There’s something eerily similar about this season. Miami fans can only hope those similarities are a harbinger of greater things ahead.
During the 2005-06 season, the Heat had started out 11-10 before Stan Van Gundy stepped down for “family reasons” and Pat Riley took over the reins of the team. From that point on, Riley guided them to a 30-19 record before getting destroyed by 36 points, 112-76 by the Mavericks in Dallas on February 9, 2006.
After the demoralizing, nationally-televised debacle, the players held a team meeting. Udonis Haslem is credited as having been a huge part of the discussion, demanding that his teammates be accountable.
What followed is history. Miami went on to win their next ten games, and fifteen of their next sixteen. They developed their “15 Strong” message that fueled their passion and united them as a team, and eventually, with the dynamic, Herculean efforts of Dwyane Wade, took a six-game NBA Finals series from those self-same Dallas Mavericks to win the franchise’s first title.
With a team similarly loaded with talent, yet mired in mediocrity, there are numerous calls by many for Pat Riley to once again swoop down, oust his former assistant, and take over the team he built during the offseason.
Those cries are likely to grow louder after another devastating loss to the Dallas Mavericks, 106-95. that dropped the Heat to a very disappointing 9-8 record, unless the latest player-only meeting following that defeat results in a drastic and immediate turnaround.
Such a turnaround isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, either, as many of Miami’s upcoming opponents aren’t exactly the cream of the crop in the NBA. Their next game is against lowly Washington. The Heat seem to have the Wizards number as much as the Mavericks have Miami’s.
Following that contest, eight of the Heat’s next eleven opponents currently have a record below .500, including the Wizards again on December 18, just two days before they’ll face off against the Mavericks for the second time this season; looking for redemption, and an end to Dallas’ regular-season dominance over them.
There are numerous Heat-Haters who are desperately hoping none of that happens, and there are probably an equal number of Heat fans who hope they fail a little more so that Spoelstra is ousted and Riley comes back.
Regardless of how all this plays out, I think only the incredibly foolish would doubt this talented Miami squad can right their ship and sail into the playoffs seven months from now as one of the potential favorites to win the title this year.
Will they do so? That remains to be seen. Nothing in life is a given.
Will they live up to the hype that was laid upon them prior to the season, including by this writer? Not likely. They’ve already lost more games over the first 17 than I predicted they’d lose all season. So, there’s no chance of them being as historic as they could’ve been if everything had worked out perfectly.
However, can they still make some history? Absolutely.
This team, as I’ve stated numerous times, isn’t just built to win, but to dominate. It’s not just built to be a championship team, but a team for the ages. Those goals are still in reach, but the window of opportunity to gain a measure of that history this year is beginning to slip away.
The Heat players need to spend more time on the court practicing and developing into a cohesive unit than they obviously have. They need to begin to truly focus their minds so their bodies can follow, and most importantly, they need to be accountable for the mediocrity they’re mired in. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh seem to understand all that, but only their actions on the court over the next months will prove whether they do.
One thing they may need is Riley to do just what everyone seems to believe he planned on doing right from the start. If that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes. However, he’s not the only solution to the problems facing Miami.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe Spoelstra isn’t the one to bring the Heat a championship, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be proven wrong. If the players on Miami devote themselves to being the best they can be, both individually, and as a team, there’s nothing they can’t do.
Again, the similarities to the 2006 title season the Heat enjoyed are legion. Miami fans can only hope the end result of this year is the same.
Only time will tell.