And while it's also true that Dallas did an abysmal job of talent evaluation in the off-season -- seriously, they let Tyson Chandler go and effectively replaced him with Lamar Odom, and willingly looked past the past five years of NBA footage to bring in Vince Carter, rather than keep Jason Richardson, DeShawn Stevenson or JJ Barea around -- there were still four-fifths of the roster than won it all last year on the floor, albeit with yet another unwelcome year on the tires. OKC rolled them after getting old-man jobbed last year, but people don't really remember Conference Finals the way they do, well, NBA Finals.
If Dallas had made it back to the Finals, and lost to Miami in a rematch, you could tell the story that the Heat just needed more time to gell, and that the Dynasty That Isn't was just delayed. Now? It's just a missed opportunity against a team that won't be well remembered... and such is the nature of the league right now that there really are no well-regarded teams to get their swagger back. After taking down the Knicks, the Heat will likely get the Pacers, who are nearly invisible on the national level, and certainly don't have a superstar that registers in the public imagination of Star Matter basketball analysis. No one on the other side of the Eastern bracket is intimidating, now that the Bulls are crippled, the Sixers have folded like wet toilet paper against the Heat for years, the Hawks never go deep, and the Celtics are ancient and injured. If they work through this, um, gauntlet, they could face any number of clubs, from the Spurs that ended James' first Finals run to the emerging Thunder...
But short of the Lakers putting it all together, maybe with a fresh Metta World Peace leading the charge... there's no one in the Finals that's going to seem like a really strong opponent for the Heat. So in the sprint season of injuries and attrition, even a title is going to seem like a meh moment. And heaven help them if they stumble en route, because the public shaming gets even more intense at that point, all the way to someone (coach Erik Spoelstra, in all likelihood, though everyone else seems to think Chris Bosh is more likely) getting shown the door.
And all of this is, on some level, ridiculous: the idea that a championship is the only possible point of success, and that said championship will not be well-regarded short of a 16-0 run through everything and everyone, is even more absurd. But that's just how much damage this configuration of stars did on a PR level, and just how much we enjoy seeing arrogant people humbled. It's also, on some level, why the fans hate the Heat much more than their opponents do. Miami takes all of the expectations away, really, and gives everyone the chance to play relatively loose. It's a rigged game, and maybe one that doesn't really enter into anyone's minds once the ball goes up, but there it is nonetheless.