But what has happened to Miami all of a sudden? Isn’t this the same team that supposedly had no depth? Isn’t it essentially the same roster that began 2010-11 just barely floating above .500 for the first 18 games of the season? Indeed it is, but similar to any champion, Miami’s level of hunger rose and the Heat grew together as a group. Even though their offense still relies on the trio for a disgustingly high percentage of their points, the role players such as James Jones, Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers have made sacrifices and stepped up tremendously.
And although they missed a good portion of the season, it’s arguable the Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem have been the biggest contributors to Miami’s success. How? They brought the warrior, never die mentality to South Beach. They came into the season expecting their years to be a joy ride, they expected to get easy shot opportunities like they never had before — then major injuries derailed both players at extremely crucial points in the season. Miller injured the thumb on his shooting hand before the season, and no matter how hard he worked and how much it healed — for a shooter, that’s a near-impossible injury to recover from, but he found a way to contribute. He became a better defender, he provided playmaking and rebounding for a team that lacked much of anything outside of its big three.
As for Haslem, man, Miami really needed him. The lone remaining teammate of Wade from the championship team in 2006 missed nearly the entire regular season due to an injury that many believed could end his career. But the man knew his team, without any depth whatsoever, needed his presence. They needed his tenacity down low, his mid-range game on offense and his experience on the court. And he knew that, so he worked his tail off during the regular season while his team struggled to find an identity on the court. He did everything possible, almost taking note out of a book from Scott McKnight — the protagonist from the god-awful basketball romantic-comedy, Just Wright. He came back when his team had finally come together, and he was truly the missing piece to their success. After working his way back into the flow of the game, it was almost as if he had never missed a beat. Playing stifling defense, grabbing boards and going after loose balls — Haslem brought the fire to the Heat, and it has paid major dividends for them thus far.
I can’t say that I am happy to see Miami looking like the eventual champions (especially considering I have $100 bet stemming back to July that they don’t win the title), but from the standpoint of someone who loves watching great basketball, I can’t say that I’m not enjoying it immensely either. The play, the story lines, the drama (my apologies TNT for stealing one of your terrible network show tag lines), all encapsulated in one seven game series between two teams I have loathed over the years, is turning out to be pretty exciting and fun to watch.