So, the Heat should worry because the only team that can stop it from a fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance — maybe the only team that can stop it from winning a third consecutive NBA title — just signed a big guy who was such an annoyance, Cleveland ate big money in telling him to agitate the gravel?
The Heat locker room publicly shrugged Saturday at the signing and likely did so privately aside from a few witty jokes. This is a team that believes, correctly, that while time and pain have improved Indiana, whether or not the Heat complete the championship hat trick relies largely on itself.
Can Dwyane Wade be Dwyane Wade again for an entire Eastern Conference final? The Heat can get through the rest of the East with Wade on a maintenance plan or having games where he’s an above average player. It will take an extra game here or there, which you never like, but that’s not a problem against any two teams not named Indiana put together.
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Against Indiana, Miami will need six or seven games of the future Hall of Fame Wade to get the job done. Bynum neither helps nor hurts in that regard.
Can Chris Bosh continue to be that helpful omnipresence, having a hand in most wins even if that hand’s not doing what stat-minded fans and media wish it were? Bosh draws Hibbert and Bynum out of the middle with his range, then makes them work and getting up and down the floor.
The Heat knows it’s about the three-point line, both defending it and scoring from behind it. If the Heat’s snipers misfire, that lane gets packed like Miami Beach streets during Art Basel and those penetration-and-ones dwindle to not often enough.
Hibbert’s Metallo, the super-strong villain with the kryptonite heart. Great against Superman, not the most useful guy against the rest of the Justice League. Hibbert hurts no team more than he does the Heat, yet still, the Heat find ways around and over him. Bynum’s Hibbert Lite at this point.
Most ridiculous is the idea Indiana signed Bynum to keep him from the Heat. Although the Heat has nothing against height, it already has a big guy with unreliable lower limbs, one who showed tremendous determination just to get back to being able to take the floor. Greg Oden embodies the diligence, grit and good citizenship the Heat likes to think of as its franchise hallmarks. Oden might not be a problem for opponents the way it hopes, but the Heat knows he won’t be a problem for them in the locker room or after midnight.
The team in Oden’s hometown is laying money its locker room is strong enough to either quell or deflect any bad Bynum attitude. It probably is. The Pacers have almost as many solid citizens as the Heat.
But Bynum, as stated earlier, got paid to go away by Cleveland. Cleveland throws around money like your uncle who’s wearing the same pants he wore in 1988.
The Heat sold sacrifice to everybody on its roster — play for less, play out of position, etc. Bynum didn’t sacrifice jack when he was getting paid well by Cleveland, so how would he have fit on Team Sacrifice?
Bynum, at best, makes the Pacers more of what they are. If the Heat can be more of what it is, it doesn’t matter. And if it can’t, Bynum might not matter anyway.