If you’re a Miami Heat fan, these are strange days as the NBA season comes to an end and the playoffs start Saturday.
For the first time since the 2007-2008 season — that’s roughly seven years — there will be no postseason for the Heat and their fans.
There is no looking forward to sweat-filled playoff battles with the Chicago Bulls, or the Boston Celtics, or the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference title. No leaping out of our seats at that magical last-minute three-pointer. Forget the Hollywood scenario we had envisioned of a Chris Bosh-led Heat vs. LeBron James’ Cavs in the semifinals.
And, never mind the parade through downtown Miami. Just wishful thinking at this point.
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The bitter truth is AmericanAirlines Arena is closed for basketball dreams this spring. Find something else to do, Heat fans.
It’s an empty feeling for those who follow the team, which in recent years has been our only consistent winner. What fun the team showed us when it was riding high. Who didn’t love those ESPN or ABC nighttime aerial shots of a packed AAA-by-the-bay for a deciding Game 7 at home?
This is the time of year when true fans (and fair-weather fans) would gear up, flying the Heat flag from their car windows and sporting the players’ Ts — and be all cocky about winning it all. No sweat. Heady times.
Instead, the team Wednesday night muddled through its final regular-season game against the Philadelphia 76ers — and actually was better off losing to bolster its draft lottery position.
The team ended the season with a 37-45 record, numbers last seen in the 1991-92 season when it won 38 games and played at the original Miami Arena in Overtown.
So who’s to blame for this fiasco? No finger pointing, except up at the sky.
It’s just that the basketball gods abandoned the team this year.
Yes, LeBron left, but injuries and the efforts of the new team to gel without him were doomed when Chris Bosh was sidelined for the remainder of the season with blood clots, from which he has recovered, thankfully.
The season all but ended there; we were just on life support, hoping for a miracle to make the playoffs.
There’s a bitter pill to swallow here, too.
As a community, we wanted to say, “We don’t need LeBron, we can do it without him. We’ve got Bosh and Dwyane Wade.”
The truth is, LeBron left us mortally wounded by proving Thomas Wolfe wrong and going home again. And it seems he took a bit of our magic, and luck, with him. His team is going to the playoffs.
As a basketball community, we’re licking our wounds, while the businesses around the arena themselves are taking a licking. At this time of year, they would cater to playoff-frenzied fans. There is that adverse economic impact.
The parking lots around the arena will be empty. So will the bars and eateries that prepared to make a small fortune this time of year.
What about the food vendors inside AAA, the security guards, the extra cleaning staff?
But wait, this shouldn’t be a downer. We’re talking about a team rooted in Pat Riley’s can-do attitude.
We can turn this around, Riley would say. Let’s re-sign Goran Dragic, get Hassan Whiteside into an anger-management class and make hay with that higher-than-usual draft pick.
That’s the beauty of sports. There’s always next year.