Udonis Haslem knows what it’s like to be a member of a Super Team.
He won two championships and played in four consecutive NBA Finals when the Miami Heat had its Big Three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
So, has what the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors accomplished this season by breezing through the playoffs to a third consecutive Finals showdown cemented Haslem’s mind that the only way to contend for a title any more is to bring a collection of superstars together?
“Nah, I don’t think so,” the 14-year veteran and Heat captain answered Saturday when the question was posed to him at the Mountain Dew NBA 3X tournament at Bayfront Park.
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“You don’t have to have a super team. The problem is the majority of the league doesn’t play hard. You’ve got 20 percent of the NBA that does play hard. You take a super talented team that actually plays hard and that’s what you get. We’ve got a lot of talented teams in this league that don’t play hard. So when you take a super talented team that actually plays hard and plays the game the right way you get a team like Golden State.
“They’ll be other talented teams. The question is will they play hard like Golden State? Will they play together like Golden State? That’s what separates them from other talented teams. It’s the way they approach the game.”
Players and coaches for the Heat, which barely missed the playoffs this season after a 30-11 finish to the second half of the season, have repeatedly said since the season ended they truly believe they would have been able to make a deep postseason run.
Cleveland lost only one game – to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals – during its run to the Finals. Golden State swept Portland, Utah and San Antonio on its way to the Finals.
The Heat, which don’t have an All-Star on the roster and will have roughly $38 million in salary cap space to spend this summer, appear intent on keeping its core together this summer and resigning its own free agents, led by Dion Waiters and James Johnson.
Will that be enough to push Cleveland or Golden State?
“You got to have a good team,” said Heat forward Justise Winslow, who missed all but 18 games last season and is still a month away from fully recovering from shoulder surgery. “I don’t know about a super team. I don’t know how you define it. I don’t know what players have to average or what kind of star they have to be. You’ve just got to have a great team regardless. It could be 2005 it could be 2010, you have to have a great team to get to the Finals.
“We’ve just got to figure out how we can get to that level whether that’s with the guys we have or bring in new guys. We got to figure out how we’re going to get to the level of those two teams. It’s obvious they’re far ahead of everybody. We just got to attack it and try to get better.”
‘CAVS STILL HAVE A CHANCE’
Golden State’s 22-point blowout of Cleveland in Game 1 of the Finals Thursday night hasn’t shaken Haslem’s confidence in the Cavaliers’ chances.
“I still think Cleveland has a chance,” he said.
“I’m not surprised by the way Game 1 played out. You go and make adjustments. You go onto the next one. I’m sure [Cavs coach] Tyronn Lue and the rest of those guys understand that they can’t turn the ball over the way that they did. They have to be a little more active on defense. I don’t think they had any steals. Transition defense was bad. So, it’s not like you’re sitting there thinking ‘Wow. We played a great game and we still lost. What do we do next?’ There’s like three glaring things that I think they can look at that can improve their chances of winning Game 2.”
Winslow said it’s clear “the best two teams” made the Finals.
“It’s the best players in the world, its two high caliber teams, two great coaches,” he said. “I really think they’re kind of showing us the direction the game is going as far as a lot of the small ball and that sort of thing, the speed, the shooting. You can see in the Finals how the game is evolved and going. I’m locked in. I didn’t pay too much attention to the early rounds. The conference finals, the Finals I’m locked in every step of it.”
▪ So how would the Heat’s Big Three teams have fared against the Warriors or Cavaliers?
“It would have been fun to see man,” Haslem said. “Of course I’m going to pick our Big Three and the guys we had. That’s just my opinion. But I'm biased. But it would have been fun to see. It definitely would have been fun to see.”