IN MY OPINION

Greg Cote: Miami Heat’s toughest opponent right now might be boredom

 
 
Miami Heat's LeBron James after team practice at the Al McGuire Center at Marquette University Campus on Saturday, April 27, 2013.
Miami Heat's LeBron James after team practice at the Al McGuire Center at Marquette University Campus on Saturday, April 27, 2013.
Al Diaz / Miami Herald Staff
WEB VOTE Will the Celtics or Rockets become the first NBA team to recover from a 3-0 series deficit to win a seven-game series?

gcote@MiamiHerald.com

It is cute the things we do to manufacture drama in a Heat postseason that is lacking in that because, well, because Miami is so good that even pretending the NBA champions might not repeat — let alone that they would be seriously threatened in the early rounds — takes some real imagination.

There wasn’t even the pretense of drama before or during the first-round sweep of Milwaukee. The Bucks’ Brandon Jennings guaranteeing his team would win in six games was offered as a novelty, but it was so preposterous you just wanted to hug Jennings, pat him on the head and say, “There, there,” like you would a lunatic uncle who claims there’s a Martian at the door.

Now comes the second round — well, eventually! — and we’re inching closer to actual drama if only because Chicago and Brooklyn are sincerely better than Milwaukee. (I’d say as cities as well as teams, but that might be mean).

It still stretches credulity, though, to prop up either the Bulls or Nets as an opponent that should worry Miami. It was fitting that Thursday for the Bulls and Nets meant a fight for playoff survival, while Thursday for the Heat meant a day off. A leisurely brunch, perhaps. Maybe a nice massage. Haircut?

Chicago and Brooklyn work overtime for the right to meet the basketball guillotine that is a rested LeBron James & Co.

We so want to believe “the playoffs start now,” that the second round will really test Miami and bring some exciting tension to this Heat postseason. But because that’s so tough to fathom, let’s go find some fake drama here. Where is it?

How about this: Boredom! Heat players will have had a full week off by Monday’s Game 1 of the next round here, or what Shane Battier called “a playoff bye week.” (Actually that would be two bye weeks in a row for Miami: Bucks in the first round, now all this time off).

Perhaps mojo and momentum are frittering away.

“Dudes get bored,” noted Chris Bosh.

Maybe that’s why Battier has cultivated an idle-time mustache that looks like its heroes were Hulk Hogan and Dr. Fu Manchu.

LeBron used his free time to donate $1 million Thursday to his old high school in Akron, Ohio, which trumps growing a mustache.

Or how about this for some fake worry: Rest turning to rust! The concern that Miami will be all out of playoff shape Monday while the opponent will be revving at postseason RPMs.

“I really don’t like a lot of rest,” said LeBron, ominously.

I’ll give you that one. There is a real concern the rust factor means Miami could be a bit ragged the first five minutes or so in Game 1. It’s those other 43 minutes that should worry the opponent.

Making the case for Brooklyn as a dangerous next foe for Miami would have been a particular challenge, considering the Heat was 3-0 against the Nets this season by a combined 53-point margin.

Chicago as a tough opponent is at least an easier sell. The Bulls and Heat were 2-2 this season, and it was Chicago that ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak, after all.

An arcane statistical nugget unearthed by ESPN.com this week further suggested that the Bulls possess a secret weapon against one of Miami’s big weapons: Chicago’s defense allows fewer corner three-point attempts than any team, and that far corner is where LeBron is looking first for an open man when his rhinoceros runs into the paint draw every defender with a death wish.

So if I have this straight, the theory is that Chicago will give Miami fits by limiting Ray Allen to, say, two corner three-point attempts per game instead of four? Really!?

I would counter with a reason — beyond all prevailing logic including Chicago lacking the offensive firepower — to like Miami over Chicago.

Dwyane Wade’s bruised right knee will be rested.

And Derrick Rose’s repaired left knee will still be resting.

Wade should be close to healthy again Monday in his first game in nine days.

Rose’s return is anybody’s guess – although speculation about that would pass for decent drama in Round 2 in lieu of the expectation of, say, a seven-game series. Rose reportedly has been medically cleared to play after ACL surgery almost a year ago (last May 12), but doesn’t feel comfortable enough to return yet. Analyst Steve Kerr said Rose “owes it to his teammates” to tough it out and join this playoff run now. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and teammates publicly support Rose’s caution (which is not always the same as privately endorsing it).

So where is the real playoff drama for Miami? The kind that emanates from the court in a series that is taut or teetering?

Didn’t come from Milwaukee. Doubt it will come in the next round. Might it then come from Indiana or New York after both are struggling just to get past the first round? Might it finally come from an Oklahoma City perhaps without Russell Westbrook? Or from an aging San Antonio?

Might it come at all for the Heat this postseason?

Commissioner David Stern and TV networks praying for Game 7s have to hope it will as they pitch the idea that anything can happen and nothing is foregone.

It’s a tough sell, though, in 2013. Why pretend?

The reigning champions are coming off a club-record-setting season for victories, led by the best player in the known galaxy. They have won 41 of their past 43 games. No team in any sport is running hotter or is more confident, and justifiably so, than the Heat is right now.

Am I saying this Heat team cannot be beaten?

Of course not.

What I’m saying is this Miami team, healthy, cannot be beaten in a seven-game series — no drama, no doubt.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
LeBron James cheers as he holds both trophies after the Heat won Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida on Thursday, June 20, 2013.

    In My Opinion

    Greg Cote: Element of doubt makes this Miami Heat quest intriguing

    This time it feels different, doesn’t it? The Heat in the Big3 Era always has found a way to keep things fresh and keep us fascinated, and now that means trying on a role unlike any the team has played in the previous three seasons. This time, for the first time since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade, Miami enters a postseason seeming a bit vulnerable — something close to the unlikeliest of underdogs.

  • In My Opinion

    Greg Cote: Now we find out if waiting for Dwyane Wade was worth it

    Dwyane Wade had earned a new nickname. It wasn’t all that flattering. Heat fans hoped it was temporary, like a press-on tattoo. But, until Saturday night, it fit:

  •  
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade sits the game out as the Heat hosts the Indiana Pacers in a pivotal matchup at the AmericanAirlines Arena for the number one playoff seed in the Eastern Conference on April 11, 2014.

    In My Opinion | Greg Cote

    Greg Cote: For Miami Heat, it’s a numbers game — No. 1 and No. 3

    The Heat’s game against the Pacers here Friday night understandably was billed as the battle for No. 1 — for the top conference playoff seeding as the NBA postseason fast approaches. It was supposed to be crucial because it would determine who would have home-court advantage in a deciding Game 7 in these teams’ inevitable Eastern finals rematch. Nice, neat little story line.

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category