Take a trip back to the 2011 NBA Finals. The Miami Heat had just defeated the Chicago Bulls and MVP Derrick Rose to advance to face the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat had breezed through the regular season with a 58-24 record during the first season of the big three and were now heavily favored against Mark Cuban’s old Mavericks.
As we all recall, the Heat lost in six. Why? Sure, LeBron wasn’t LeBron. Yes, the bench wasn’t terrific. But what was probably the biggest problem? Team chemistry. The Heat simply couldn’t handle the well oiled Mavericks machine that had had a core intact for years. They weren’t the cohesive, unstoppable unit they needed to be.
Well, according to a report by NBA.com, the Heat now top the league in returning minutes for the 2013-2014 NBA season.
Despite the departure of Mike Miller, the Heat will return 95 percent of their regular-season minutes leaders, a number that leads the league by a good amount. The Thunder lost Kevin Martin, but are still returning 87 percent of last season’s minutes, a number that ranks second. The Spurs swapped Gary Neal for Marco Belinelli and obviously aren’t bringing back Stephen Jackson, but will have 82 percent of last season’s minutes on this year’s roster, a number that ranks fourth.
Shockingly, the Charlotte Bobcats… Hornets… whatever Jordan decides to call them… they’re still terrible… anyways, the team from Charlotte is third with 85% of the team returning from last season.
But back to the Heat, sure, it’s nice to be leading the NBA in yet another positive statistic, but what does this mean for Miami?
First of all, it means Pat Riley has done one crazy good job creating and maintaining this team. Unlike the Mavericks who fell off after tinkering with things following their 2011 Championship, the Heat have kept relatively the same team on the floor. Of the 15 players on the 2011-2012 Championship team that defeated the Thunder, the Heat still have nine of the those players on the roster: Joel Anthony, Shane Battier, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, LeBron James, James Jones, and Dwayne Wade. Mike Miller is the only key contributor gone, but the Heat have since then added the NBA’s all time leading three point shooter in Ray Allen. This season, Greg Oden and Rashard Lewis could be the players that get onto the court on a regular basis. But still, Riley is daring the rest of the NBA to beat them after winning it all last season with this squad.
Secondly, the Heat have done one crazy good job learning how to play together. Back three years ago when “The Decision” shook the NBA, the only question surrounding Miami was their ability to gel. And even when things weren’t going as planned, all fans could do was wait. The President of the United States even chipped in back in 2010 when the Heat started off slow with an 8-7 start…
“It takes some time for the team to come together,” Obama said. “There’s no ‘I’ in team. So no matter how good a player is, no matter how good a group of players are, if they haven’t played together before they are not going to be as good as a team that has played together a long time.”
Since those first 15 games, the Heat are 170-60 with two championships. So I guess you could say they’ve figured things out.
Things will likely have to change following Miami’s run this season for a three-peat, but for now, the Heat will be looking all too familiar when they take the floor against the Bulls Oct. 29.