Over the past week all the chatter in Lakerland has focused intently on the hiring of new coach Mike Brown. Fans have lambasted it, media scrutinized it, critics have voiced their concerns over his hire and how Lakers management handled the whole process. If you were in Los Angeles during Tuesday’s introductory presser you realize how folks here were treating it. It’s not the announcement of a new coach, it an intergalactic war with stakes of the highest order. But if we can step outside our own myopic purple and gold lens for a moment we’ll see something else happened Tuesday and it may just end up having more significance than any single other factor in deciding whether the Lakers hang another banner in the next few years.
Did you happen to watch game one of the NBA Finals? Did you see the way Miami clamped down on the same Mavericks offense that torched the Lakers? Did you see that Wade to James alley-oop that put an incredible exclamation point on a championship level performance?
If the Miami Heat successfully finish off their 2011 title run, watch out. This is a squad that looks primed for a dynasty and even if the Lakers somehow manage to improve under Mike Brown, who knows if they’ll be able to match the level of the Heat in a potential Finals confrontation down the line. And that isn’t a pre-criticism of Brown’s ability to handle the Lakers, it’s more a reflection of how great the Heat are and how much room they have to still improve.
One of the scariest things about Miami is that their three most dynamic players are all still squarely in their primes. James, Wade and Bosh are 26, 29 and 27 respectively. It’s easy to envision them playing at an elite level for at least the next three years, perhaps beyond. Getting the first ring might just be a tipping point where things really start coming together for them.
Furthermore, as a team the Heat are undoubtedly going to get better. It’s a miracle in itself that they can compete at this level even when starting the corpse of the player formerly known as Mike Bibby and a center in Joel Anthony who couldn’t make a hoop if you spotted him the H and two O’s. The Heat ought to make a significant improvement from simply adding a mid-level piece or two via free agency. More than that though they will improve as a result of simply playing together for a longer stretch of time. Remember this is a squad has only been together one season. Imagine how things will look when they really start getting to know one another.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Heat have the league’s best player in Lebron James. And if LBJ acquires a championship swagger after winning his first NBA Finals it’s conceivable he takes his game to another level. Although the Jordan comparisons by Scottie Pippen are ludicrous, James certainly has the potential to eventually scratch the rare air of Jordan. That in itself is an incredible compliment.
At his introductory press conference Coach Brown made clear that he knows Lakers success is defined not by regular season victories but by championships. If the Heat do win this NBA Finals and start a dynasty of their own, Brown’s task will become that much more difficult. With that in mind I have two words that I hope all Lakers fans are saying as the Finals continue to play out.