Spoelstra is this season’s NBA Coach of the Year.
I should say he won’t be, but …
“He should be,” Stan Van Gundy said just Wednesday on 790 The Ticket.
Denver’s George Karl probably will win that trophy because voters are conditioned. They don’t reward coaches of great teams that are great. They reward coaches of teams that exceeded expectations.
The thing is, sometimes the best race car on the track also has the best driver. Sometimes the best horse also has the jockey who ran the best race.
It wouldn’t be right to penalize Spoelstra because he started with the best team — not when he made it even better. Not when his Heat exceeded expectations even when those expectations started so high.
A league-best and franchise-record 66-16 record, a 37-4 home record, an 18-1 finish on the road and that history-challenging, 27-game winning streak form a pretty solid body of work to present to a Coach of the Year committee.
So does Spolestra’s maneuvering and massaging of the rotation after the Big 3 of James, Wade and Chris Bosh and fourth starter Mario Chalmers. Haslem, Shane Battier and lately Mike Miller all have had major stretches as starters. Allen and Andersen have been essential off the bench. Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis have had their moments.
The metamorphosis since last season has seen Miami with deeper talent overall. Critics still question if the Heat has enough size and rebounding, but the composite is a team that enters these playoffs as a prohibitive favorite to a degree seldom seen in any season in any sport.
Wade was even asked the other day about the possibility Miami might sweep all four playoff series and make a golden 16-0 run to another title. Crazy.
It sure wasn’t like this one year ago.
No aura of dominance enveloped the Heat entering the 2012 playoffs.
The team’s record in the lockout-shortened season was only fourth-best in the NBA. LeBron still was shadowed by the can’t-win-the-big-one nonsense, because, well, he had not won the big one yet. And Miami’s path through the playoffs hardly made the case for dominance.
The Heat trailed Indiana 2 games to 1. Then faced two elimination games against Boston. Then lost the Finals opener to Oklahoma City.
If anything, the Heat felt like underdogs much of last postseason, or at least like a team running uphill.
“We’ll never be the underdogs,” Spoelstra guessed.
The Heat feels as if it will be a repeat champion not because it is entitled, but because it thinks it is better than everybody else. The regular season bore witness. The real proving starts Sunday.
“A lot of people say the hardest thing is to win your first championship. I think the hardest thing is to win another one, and then another one,” Wade said this week. “You can get that first one. You give it your all because it’s something you always dreamed of. But after you get to that mountaintop, now what do you pull [motivation] from? The hardest thing is to come back with that same intensity.”
This Heat team pulls that intensity from more than 60 years of NBA champions, from past great teams that distinguished themselves over time and resonate across time.
This Miami team wants to do more than win.
It wants to reign.
As Wade put it, “This is historic, what we are embarking on.”
Let it begin.
Let’s see where it ends.