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Enemy: Miami Heat
Coach: Erik Spolestra
Potential Starting 5: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Shane Battier, Chris Bosh
Other Key Players: Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller
Threats: Anything and everything that perimeter players can do
Grizzlies 2011-12 Record vs.: 1-0

This is a Grizzlies blog, dang it!  I don’t care who else is on his team, you bet I’m going to post a picture of Shane Battier when the situation allows!  At first I was upset with Shane, who is the reason I’m a Grizzlies fan in the first place, but over time I’ve grown to accept the fact that he has moved on.  So let’s get started on the Miami Heat with a full disclosure: it really pains me to write this preview.  Not particularly for any dislike for the Heat, but rather out of fear of redundancy with regards to everything else media-wise that is out there on the web, in print, and on television.  I generally try to diverge a little bit from the path in this series and offer a deeper look into the lesser explored areas of each team, but the Heat on the other hand, have hands down been the most talked about team in the league dating back to probably a week or so prior to the infamous decision.  You owe it to yourself to peep that link, by the way, if you’re in need of a good laugh (it’s not what you’re thinking).  Anyway, the Heat have been discussed and dissected at great lengths from just about every which angle, and I have to say, they’re one team that mass media has gotten right.  The “Superfriends” won their first ring last season, and have geared up for another go of it in attempt to repeat.  With the way that this offseason has played out, the scales have been tipped and the market has been so polarized to the extreme extent at which everybody outside of the respective die-hard fanbases of the other 28 is not only hoping for, but expecting a star-studded, long-awaited, Nike-wet-dream Kobe vs. Lebron matchup in the NBA Finals.  Outside of the obvious production out of their stars, I firmly believe that it was the lights out long-range shooting from Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers that won Miami the title last year.  I mean firmly.  And I believe that Pat Riley recognized this as well, as this offseason he went out and bolstered this strength by signing the top three-point shooter of all-time, and a fading, but still not old enough to be over the hill stretch 4.  The paint is going to be wide open for James to cycle in and out as he pleases which projects horribly for everybody outside of South Beach.

I naturally have to start this discussion of the Heat roster with Lebron James.  No matter what you’ll hear from Skip Bayless and the crazies out there, he is not Robin to Dwyane Wade’s Batman.  Win or lose, fail or succeed, the outcome will be attributed to Lebron… this is his team.  As good as he is, there is no athlete that has been ripped to shreds on such a large scale in the past few years, but I guess that is to be the case, when your public measure for career success is how your credentials compare to Michael Jordan.  When Lebron entered this league, it was hard to root against this 18 year old kid who could carry a team of men in a league of men.  But as Harvey Dent said, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  Take notes Kevin Durant; fans will turn on you too if you don’t watch your step… no matter how nice a guy you are.  We live in a sports world now where we prefer to have a villain to root against.  I’m guilty of it, myself.  It’s a consequence of this day and age of sports and media.  We have too much access to these guys.  It’s human nature and applies to relationships of all sorts.  Everyone looks great on the surface, but as our image of them grows clearer and the spotlight brighter, we start to hone in on and magnify the things that we don’t like out of what we see.  Our perception is skewed by our ease of access into this man’s life.  And let’s face it; he could be a lot worse.  There has been way too much exposure of Lebron, which has led to a point of disgust in many fans.  The guy has been a household name in the basketball world since he first donned his St. Vincent – St. Mary high school uniform, and has been in our faces ever since, driven to a breaking point with the mess of a decision that was to run The Decision.  The truth is, however, if we knew nothing outside of what he brought to the court, there would be little reason to root against him.  He plays an unselfish, well-rounded, pretty brand of basketball that we haven’t seen since Magic Johnson.  Of course that is not the case, but sometimes I feel like we (myself included) could stand to take a step back to appreciate what is before us. stepdownfrom{soapbox}

What the stars of Miami’s on court product bring to the table almost goes without saying.  Lebron James and Dwyane Wade present to the league the best tandem we have seen since the days of Kobe and Shaq.  The two are both elite playmakers with the ball, possessing the ability to score the ball in any situation on the court, as well as opening up the floor for the rest of the team to operate.  Forgotten in the shuffle is power forward/stretch center, Chris Bosh.  Bosh is quietly a major determinant of the team’s success, as it is very important that they establish some offense on the block.  He’s also dynamite in the mid-range game, which is such a good fit for their style versus a plodding big man.  Outside of the Superfriends, the Heat have constructed a roster of guys who can flat out shoot the ball.  Of the guys that factored into the rotation last year, Chalmers, Miller, Battier, James Jones, all served as marksmen from long range.  As a result, capitalizing on that strength by adding to it even more so with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis figures to only make the Heat stronger.  There has been much ado about the Allen signing over the summer, and regardless of how much he has left in the tank, all he needs to do is still move well off the ball and make the most of the wide open looks he’ll be provided to fuel a positive perception of the impact of his signing.

If there is anything that the Heat leave themselves exposed to on the floor, it is teams with good offensive big men.  Bosh is a good scorer, but a less than desirable defender, and outside of the oft-injured and undersized Udonis Haslem, the rest of their bigs are too much a liability on the offensive end to see too much of the floor.  This speaks to why the Heat were pressed in the playoffs against Indiana and Boston, but struggled very little in dispatching Oklahoma City.  Where I’m going with this, is that it seems pretty convenient then, for our interests.  Their biggest weakness happens to match up very poorly against our greatest strength.  We are not exactly the best team in the league when it comes to guarding the three ball, but with the offensive ability that Zach and Marc possess, the Heat cannot afford to simply stack the perimeter with shooters against us.  As long as our big men can stay on the floor and out of foul trouble, we can punish them in the paint to where they have to waste a spot on the floor on somebody like Dexter Pittman, who offers them little value outside of not letting our front court walk all over them.  Miami is a goliath opponent, but I really like the way that we match up against them at the guard spots as well.  Mike Conley and Tony Allen will be doing all they can to get in Chalmers and Wade’s heads with their abusive defensive style.  Lastly, there are few guys in the league that I would rather have on my side against Lebron, than Rudy Gay.  Athletically, Rudy has all the gifts to keep up with him, and clocking in at 248 lbs in this year’s training camp, he seems to have added the brawn to stand his ground, as well.  In addition, who can forget this monumental Grizzlies’ moment, complements of Rudy’s buzzer beater?  Surely this is a lofty hypothetical, but if we were to find ourselves in the NBA finals this year, it is more than likely that we’d be pegged against the Miami Heat, and I really believe that the way we are constructed, we can handle them.

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One Response to Assessing the Enemy…Miami Heat

  1. JoelNo Gravatar says:

    man, do I love those Blackout jerseys…. those things are slick

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