So, now what? It’s worth remembering that Miami has played nearly the entire season without Udonis Haslem, the eighth-year forward whose rebounding and toughness have been sorely missed. Haslem has been out since November with a torn ligament in his left foot, but at press time was expected back in uniform before the end of the regular season. If he’s healthy, his return could be huge.
The addition of Mike Bibby in early March gave the Heat another past-his-prime but valuable veteran, a market they seem to have cornered with guys like Magloire and Juwan Howard. Riley plugged in some similar pieces during the Heat’s run to the ’06 NBA title, and Spoelstra is counting on their experience and poise to help as this team hits the postseason.
The rest of the roster still feels like something of an afterthought, with hit-and-miss contributions from the likes of Mike Miller, Joel Anthony and Eddie House offering little to count on. Chalmers has been serviceable as the starting point man, even if that often means little more than knowing when to get out of the way, while the 70-year-old center known as Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have (when healthy) filled the middle about as well as anyone could expect.
All of which leaves those three young millionaires who posed and flexed last summer on the American Airlines Arena catwalk. LeBron, Dwyane and Chris aren’t actually that young anymore; each is in his eighth season, and Wade turned 29 in January. Results this season won’t determine the success or failure of the Heatles era, but it’s not like these dudes have a 10-year window, either. If it’s going to happen, it needs to be sooner rather than later.
In the midst of the losing streak, Bosh—who, for what it’s worth, generally meets the post-game press solo, while James and Wade come out together, essentially splitting their media workload—acknowledged that he wasn’t thrilled with his role in the offense. The squeaky wheel was pretty quickly greased, as the Heat seemed to make an effort to get him the ball early in possessions. He rewarded his teammates’ trust, putting 24 points on the Lakers and 30 on the Spurs.
Bosh is an All-Star and a proven scorer, and like the Lakers with Pau Gasol, the Heat may well only go as far as they allow Bosh to take them. But just as Pau was a great player on bad teams before he linked up with Kobe and Co., Bosh is rightly the third option in every way that matters. This team will win or lose with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
The noise on these two has been as loud as anything. If this is the new era Jordan and Pippen, which one is which? Can one dominate the first 47 minutes but allow the other to take the shots that decide games and championships? Their superstar tag-team act aside, are they actually even that close?
When they’re clicking, Wade and James have been a joy to watch on and off the court, finishing each other’s oops during games and finishing each other’s sentences in post-game interviews. But we still don’t know who will be taking the last shot with a Playoff series on the line. We still don’t know whose team it is, or if that even matters.
All we know is that we’ll keep talking about it until they give us a reason not to.