1) The much anticipated debut of the three-headed monster in Miami went down earlier this week. However, after Dwyane Wade hurt his hamstring and LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and the rest of the Heat gained a big lead, the crowd was gone by halftime. Is Miami deserving of this collection of superstars? What city without an NBA team deserves a shot at having a franchise?
MARK: Well, I think Wojnarowski said it best when he compared LeBron’s “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” line to something along the lines of a high school kid picking a party school for college. Whereas when Boston put their superteam together before 2008, the city seemed to embrace that team and talked about how “special” that championship was, I get the sense that Miami fans will only pay attention to this team when they have to. Courtside for Heat games will be a “scene.” Expect more obnoxious behavior from the city before this is all over.
As for a city without a team deserving – I’m hard pressed to name one. The NBA is not necessarily at the peak of popularity and good college hoops cities don’t always translate to pro hoops (see Charlotte, NC). However, I would find it fascinating to see a “superteam” set up shop in a place like Indiana, where those fans are hardcore and awesome – especially when the team was on their run in the early 2000s.
EVAN: Let me say this first; Miami absolutely does not deserve to have the trio of D-Wade, LeBron and Bosh. The fans are so fair-weather and couldn’t be less interested in the actual game action. All they care about is going out in South Beach and seeing celebrities. Here is the perfect example that sums up Miami fans: After a brutal last-second Dolphins loss to the Jets on Sunday Night a few weeks ago, all of the late-night clubs at Sun Life Stadium were packed with people partying. Any fan that cared would have left the stadium immediately, far too depressed to go out and party after a tough loss. That is a Miami sports fan in a nutshell.
However, Pittsburgh is a city that should get an NBA franchise. The steel city has a very loyal fan base, as the Penguins and Steelers are always at the top of their respective leagues in attendance. Sure the Pirates are dreadful, but that has nothing to do with the fans. Pittsburgh is hockey-crazy during the winter, but if they had an NBA team I think the fans would show up in full force. The team would also have two natural rivals in the cross-state 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who would be less than 150 miles away in Ohio. So I say give the steel city a shot; their fans couldn’t possibly be worse than Miami’s.
DV: Miami definitely does not deserve to see this trio on the regular. It was amazing to me watching the game versus the Pistons earlier this week and seeing how indifferent the crowd seemed during the early part of the game. And when a batch of the good courtside seats were empty, I was screaming at the love of my life like a madman! Oh, by the way, that would be my 46″ HDTV. In any case, I expect regular season games to have patches of people missing, but come playoff time, every single seat will be packed with every celebrity and wannabe celebrity in South Beach… until the third quarter.
Seattle needs a team again because they were some die-hard fans when the SuperSonics played there. Also, a lot of really good players are from around the area – Terrence Williams, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson – to name a few. They definitely got short-changed when the Sonics left to Oklahoma City.
2) 28 NBA general managers voted recently in an NBA.com survey and most picked the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA championship this coming season. Other than the Lakers, Heat, and Boston Celtics, which team did the GMs sleep on?
MARK: I think the Magic need to be in that conversation, and you can never rule out a team like the Spurs, who continue to be smart with their roster moves. Yes, Duncan and Parker are getting old, but they’re still Duncan and Parker, and if a guy like Richard Jefferson has a bounce back season, I think they could knock the Lakers off.
EVAN: The Lakers, Heat and Celtics may be the clear favorites in the NBA this season, but do not sleep on the Orlando Magic. The team was in the NBA Finals two years ago and they won 59 games last season. They have the League’s best center in Dwight Howard and a great cast of complimentary players, led by Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis. Most importantly this team has shown the toughness needed to win in the Playoffs. They have a defensive-minded coach in Stan Van Gundy and I think everyone remembers what happened two years ago in 2009. Nobody gave them a chance against the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals after Cleveland won 66 games in the regular season. The Magic won in 6 games and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the same thing happened this year, but this time against the Miami Heat.
DV: Normally I would say San Antonio Spurs here, but I’ve been saying that for the past decade. So, I’ll take the Chicago Bulls here. Granted, Carlos Boozer will start the season on the pine, but once he gets on the deck, he’ll be fine and put up his regular 20/10. Add an emerging Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, you have a very good rotation at the four and five. If Luol Deng can start to fulfill his promise (finally) from the past few seasons, the Bulls can definitely get hot and go on a long playoff run. The addition of Kyle Korver will stretch defenses and give more space for anyone in the post. Derrick Rose should also get more room to work his magic and a reliable shooter to finish his passes. And, since defense wins championships, the hiring of Tom Thibodeau helps a ton.
3) In the same above-mentioned survey, most GMs selected Kevin Durant as the NBA MVP. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard also received votes. Which player did the GMs sleep on for this award?
MARK: That sounds about right, though if the Heat run totally rampant, I could see Dwyane Wade getting some votes from sportswriters as a knock to LeBron. If Dallas finds away to have another spectacular season, you can’t rule out Dirk either.
EVAN: I want to be on the record as saying Derrick Rose will have a huge year, but I don’t think he’s quite ready for an MVP. The guy that GM’s slept on in this survey is Dwyane Wade. Yes the Heat brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh but as long as he’s healthy, D-Wade will still be the “straw that stirs the drink” in Miami. He may not score the most points or take every big shot, but his stats are going to be out of control with those two playing alongside him. Look for Wade to dominate the ball and be more of a facilitator than a scorer, which will greatly improve his assist numbers. I may despise the Heat and everything about them now that they have the “Big Three,” but it’s almost a given that they win 60-plus games this season. LeBron and Bosh will have their numbers but it will be Dwyane Wade who is the team leader and he will have a great shot to win the Most Valuable Player Award.
DV: Dwyane Wade. The Heat are his team, even with LeBron James on it. Wade has shown that he’ll make concessions in order to win (Redeem Team at the 2008 Olympics), but despite accepting a “lesser” role, Wade still finds a way to stand out in a big way. If the Heat do as well as everyone expects, James and Chris Bosh will undoubtedly play big roles, but none will be bigger than Wade’s as leader.