As we enter the second half of the NBA season, the rest of the games are more of a formality than anything else.
The Miami Heat have the title locked up, after all.
Don’t get it twisted: I’m no South Beach fan boy.
In fact, I despise LeBron James for his immaturity and a certain “Decision” as much as the next guy. Plus, I can’t even pretend to be a Dwyane Wade apologist after his egregiously out-of-line foul on Kobe Bryant in the All-Star Game. Then, there’s Chris Bosh, who makes more dinosaur faces on the court than Dick Vitale.
The cast of hated athletes can’t hide the simple fact that Miami (27-7) is the best team in the world.
LeBron is the best player in the NBA as its leader in combined points, assists and rebounds. Wade (22.4 points per game) is the best wingman in the league. Throw in the All-Star skills of Bosh (18.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game), and the Heat are a tough out when the playoffs come around.
Perhaps the Heat’s most overlooked weapon is the support in place for their three stars. Rookie guard Norris Cole has been a revelation in the backcourt. Mike Miller and James Jones are dead-on from deep. Heck, even the beleaguered Mario Chalmers (11.1 PPG) is having a career year.
All this aside, the Heat’s competition must be addressed.
The only other team that looks like it can give Miami a run for its money is Oklahoma City (27-7). Forward Kevin Durant leads the prairie charge with talented point guard Russell Westbrook, but that’s it.
The West’s second-best team, San Antonio (24-10), is full of veteran players who will wear down by May, making them a non-factor.
Chicago, by far the biggest threat in the East at 28-8, is well rounded but has not been playing up to potential. All-Star Derrick Rose is battling injuries, and besides, the Heat put the Bulls in their place in the last postseason with a 4-1 series victory.
The true thorn in the Heat’s side is the Dallas Mavericks (21-14), who topped them in the NBA Finals last summer. But a new tone was set in the first game this season, when the Heat absolutely shellacked Dirk Nowitzki and co. The Mavericks are playing in a tough Western Conference and might not even make it to the playoffs this year.
Beyond those few franchises, the competition is laughable.
The Knicks (17-18) and “Linsanity” were shut down by James and Wade last week. The Clippers (20-12) are pretenders. The Lakers (20-14) and Celtics (16-17) are washed up. Indiana (22-12) and Philadelphia (21-14) haven’t won a postseason series since Vietnam.
With unbelievable talent and capable spare parts, the Heat will breeze through the playoffs like Mother Theresa through a DUI checkpoint.
There’s no telling how many more seasons they will be competitive—Wade, 30, has clearly lost a step or two, and LeBron, 27, can only go down from here. They at least have 2012 to whip everyone else before players like Rose and Durant hit their prime and the balance of power shifts.
Which means that, this year at least, the Heat will be unstoppable in their quest to get LeBron what he wants so badly.
More attenti—I mean a ring.