Monday, February 28, 2011

Paper Heat Tiger

Tonight in Miami, in front of a national audience, the Heat blew a 15-point lead to lose to the new-look Knicks... yes, the same Knicks that lost to the woebegone Cavaliers the other night. And while some might see this as how the Knicks are dangerous when they play defense, or how the Heat just can't seem to get over the hump in close games, especially against good teams... well, um, whatever. Because despite the records involved, and the seeming weakness of the top teams in the East... well, I just can't shake the feeling that what we're watching is a sideshow.

Chauncey Billups hit the go-ahead three, Dwyane Wade struggled, and the Knicks took advantage of 20 Heat turnovers. Miami fell behind the Bulls and Celtics for best record in the East, the Knicks continue to look like the #6 seed assuming that the Sixers can't get white-hot, and all that you really need to know about how hollow the Heat are is that the Knicks shot 39% from the field in a road game and won. In front of a packed house, with a ton of celebrities, with the full attention of the NBA-watching nation...

And honestly, can anyone see either of these teams going past the second round?

If the season ended today, Boston gets Indiana in the first round, and rolls them. Miami probably struggles a bit with the Sixers, but prevails. Chicago rolls New York, and Atlanta beats Orlando, since they should be better now that they've got Kirk Hinrich instead of the corpse of Mike Bibby. Which sets up a second round in which Boston beats Atlanta again, and Miami loses to Chicago. Leading to a final in the east of Boston and Chicago, and nine months of Superteam Speculation that doesn't amount to a damned thing, really.

Too harsh? Probably not. Neither of these teams has a bench, gets stops, has players that have really performed under a playoff spotlight. Neither of these teams should be able to do much in a Finals against the Lakers, assuming that Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant can turn back the clock one last time, and if the Thunder break through, I'd also take them over either of the "super" teams.

But that's not really why, of course, the teams are attracting attention. The Association has always been a game in which stars make scenes, and with four of the best players in the league on the floor at one time -- even if those four players might not fit perfectly well together -- you can't really fault people for paying attention. Especially when Boston plays such a horrific game to watch, the Lakers are exactly old hat, and only the cognescenti know enough about the Thunder to truly love them. Besides, there's that whole Odious Carpetbagging Owner situation to ignore.

So it's not so much who the Heat and Knicks are now, as opposed to what they might eventually become... and how much people are willing to go for the Next Big Thing. Because, well, that's not the Lakers or Celtics. And a freaking men to that.

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