HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — I’m still waiting for one member of the Heat organization to say: “We brought most of this onto ourselves.”
Not the loss, but the derision.
Not the Mavs’ happy celebration on their home court, but the global victory party that seemed to break out in every place but South Florida.
They still don’t get it.
Not coach Erik Spoelstra, who sat at the microphone in the interview room and talked about how all season long his team had to overcome “the noise.”
Who was it that threw the lavish and presumptuous bash on the same AmericanAirlines Arena floor last summer? Who was it that made entitlement a part of their uniform and locker room ethos?
LeBron James’ comment about the rest of the world going back to its pedestrian problems and lifestyle now earn him a place in privileged history next to Marie Antoinette .
But the biggest question is: How did Dwyane Wade let himself get roped into this Gordian Knot of a dilemma?
When Miami and Dallas last met in The Finals in 2006, it was Wade who elevated his game and lifted himself into the pantheon of NBA heroes, not just for the points he scored, but the manner in which he played and held himself.
In the seasons following, though, he had not been able to claim another title. Wade had maintained his profile by being both a tireless warrior who battled against the odds and a joyous personality who cavorted with Charles Barkley in TV commercials. He was positively embraceable and projected an aura that nothing would ever get him down.
As our main man Greg Stoda observed in the Palm Beach Post, there was definitely a different Wade who walked away from The Finals on Sunday night.
The Heat went from The Decision to The Defeat.
It wasn’t what Dwyane Wade envisioned.
He didn’t see failure – and that’s what Sunday night’s elimination at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks represented – as an option.
Not after LeBron James’ televised announcement (see: The Decision) that he would leave Cleveland to join Chris Bosh, who would leave Toronto, to come to Wade’s basketball family in search of nothing less than multiple titles.
Instead, the Heat went from the summertime hype and promise of the Wade-James-Bosh introductory party in AmericanAirlines Arena to The Defeat that ended its season in the same building.
“There’s an emptiness. We all went through a lot together,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It felt like two seasons built into one. The way this team was viewed – right, wrong or indifferent – we became a tougher team.”
Not tough enough.
Dallas did the deed with a 105-95 victory.
“The word ‘choked’ is overused,” Wade said. “We lost the finals. We ran into a team that was better than us.
“You’re never ready for the season to end. you’re always shocked. … Our goal was to win a championship. We didn’t do it in Year 1.”
They say it’s not bragging if you can do it. But Wade and James and Chris Bosh could not and so Year 1 — to use his term — is a yoke they will wear around their necks even if they eventually win the five, six, seven or more championships they fantasized back on July 9 of last year.
The hope has to be that a labor impasse will not produce a long layoff that keeps the Heat from returning to the court to try again. The hope also has to be that having tried James’ anointed, above-it-all, surly approach and failed, Wade might go back to being who he once was and convince his buddy — and the entire Miami organization — to again follow.
Wade paid the dearest price, sacrificing not only some of his game, but a large part of his image and only he can undo that.
It’s time the Heat stopped playing the role of victim. The first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have one.