LeBron James and the Miami Heat are in town tonight in what is finally a game that will actually count. Meaning, preseason blowouts are nice, but they aren't part of the formula that determines playoff seedings. Tonight we'll see the Nets starting five playing together for the first time at Barclays, and we'll get a more amped up Heat team coming off a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. So, yeah, this is going to be a fun one.
With that, I went back-and-forth with Kevin Kraczkowski of the SB Nation Miami Heat blog Hot Hot Hoops. Here are the five questions he asked me, along with my answers. And below are the five questions he was kind enough to answer about his Miami Heat.
It's natural for fans to overreact to certain situations, and of course the Heat weren't at full strength against the 76ers, but what concerned you most about the loss, if anything?
The thing about the loss on Wednesday, and you can relate with the unexpected loss to the Cavs, is that any team can beat any team on any night. Think about it. If you're good enough to get paid by the NBA to play basketball, then you have the capability to beat good teams, even if you're not expected to. What happened that night will soon prove to have been the exception and not the rule. Miami underestimated their opponent and got lazy. It'll happen again this season, but not tonight.
We've seen the Heat make defensive adjustments to counter point guard play - like, having LeBron cover Derrick Rose in the playoffs a few years back - but that can't be the norm, can it? Like, are you comfortable with sliding Wade or LeBron over to cover Deron Williams or, on the other hand, are you comfortable with Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole defending premier point guard talents?
Chalmers wanted to get a little faster, so worked through the offseason. He has dropped about 15 pounds, and it shows in his play. He's made eight steals in his first two games, and is tied for the HEAT's best Player Efficiency Rating (PER), at 23.5 with LeBron James. It doesn't look like an unsustainable fluke.
Norris Cole was at one point last season rated as the worst regular rotation player in the NBA, again judging by PER. The "average" player in the league is denoted by a PER of 15.0, a figure that Cole is now above. He's been improving since last season's playoffs, and I'd like to think he's turned a corner.
As far as LBJ sliding over and covering somebody else, yes, I'm comfortable with that too. Flopper or not, he's the NBA's best player currently, with four MVP's and five appointments to the NBA's All-Defensive First Team in the last five seasons. In short, In Spoelstra We Trust.
You can't help but think about next summer and the "what if" scenario surrounding LeBron, right? Nets fans went through it with Deron a few summers back and, well, he's not LeBron James.
LBJ has wisely stated that he will not entertain questions about this until the season concludes. His focus is on the floor. And the more he focuses on his play, the better the HEAT do. And the better Miami performs through the season, the more likely he is to stay with the HEAT. There will always be talk, we can't help but hear it, but LeBron intends to minimize the impact it will have on his game.
We talk a lot about who can contend with the Heat. And three teams that always get mentioned are the Bulls, Pacers and Nets. As someone who covers the Heat, which one of those teams "scares" you the most? And, if not the Nets, since we're a Nets site, why not?
I thought it was the Bulls, but after opening night I'm not so sure. Maybe they'll see better results after Derrick Rose shakes some of that rust off.
Roy Hibbert is a very big reason that the Pacers seem to match up with the Heat so well. Most of the group is still there, but I think Miami still gets the edge in that matchup due in no small part to what seems to be improvements in each of the principle bench contributors.
Since this is a Nets blog, I will concede that Brooklyn is tied with Indiana for the biggest threat to Miami's dominance this season. While Pierce and Garnett are past their prime, Pierce is still the truth, and Garnett would tear out his own liver to win a game, especially against his "special" friends in Miami. Even after 17 seasons, there is not a player in the NBA who is more dedicated to winning. Deron Williams is capable of great things, and Brook Lopez is easily Roy Hibbert's equal.
Seriously, what do you expect out of Michael Beasley this year? And don't say "comic relief!"
Really, we had nothing to lose in signing him. At worst, Miami wastes a roster spot and pays out the veteran minimum. At best, they have a player who is capable of explosive bursts of scoring. Make no mistake, scoring is the only thing Beasley does, but he does it well. He provides a nice change of pace off the bench and can inject life into an offense which at times can unexpectedly grow cold.
For more on the Miami Heat, see: Hot Hot Hoops
- HHH GameDay: Five Questions With NetsDaily - Kevin Kraczkowski - Hot Hot Hoops