th man who is more clutch then a two-time MVP in this league. It takes a gritty interior defender who dives for loose balls everywhere they go. It takes an underdog foreign point guard who lights up everybody unexpectedly. It takes a veteran point guard with the best passing skills in NBA history. It takes a veteran forward who dreams of championships every night when he is sleeping. It takes a coach who loves his players and will stop at nothing to get them the championship they deserve. That’s what makes up a championship team.

That also carries over into the legacy conversation. Lebron James will never have a legacy as great as Dirk. Never. He may be more athletic, and more talented, but he played 7 years and needed a championship. So he took the easy route and that was it. He was in a better position for glory. Dirk went through 12 hectic, championship short seasons, he never doubted his team, or teammates, he never thought of leaving. Even when Steve Nash left he never called out the front office or did anything to jeopardise his legacy. He stuck with Dallas for 13 years and eventually won a championship. This championship that he won yesterday will mean more then any that Lebron ever wins. He won it over Lebron, he won it with the team he was drafted by, and he did it all by himself.

  

Dirk really showed what the heart of a champion meant. He played sick and scored 21. He was the lone star of a team without his number two scorer, in Caron Butler. He outplayed everybody on the court even two top 3 players in the NBA. Dirk will be remembered as a champion, like no other. He has no bad rep on him, he has not had a bad season in 13 years. Every year has been consistent and stat filled. Up and coming players should look to players like Dirk instead of Lebron. Players who don’t let their team down when it counts most, players who don’t call themselves the king and then don’t win a championship in 8 years, players who take the easy route to a championship. Not players like Lebron but like Dirk.

When we take a look at Dirk’s career we can really see how complete it has been. An MVP, a finals MVP, an NBA championship, recreating the power forward position, developing the 2nd most unstoppable shot in NBA history, scoring 20 or more points for 10+ years, 10 time all star, leading the Mavericks in points. I mean from top to bottom Dirk Nowitzki is a prize possession for this league. When we look back at this series we won’t be looking back at Lebron’s failure but Dirk’s great and much deserved success.

 

 

Finals: Game 6

This could rap it all up. This could roll out the curtain call. This could pop the champagne bottles. This could give Dirk his much deserved championship. Miami won’t let it slip though. If Lebron thought game 5 was now or never then wait till he is embraced by the anxious South Beach crowd.

Miami is the little boy at school being held up against the wall and robbed of their lunch money. The Mavericks are the bully.

Miami has so much pressure on them to keep the series alive that Lebron just might have to play Lebron James basketball. At least give us a little taste of what the “King” has in store. So far this “king” has played more  like a peasant locked up in the dungeon. Dwyane Wade has played like the king this series. Averaging around 28 points and showing everybody who the man in town is. Dwyane is a leader, and a captain and he knows that he needs Lebron to get involved for them to win. Dwyane can’t do it alone. Even in 2006 he had Shaq and Gary Peyton helping him out. Bosh has even played better then Lebron this series. Those two guys need to call out Lebron on every possession he is not aggressive enough. His sissy play on the perimeter is not going to win championships. Driving into the paint and attacking the rim is going to win championships. That’ll be key for the Heat to win this game.

 

The Heat as a whole have to come out on fire in game 6. Their crowd will be eager for something to cheer for, and they have to create an environment that Dallas won’t want to play in. They have been letting Dallas get the upper hand when the games have begun and they have found themselves fighting back in the first quarter. Not this game. They have to force turnovers, and get Lebron, Bosh and Wade into a rythm offensively. Then they need their role players to step up. Dallas’ depth has killed them in the past two games. The only player who is really producing is Mario Chalmers. That’s one 12 points bench player against a crew of Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, J.J Barea, and Tyson Chandler. The supporting cast has to step up. I always say that the bench will play better at home. It proved correct for the Mavericks, let’s see if it will prove correct for the Heat.

The Mavericks know what they’re going to be up against. They know how much hype is surrounding this game. They also know how loud the Miami crowd is going to be. Which is why they have to use their veteran skills to their advantage. Most of their players have been in big game situations, for a long time in this league. When the 4th quarter rolls around they have to jump on any opportunity to silence the crowd. They have closed out games terrifically, but they have to be sure to hold the Heat when the 4th quarter arrives. Lebron will be looking for more opportunities and they have to be ready to counter that with defense and maturity.

They also need their role players to continue playing like they have. They struggled a bit in Miami in the first two games but when they got home they were on fire. Now as they step back on the road they can’t shrink out from the spotlight. Last game it was big threes from Jason Terry and Jason Kidd that won them the game. They need that production from those same guys again.

When they’re hot offensively, it spreads the floor for Dirk. Giving him room for his one legged jumper and room for him to spin to the hoop more often. Defenders have to stay with their men and Dirk gets to dominate. That only works if the Dallas supporting cast comes to play. And they must. If they do then this game will be won. If not then look forward to a tense game 7 showdown.

Game 6. See you in 1 hour.