I am about to tell you what I think about the 2013-14 National Basketball Association season. But first I am going to tell you why you should care what I think.
Since 1985, I have covered the Chicago Bulls for three organizations spanning 20 of the 28 seasons. I covered them for United Press International from 1985-88, covered them for the Daily Herald, Chicago’s top suburban newspaper, from 1988-1999, and am now covering them for my fifth season for NBA.com.
I have written three Bulls-related books, and am contracted to write two more.
None of those facts means I know anything, but I may know more than a blogger who is sitting at home in his pajamas eating corn rinds while he blogs.
Now to the season: The Miami Heat will win it all again, barring any significant injuries. In fact, as you read this, put the words “barring any significant injury’’ in front of every sentence proclaiming a team’s success.
Assuming the Heat stay healthy, they are simply too strong physically, too diverse offensively and too capable defensively to be beaten by any team that exists in the league this season. They also have the best player in the league in LeBron James, who is still growing as a player and somehow is gaining confidence with every title he wins.
Proclaiming the Heat as the next champion is not a big step to take. But, unlike others, I give no chance to the other teams in the league to usurp the Heat from the title (did you put “barring any significant injury” in front of that sentence?)
I think the Heat have already won the title, and they have done so twice.
The first time the Heat won the 2013-14 NBA title is when they avoided losing the 2012-2013 title against San Antonio in Game Six last June. The Spurs, the best coached, most mature, most disciplined team in the league, had the title wrapped up in that game, and let it slip away. At the same time, the Heat took that game away, and by doing so, proved themselves to be talented and determined enough to overcome a really bad situation. They refused to fade quietly into the sunset.
That single win makes them aware that they can overcome any obstacle. That knowledge will come into play again next spring, if any team manages to put them up against a wall like they were against San Antonio.
The second time the Heat won the 2013-14 NBA title is when they beat the Bulls Tuesday in the season opener. The Bulls are considered one of the teams most likely to challenge the Heat, and they were no competition whatsoever. The Heat were playing the dreaded Ring Game, in which they play a game after receiving their championship rings. The Bulls always had real trouble with that first game after a title run; the Heat were perhaps more efficient than they were at the end of the 2013 season.
They did let the Bulls back into the game, but it was kind of like when a big brother lets his little brother get a couple of shots off playing one-on-one.
Here is what you need to know about the rest of the league:
The Bulls are not big enough inside. While they remain a tremendous defensive team, they rely too much on outside shooting offensively.
The San Antonio Spurs, the best-run team in the league, had their shot. If they get back to the title game, they don’t stand a chance.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are too dependent on one player. They could match the Heat physically, and would make for a fun final series against Miami, but Kevin Durant is feeling LeBron-like pressure to succeed, and he has to get past LeBron to do so.
The Indiana Pacers will challenge the Bulls as the best all-around team in the NBA. But their Big Three can’t compete with Miami’s Big Three.
The Los Angeles Clippers are the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Brooklyn Nets are too old on the court and too young off the court. The Golden State Warriors may be too much fun to watch; they seem sporadic to me.
In conclusion, let me say that I hate the fact that I feel this season is a foregone conclusion. There are 1,230 games in an NBA season, and it would be nice if most of those mattered. But other than playoff positioning and determining which teams get in and which don’t, I am not sure any of the games matter.
But I would hate to see a significant injury to the Heat change that status, because then the eventual champion will seem improperly crowned.
It’s a good thing the NBA never hired me for a marketing position.