The season ends like this, “Poo-tee-weet?”
Of course, I’m referring to the classic novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five. But it seemed applicable when thinking of this long, spiraling and seemingly-timeless journey through the 82-game regular season.
It began simply enough, an opening victory over a Chicago Bulls team that was a title contender being led by Derrick Rose. And yet, at the end of the season, like a loop unstuck in time, the Bulls are once again a verdant garden, albeit one without a Rose. Perhaps the season did not really begin until the next day, when Miami – without the services of Dwyane Wade in first game of a season-long maintenance program – fell victims to the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that is historically terrible.
And here they go again, facing those same Sixers and likely to lose, impossibly, again.
Miami has stopped caring, perhaps not ever caring at all. I had hoped, all those long months ago, that the Miami Heat would take this season to establish themselves among the greatest teams of all time, challenging the regular season victory total of 72. That seems ludicrous now, doesn’t it? Like watching Indiana dominate the season early, peak at the start of 2014 and then implode over the last three months? Miami, not ever considering a realistic run at the top-seed in the Eastern Conference – much less over 65 wins – was content to simply plod their way through the season.
Trying to stay healthy, stick to the “process,” whatever that might mean.
And hasn’t that become an all-too-often-repeated mantra for this timeless, never-ending season? From Head Coach (and ageless wonder) Erik Spoelstra down to superstar LeBron James (facing another major Decision after four years, another loop in time), every member of the Heat speaks of a “process,” theoretically improving as the season progresses(!), when in reality, the team seems no more improved after 80 games than they did when they were surprised by a collection of misfit players from the City of Brotherly Love.
The season ends on Wednesday and we have no clear understanding of what kind of team can or will advance through the playoffs. All we know for certain is that a big chunk of the players that will – again, theoretically – compete for a championship, will be resting against the Sixers, giving way to a sad lineup that includes three starters from a woeful 2009 Heat team. Have we truly gone back in time?
Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s roster includes athletes with hardly any experience at the professional level and this game might very well be their last in the NBA. They’ll do their best (which still isn’t very good) to beat a team that is, at this point, only a facsimile of a championship contender.
Games like these must happen, because time isn’t linear and in order to finally free themselves of the regular season vortex, it needs to be played out just as it once and always will be played out.
Watch the telecast of the game beginning at 8 P.M. on Sun Sports from the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Check back with AllUCanHeat for a regular updates and for a full recap after the game.