HANG TIME, Texas — Horns will be honking, confetti will be falling, fans will be wildly celebrating the championship season.
No, it’s never too soon to look at where the victory parade might roll in 2014.
Not so fast, Knicks. Last season was your best shot. The Clippers finally landed Doc Rivers, but without the rest of the makeover that Kevin Garnett provides, the Clips are still a Lob City sideshow.
The smarter-than-everybody front office booted the best coach in franchise history, so that takes the Grizzlies a step back. The Warriors are so much fun, but the fragile state of Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut will again be a concern.
Can we really talk about the Lakers with Kobe Bryant rehabbing his Achilles’ and Dwight Howard with his head in the clouds?
So let’s take a peek at the six most likely teams to be dancing next June.
Oh, there will be a summer of hand-wringing and debating about what to do to improve a team that’s won two consecutive titles and played in three straight NBA Finals. All this from people who would probably stand inside the Sistine Chapel and complain about Michelangelo’s brush strokes. Chris Bosh will be left out to dry more than a discarded bikini top on South Beach.
Then the regular season will begin, the Heat will eventually lose a game and the sky will fall again. Lose two in a row and there will be an all-out panic. Dwyane Wade will be sized up for a wheelchair to roll down Collins Avenue with the rest of the senior citizens. Even a 28-game winning streak won’t stop the fretting. Never mind that LeBron James will likely be on his way to a fifth MVP award.
But after all they’ve been through, all they’ve survived, all they’ve proven about themselves over the past two years, do we really doubt that the Heat can raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy again?
San Antonio Spurs
Go ahead, doubt them, disparage them, write them off as being too old and injury-prone. Again.
For all of the stumbling and bumbling around the court done by Manu Ginobili for most of The Finals, there was the overlooked and under-appreciated work done by Kawhi Leonard. At 21, he was a slashing force to the basket and a capable 3-point shooter, as well as a willing rebounder and the man who shouldered the defensive burden through every round of the playoffs. Maybe he is the future face of the franchise.
Yet there is no reason to think that a recommitted and fit Tim Duncan can’t hit the high notes again and Tony Parker can’t lead the offense again. After pushing the Heat to the seven-game limit — and coming within 5.2 seconds in Game 6 of winning the series — a fit Spurs team next spring remains Miami’s toughest challenge in The Finals. (more…)