NBA AM: Humbled Miami HEAT Take Home The Title
The Miami HEAT are officially NBA champions, needing just five games to defeat the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder in the Finals. Regardless of your allegiance it would be hard not to respect the HEAT’s championship journey as a collective unit in finally earning the honor of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Three-time league MVP and 2012 Finals MVP LeBron James had twice reached the Finals before, to only come up short and watch helplessly as other franchises celebrated their victories. Dwyane Wade, the 2006 Finals MVP, won a title at twenty four years old and then suffered through multiple first round playoff eliminations before tasting another title, now slightly past his prime at the age of thirty. All-Star forward Chris Bosh established himself as a nightly 20/10 performer in seven seasons with the Toronto Raptors, but only managed to make two playoffs appearances as the team’s leading man.
Those bitter disappointments led the trio of James, Wade and Bosh to join forces during the summer of 2010 and in the process the unit shook the entire NBA landscape. The team would ultimately fall short of an NBA title in year one of their “Big Three” experiment, losing in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks in six games. But a year later, a much more humbled Miami HEAT team, are now NBA champions and refusing to take anything for granted.
“Man, this process is unbelievably hard, and I don’t care who you put on a team,” Wade said according to the Associated Press. “To be a champion would be the hardest thing you do in sports. You know, two years ago, putting this team together, obviously we all expected it to be a little easier than it was. But we had to go through what we had to go through last year. We needed to. And as much as it hurt, we had to go through that pain and that suffering. To get to this point of this season and the rest of our careers together, we’ll take nothing for granted. Like I said, that series versus Dallas hurt, but it was their time. I went back last night and I watched Game 6 of The Finals, and it was their time. The shots they was hitting was unbelievable. I looked at it and said it wasn’t our time. And tonight it was our time.”
James, who often was tasked with the full weight of the team’s criticism, reflected on his journey and credited his hard work and dedication as the key to finally winning his first championship.
“It was a journey for myself,” James said. “I don’t want to compare it to any other player, but it was definitely a journey. Everything that went along with me being a high school prodigy when I was 16 and on the cover of Sports Illustrated, to being drafted and having to be the face of a franchise, everything that came with it, I had to deal with and I had to learn through it. No one had went through that journey, so I had to learn on my own. All the ups and downs, everything that came along with it, I had to basically figure it out on my own.”
“You know, I’m happy now that eight years later, nine years later since I’ve been drafted that I can finally say that I’m a champion, and I did it the right way. I didn’t shortcut anything. You know, I put a lot of hard work and dedication in it, and hard work pays off. It’s a great moment.”
This is the second NBA title in Miami’s history. The HEAT also became the first team to ever to trail in three separate playoff series during the playoffs to go on and win a championship.
Carl Landry Discusses Free Agency, Hornets’ Recent Trade: Power forward Carl Landry’s name wouldn’t spark much recognition from the casual NBA fan, but the fifth year veteran will be one of the most coveted frontcourt targets in free agency this summer.
Landry maintains that he’s going to keep his options open this summer and evaluate all opportunities presented. The former Purdue University standout makes it clear the Hornets are still in the race, but also reiterates he doesn’t have an allegiance to just one team.
“Well, it’s an opportunity to prolong your career in the NBA,” Landry said to John Reid of the Times Picayune about the importance of his next contract. “Obviously, this past season was tough, but at the same time it’s basketball. Growing up as a kid my dream was always to play in the NBA. It was never to play for a certain team.”
The Hornets own the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft and are widely expected to select former University of Kentucky standout Anthony Davis with the top pick. Davis is projected to be a power forward at the pro level, which is the same position as Landry. However Landry maintains the potential presence of Davis on the roster won’t impact his decision on whether he’d re-sign with New Orleans.
“Not at all,” Landry said regarding Davis’ presence hindering a Hornets re-signing. “I think [head] coach Monty [Williams] and his coaching staff will do a good job of putting the right players out there on the floor.”
Landry has established himself as a double-digit scorer throughout his NBA career over 308 contests. As a reserve in 245 appearances he’s averaged 11.1 points and 4.8 rebounds. But Landry’s production as a starter (63 games), 16.2 points and 6.3 rebounds, is what has intrigued teams around the league most about his potential to take on a larger role.
The Hornets recently traded veterans Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to the Washington Wizards in exchange for experienced wing Rashard Lewis. New Orleans is expected to buyout Lewis’ contract and ultimately save $30 million over the next two seasons in salary commitments by dealing Okafor and Ariza. Landry says he understood the move from a business standpoint, but said it was tough to see key guys during the Hornets’ playoff run in 2011 being dealt.
“It’s always tough,” Landry said. “It’s tough to see friends leave. They were such a big part of our success [in 2011], getting to the playoffs and then taking the [Los Angeles] Lakers to six games in the playoffs. They’re my friends first and foremost but at the same time we have to all understand it’s a business and the Hornets are doing what they think is the best move for the organization. Hopefully with the trade it makes the Hornets a better team.”
Bobcats’ Mike Dunlap Gets Out To Fast Start, Literally: The Charlotte Bobcats’ recent decision to hire head coach Mike Dunlap resulted in some criticism and a few raised eyebrows since the former St. John’s assistant coach didn’t come on board with much mainstream flare.
Dunlap’s supporters maintain that just because his “name” doesn’t attract many headlines doesn’t mean he’s not a bona fide top tier coach. Ultimately time will tell, but for now Dunlap got off to a fast start in Charlotte on Thursday while attending the Bobcats’ pre-draft workout.
Included in the workout session was UNC’s Harrison Barnes who will likely be a top ten selection in this month’s draft. Barnes was quoted by the Charlotte Observer as saying Dunlap pushed the tempo of the workout and made it more of a “track meet.”
Dunlap believes there is only one way to fix the Bobcats, who are coming off a historically dismal season, and that’s through being one of the most conditioned teams in the league, grinding and of course a fast tempo.
“We’ve got to roll our sleeves up and get going now,’’ Dunlap said to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. “We can’t figure this thing is going to come to us. We’ve got to go to it.’’
Four Bobcats who trudged through the team’s 7-59 campaign were also on hand for the pre-draft workout. Dunlap hopes the message gets back to the other players through Bismack Biyombo, Matt Carroll, Byron Mullens and Cory Higgins that a change in culture is on the horizon in Charlotte.
“The word will get out that there’s work being done here,’’ Dunlap said. “It’s voluntary (this summer), but come to work in pairs and threes, not ones. We don’t want our guys coming to this facility by themselves a lot.’’
The Bobcats own the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft. Dunlap is set on looking for a player who can play in a frenetic pace system.
“You can’t come in here and be unfit,” Dunlap said. “And fitness for a pro basketball player is all year long.’’
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats today starting with senior NCAA basketball analyst Yannis Koutroupis who will drop his weekly chat at 11am EST. Next up is NBA Writer Alex Kennedy who will rock at 1:00pm EST. You can always find the next upcoming chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats or if you are looking for a chat that already completed try here: Previous NBA Chats