With just under two weeks to go before the NBA season tips off on Christmas Day, most teams in the league are in flux. Two of the top ten players in the league, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, could be traded this week, while a number of contending teams are shaking up their rosters.
Miami Heat in 2012: Championship or Bust
Heat talk big on media day, as if they have any other choice
By David Hill
Regardless of what happens around the NBA in the next two weeks, when the Heat take on the defending champion Dallas Mavericks on Christmas day, they will likely still be favored to win it all. And they welcome those expectations, same as they did a year ago.
"If we don't win a championship, yes, it's a bust year," Dwyane Wade said Monday. "Last year was a bust year."
Teammate Chris Bosh concurred, saying, "I think we're the best team in the league, and we're going to work like it." Expectations of a title are "pretty obvious" for the Heat, Bosh said, adding "There's nothing else left for us to do but win it all."
The Heat have added exactly two new faces that have drawn any attention from the basketball world: Shane Battier and Eddy Curry. Battier is supposed to be the biggest piece Miami was missing in last year's Finals team: a rangy wing player who can defend well and hit an open jumper when LeBron James, Wade or Bosh draw too much attention from the defense.
Wade, Bosh and James all reportedly recruited Battier to join them via text messages after the lockout ended and teams began negotiating with free agents. His defense and perimeter shooting are exactly what team president Pat Riley values most out of role players on the current version of the Heat. Also helping the Heat was Battier's desire to win a championship, even if doing so with the Heat meant taking a below market-value contract ($9 million for 3 years).
Curry, meanwhile, is more a novelty: a formerly overweight center who was out of the NBA last year. The Heat are not surprisingly placing lighter expectations on Curry. Coach Erik Spoelstra said the team is "open to taking a look, and seeing if he can get another chance" at cracking an NBA rotation.
Regardless, the Heat are ready to see if their Big Three can avenge their downfall in the last NBA Finals. "You never really can often get over losing the Finals," James said, "but I think you have to move on because there's a season now."
Miami's expectations have not changed, but the Big Three say they have no desire to play the villain role this season. Wade said Miami's quest to silence its critics last season "probably wasn't the right intentions for this team."
James already feels better about the Heat's new mindset. "I'm more alive, more being back to myself. I'm at a good place right now. Not much bothers me anymore."
Whether this more at-eased outlook will help the Heat win a title remains to be seen.