Critics said that it would be hard for the Miami Heat to three-peat, let alone get back to the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive year. After all, the last team to get within four games of a championship that many times was the 1980s Boston Celtics. Every other team smashed head first into the same roadblocks that people are predicting for the Heat.
And they have each peeked their heads out this season.
There’s been the threat of the young upstart (Indiana Pacers) that has been knocking on the door for the past few seasons, the usual mental challenge of having the target on their backs and the fight to keep themselves interested even though they would rather fast-forward to the playoffs.
But above everything injuries have been the biggest plague to the team from Biscayne Bay. They have been hit so hard that they have had 12 different starting lineups in their first 37-games.
“We’re banged up right now, as a team,” LeBron James said via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We’re not an excuse team, but right now, we have three starters that didn’t play… so we could all use this break, for sure.”
Pundits will claim that this is happening because of the wear and tear of Miami’s long seasons as the Big Three — which has seen them play deep into June before following up with summers of Olympic training, the World Championships and weddings. However, that theory goes out the window when you see the fall of guys like Al Horford and Javale McGee who haven’t had the extensive mileage of title runs.
So the only logically reason can be that these are the residual effects of the strike shortened season and the minutes logged in the back-to-back-to-back games that Commissioner David Stern forced teams to play. Especially when those injuries include relatively healthy players that have seen the surgeon in the last three seasons (i.e. Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo).
Which makes you wonder whether the league should just shorten the season — over the span of six months — and eliminate teams having to suit up on consecutive nights. Because, in reality, the NBA has so many bad teams that we really don’t need to see them cram bad basketball into 82 games.