Heat Mindful Of Toll Of Being Elite




VIDEO: D-Wade spurs Heat to hard-earned Christmas win over the Lakers

LOS ANGELES — They don’t have to see it or even acknowledge it. But it’s there, every moment of every single day for the Miami Heat. Playing on that tight-rope, before the biggest crowds in Miami and everywhere else, takes a toll on the greatest of players and teams.

The Heat needed only to look down the hall on Christmas to the other locker room, where injured Lakers superstars and future Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash arrived for the days’ affair in street clothes that they would wear before, during and after the Heat’s closer-than-expected win at the Staples Center. Earlier in the day in Brooklyn,  fellow aging stars (and future Hall of Famers) Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, key members of Boston’s Big 3 (along with Heat reserve Ray Allen), looked like shells of their former selves as the Chicago Bulls trounced the Nets.

James shouldn’t be consumed with his own basketball mortality since he’s at the height of his powers … and trust me, he’s not. But what’s going on around him now is a cautionary tale worth filing away. All of those aforementioned stars, Bryant in particular, have plenty of miles on their bodies. They’ve all soared to great heights in their careers, both individually and otherwise. But it all comes at a physical, mental and emotional price that those stars have to be willing to pay at some point.

James sent out a tweet last week wishing Bryant a speedy recovery from his latest setback, a fractured left knee that followed Achilles surgery that limited him to just six games this season. But that’s basically the extent of his empathy. He’s not going to let anything slow him down, not in the prime of his career and not while the Heat are in the midst of building a dynasty of their own.

“No, I don’t,” James said when asked if he ever ponders his own career clock. “I try to live in the moment. Only the Man Above knows how much time He’s going to give me with this game. Once He decides that I don’t have any more time or when that is, I’ll call it quits … none of us can play forever, though. We’ve all gotta go [sometime].”

That time isn’t anytime soon. Even with the Indiana Pacers pressing them in the Eastern Conference and challengers from Oklahoma City to San Antonio and everywhere else lining up in the Western Conference, there will be no shortage of challenges for this Heat team deal with as we progress toward the postseason.

Trying to make The Finals for a fourth straight season is taxing enough, let alone trying to win the title for the third straight season. The Heat are doing it with Dwyane Wade on a plan to measure his minutes and preserve his body for the entire (anticipated) stretch of a season that ends again in June.

As long as James is healthy and leads the way, though, the Heat don’t have the concerns about longevity that some outsiders might harbor. They also certainly don’t have any issues with sustained excellence, according to Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni.

“They are the same they’ve been the last two seasons, if not better,” he said. “LeBron’s playing out of his mind. He gets better every year, which is hard to say for a guy like that. They are better. They are just laying in the weeds a little bit. But you can’t count ‘em out. They’ll be there at the end. They’ll probably have home-court advantage, if not it’ll be right there.”

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, among others, will want to have a say about who brings home that Larry O’Brien trophy as well. But only the Spurs understand exactly what the Heat have come to understand these past four seasons.

Winning and winning big is more than just a notion. It’s what James, adopting the terminology of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, calls a “process.” And one that James was much more prepared for than his coaches and Heat teammates, as James had tried unsuccessfully to climb that mountain in Cleveland before embarking again and succeeding in Miami.

That’s why the Heat, and Spoelstra in particular, know that no one in the organization can take this time or the relative good health of their stars and role players alike for granted. He knows James in the midst of his prime — “physically, mentally and emotionally” as he put it — and with good health has years of operating as the best player in basketball ahead of him.

But times haven’t always been this good in Miami. And Spoelstra has a long memory.

“We’ve been through a lot of teams in 18-plus years in Miami where we had championship-contending teams, where we had 15-win teams, we’ve had 20-, 30- and 40-win teams,” Spoelstra said. “So we’ve seen it all. And when you have a team like this that you know, as long as you have your health you have an opportunity to play for a title, and that’s all you might have is an opportunity, none of us want to take it for granted. This is a special group that we have. And you don’t know how long it will last so you want to make the most of it.”

James refusing to look beyond anything but the here and now makes much more sense after hearing Spoelstra talk about that process. It’s also why James doesn’t fret these days every time the Heat have a hiccup, or face an unsuspected test the way they did from Nick “Swaggy P” Young and the Lakers on Christmas.

He’s comfortable with where his team is right now, with the initial stages of this season’s journey already behind them.

“I don’t want to say comfortable, because I don’t ever like to be, too comfortable … [at least not] until the end, when we raise that trophy,” James said. “But I can say the process, and where we’re trying to get better right now, we’re right on point. We’ve had a couple of bumps in the road, but we’ve taken more steps forward than backward. And I’m excited about that.”

45 Comments

  1. JMaine says:

    Kyle I must say you know some basketball. Only thing I can say is I don’t recall Jordan going to the finals without a legit number 2 player, plus never get past the 1 round without pippen. 6 for 6 is nothing if thats as many time as you can go to the finals. LBJ already been to the finals 4 times i think he has at least another 3 finals and I say at least. I’ll be called crazy but I already think LBJ is better then Jordan and i watched Jordan play. I done asking who is the next Jordan he’s here, Yall haters keep looking. I’ll appreciate The New G.O.A.T. while i can. I’m a player fan, not a team fan i love watching the NBA and the talent it has running around. O LBJ can’t shoot outside, please refer to Games 7 2013 finals.

  2. kyle says:

    Everyone plays there best ball against the Miami Heat, just the way things are. Heat are bored right now, they just want the playoffs to start… it was like the Lakers during their 2010 campaign. Lebron is the best player in the league and the most important player on the best team. Lebron is just a natural leader, he makes those around him better, very unselfish and exciting to watch, even if not scoring, that’s what basketball is about. I don’t understand how fans of the sport can hate LeBron. MJ transcended his position, hell transcended the league, LeBron is doing this now, owners construct their teams based on how LeBron has changed the game. I love every player on the league, but LeBron is on a different level. I feel sorry for the likes of Durant and Rose… wrong era to be in the NBA.

    Next step for LeBron on his legacy is to see how he adapts when his athleticism starts to diminish, a few years ago I would said he would become a straight up post player… but they way he has improved his shot over the past 2-3 season has been fantastic, and he is getting better.

    Durant hands down, the greatest scorer in the league, and I believe can hit the 40,000 point mark in his career, health permitting, but he still has another 5-6 years being no.2 to LeBron…

    Pacers are a great team, smart as well and they are capable of winning some games against Miami, but not a 7 game series… these are chess matches… and if Oden is legit or Bynum comes to Miami, its a wrap.

    Wade is in a great position, LeBron can do the leg work and Wade can pick his spots, there efficiency is mind-blowing…

  3. I’d still take duncan over lebron

  4. George says:

    On top ten dunks of 2013 video, why is their no lebron alley oops vs the lakers?!? Those were the best ones yet

  5. nelman says:

    Yo heat eay 2 good bron and wade are so efficient

  6. #MIAMIHEAT3peat says:

    Ppl still hate even after LBJ and Miami Heat won gold 2yrs in a row, all you haters make me laugh ! #pathetic

  7. FINALS says:

    @LOL Miami will beat Indiana for the third time in the playoffs just like 2013 playoffs and 2012 playoffs.

  8. lol says:

    Pacers will beat heat 4-2 in playoff series and win it all

  9. Cripple Rapist says:

    Darryl Hines want some tissue darling… You’re about to cry again… What’s wrong Did Lebron destroyed your team again??? wipe that tears… That Lebron guy made my poor darling Darryl crying again… ohh I hate that MIAMI HEAT team….

  10. FLAMOUNTAINMAN says:

    AND ANOTHER THING,LOL. EVERYONE SAID THE SAME THING LAST YEAR WITH INDIANA, AND THE 2 YEARS BEFORE WITH CHICAGO. YOU KNOW LEBRON CAN SCORE OUTSIDE THE PAINT, DONT MAKE A POINT THAT YOU YOURSLF REALIZE IS UNCOMMON. KEEP IT REAL DUDE, RIGHT NOW, YOUR WHINING LIKE A …….

  11. Simran says:

    I don’t see any point of you other commenters talking about LeBron can’t do tis or he can’t shoot or he can’t win it this year. Yes this year does seem tough but everyone has been saying the same the same thing about James since 2010 and here we are – the heat are going for a threepeat. Nothing is certain until someone is eliminated and certain count on the Heat to win it all this year as well.

  12. Sam says:

    Its amazing to see great basket ball by the best players in the world.
    But I agree with the Darryl Hines. The other best team in the east is Indiana can beat.
    Heat has to make some moves to get more offensive rebounds. I wish LBJ gets 3rd championship.
    GO HEAT GO………………………

  13. Freida says:

    We will see how Indiana fares against the Miami Heat. Pacers have a great team but Miami has the experience of championships. Hopefully after the All Star Game, Oden will start playing. It is not going to be easy at all. In the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. LBJ seems to somehow win a game even in the championship games. If it weren’t for LeBron to bring the Miami Heat up to only down 3 points in Game 6 last year, Bosh and Ray Allen would not have had the chance to tie the game. It is a team effort. Go Miami Heat!

  14. mackzzz says:

    my mistake, I mean the Lakers is not a contender this time..but sure thing they are fun to watch with those ball movement and team chemistry

  15. PalmOil Preference says:

    The Heat are the only team that has an on and off switch. With that said health should be there number one concern. Securing home court advantage does little for this team besides burning them out. Staying healthy is the primary focus of all the NBA teams but when you are going to for your court straight final appearance it’s the only focus.

  16. sally says:

    Durant is one, the Heat are five, It’s not about the player it’s about how good they are as a team…Chemistry, I believe they call it. The Miami Heat are loaded with it. They will beat Indiana, they did it last year and they will do it again this year.

  17. Darryl Hines says:

    Heat are extremely vulnerable. There are only two good teams in the East and it will be easy to run through the conference until the get punched by Indiana. They struggled with an undermanned and young Laker squad, a weak Hawk team took them to OT and the Heat can lose to any one of five teams in the West. Only way Miami can have home court advantage is if the West beats itself up but like I said, the Heat won’t get past Indiana. LJ might be a great athlete but Durant is a better ball player and scorer. LJ went 7 for 7 inside the paint today and 0 for 7 outside.

    • mackzzz says:

      you watched the game? LBJ struggles big time from outside but not 0 for 7 hope you don’t forget that buzzer beater…and Durant a better ball player? a better scorer I believe, but no he’s not on LeBon’s level yet, LeBron is a natural play maker and he makes his team mates better and their lives on the court easier, Durant is kinda tryin and pushing too hard to be a play maker like Bron…and the Pacers really made bigtime strides, they are better this season but so is the HEAT, and don’t forget last year DWade is not his usual self against the Pacers, now the HEAT loose him a bit for him to be healthier in the post season… and please never call the Hawks weak you sounds like a fool they are so underrated but not weak, and the Lakers is playing so well and fun to watch with their ball movement, ok they are a contender this time around but they are fun to watch with a lot better chemistry than last season…

    • ingiwtf says:

      Durant hasn’t proven to be any better than LeBron. Just look back at the 2012 Finals, LeBron pounded him in the post and there was nothing that Durant could have done and nothing he can do about it come June. You say he did go for 7-7 inside the paint and 0-7 outside, sure his outside shooting isn’t good, but may I remind you that he shoots 59% from the field this season… he doesn’t have to take jump-shots, just attack the basket and he’s unstoppable. The Hawks are a very underrated team, you just think they are weak but you haven’t seen more than two or three games in which they play. I agree, Indiana is the biggest threat, is all comes down to D Wade’s health and certainly Oden’s health. If he can get back to himself, he will contain Hibbert and Miami will have less trouble dealing with that team.

    • Kunjaymaster says:

      So many negatives in that paragraph I don’t know where to begin. The Heat play an effort style basketball specially on defense with rotations and close outs at full speed which are necessary. Yes they look vulnerable when the effort is not there, but anyone who knows a thing or two about basketball realizes the ceiling of this Miami Heat is very high, and they have no interest in playing their best in December like Indiana started this season playing every game like a finals we’ll see at the end. So far the Heat has beaten all they are supposed to beat. Nobody denies Durant is a great scorer, and those don’t deny either that Lebron is the best “overall” player.

    • FLAMOUNTAINMAN says:

      ARE YOU SERIOUS? THIS MAN, lEBRON IS DOMIINATING THE YEAR<, mIAMI has one of the best records in the league, has won 19 straight games against the west regular season(20 is the record), and you zero in on a performance that someone would have to motivate themself to play a watered down team, away, on Christmas day!! You obviously are a negative minded person, or just a HATER.

    • common says:

      Man you need to look at this a bit more objectively.You saying that the heat will not get past indiana, is more like saying you ‘hope’ the heat will not get past indiana, and the west to the title. With respect to indiana,they are definitely an elite team, they have a good bench.But the question is can indiana find another gear to beat miami in 7 games? Because trust and believe that miami will always find a way to win. As for your comments on miami struggling to beat an undermanned laker squad, a weak hawk team etc, its only a 3rd way through the season,theres still a long way to go..But you and i both know how the story goes for miami when the playoffs come

    • henriquebfs says:

      This undermanned LA squad move the ball realy well, and even when they missed their shots, they got reb, which isnt hard against the Heat. This was what kept them in the game until halftime. You should remember this same group (plus Blake) came out a huge deficit agains Portland but couldnt keep it because gave too much 3s’. And the Hawks are a good team, with elite ball movement, and had a ton of threes and big games from korver, teague and millsap. ICYMI, LBJ got them back with 8 straight points and 1 dish to Allen. You should watch more games from the other teams and learn some ball before trash talking the elite ones.

    • henriquebfs says:

      This undermanned LA squad move the ball realy well, and even when they missed their shots, they got reb, which isnt hard against the Heat. This was what kept them in the game until halftime. You should remember this same group (plus Blake) came out a huge deficit agains Portland but couldnt keep it because gave too much 3s’. And the Hawks are a good team, with elite ball movement, and had a ton of threes and big games from korver, teague and millsap. ICYMI, LBJ got them back with 8 straight points and 1 dish to Allen. KD is a better scorer, anyway, but not a better ball player. But if i could vote for MVP this year, KD would be my choice.

    • Witness says:

      Wow. Everythign you said is just idiot hater talk. Get over it man. LBJ is the best player in the world hands down no matter what you try to tell yourself so you can sleep better at night LMAO

    • marty says:

      NITPICKING??

    • Boss says:

      We were dominating our first year in the regular season than lost in the finals, we look weak our second season won the title, had a bad start our third season then went on a 27 game winning streak than won the title. Your looking a regular season games that james is playing 29 minutes a game. And heat resting wade on back to backs to rest him for the playoffs. Were on chill mode and you don’t even realize it. Wade/Bosh can go for 30 any night but they set there egos aside cause you can’t have two or three batmans. Or three superman but you can have the king, flash and CB1 you cant be a team if three players are scoring 30. Also you can’t go all out on games that dont mean anything

  18. dustydreamnz says:

    It would be interesting to see how far the Heat would go in the Playoffs without LBJ.

    • Boss says:

      People forget wade has 3 rings sir one he won as MVP. I think that answers your question dustydreamnz

      • Bigwes95 says:

        I think that’s when Wade still had Shaq and wasn’t sitting out every few games. If LeBron was out then Wade would probably injure himself somehow and Bosh would be next to useless like he was against Indiana, LeBron just controls too much of the offense for them to get very far, look at OKC without Westbrook and how they lost in the second round, and Westbrook isn’t even their best player. Imagine Durant being taken off that team now, you think they’d go very far?

  19. Kofi says:

    I love the way this team plays and the respect and unselfish factors, though haters may hate but at the end of the day if the Heat are bless enough with good health and everything they will #3peat whiles the world’s best basketball player will still be greater.

  20. try to poster taht swaggyp to make it quite a little bit lol

  21. wak9 says:

    lol swaggy p

    • asd says:

      Swaggy p is one the most entertaining players in the league man, he is a joy to watch( if you haven’t seen him,just do it) I would just like to point out that ALL! the writers should write an apology to him, they all wrote that he was a bad acquisition over the summer.( yeah,kind of hard to believe, but is true,some people remember that.)

  22. there’s no question that miami will win its 3rd title in a row, and lebron will gonna win his 5th regular season MVP this season. they’re so amazing, always playing as a team, and that is basketball is all about.Go heat go….

  23. BigMIke says:

    Miami heat is big, not only for what they are doing in the court, but of the court too. When the lights are turned out. I dont see a bunch of alfha dogs coming together and dont have any problem.Do you remember of Shaq and kobe? There were supposed to be a even greater dinasty, but they couldnt fix their egos problem. We dont see that happening in miami. Thats why they have a big chance of winning it all again this year.

  24. okc2014 says:

    Lebron James is the best NBA player in the galaxy. He elevates his entire team to be the best they can be. That is the recipe for championship status. OKC is getting there!!!