Dennis Velasco reaches out to opposing team's bloggers and extracts information and a prediction from each one. DV and Surya Fernandez from SB Nation's Hot Hot Hoops go back and forth about the Miami Heat and their upcoming match-up with the Nets at Barclays Center on Sunday.
Dennis Velasco: Well, Surya, it's a sad Wednesday night for both of us as the Brooklyn Nets lost their season opener to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat put their best foot forward against the tanking and lost to the Philadelphia Sixers. I can't help but wonder, what the heck happened? Surely, the universe is not aligned. That said, thank you for taking the time to throw down some words about the upcoming Heat/Nets match-up when the Nets open up the season at Barclays Center against the champs.
Losses tonight aside, both teams come into the season with high expectations and some questions, although the latter applies more to the Nets. The Heat have been to the NBA Finals in each of the past three seasons since the Super Friends of South Beach joined together, winning back-to-back titles, so the only real question is, will LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and company three-peat? However, we'd be prognosticating a bit too far, so I'll leave it up to you - what are three to five things that Nets fans should know about the Heat this season, particularly heading into the clash in Kings County AKA BK this Friday?
Surya Fernandez: Will the Heat three-peat? The loss of Mike Miller hurts, but the team has arguably the deepest bench this year of any in the Big 3 Era and the team seems as motivated as ever coming out of training camp. So, yes, I expect them to win the title again because plenty of teams in the offseason, including the Nets of course, have certainly improved on paper over the offseason, but I don't think any of them actually got better than the Heat. So far only the Dallas Mavericks have beaten them in a seven-game series since 2010, so I'll just have to believe it when I see it.
So, the deeper bench means the Heat aren't nearly as top-heavy in talent as many still think they are, with Ray Allen and Shane Battier, as well as an improved Norris Cole leading a capable cast of reserves. That would be one major thing that Nets fans should look out for. The Heat have been up-and-down on offense and defense in both games to start the season and that's really not that surprising as they did the same thing last year. I imagine the Nets will have some growing pains as well with so many new faces, but both teams have 82 games to work on this before the postseason starts. The second unit for the Heat has at times outplayed the starters and they haven't even played their newly-signed former lottery picks in Greg Oden and Michael Beasley. That will be an interesting subplot to watch out for during this season and the question really is how much either one can contribute to the team and can either be counted on in the postseason to deliver meaningful minutes off the bench? Another X-factor on the bench is Rashard Lewis and whether he can step in and replace some of that lost production the Heat enjoyed from Miller.
I see the Heat and Nets being a bit similar in that they have noteworthy starters, but they also have a deeper bench than they get credit for. Neither team wants to play their stars too many minutes over the course of the regular season, so players like Jason Terry and Battier are crucial to their team's long-term success. Another thing to look out for is how will Dwyane Wade's knees respond this season to the rehab and treatment he got over the summer and whether he's truly healthy. He already took several preseason games off and sat out Wednesday's fiasco against the Philadelphia 76ers. Nets fans will see a rested Wade on Friday, but will they see a player that looked decidedly rusty in the opener against the Bulls?
DV: I love it! There's a certain braggadocio with your points mainly focused on the postseason and, honestly, I'm jealous. I hate you so much, Surya! Actually, no, I'm just extremely envious. I think it speaks to what the Heat, particularly head coach Eric Spoelstra, preaches and how the overall feeling is in South Beach - get an NBA title. Everything is geared toward that run for a chip and I hope that type of culture takes life in Brooklyn, particularly with recent NBA champions in Garnett, Pierce, Terry and head coach Jason Kidd in the fold.
It's a great point you bring up about the reserves because I feel that people are sleeping on the Nets' own bench players. Yes, the stars stand out, but it's the guys coming off the pine that hold up said stars. Ray Allen, Game Six, anyone? That said, if Dwyane Wade or any other of the Big Three are lost for any significant stretch, will the bench be good enough to keep the Heat on track for a number one seed? Of the Big Three, which player is of lesser importance and who on the bench can pick up that slack? We all know that LeBron is the most important player on the planet, what if he is lost. Doomsday scenario, how would the Heat fare.
Finally, the preseason obviously means jack, so the two blowout wins really does mean nothing to me, personally. What will the Heat have to do in order to beat the Nets in Brooklyn? Will the loss to the Sixers pump them up to come back for a W? Give a final score!
SF: No worries, I'm accustomed to the hate (or enviousness, however way you want to label it). It's been a long three years. But, what's the other option, longing for the days when Jermaine O'Neal, Ricky Davis and Chris Quinn were employed by the Heat? No thanks!
I think any NBA team would take a huge step back if there was an injury to their star player. That's how the Spurs wound up with Tim Duncan. But what makes the Heat unique is that they have three stars and an All-Star in Ray Allen so they have options should one of them miss time. I don't anticipate that being an issue with LeBron, he's an absolute beast who might sit out a game or two to rest but Wade is a different story. Still, the Heat can go deep and bring in Michael Beasley if they really need some instant offense. Speaking of which, Allen knows a thing or two about scoring in bunches too. I wouldn't worry too much on the defensive side should one of the Big 3 miss any time since the Heat are built on team defense but still, you definitely wouldn't want to deal with this during the postseason. But for the regular reason, I would expect Spoelstra to simply rest the main guys from time to time to keep them fresh.
I think for the Heat to win tonight it's going to take a total team effort since the Nets have so many weapons. Hopefully for Heat fans, Wade will be fresh for tonight's game and they better hope it was worth it for him to sit out the last game because the Heat really could have used him against the Sixers. I didn't think I would have to write that before the season started but that's why they play the games, right? And yes, I do expect them to have something to prove after that embarrassing loss, but then again so do the Nets. Nevertheless, I'm predicting the Heat win it 109-101 behind a resurgent Wade and an angry LeBron.
DV: Thanks for taking the time, Surya. I hope the Heat continue to flame out. Let's go, Brooklyn!
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