"What’s Up With the Heat?"
A reader asked me to comment on the surprisingly weak performance thus far of the 6-4 Miami Heat. The issue, obviously, is that the team has no chemistry. With Wade and James on the same squad, there’s no “alpha dog” player. And the lack of such a dog means the team lacks “killer instinct” and doesn’t inspire fear in its adversaries. These guys are friends, they came to Miami together because they wanted to play together. That’s nice, but there’s no friends in sports. A winning team is led by stone-cold assassins who want to beat the best players in the game, not chums who’d prefer to team up and hang out. Something like that.
What I actually think, meanwhile, is that Miami’s +9.4 point differential is tied with New Orleans for best in the league. So if Miami doesn’t step things up, we should expect them to assemble one of the best records in the league over the course of the next 72 games. What’s more, the currently injured Mike Miller is an underrated player whose return will help the team a lot.
So my prediction is that Miami will be fine, and by the end of the season sports pundits will be offering us a lot of narratives about the improved chemistry among the big three. It’s possibly the case that the return of Miller will play a role in this narrative, since him getting on the floor should in fact lead the team to get better. The fact that Miller is a white guy further militates in the direction of underrating his actual basketball abilities, but vastly overstating his ability to provide “veteran leadership” that provides his talented African-American colleagues with the “intangibles” they need to win.