So HeatNation, a season of turbulence, roster musical chairs, extreme highs and unquestionable lows came to an end for our beloved Heat without a playoff berth. It is kind of weird to be in this spot after a historical four year run in the Finals, weird to not be talking of Heat Basketball come May. Yet. if there is one silver lining to this experience, it is that this team and its fanbase is far from broken. The Heat’s future remains extremely bright so, Heat Nation, let’s recap what we learned this season…
1. Injuries Begone
The single most maligned reason why a talented Heat team could not failed at entering the playoffs is due to injuries. It seemed Coach Spo could not rely on having a stable line-up as almost every player dealt with some ailment and he would have to tweak the starters some times just an hour before a game. D-Wade’s knees and leg problems, CB’s unexpected blood clots, Hassan’s lacerated hand, McRoberts’ season ending injury all served to minimize the chemistry and stability of this year’s squad. This extra time off, while hurtful for the fans, will allow the entire team to rest, relax, and recuperate.
2. Flash’s Resurgence
Many doubted whether D-Wade would be the same not only due to his health but also if the past four years being the second option diminished his capacity to lead this team again. Haters, if you do not know history, then you are doomed to repeat it again. You questioned D-Wade in the past and he essentially showed you up, this year was not any different. Throughout the times D-Wade felt like himself, Heat Nation saw those moments of Flash greatness and as it is typical with D-Wade, the month of March was an astounding display of greatness. Like the rest of the team, he needs rest. And, Haters, keep doubting him, because all he ever does with your comments is fuel his greatness (and yes, I am looking squarely at you Charles Barkley).
3. The New Heat Faces
Another ongoing theme with this Heat season was the emergence of numerous new faces. From the young kids like Napier, Ennis, and Johnson to old vets like Deng, Beasley, and Walker, the Heat found a second breath when guiding this diverse group into playing an energetic, team-based style of basketball. However, nothing came close to the bursting on the scene presence of Hassan Whiteside and the arrival of the Dragon, Goran Dragic. These two players undoubtedly presented incredible glimpses of the dominance this Heat team can have in future years. Finally, the Heat can say they have a talented team with all formal positions well taken care of. A true point guard in Dragic posed numerous problems for defenses as he either slashed to the rim or made incredible passes. Whiteside simply dominated in the paint with his rebounding and shot blocking ability paired with his scoring technique. If this team stays intact, allowing CB and McRoberts to come back to the fold, this lineup will be a scary one, one that no team in the East would like to face in a seven-game playoff series.
4. Coaching Concerns
Obviously, given how the season ended, there are many double-guessing Spo as a coach. Is he able to find effective rotations when needed? Is he able to call directed plays for specific players? How can he handle coaching a formal team with a formal point guard and center, something that was not present these past four years? These questions are all proper questions to ask; yet, seeing how this Heat team coalesced around a certain identity prevented from doing anything further due to injury. Spo will find a way next year to be more effective. Certainly, he HAS to use everyone. Done are the days where benchwarmers were simply that, place holders to have a league-sanctioned number of players. No, this team now has so much talent to use at distinct points in a game that not using one player becomes an inexcusable offense. Also, it is time for him to be creative. Having a formal team does not mean having a formal lineup all the time, something we saw constantly of throughout the season. With everyone healthy, there will be instances where it would be preferable to play three guards with two bigs, or even go all bigs (can you imagine the lineup of CB, Whiteside, McRoberts, Andersen, and UD on the floor at the same time?). This league is changing constantly to ever remain stagnant.
5. Heat Nation is the Best
The best thing to come out of this season is the continued rise of Heat Nation. And I say continued because, Haters, we never trailed, we never left. The Heat organization struck a nerve with their season-opening montage making the Heat as Miami as palm trees, sunny skies, and cafecitos in the afternoon. The hashtags for #HeatNation or #HeatLifer inundated social media even when the team seemed listless. The good thing is that the rest of the country recognized this citing Heat Nation as the best fans by Forbes.com and in the top 10 by every other listing out there. It takes a certain community, a certain fan base, and a certain organization to form such a strong bond and identity as the Heat and Heat Nation have. I am quite sure that come next season, Heat Nation will continue to thrive because, Haters, the 305 and the Heat are here to stay; it is not a matter of you liking it, it is a matter of you having to deal with it.
Thank you #HeatNation for a great season; know that DHM is extremely ready for what the offseason will bring keeping a watchful eye on the Draft and Free-Agency as well as counting down the days for next season.