HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — If you were asked to pick one team to win the 2014 NBA championship, it would be nearly impossible to pick anyone other than the Miami Heat. They’re the two-time defending champs, they have the best player in the world and have the best pair of supporting stars in the league.
|Most games played,
last 3 seasons
But TNT’s Steve Kerr believes that the Heat are due for a dropoff because they’ve basically been too good for too long. Making three straight trips to The Finals, the Heat have played 297 games over the last three years, 21 more than any other team in the league and 33 more than any other team in the Eastern Conference.
“I think Miami falls short this year,” Kerr told NBA TV (above). “I just don’t think they’ll have quite enough energy and health and everything you need to win a title — a little bit of luck.” Kerr picks the Chicago Bulls to come out of the East.
In an L.A. Times article by Ben Bolch, Kerr spelled it out further …
“There’s a reason these teams don’t do it,” TNT analyst Steve Kerr said. “Emotionally, it’s just exhausting to keep doing it year after year, particularly when you have to deal with everything Miami has to deal with on a daily basis, just the constant critiquing and scrutiny on the team, and then you factor in the injuries with Wade and Bosh and their health. I don’t think Miami will get out of the East this year.”
The last team to reach The Finals four straight times was Larry Bird‘s Boston Celtics, who did it from 1984-87. The Chicago Bulls might have done it had Michael Jordan not retired in ’93 or ’98, but history tells us that getting back to The Finals isn’t easy.
The last Finals rematch (two teams facing each other for a second straight year) was the Bulls and Jazz in ’98. For 15 straight years, at least one of the two teams that played for a championship has failed to make it back. Kerr thinks it’s the Heat’s turn to come up short.
Kerr played with both Jordan and Tim Duncan, and played for coaches Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. So he knows what goes into winning championships and about the grind of an 82-game season and a long playoff run.
The Heat did regress defensively after their second straight trip to The Finals, going from fourth in defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to seventh last year. They ranked 11th on that end at the All-Star break, in cruise-control mode (call it a championship hangover if you wish) for most of the year, and more regular-season slippage wouldn’t be a surprise.
The improvement of the other Eastern Conference contenders will also make things tougher . Brooklyn added Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko. Chicago is getting Derrick Rose back. And Indiana — who took the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals — added quality depth, which they were severely lacking last season.
Still, until we see the Heat actually lose a seven-game series, it’s hard to pick someone else. James is head and shoulders above every other player in the league, he’s still just 28 years old, he’s gotten past whatever was holding him back three years ago, and he’s basically indestructible.
The Spurs came five seconds away from dethroning the Heat in June, but should have an even tougher time making it through the grind for a second straight season. And every other contender has as many reasons to pick against them as the Heat do. Only time will tell if Kerr was right to doubt the champs.