The Miami Heat won last season and are the favorites this year, but there are no guarantees.
The Miami Heat will raise their 2012 NBA championship banner before hosting the Boston Celtics on opening night of the 2012-13 NBA season. And they will do so as the league’s overwhelming favorites to win it all once again this year.
While it is clear that Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the NBA are chasing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co., there is no guarantee that Heat will repeat. Here are the top 10 reasons why the Miami Heat won’t win the 2013 NBA championship:
1. LeBron Letdown
LeBron James hunted down his first NBA championship with a killer instinct previously unseen from the overanalyzed King. In one of the greatest individual efforts in history, LeBron averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.9 steals, while shooting 50 percent from the field, over 23 playoff games last season. The postseason bar has been set ridiculously high for LeBron.
After playing into June last season and spending all summer at the London Olympics leading Team USA to the gold medal, James enters the 2012-13 season with almost no offseason rest to speak of. In a grueling marathon, the 27-year-old wunderkind will need to be fresh — physically, mentally and emotionally — come playoff time if the Heat are to successfully defend their title.
2. D-Wade’s Knee
As good as LeBron is, Miami is still Wade County. The two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP is the spark that ignites the Heat. But Wade often flies too close to the sun, sacrificing his body to make the spectacular seem routine. Entering his age 31 season, Wade was forced to withdraw from the Olympics due to surgery on his left knee. If Flash can’t go in the playoffs, the Heat’s title hopes could be dashed.
3. Third Wheel
Remember when Chris Bosh was the Toronto talent with the Predator hairstyle? What happened to that guy, whose talent was supposedly being wasted north of the border? Bosh shrunk in the spotlight of the Heat lamp. He doesn’t have to carry his own weight as a member of the “Big Three,” but Miami needs at least two and a half men to win it all.
4. Best in the West
Should the Heat advance to the NBA Finals, just showing up won’t be enough. The Oklahoma City Thunder are young and hungry. The Los Angeles Lakers are old and desperate. The San Antonio Spurs are geriatric but dangerously cagy. There will be no easy outs in June.
5. Size Matters
While Miami is playing small ball with no real center, the Lakers have two of the game’s best bigs in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, the Thunder have two defensive menaces in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, the Spurs have Tim Duncan down low, the Celtics have mad man Kevin Garnett, and the 76ers acquired Andrew Bynum to go along with Spencer Hawes. The Heat are relying on Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, Dexter Pittman and Josh “Jorts” Harrellson to bang with the best in the business.
Coach Erik Spoelstra is no Pat Riley. He may be underappreciated by the masses, but that is because he lacks the swagger of Riles, aura of Phil Jackson or grit of Gregg Popovich. To many, Coach Spo is just a guy in a suit (who happens to be friends with Riley) who looks confused while being outcoached by Doc Rivers or even Scott Brooks. Substitution patterns, play calls out of timeouts and clock management through the use of timeouts all fall on the shoulders of the head coach come playoff time.
7. Triple Threat
Even when LeBron and Wade are on top of their game, Miami’s small ball still relies on the 3-ball. But the Heat’s long range shooters are also long in the tooth. Newly acquired 37-year-old Ray Allen, 34-year-old Shane Battier, 33-year-old Rashard Lewis, 32-year-old Mike Miller and 32-year-old James Jones are the five oldest dudes on the roster. If those 10 legs are tired, long misses could turn into easy buckets — especially against the lightning fast Thunder — with the Larry O’Brien Trophy on the line.
8. Judas Curse
Speaking of the smooth as silk jump shot of Ray Allen… Jesus Shuttlesworth has become a symbolic Judas traitor to the rabid, superstitious fans of the Boston Celtics. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em may be a seemingly easy answer to Ray’s second-ring riddle. But the basketball gods seem to have a warped sense of karmic justice. And while Paul Pierce, KG and the C’s may seem as ancient as Red Auerbach’s old Boston Garden, they’ve given Miami trouble in the past. And no team wins the NBA title without first winning the conference crown.
9. Long Odds
History’s split stats say the Heat have a little less than a 1-in-3 shot of repeating as champs. Of the 65 previous NBA champions, 44 have failed to defend their title the following season. When D-Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and Riley won Miami’s first title in 2006, they didn’t even make it back to the NBA Finals the following season. If it were easy, the achievement wouldn’t be as sweet.
10. Mayan Apocalypse
Hey, Dec. 21, 2012 is just around the corner and super storm Sandy is beating down the East Coast. June is a long way off. If there are no NBA Finals, the Miami Heat certainly won’t repeat.