Friday, May 27, 2011

Whether the Heat Are Disdained or Loved, James Was Worthy Experiment

Because it’s entirely feasible that the Heat can persevere against the well-equipped Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, astonishingly with their feral defense, the folks in Miami are very optimistic, after the Heat’s spectacular contest concluded on the road in a hostile environment. And through it all, the Heat showed signs of resilience and persistence to keep hopes alive, maintaining a sense of pride in a sensational series.

LeBron James, so eager and coveted that he finished with a game-high 28 points on 8-of-19 shooting, was celebrating in the aftermath of a stunning fourth-quarter rally to cruise to an 83-80 win in the Eastern Conference Finals. And how they ever reached such a pinnacle is just amazing as it is hard to imagine the Heat being obliterated, while on the verge of winning an NBA championship and defying the odds of common reasoning. It’s almost as if we are watching the sudden emergence of a heartwarming tale, similar to a cliché or even a surreal adventure, which has proven not to be a mirage for the greatest trio of all-time in NBA history.

Seldom does a team luck out with much triumph in its first season of an experiment, a singular project that the Heat worked on last summer during the most outlandish frenzy. It is as if the majority of Floridians envisioned the Heat stunning the world, brainwashed into the notion of talent, star power and national publicity, when others disdain James ever since he turned into a villainous ballplayer — a registered traitor.

The outrageous saga of “The Decision” disintegrated his credibility and popularity, a megalomaniacal infomercial that oddly adopted airwaves for an hour, just so he could announce to the world where he’d take his talents. He left Cleveland after it was said that he was loyal to his native town. What followed, however, was a reaction from an enraged community after he was heartless and selfish in a town where the masses pampered and even applauded James, identifying the All-Star forward as the saint of the city for uplifting a forsaken franchise, which was in disarray with all the misfortunes.

When he left the Cavs hostage and broadcasted his intentions of joining the Heat to become part of the framework and build the deepest team in the league, as opposed to staying in Cleveland, he not only disavowed his pledge but also sacrificed his ego and legacy. In this worldview, nonetheless, he is described as a villain for accepting a pay cut and renouncing his claim to all-time greatness, disliked for betraying a deprived territory. There was every reason to speculate that the Heat were capable of beating the Bulls, ready for the challenge and to potentially taste the glory of a championship.

But dismissing the most powerful franchise — by definition — the deepest roster with polished talent, is an understatement. You don’t have to like the Heat, and whether you believe Miami has a bevy of egomaniacal wannabes or even wimpy superstars who vent after a disheartened loss by shedding tears behind close doors, Miami is everyone’s greatest fear. You don’t have to like James, the best basketball player in these playoffs. Oh, don’t you hate him? It was James who sent a message to the world, for bitter fans across the nation, precisely silencing the average person who perhaps witnessed it as a hallucination.

No one ever imagined the Heat, with an explanation that Miami wasn’t fundamentally sound and competent to endure a probable pursuit this postseason, clinching an NBA Finals berth come June. It’s easily noticed that this run was for the haters, and America must show much regard for a man who is unstoppable and who demoralized Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. This season, in James’ most decisive battle ever, he disrupted Rose so much that Rose was shut down and couldn’t manipulate the tempo as the orchestra on the floor for the Bulls. There’s no way, just no way doubters can dismiss the Heat.

And this week, in the most enjoyable series, the big three stunned the world and muted disbelievers and critics who hate James only for having a self-loving persona and for leaving Cleveland, all while he elevated his popularity in South Beach with a chance to win and celebrate his greatest accomplishment. It’s all possible for James, as long as he stays compose and enters every game with a combative, fiery and perky mindset in the upcoming weeks. So many times, he has divulged that he is worthy of greatness and can modify his game with clutch performances in the closing moments.

With an awe-inspiring comeback, in large part of an 18-3 run while down by 12 points, James fueled a breathtaking turnaround as the Heat were outrebounded in the paint, out hustled on the court, outran in transition and outplayed for much of the game until Miami benefited from the slew of turnovers committed by the Bulls in the final quarter. As he gains plaudits on the shores of South Beach where he is adored roughly for choosing to play for the Heat, it’s well-documented that James has risen and suddenly became one of the finest finishers in the game, hitting a three-pointer that brought Miami within five.

James, in his first full season with the Heat since signing as a free agent last summer and earning plenty of individual accolades as a gifted star, is already nearing the stage of his career when he is about to earn his righteous nickname if crowned a champion. If not for James hitting an enormous three-pointer that tied it at 72, Miami would be traveling home for an elimination game, but James was solid and unstoppable.

The witnesses in the stands were stunned and saddened, and painfully watched Chicago collapse. James poked the ball out of the Bulls players’ hands with his quickness and awareness, forcing Rose into a luckless turnover to end Chicago’s hopeful season. Here was James again, taking the ball down the court, waiting patiently to scan the floor and finding one of his teammates. Even though he had trust in his teammates, he was tempted to knife his way through the defensive-minded Bulls, but then, like a resemblance of MJ, even if he’s nowhere near Jordan, he elevated for a jumper and buried a shot that shifted momentum towards the Heat.

If James doesn’t nail the shot, then he’d obviously hear criticism for blundering and not passing the ball to Dwyane Wade, who was the one superstar among the big three who needed to have the ball in his hands down the stretch. If he doesn’t pass it, then he’d be ripped for not playing like a facilitator and not creating scoring opportunities for Wade and Bosh. Now, James is worthy of all the credit and proudly has exceeded expectations, and he’s probably the Heat’s savior in the playoffs for having the pedigree and well-rounded dominance. The most polarizing player — if not in all of sports — who is on the verge of inheriting the crown, has removed the tension from an enigmatic Bosh and even Wade.

With a miracle late in the game, out of nowhere Thursday night, the Heat stormed back in the Eastern Conference finals. In a series of intense story lines, with much emotion after vanquishing adversity and doubts throughout the season, James was the focal point of the Heat’s prosperity in the aftermath of the backlash he encountered in Miami. But even though he draws bad publicity because of his narcissistic foolishness, arrogance and ungracious departure, James is seemingly the scariest player on earth and has provided a blueprint for the Heat.

The onslaught he brings to the game — prevailing in the biggest moments — when the masses doubted James, has defined the self-proclaimed King and he’s the best scorer in the game. This time, beginning an adventure in Miami, he minimized his weaknesses and ruled by knocking down shots and trapping Rose with his superb defense. The three stars were heavily criticized and scrutinized, but the three superstars evidently played harder every time, considering the talent the Heat assembled to validate a historic trio, a unique roster that the mastermind genius Pat Riley envisioned and trusted in.

Every game the Heat won — bearing the circumstances of attaining greatness — thanks in large part to Riley for orchestrating a topical storm in Miami, indicated strong ambition. The prelude to a bewitching NBA Finals, a rematch of the 2006 finals when the Heat rallied from behind after trailing the series only to defeat Dallas, has arrived for convivial folks in South Beach with a chance to celebrate if the Heat wins and watch a parade journey down Biscayne Boulevard. For the Heat, a franchise that seemed flummoxed and vulnerable to an early postseason exit with a totality of softness and a lack of chemistry, this would be a step forward as Miami has endured a postseason breakthrough. The repertoire of skilled megastars emerged in time for the playoffs and has excelled in moments when the stakes were higher than ever.

For nearly a decade, James desired to contend with a championship-caliber franchise, and earned his wish. For nearly a decade, he was unsuccessful and constantly fell short of the exulted prize. But if he finally has risen to a primary star and is NOT the decoy in the company of an abundance of megastars, he likely has a bright future in Miami and could very well hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June. This is the Heat we’re discussing here, not his former team, Cleveland. So if James and Wade made shots and suffocated Chicago, crushing the Bulls’ hearts and souls to relentlessly cut a 12-point deficit in the final three minutes, we can assume that the Heat are the scariest team in the East. As it happened, Rose capitulated and missed 7 of 9 shots in the fourth and committed a pair of turnovers before his last shot was denied at the buzzer by James. And the Heat took advantage.

“It’s on me,” Rose said after the disheartened loss. “Everything. It’s on me. Turnovers, missed shots, fouls. If anything, learn from it. That’s all I can do right now. The series is over with.”

Of course, there’s the issue that he won the Most Valuable Player award, but couldn’t lead the Bulls when it all counted. Particularly after Rose led the Bulls to a league-best 62-win season. But it’s now time to appreciate the Heat. When it was over, James hugged Wade and was elated over the gratifying achievements this season, as the Bulls were dispatched and hometown fans applauded loudly and gave a standing ovation.

“There’s a history in this game of great players shining in those moments, when the game is in the balance,” Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And all three of those guys are special players. That’s why we recruited them so hard this summer.”

The Heat, who advances to the Finals against the Mavericks for a series that begins Tuesday night, are four wins away from the I-told-you-so declaration as signing James and Bosh was relevant. The rally all started late in the fourth when Wade hit a jump shot and scored eight of his first 11 points in a spurt, including a four-point play on a mindless foul charged to Rose as Wade made the three. This was a historic comeback and, if the Heat attempts to win a championship down the road, well, they are on pace to bypass the adversity and outrage.

“We built up a lot of toughness and resiliency through a lot of things that we’ve experienced during the regular season, and even during the postseason. A lot of things don’t rattle us,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve built up a lot of confidence in our defense that we can get consecutive stops when we need to, and we’ve had several games where we finished with 12-0 or 14-0 runs.”

Hate all you want, but the Heat isn’t to be laughed at.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fear the Heat as Dream Is Coming True for LeBron, but Not So In America

In the endless uproar of the evilest villain in sports, the resentful citizens are bashing and deriding LeBron James as a self-centered quitter or a hapless egomaniac, a wannabe superstar who tosses baby powder skyward to awe the crowd. James has been called out for being disloyal to his native state and instantly departing Cleveland. A man can desert the diabolical past, if ever, when he bustled through traffic and diminished Chicago's defensive ferocity, finishing on a timely layup as the intense crowd stood and applauded James.

This time, as James was capping a masterpiece that couldn't have been denied on a night when the Heat rolled to a sentimental 101-93 win, and suddenly, secured a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, the crowd in South Beach was jolted by his 18-foot jump shot. To call him the biggest enemy in the NBA is to downplay his greatness, insult his ability to rise as an elite star amid the absurdity with James' shocking departure when he left Cleveland for South Beach and decided he'd bring his talent to Miami. For the Heat, a team that Hall of Famer Pat Riley masterfully built a foundation last summer and coax James and Bosh to join Wade to construct the most compelling trio in sports, it would be an indicative of a suggestive win, moving within one win of the NBA Finals.

If we ever felt sorry for James, just because he was ridiculed and crucified by his former supporters, including his former boss Dan Gilbert, it's because he unwisely announced his choice on national television on "The Decision," a one-hour infomercial that enraged many fans in Cleveland and across the world. Whether you like him or hold grudges, weary over the giddy Nike commercial ads featuring James or even his overbearing attitude of the everlasting turmoil keeping his dignified accomplishments veiling, he drilled the 18-footer in the final 30 seconds of overtime. By now, used to the sarcastic jokes and criticism, James continuously quiet down critics with virtuoso performances and swagger, clearly when he ceded his chance of becoming the well-known, iconic ballplayer in the NBA and likely even the best player of all-time by leaving the Cavs to unite with invigorated stars.

It's entirely amazing, given the totality of the marksmanship he brings to the game, just how much the nation refuses to acknowledge and hates James after showing remorse -- apologetic for such a sophomoric escapade. In a forthcoming NBA Finals appearance that looms, if the Heat presents fear throughout the rest of the postseason, such as when James is the distributor assigned the point guard duties and shut down Derrick Rose and Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem scores in double-figures, Miami will be crowned NBA champs in June.

The point is here, nonetheless, is that the Heat are the scariest and hungriest team in the playoffs and knows what's at stake with enough weapons to easily outplay and torment their opponents.

In fairness, we can possibly be gazing at the best roster in the league, depending on the Heat's prowess and readiness of the hottest pursuit in a long time for South Beach. If granted a trip to the finals, the journey would last as long as James and Wade carries the Heat and, more importantly, could validate that the latest experiment of putting together a trio is a workable nucleus for inheriting multiple titles and embarking on a dynasty. The buzz is louder than expected for the Bulls, who are on the brink of elimination, in part of Miami's deepness, self-assurance and fluidity as Chicago will attempt to keep their hopes alive Thursday night at the United Center in Chicago.

That's the case when the Bulls were ever so close to tying the series, but unfortunately, Rose blundered in a jittery point of the game, missing a pair of jumpers in a one-on-one battle with James on the Bulls' final two possessions of regulation. It was over when he bricked a deciding foul shot with the game tired at 85 with 1:10 left in the fourth quarter, finishing with 23 points and missing 19 of 27 shots. As the Heat are one win away from enduring the animosity in much of the nation, beheld as certified scoundrels with James as a member of Miami who is a traitor by many and taunted for leaving the Cavs and, even greater, his pompous and egomaniacal nonsense, the Big Three are close, very close, to stunning and silencing the haters, doubters and critics.

If the Heat wins the hardware this season, not too mention James earning his first ever ring, it would be America's saddest taboo in sports and the most dreadful nightmare. And in truth, the Heat's dream is coming true, faster than usual, when the Three Kings, Three Amigos or whatever you prefer prevailed with all the criticism and adversity early on. In recent years, James has developed when he is demanding the ball in clutch situations, hitting practically decisive shot attempts and when he is defined as a useful hero in South Beach, particularly on a night that he scored 35 points and suffocated the Bulls late with heroics. He is, without much debate, a beloved superstar in Miami, converting on the enormous shots, no longer struggling with his arsenal of shooting but is pushing the Heat near the NBA Finals.

With three straight losses for the first time this season, the Bulls and Rose had fallen short, not ready for the national scene in contending for a championship, although Chicago plays fierce defense and have been craving to arise in the East as the premiere team. At this level, when the Heat is deeper and encountered the young Bulls, it justifies that Miami is much willing, faster and stronger in the Eastern Conference finals.

As it stands, for the Heat, it was a statement win in which Miller turned out with 12 momentous points, buoyed by James and Chris Bosh effortlessly scoring. It was a physical game and, most of all, another splendid night for Bosh, scoring 22 points in an intense victory en route to sustain a championship in one year with the trio experiment. Meanwhile, Wade struggled with shooting the ball for much of the night and had merely 14 points, but Miami can survive each series in the playoffs by the essence of James and Bosh alongside Wade to insert much parity in a gigantic turnaround, one that can have fans and bikini babes celebrating near the shores of South Beach really soon.

Never mind that the Heat made a statement, when nobody expected the Heat to be 8-0 this postseason at home, the only undefeated home team in the playoffs. Never mind that the Heat frightened the world and preserved a 3-1 lead in the series. It's seemingly considerable to think that Erik Spoelstra, despite his hyperbole in press conferences, returns next season as head coach when much speculation vanished of the low-keyed Spoelstra getting canned for numerous episodes with players in the locker room and his strange coaching philosophy.

That is when Miami wasn't unified or playing together and had been adapting to the offense and new teammates. There's no realistic chance for the Bulls to beat the Heat, not the hottest team in the playoffs, not with a player as good as James, Wade or even Bosh, including an elusive bench that seemed believable.

The reality is, Miami is as real as it gets.

Whoever wins the West should be scared of the Heat as neither Oklahoma City or Dallas have the weapons that the Heat possess.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Finally, Bosh Regains Stardom After Feeling the Heat

He was staring into the stands, gazing at the crowd and literally stuck out his tongue -- the kind of behavior that elevates fear as Chris Bosh has finally awakened. His eyes were possessed, his body language indicated much poise in his game, wearing hideous facial expressions and likely intimidating Chicago inside the downtown venue located on the edge of Biscayne Bay.

And this is a good thing, too, since he was called a “bust” and ridiculed for playing like a worthless wuss, not the fierce aggressor as advertised when the Miami Heat signed Bosh last summer to join forces with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. In this particular game, Bosh trotted the court with much bitterness and antipathy that the seas of white in the stands stood in delight and applauded as he walked near courtside.

But where he was credited, when Miami pleasantly hosted its first game at home in the Eastern Conference Finals putting on a spectacle for the folks in South Beach; Bosh emerged at last and dazzled as the superstar of the night. The very qualities that make Bosh a dominant force are his mental state and consistency along with his ability to score in every facet because of his phenomenal heroics, which fueled the raucous crowd that is madly obsessed with the Heat, in a town where the vast majority profoundly adores football.

In sports, we tend to overlook the underachievers -- for instance -- a player like Bosh. He was absent for much of the postseason and often discontent with his role. For one thing, it often engendered much uncertainty and for a while there, he never suited the Heat's offensive scheme and instead turned into an absolute waste. For one thing, on the positive side, he reestablished himself exposing the kind of characteristics that was expected of him when he daringly decided to migrate to Miami and assemble the greatest trio in sports (lineup of stars fans usually admire -- fueled by the idea of one franchise building a unique team with the deepest star power).

Before he even asserted himself into the offense, the Heat weren't known as the Miami Thrice or the Three Amigos and instead it was the greatest tandem in the postseason with James and Wade. He has had a peculiar season with his new team but decisively came to life at the right possible time, where he located his swagger and seemed more aggressive than ever before in the Eastern Conference finals, to lead the Heat to a pivotal 96-85 win Sunday for a 2-1 series lead.

"He put his imprint on the game right from the beginning, and that helped give us some relief and also keep them honest with some of their coverages," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

At this point, nobody knows if Bosh has fully revitalized, which still remains a mystery, even if he reveled in his resurgence and reached his full potential following his awesome performance on the court to amaze thousands of fans. So for Bosh, the forward who traveled to South Beach and joined the Heat for championship aspirations, he was clearly the best player on the floor and regained his status as a well-known superstar in the NBA.

By definition, as you probably know, he is anything but flawless on many nights and among the Big Three he is the least noticeable of stars. Of all things that he qualifies as a derided star rather than a peerless star for the Heat's profound roster, but on Sunday night he certainly played like he was the biggest star all season and electrified the populace and the bayside all over South Florida. For much of the night -- all night rather -- Bosh made all the noise the Heat wanted to hear, accentuated on the notion that he was the storyline and ended all the indiscretions in his inability to contribute and convert on shot attempts.

We saw numerous hints that he never had the firepower or toughness to deliver earlier in the season as a member of the Heat, despite countless moments in his impressive NBA career -- which began in the North of the border when he was the star player for Toronto. But once he scored 32 points, which came on an empathetic dunk, he fiercely pounded both fist onto his chest, scowled and shouted to the heavens and, more importantly, observed the attention when he elevated stardom. The emergence was clearly the way for Bosh to advertise that he's one of basketball's marquee players, illustrating that he's worthy and blends in perfectly with a championship-caliber roster when in all he solidified his popularity, especially shortly after boosting the decibels louder than ever on his vicious dunk.

"I just wanted to make some type of imprint on this series," Bosh said.

Because Bosh couldn't seem to pose as a factor, shoot, pester opponents with his effective post presence or defend to expose the basic fundamentals in basketball and never survived in previous series as undersized players pushed and shoved him around, not intimidated by his laziness, apathy or attrition, he was vilified and least appreciated in a town where the expectations were immense for a player of his size. Yet, by some means, it's seemingly jarring that he finished with 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting in the best postseason performance of his career.

And the best part is, he awakened to bolster the Heat as the team survived without much from James or Wade on a night the workable tandem in previous games were quiet, not as competent as Bosh to give Miami an assuring lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 on Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena. The truth is, when he came in as a high-profile free agent with James last summer, he faced agonizing scrutiny more than any other player deemed as the irrelevant player of the trio in Miami.

What matters most is that Bosh may have risen and accepted his role as a reliable scorer on a very talented team in the NBA, justifying his acquisition when he finally made his presence felt as one of the tallest, lanky forwards in basketball. The likelihood of questioning his relevance, diligence, heart or even toughness, no longer matters as long as Bosh continues the recent consistency and validates how beneficial he was in delivering the knockout to dismantle the Bulls.

“I'm human, I really don't care for it,'' Bosh said. "There's always going to be somebody throwing rocks. But I know I'm a good ballplayer.''

Then there was the arrival of Carlos Boozer, scoring 26 points and grabbing 17 rebounds -- an incredible performance which may have inspired and increasingly built upon Bosh's self-assurance. Whatever it was, Bosh was brilliant and unstoppable, a backup plan seemingly as Wade wilted uncharacteristically and as James distributed the ball unselfishly to create opportunities, dishing to Bosh on limitless possessions since he was the hottest star on the floor. Not even Bulls Forward Joakim Noah was capable of slowing down Bosh.

Suddenly, James and Wade sees a level of trust in Bosh even thought he has never advanced past the first round until this season and has struggled in adjusting to the stronger demands in contention for a title. At the beginning of the game, he missed his first three attempts, but then he hit 13-of-15 shots to finish with 34 points on 18 shots as Wade and James were held to a combined 12-of-30 from the field.

You saw Bosh score 30 points in a Game 1 loss. In Game 2, he had an egregious night, a horror night with a mere 10 points in 42 minutes, despite that Miami beat the Bulls in Chicago. He could have been tired of hearing all the nonsense about his irrelevancy, tired of hearing that he wasn't an essential of the Big Three, until he hit uncontested shots and weaved his way into the paint.

For Bosh, no doubt, it's a whole new story. After his sudden breakthrough, he's an integral fragment of the Big Three.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

LeBron James Is Built to Lead Heat When Stakes are High

When it was over, relieved of the anguish and heavy burdens to reclaim his identity as the playoff scene transformed into hyper mode, LeBron James was calmed following his vicious dominance, perfectly sending a wave of promise that shifted the Miami Heat's personality in a fierce series.

The latest news on James -- from freakishly driving in traffic to outplaying the Bulls' swarming defense to producing his ferocity and creativity with the ball -- is that he awakened and responded by hurling a three-pointer and a difficult fallaway jumper over Rose to give the Heat a substantial two-possession lead as time dwindled in desperation. When he advisedly knocked down a deep jump shot to give Miami a nine-point lead with 47.3 seconds left on the way to an 85-75 destruction of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center and stole homecourt advantage -- after putting back his own miss on a previous shot -- there was a sense of confidence.

Yes, he is a clutch performer after all. This was for the people who've disrespected James and said he'd never be a finisher. For once, he revealed to the world that he is fully capable of taking over a game single-handedly, and is properly fitted to rise as a reliable superstar. And what we know about James is that he is a carefree, freakish athlete. What's most notably is that he is a godlike ballplayer, a global icon, but is mostly forgotten and has been perceived as the most hated villain in sports since the uncivil departure last summer during his dramatic and weird free-agency madness.

Either way, that is, the world scorns James deeply, not an all-encompassing icon we once adored when he was the portrait of an honest savior with loyalty and unselfishness in a town where much misfortune left the angry fans fretting about the gloomy age, a region deprived of a major professional championship since 1964. But we as people shouldn't hold grudges forever, particularly when James apologized for "The Decision," a reckless extravaganza that seized airwaves for which he proffered an announcement nationally on his choice to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

For the first time in his embattled NBA career, after his credibility ravaged and fans lost tremendous respect for him ever since he broadcasted his narcissistic telecast in an abnormal manner, James is distinguished as the evilest villain and traitor for leaving his native state Cleveland. With the game tied at 73-73 with over four minutes remaining, managing to take over in pressured situations of the fourth quarter, James scored nine points in three minutes -- worthy of a respectful nod, simply for carrying his team in Chicago.

It was another tense and overwrought night for the Heat, a formidable challenge on the road against the stingiest defense in the league, which impelled Miami to adjust to the Bulls' defensive schemes. So there is Tom Thibodeau, in his remarkable rookie season as Chicago head coach, leading the unbeaten Bulls with the best record in the NBA. As the Bulls reminded us in Game 1 of their regular-season sweep over the Heat, James perfectly ended the lingering debates on whether or not the Bulls can sustain improbability and remove the underdog label.

The unfolding of Game 2 is where the Heat sent a statement ideally by justifying they are resilient and intrepid in the postseason after struggling and lacking chemistry and unity, with such a quirky mindset in the regular-season. The night for the Heat was about survival, keeping hopes alive while in contention for an NBA championship, and Miami proved it is built to win a title and survive on the road in a tight and tense playoff game Wednesday night. Wade, as we know, was tangled with Omer Asik when Asik blocked Wade in the final quarter of an intense game, a period that the Heat missed shots to begin the fourth 1-for-9 in field goals.

Wade was bloodied when the Turkish center had blood gushing from his chin and down his neck. To stop the bleeding, Wade was attended to on the sideline and was provided a sleeve to cover the wound on his elbow, forcing Erik Spoelstra to call a 20-second timeout with under five minutes left. By the time he returned, Wade blocked a desperation three-pointer attempted by Derrick Rose with less than two minutes left. From there, the Chicago faithful began filing out of the quiet United Center, although Taj Gibson almost beheaded and dunked on Wade for a breathless panorama Sunday, although Rose won the Most Valuable Player award and is the most spectacular point guard to watch these days.

Fortunately, for Wade, he scored 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting and had nine rebounds against a flexible defense and the younger and more athletic Bulls, unlike the Celtics in the semifinals mainly because of oldness and lethargy. There was no time for the Heat to disappear, but to finally come alive and bounce back from an inferior performance -- killing off the criticism and verbal attacks. Before we consider that the Heat are girly, before we ridicule and strongly present animosity toward James, we should give credit to the explosive forward who can gracefully move the ball. Before we belittle the Heat -- when they're playing and running the floor -- we must admire that Miami is composed of talent and creativity, sometimes enough originality to be more creative than Apple.

"The fourth quarter was Miami defense," said James, who had nine of his 29 points in the fourth quarter. "There wasn't much offense out there, but when we play defense like this, we're tough to beat."

So, while the series shifts to Miami for Game 3 Sunday night, the best-of-seven series is tied and already epitomizes a longer series than usual in one of the craziest Eastern Conference finals ever. One of the reasons the Heat played so well, as much as the franchise located in South Florida continues to make progress in each contest, was James respectively and even the robust Udonis Haslem, who has recovered fully based on his prowess to stand as a factor in the readiness of a playoff spurt. So it's good to know that James, who would respond disappointed over a painful Game 1 loss, unwilling to trail in the series 2-0 and back down in the fourth quarter when the stakes are higher, scored nine of Miami's last 12 points. Certainly, the Heat found a closer in James in these playoffs.

"LeBron was very good on both sides of the ball," Spoelstra said. "He had to guard virtually everybody on the floor and rebound and make a lot of plays for us on the offensive end, and do it for 45 minutes. The only thing I kept reminding him every timeout is, 'You cannot afford to get tired. For us to have a chance to win, we cannot have you fatigued.'"

There was no time to feel sorry for Derrick Rose, finishing with 21 points on 7 for 23 shooting but now is a good time to applaud James, not weeping over too much playing time, not griping over dropping successive games and not complaining over touches. Meanwhile, the Bulls had no answer for James or Haslem, who began the season as a starter but missed much action nursing a torn ligament in his foot. And now suddenly, he scored 13 points and gathered five rebounds in 23 minutes. With him, he changed the tone of the game and defended the paint brilliantly, and then delivered an array of jump shots that defined a relentless comeback when he rejoined the lineup a week ago.

The one sequence where he blocked Rose, then run upcourt in transition for a fast-break dunk and 3-point play, benefited the Heat and transformed the momentum in the fourth. In the same game, James stripped Luol Deng twice, coming on one possession that organized a fast break layup on the other end by Wade. Then came Haslem levitating on another fast break dunk, and the Heat extended the lead to 67-56 with a 10-0 run.

“The thing I’m exploring the most is getting back to our game,” Spoelstra said. “And it’s not about who. It’s about what. It’s what we’re capable of. We’re an aggressive, hard-hitting, physical, defensive team. We did not show that obviously in Game 1, particularly on the boards. But that is not our nature.”

This series is far from over, but at this rate, the Heat are unbeatable. This could be the moment when James prove he is worthy. This could be the moment when James unleash to the world that he is a clutch performer. This could be the moment when James puts Cleveland on hush mode. Not counting a championship ring.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hate the Heat? Why? James, Wade Expected to Respond

So the Heat must have assembled the greatest Superteam in NBA history, a manifold of talent equipped with presumably the best trio of all-time, one of the deepest rosters in league history that can morph into an unbelievable bust. This is the time -- as soon as LeBron James abruptly left Cleveland distastefully and hijacked airwaves to broadcast his skittish P.R. stunt nationally -- however -- when the Miami Heat is a marriage of sheer accomplishments in an assuring postseason pursuit.

As soon as the Heat were demoralized by the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, still fighting off the chills and letdown, the folks in South Beach panicked and heard the bloviating, inane chatter from all the disbelievers who've hated Miami since the bizarre transitions last summer. This is the moment, a grand opportunity for the Heat to vindicate that it was never a waste in bringing in the proper essentials. But of all things, the framework built cleverly by the architect Pat Riley, optimistic in his balanced core, is pointing in the favor of the Heat. And here they are, expected to bring an NBA championship to South Beach and the year James can respectfully win his first championship ring.

We know what would happen, evidently, if the Heat unravels in the series this postseason. There would be much debate, swirling around the star-studded franchise in the NBA, James and Wade would be seen in the local newspapers in Miami and much criticism would be directed towards James, only if he is devoid of his first championship with his new teammates. James, by now, doesn't care if you laugh and ridicule him. Even if he mishandled his departure callously and poorly, during his dramatic free-agency landing, it took sizable guts and sacrifice to emotionally decamp from a town where he was a native of and where fans admired the global superstar.

So, it would be understandable and common sense, when he indubitably sacrificed his legacy and ego, to believe that a painful loss would be devastating after yielding his claim to all-time greatness. Although, Charles Barkley is famously a psychotic blowhard, for all of his foolish rants and even his marshmallow stupidity when he was busted on a DUI arrest not long ago, he could have inspired the Heat to respond in Game 2 on Wednesday night with heart and assurance. While he was nice enough to openly give Miami credit and said they have "terrific players," he also said the team is "a whiny bunch" whenever populace are critical of the Heat. In defense, the Heat are girly when people take shots at them -- in perhaps Miami's profundity of star power -- following lackluster and inexcusable performances.

If there's a person catching more heat for the languished, slow start in the series, it's obvious that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is at fault after Miami's awful performance in which the ferocious franchise of the East backed down as the Bulls exposed their weaknesses. It's a representation of how he's not fittingly the perfect voice, daunted by his unknown job status and the challenge down the road, which could be a prolonged skirmish on the court in an intense, rough series. Just in one game, down 1-0 in the series, the Heat are pressured to avoid dropping 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals. At the moment, the Heat are caught in a predicament with steep ramifications, forced to rebound in a must-needed game come Wednesday night in the United Center in Chicago.

For a moment there, aside from Derrick Rose proving to be the best guard in the game today, particularly when he was acknowledged with accolades for winning the Most Valuable Player award and leading the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals in what was a sensational season, the Heat were unbeatable, untouchable and invulnerable. For now, as the Heat ended the Celtics' unthinkable surge, dispatching and sending the veteran core of the East instantly to the grave, buried in the demise of oldness and infirmity, the Heat are unable to blend in with the pizzazz of the Bulls defensive backbone. If that's the case, then there's no question that the Heat encountered the scariest challenge. If the Heat are to ever move forward, not dwelling on the past or a bitter meltdown in Game 1, then they'll need to shrug off the notion of a setback and find adjustments for a stronger recovery in Game 2.

"We've been able to bounce back this year no matter if it's been the regular season or the postseason," James said. "Learn from mistakes in the previous game and then move on. We've done that. "We've looking forward to the challenge, we're excited about tomorrow's opportunity to be here and try to steal homecourt."

Um, you're not only playing for homecourt, LeBron!! You are playing to keep hopes alive in potentially a seven-game series.

We hear all the time, no matter who's the opponent, about the Heat's resiliency and finding ways to fight off the adversity. This team, the Heat, are talented wrapped with the highest expectations and, if James and Dwyane Wade delivers in the most important game of the season, then Miami won't trail in a 2-0 deficit to place such a marveled adventure in jeopardy. So even as the Heat, entered the series on a surge and neutralized one of the league's peskiest defenses, the Bulls showed they aren't afraid of the greatest trio in the NBA. The lack of anticipation of the isolation scheme and the limited ball movement, even if Miami's isolation creates ball movement, crippled the Heat and generated headaches for fans, coaches and players.

"Miami’s been a good ball-movement team all year,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They have players that when the ball comes back to them, they can go one-on-one. That’s what makes them so dangerous and tough to guard. Sometimes, your best ball movement comes off isolation because you have to commit two defenders to the player, and once the ball moves, now you’re getting wide open shots or easier shots.”

One possible upside to the Heat's string of resurrection, after Miami increasingly solidified parity in the weaponry of terrific superstars, is James and Wade, a pair of appreciated ballplayers who scored 35 and 33 points in a closeout game against Boston. It's seemingly no need to ponder, such as whether or not James is essentially a valuable piece. In terms of his abysmal 15 point display in the opener, merely hitting 5 of 15 shots while Bulls' Luol Deng harassed and turned his night into a miserable outing, he is expected to respond in a signature performance.

It's hard to envision the Heat, so often depending on Wade to channel his inner superhero, natural powers by finishing with a clutch performance, winning anything without the team leader. This is, after all, his team -- a maestro for a promising franchise that can wilt or either prevail in South Beach -- unless the Heat totally disappears if ghost and demons rule. Actually, for the most part, it seems like a recipe for disaster after the first game of the series. And this is, of course, what we are used to seeing from the Heat. With the exception of Wade and James, the Bad Boys or the Miami Thrice in South Beach, there's a sense of belief that the Heat wins the second game of the series.

The folks in Miami have become worried and restless, all while bracing a match up of Rose and James -- a pair of NBA stars that increasingly uplifts viewership and sells tickets in Chi-Town and Southern Florida. Having a younger, deeper and healthier unit, where defensively the Heat are focus and where the prolific scoring hit an all-time high as the trifecta learned how to play together, now jelling together as a unified core.

All this is true, but can the Heat prevail against a team with the league-leading defense?? For once, together on the same roster, James and Wade were forlorn and so humbled unlike ever before when they realized it was a travesty and stunning. So began a new quest to rejuvenate from a grim, hopeless disappointment, ready to erase the ominous anger of the most discouraging scenario. In the next game, Wade can't settle for a quiet 18 points and should earn more touches, being that he's the precocious team leader with much seniority.

In the next game, James can't pass on great opportunities and needs to discern the importance of a considerable shot selection instead of attempting fallaway jumpers. If anything, a comeback by Wade and James is expected. Maybe Chris Bosh finally awakens at center and contribute inside the paint. Maybe Spoelstra won't risk giving a confused Jamaal Magloire playing minutes. And maybe he'll trust in Udonis Haslem. Or maybe he'll utilize the seven-foot center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. That would be worth watching in the next game. For now, at least, the Heat are still in the mix.

Expect the Heat to rebound!

Definitely not worth shedding tears over.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This Is Not an Illusion: Durant, Westbrook Can Win It for Thunder

The feeling, along with the fascinating and youngest core in the NBA, is that Kevin Durant and the burgeoning Oklahoma City Thunder can finally be recognized in the loudest building in the league, where the enthusiastic crowd screamed wildly thrilled to worship an NBA franchise in a town where an appreciated market is normally obsessed with college sports.

Best as it seems, here's a franchise that comprise of spectacular talent and has been noticed by all the dazzling achievements in the postseason in NBA history, highlighted by Durant and the phenomenal wingman Russell Westbrook. As it is, the Thunder are depicted as the deepest 1-2 threat in the league when Durant and his teammates have rendered that Oklahoma City is the hottest contenders on the rise. In the stands at the raucous Oklahoma City Arena, evidently the noisiest venue in the league, the zesty crowd cheered and witnessed the Thunder propel to a 105-90 win in a convincing rout over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

The folks, lathered in blue attire in support of the Thunder, watched Durant and Westbrook perfectly scorch and improve in the biggest game of their lifetimes, sprouting into one of the most mesmerizing teams in pro basketball and could be the scariest contenders in our next generation. What's shocking and very hard to ponder, even though Oklahoma City is the most impressive team in such an erratic postseason with immeasurable size and even the deepest roster surrounded by weapons and a legion of youth and talent, is that nobody is giving the Thunder credit.

This has been a wondrous season for Oklahoma City, greater like never before by the emergence of the much-improved stars in the future, finally well-deserving of applause for reaching the highest climax as the stakes are immense. This is the era when Durant shines and establishes himself as one of the idolized, iconic figures in the league, fittingly climbing onto the highest level alongside Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. For now, however, we are overly fascinated by Durant, ultimately the face of the Thunder and the town's beloved ballplayer, if not globally.

It's most telling, when he is one of the youngest stars embracing the moment under the pressure amidst the national spotlight, that Durant has become the greatest curiosity in the NBA by alarming the basketball world in the arrival of his first signature moment of his breathtaking career. At a time when Durant seized the spotlight by wooing the spectators, considered the eventful superstar in the game today, his mother, Wanda Pratt was seen on camera. She noticed herself on the big screen, waving and pumping her fist, proud of her son's fruition of greatness in his premature career.

In an afternoon matinee, where Durant produced largely and guided the Thunder to new heights, his mom was the cheerleader and galvanized the crowd in the middle of a timeout during the second quarter by dancing happily. At a time when he scored a game-high 39 points, hitting 13 of 25 shots, when he inspired the population to believe heavily in the wave of emotions and aspiration, he excelled in the brightest game. In addition to his exulted talent, radical maturity and poise at the age 22 in his third NBA season, Durant's traits makes him a well-rounded star in the modern era of pro basketball.

The assumption that Durant is highly unstoppable and explosive with the capacity to heave jump shots from all angles on the floor and be named an All Star earlier than expected wouldn't be an understatement, but a valid explanation for why he is reasonably the best young megastar in basketball. In large part, considering that he is already a household name, not exactly a bust or travesty, he is more obsessed with earning a trip to the NBA Finals rather than claiming the limelight. To his credit, with Thunder's head coach Scott Brooks, who has molded Durant especially, he is typically an emerging ballplayer who has already been in the running for the Most Valuable Player award. As time dwindled, the crowd stood and erupted in Oklahoma City, chanting impetuously to reduce the tension and terror.

"We want Dallas! We want Dallas!"

Wishes came true.

After all, the Thunder absolutely are facing the Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals, ready to encounter a competitive bout in the next few weeks as Durant's popularity balloons with his accomplishments on the court when he evolved into the youngest player to ever lead the league in scoring when he averaged 30.1 points last season. When he entered the NBA in 2007, forgoing his sophomore season at the University of Texas, he was much too dignified because he was clearly a gifted player, standing at 6-foot-10, athletically balanced and equipped to make an immediate impact.

But the Thunder, with even the surest notion that this is the team to beat in the ever changeable West, convinces and sends a statement to all disbelievers. It was clear, then and there, that no one could crowd or slow down the streaky, hottest player on the floor in Durant, including the untouchable Westbrook. And in all, this was about Durant, earning his rightful nickname, which would be "Durantula," and revealing to the nation that he's an elite breed. What's impressive about Durant and Westbrook is how both can shimmer and win it all feasibly, as the vast majority ignores the Thunder's glorious pursuit.

"I was just trying to get my teammates as easy as shots as possible," Westbrook said. "I just always do my best to play my game. That's it. Kevin just told me not to pay attention to what any of you guys are saying."

As it happened, of course, the Thunder won the series in seven games in a usual fashion. In this game, Westbrook was an integral element and finished with a triple-double, Durant poured in 39 points and James Harden produced his exuberant work off the bench with 17 points. Surely, no one ever imagined Westbrook capping a triple-double, the first in a Game 7 since Scottie Pippen in 1992. It's acceptable to think that the Thunder can win the NBA championship, perfectly content with the lack of publicity and disrespect, not recognized whether because the team is too young or inexperience.

In all honesty, the Thunder had the proper ingredients in a stellar performance by shooting efficiently, gathering stops regularly and slowing down the Grizzlies. It comes as no surprise that Durant bounced back with the grandest performance, particularly when he was hard on himself for his lack of energy and assertiveness in Game 6, committing a pair of fouls early on with a horrible 3-for-14 shooting night. The night for Durant was spectacular in many ways, for which he hit four of his nine three-point tries and converted on all nine of his free throw attempts, all while collecting nine rebounds and blocking three shots with two assists.

"It's another good step for our organization," Brooks said. "Our goal was, just like all the other 29 teams, is to win a championship and we're no different. We know that the process is long and hard and you can't skip steps and you don't get there quickly. To get to the conference finals is a great opportunity for our group, but it is important that we keep playing. Dallas presents a lot of problems."

There's a sense of belief, after the Thunder sent a message. The Thunder aren't to be reckoned with.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

James Leads the Way, Finally Earns Retribution Over Celtics

King James comes to mind, as the most disdained athlete in sports. He is, without question, a villain worldwide, except in South Beach where he is the beloved icon whom the folks in Miami adore by embracing, pampering and rooting for him even if he hijacked television for an hour to televise "The Decision," his callous reality show -- even if he was disloyal and betrayed his native homeland when he departed abruptly.

You think he's a selfish nitwit, not King James, not even the replica of Michael Jordan. You think he's Prince James. But with enough evidence in the postseason where he's proven to be a valuable star, it's clear James has risen in Miami and respectively has repaired his image. He was almost close to becoming the prima donna of the NBA, after all the deceptiveness in Cleveland, after all the frolic mind games by holding owner Dan Gilbert -- the fans and his former teams hostage and after all the drama last summer that elicited enemies.

Sports aren't fun without a villain, mind you, someone who can irritate the souls of causal fans, someone who can stand as a nuisance in America with his arrogance and enormous ego trip to hear endless boos more than cheers. He'll always be the most underappreciated player globally for selfishly and wrongly leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, a supreme franchise in which James uplifted a bleak town and released the painful indignities from the ugliest burdens once the Cavs suddenly reached a peek to elevate into contention.

And all the time he was there, however, he never prevailed to lead the Cavs to an NBA championship, including the meaningful matchups in surpassing Boston, the one opponent who'd delay his pursuit of mastering his first NBA title. Where he seems to earn his plaudits, ever since he decided to migrate to Miami in one of the most bizarre transitions in history that formed perhaps the greatest trio all-time, he has finally stood up to the Celtics, not intimidated or subjugated by the aging, inert contenders in the East. After a night when he fought off his problematic antagonist who has been debilitated ever since Boston floor general Rajon Rondo became inefficient because of an injury, and then the white towels swung skyward at American Airlines Arena, celebrating a triumphant 97-87 victory over the Celtics and clinching the series 4-1, James dropped on one knee and hit the floor lightly.

Is this revenge?? In my view, he avenged a dreadful series of woes that mirrored a sob story each time he would faced the Celtics in the playoffs. Truth be told, the average person is looking for an excuse, whether he knocked off his nemesis in the past and led the Heat when the aging, injured Celtics era had come to an end, to denounce and ridicule James amid the entire backlash. For once and for all, he felt triumph. For once and for all, he is revered as a superstar in one town, if nowhere else.

It was merely a year ago, falling to the Celtics in an upsetting blow during his sensational pursuit in a Cavs uniform, when he left an entire town in anger and dampened the community where there never was a well-known sporting celebrity around that no one could idolize. Suddenly, he is a pariah in his native state rather than an appreciated star for a town that wholeheartedly became attached and had admired the iconic figure when he brightened the landscape in a depressed environment, until his free-agency drama unleashed his true colors, a deranged summer where he planned his absurd stunt to announce that he'll be joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach.

Where he lost much regards, at least among the populace, was when he publicly humiliated the Cavs with his self-centered, egotistical spectacle on television. He is so much at peace in South Beach, beloved and glorified by the supporters, that he is hard-driven and fixated on earning his first ever title. When he carelessly turned on Cleveland, to some, he deferred his claim to all time greatness and surrendered the likelihood of mounting into the elite ballplayer in the game.

There comes a point when it's time to forge a statement, and James vindicated that he can beat Boston after all. There comes a point when it's time to stand as a team leader and measure up to the hype, when it's time for redemption, contributing largely alongside two stars he joined in hopes of a title. From villain to hero, he is now the savior, a likable specimen after he was a primary factor in dispatching the gritty Celtics. Now, he was successful and fulfilled his biggest achievement in the greatest game of his career, teaming with Wade and Bosh that resembles Crockett and Tubbs, the coolest tandem from the hit television show Miami Vice in the '80s.

But in this generation, as maybe it should've been observed last summer, it is clearly James and Wade, a pair of ballplayers with the national spotlight. With the notion of the stakes immensely, approaching each game in the series with a relentless mentality, James was steadfast and strong-willed in defeating the Celtics. And now, he is the flamboyant commodity who has shifted the mood and, in part, cultivated the Heat as the franchise polished in the postseason.

If the Heat suffers defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals, now that Miami awaits the winner between the Atlanta vs. Chicago series, it was considered a success for James when he definitely led a team passed the Celtics. This is where, at last, he can put a year worth of fiascoes, blunders and criticism behind him. This is where he waved goodbye to the Celtics, weary of his failures in the past in which he proved all his doubters wrong by amending his weaknesses when he launched his signature three-pointer from 25 feet in distance and survived an exuberant series. The vibe is much different in Miami, a place where the crowd was energized and shouted loudly, following his sequential three-pointers in the final 2:10 to extend the score in the Heat's favor.

"It means everything," said James of his relationship with Wade. "It is part of the reason I came here, not only because of his talent, but because of the friendship we had."

On this particular night, he settled for 33 points on 20 shots and Wade contributed as well. Between the horrid performance early on, three helpless turnovers, the absences in his arsenal of ball-handling and successive onslaughts to find his rhythm, James was on his way to having a poor night in what would have formulated plenty of madness when he is devoid of a championship because he derails against Boston. Though he began by shooting 0-for-4 with a multitude of turnovers, struggling to attack the rim and delivering the knockout punches, his presence was required in a game the Heat needed to close out the Celtics with a 3-1 lead in the series.

"Part of the reason we came together was them laying the blueprint," James said. "They pushed us, every second, every play, every minute out on the court. If we made a mistake, they made us pay for it."

His most telling moment, the biggest breakthrough in his lifetime, came in a closeout game against the Celtics. And just as he's been longing for, at last, he scored 33 points, including the final 10 points of the game and ended Boston's season. He reflected on the backlash in the wave of emotions, removed the bitter taste of defeats and rejoiced with his new teammates.

"Everything went through my mind," James said. "Everything with this team and everything I went through with the decision, deciding to come down here, because I knew how important team was to this sport. All the backlash I got from it, the talks me and D-Wade had. I'd be up here for two hours if I told you everything that went through my head. It was just very emotional at that point."

It has taken 10 months and a series win over the Celtics before James, for once, expressed forgiveness and remorse for "The Decision," the P.R. controversy that tarnished his reputation when he incensed the majority of fans, especially the supporters in Ohio. After the Heat eliminated the Celtics last night, possibly closing the window eternally, James was very apologetic and finished off Boston.

"You're not beating a team like the Boston Celtics with one guy that's the focal point of the offense," Wade said. "That's why I said last year that I'm not going out in the first round again. I'm not putting myself in this position. I'm gonna recruit and get some help. I understood that I needed help, especially against a team like that."

This time, in triumph, James was the winner. This time, he beat the Celtics. This time, he had the last laugh.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lakers Need to Revamp, After Embarrassing Downfall

Together, they were soft, feeble and spongy, whether it was overconfidence or tiredness, ignoring Andrew Bynum's insightful remarks on the lack of chemistry, cohesiveness and trust after Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. What's so easy to forget, when blinded by the invincibility as if the Los Angeles Lakers weren't vulnerable for attack and couldn't collapse in the postseason, a season featuring much unpredictability and astonishing events, is that the Lakers were on decline and requires an extreme makeover.

It's vital to the Lakers' stagnant personality that the front office handles the offseason with urgency and revamps the roster for the betterment of the future, within a franchise built with mystique and megastars. What did Kobe Bryant think of the fatality, an embarrassing demolition, which clinched the series for the Dallas Mavericks and ended the triumph for the Lakers to remind the Los Angeles' folks of the latest demise pulverizing a storied franchise?

It marked the first time in quite a while, wearing a towel with a depressing gaze on his face not having his usual intimidating facial features, that Bryant walked out of the shower dazed and frustrated, stepped onto the podium in the conference room somberly and walked off in tremendous shock. He was stronger and matured in a way, loaded with five championship rings in an era the Lakers preserved triumphant feats. While before the press, addressing a swarm of reporters sitting cramped in the room, he did not whine about the loss and acknowledged the winners, discussing the lack of dominance and effort to crowd and disrupt the Mavs.

Either Dallas was too much to disrupt or either the Lakers were too apathetic, lethargic and doltish. Seems it's clearly hard to intrude the minds of the erratic Lakers, a perplexing riddle in the NBA as the majority try to figure out what happened with the defending champs, collapsing in the postseason by not fighting efficiently or playing as a composed unit. So what's the problem for a team that cannot defy the odds of defending its title when the team isn't fierce or intimidating for the opposing opponent?

Nobody is afraid of the two-time defending champs with the intangibles to match the Lakers' firepower, durability and strength, unevenly outplaying and bullying Team Hollywood. But for some reason, probably because the Lakers were too pompous and comfortable as L.A. continued to reign as the most prominent franchise in the NBA, the well-respected basketball team in Los Angeles wasn't focused and failed to fiercely battle and allowed the Mavs to slaughter them. The face of the Lakers, for the rare defeat that sent a wakeup call to the Busses, is anything but flawless and hopeful. It would be convenient for the Lakers to clean house and seek a rebuilding plan to rebuild by surrounding Bryant with youth and athleticism.

This offseason, the Busses need to bring in explosive guards and a physique seven-foot center. So now, the Lakers should have Orlando's potent seven-footer Dwight Howard in mind and target Superman, given his maximized skills and capacity to rule the paint with his tallness that creates a sublime post presence. That's all the more reason the Lakers must consider proposing a trade offer, a package deal sending Pau Gasol aka Paula Gasoft and Ron Artest to Orlando for Howard and Jason Richardson.

It's not such a bad suggestion, but a shrewd conception for a franchise in desperate need of a severe transition to inevitably bypass the torture of staggering postseason debacles that produces horror with all the misgivings. No matter what, in retrospect, the NBA is a business and it is cruel at times, compelling a legion of teams to listen to trade offers and reach a consensus for a player that blends in with the rest of the players and its depleted roster. And so it should come as no surprise that the Lakers could send Steve Blake, Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown and Artest packing.

For that matter, any player other than Kobe, the centerpiece in the Lakers future. Meanwhile, for the most accomplished coach all-time, Phil Jackson can drift into the sunset on strong terms, despite a heartbreaking exit in the semifinals of the weirdest postseason seen in a long time. In his glamorous coaching career, he migrated from New York where he was a hippie in the 70s and played ball, then fled to the Windy City in Chicago where he was fortunate in mentoring arguably the greatest player all-time Michael Jordan and then left for the beaches in Southern California to guide Kobe and the Lakers to five NBA titles.

The perfect ending for a historic legacy would be this summer after he earned his 11th title last June when the Lakers won back-to-back titles in his spectacular career, cemented by Los Angeles' wonderful journey before the era approached a rare closure. In his tenure, he established a legacy in L.A. and had been the proudest symbol of modern coaches in pro sports best known for teaching the fundamentals of basketball with his psychological mind games, which had a strong impact on the Lakers in recent memory. This was, above all, a surprising series for the Lakers, a series of devastation and it showed signs of deterioration for the dysfunctional two-time defending champs.

If nothing else, given the painful relapses in the horrifying series against the Mavs, the Lakers three-peat and Kobe's pursuit of his sixth title were endangered by Game 2 of the horrid series. By the time it was over, for the 65-year-old coach who is the most decorated legend in NBA history, he walked off the court with a widened smile, acknowledging and congratulating his antagonist while accepting praise by others, ready to call it a career and decided to depart with the most successful odyssey by any NBA coach in history.

As for the amazing pursuit of procuring his sixth title to tie Jordan in championships, Bryant gave all his effort but the Lakers dwindled in an embarrassing sweep and disintegrated under the burden of enormous disgrace and surrendered to the Mavs. It's one thing to respond with no energy or bitterness down 3-0 in a series. It's another when the team refuses to attack, recover and stay alive in the best-of-seven series with faith that a historic comeback is probable. The absolute laziness and unwillingness to defend the value of a title, not avoiding the sweep by the Mavs to reduce the humiliation and derision over the next couple of weeks, creates a publicity disaster for the Lakers. And in the upcoming weeks, L.A. will be bashed for such paltry responses against the hungrier and mightier Mavs.

Aside from it all, the next coach in line?

Well, if you prefer to keep Bryant content and want creativity and resiliency, then Brian Shaw, a favorable candidate to fill in the vacancy when Jackson announces his retirement and forges his signature on the documents, is the man worth hiring for the job. It was pitiful and entirely dispirited the way the Lakers played, revealing signs of oldness and fatigue in their sudden demise.

Mortals, anyone?

The Lakers can use a roster upgrade, revamping not only the starters but the bench players as well. When the Lakers are devoid of respect and a championship, when Team Hollywood is subjected to destruction and stands on the brink of elimination, the specifics normally are that the Lakers consists of an old and attenuated roster. Now that the generation has ended for the Lakers and unleashed ignominy, with rants from people on what future plans L.A. might want to consider down the road, it's imperative they retool before returning to prominence.

And after observing the Lakers lose in the semifinals to the Mavs, unable to survive the series by keeping it alive, the priority for Los Angeles should be remodeling the whole roster and surrounding Bryant with younger and explosive talent. The vanity of heart and guts destroyed the Lakers faith when L.A. erroneously blew a 16-point lead in Game 1, the one contest in the series that dictated the momentum and shifted the sense of belief. From there, the Mavs hijacked each game of the stunning series.

If the Lakers fail to renovate in the offseason, primarily because the Buss family is too stubborn-minded or too egomaniacal in spending massively on a megastar, then it won't ever be resolved and they'll continue to behave like punks and utterly be blown out in an uncompetitive match up. As long as the Lakers lineup is old and motionless -- almost ineffective in protecting sharpshooters from beyond the arc -- they'll have trouble defending the pick-and-roll or setting up to run the triangle efficiently.

In other words, the Lakers will never, ever be a sufficient defensive-minded unit, particularly with old, soft and slow depth in the lineup. Near the ending, and near the beginning of an annihilation, aging heavyweights lost composure and self-esteem by their body language in the final quarter. When it all ended, putting aside the debate of a potential repeat in June, it was grisly as the Lakers had poor sportsmanlike conduct with their bad actions on the court.

The nightmarish episodes were frustrating and despicable for the Lakers to bear, as the team was awfully routed in a demoralizing 122-86 loss. That led to the wretched behavior, when Lamar Odom stupidly sent Dirk Nowitzki to the floor on his cheap shot and later was ejected. Then, moments later, there was Andrew Bynum delivering a hard blow to Dallas' J.J. Barea.

It was outrageous and uncalled for.

At the very top level is Jackson, for a coach who achieved a legion of greatness. This is a permanent exit, realizing he has accomplished enough to leave wearing a smile, evidently calm and proud, even if he has fallen short of his fourth three-peat. Years from now the Lakers will reflect on the final game in their powerful regime and recall Jackson's unparalleled coaching achievements. It turned ugly rapidly and midway in the second quarter, the Lakers trailed by 18 and they were very incompetent, enough to force Jackson in calling two full timeouts. At that point the Lakers were done when Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic fired three-point shots and dismantled the defense, which made a baffled Barnes' afternoon miserable and exhausted a drained Fisher.

What is shockingly mind-blowing is that the Lakers abandoned their throne, succumbing to the Mavs, who were successful in dethroning the Lakers and sending an influential statement.

"I don't think we played bad to start the game," Jackson said. "But in that second quarter, the roof fell in on us."

No, the Lakers played horribly and were outscored a staggering 36-16 in the second quarter. Not once did they seem hungry or feisty in challenging and battling with the Mavs to keep their championship dreams alive. It kind of brought back the dreadful memories where the Lakers dropped Game 6 in the 2008 NBA Finals by 39 points to Boston for vividly the most humiliating letdown in franchise history. And now a 36-point margin of victory, the largest of the game.

Alas, it sadly ended for the Lakers in such a dreaded cessation.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For Nowitzki, a Championship Cures Everything

He's accustomed to the heart of Texas and the most fascinating locale in the Lone Star State, from the stereotypes of cowboys to the prairies to the Western lifestyle. There's nothing surprising about the latest development in Dirk Nowitzki's scorching postseason run and his sensational performance to dominate of late.

If Nowitzki wins his first NBA championship in a town where the zesty Texans haven't witnessed much triumph but heartaches with dreary collapses by major professional franchises in the Dallas/Fort Worth region and doesn't teeter in the deepest point of the postseason, he won't be ridiculed and will be entitled to be depicted as one of the shooters and greatest NBA player all-time. Nowitzki can hit an array of shots that charms the believers and his star-studded shooting normally puts fear on the minds of the opposing opponents, including his mental ability to manipulate the mood of an unpredictable postseason with ills and inspiration.

But what he cannot accomplish, during his slightly dazzling career, is lead the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA championship, where he usually stumbles and turns stagnant. Just once, as he is on a mission to win his first title and quiet down the critics, Nowitzki is nearing another shot at redeeming himself after he couldn't pilot the Mavs in the 2006 NBA Finals. By now, nobody is pondering the rematch of a dream match up between the Celtics vs. Lakers or the Lakers vs. Heat or even Thunder vs. Bulls. It would be an insult, not to mention that Nowitzki is the hottest player in the postseason, to discredit and ignore the Mavericks when the team owns a 3-0 lead over the defending champs in the semifinals.

And with apologies to L.A., for all the chatter that the defending champs would three-peat, for all the suggestions that no longer exist after watching the horror as a series suddenly fades in the demise of the Lakers, it turns out Dallas is the relentless megastars everybody insulted and never imagined putting the Lakers three-peat run in jeopardy. It's not unheard of, even if he's one of the best players, to have a horrible series. But when he continues to unravel each season in the postseason or NBA Finals, then it becomes a frequent pattern for a player who could never prevail at the finish of a competitive journey.

That would, well, be Nowitzki. As a seven-footer with mammoth size, he takes advantage by his capabilities to hurl his perilous three-pointers and convert on his long range buckets. Look at how nobody can hinder Nowitzki from hitting an array of shots to surge with unstoppable shooting, but he is bound to cool down by the next series and weaken as competition becomes deeper and more intense. His arsenal of destructive shooting declines at the worst possible time every season, when he is normally in groove before losing his swagger.

A person can admire his ambition, just as a person can understand that his hottest streak won't last. It appears that he might have the best turnaround and step-back jumper in the game, but he's not a reliable performer in the NBA. Given his previous history, he is known for diminishing greatly after the Mavs were upset by Golden State in the first round of the postseason and heartbroken by the Heat in the Finals, the moment Nowitzki should have won his first ring. In other words, all of this could be a fluke.

And all people, by now, are familiar with this pattern for a team having a puzzled identity in the past, giving owner Mark Cuban reason to whine and have his infantile hissy fit when he rips the officials incensed over poor calls. For sure, after averaging 21 points per game in 11 consecutive seasons, he is a future Hall of Famer. To end the night, Nowitzki posted 32 points with another effective 12 of 19 shooting night that propelled the Mavs to a 98-92 win over the fallen Lakers and secured a surprising 3-0 lead in the series. There's no doubt that Nowitzki is the greatest player of all-time for one franchise, but he is an underappreciated megastar because he never wins the huge games when the stakes are higher.

Do whatever you please, but when you double team or crowd him, he still hits a turnaround jumper. Do whatever you please, but when you put a hand in his face, he makes almost every shot. The question now is whether or not he is championship material??

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Celtics Are No Match for Younger James, Heat

In a year where the epicenter of an unparalleled experiment assembled believably the greatest trio all-time in the history of American sports -- bigger than any prior transactions in NBA history, the only other that parallels the acquisition of Lebron James and Chris Bosh was a few years ago when Boston acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett respectively in a trade.

If there's one valid explanation for why James fled abruptly from his native homeland Cleveland and announced nationally via his narcissistic one-hour spectacle, a bizarre, self-centered stunt that killed his legacy and popularity, it was for one objective. That would be to capture his first ever NBA championship with the Heat. If there's anything less than a title, upon the gossip that the Heat are the dominant force in the league jumping into primary contention with the masterminded rebuilding by the savvy Hall of Famer Pat Riley, it would be a great disappointment when the franchise built sizable talent.

The Heat, once upon a time, were useless, too young and soft to align into quality stars, unable to vanquish any weaknesses in a flux. For a variety of reasons, for which he sacrificed his ego and ceded his legacy all while seeking a lone title, he signed the smallest deal of the most compelling free-agency bonanza, migrated to South Beach and join forces with the Heat. When the Heat implored James to become a resident in Miami, not to mention to stand as a symbol globally in a town where basketball has turned into a social event regularly, the franchise in Southern Florida wooed him away from Chicago, New York and Cleveland.

The good news is, of course, that he is playing for the hottest team in these playoffs and has had a large impact on the Heat's dominance in the postseason so far, even if he's portrayed as one of the most villainous person in sports except for the likes of Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez and Kobe Bryant. That's what America desires, a sports figure who is the villainous superstar ridiculed for either a mishandled decision or for being disloyal in a town that pampered and adored him dearly. The most powerful man in the world isn't Donald Trump, not even Charlie Sheen, maybe the funniest television personality who might have lost his mind mentally.

Other than President Obama controlling the reign of power these days, it turns out that James is the most powerful athlete. This was the night for James to put a hush on the critics, carrying the Heat in the most sensational performance in which he played like a barbaric assassin to propel to 102-91 victory in Game 2 Tuesday night for a commanding 2-0 lead of Boston in the series. And together, they have played with cohesiveness and toughness, thrust in the position to increase the level of intensity and urgency if the Heat wish to surpass the hardest challenge in the postseason.

In an erratic season, of which the Heat wilted and began to frail in the shadows of others in the Eastern Conference for their poorest drought in the regular season, one of the underachieving franchises that lacked unity and trust, Miami was seemingly predicated to hit a roadblock against the Celtics, who boldly teased Miami via Twitter by unleashing, "It's been a pleasure to bring my talents to South Beach, Paul Pierce posted after Boston's statement win in Miami back in November.

Before the basketball lords mock and denounce the Heat, before the analyst disrespect James and Wade, might we suggest that Miami is scarier than ever, prepared to meet an epic battle. This clearly looks like a seven-game series, in what has flourished into an immediate rivalry. This gives Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, the protégé of Riley, every reason to breathe and not stress about his job security but uphold the coaching role and thrive to cement the Heat in every way.

It seems, after all, the Heat aren't nearing destruction but instead triumph, aren't close to being dispatched from the postseason with the exception of James, Wade and Bosh. Quite fittingly, the Big Three exist in South Beach rather than Beantown for a veteran core beginning to reveal their weaknesses. The aging bodies and tiredness is a factor in the Celtics' sluggish, sketchy breakdown as Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, the inspirational voice and defensive guru, slowly debilitates to limit Boston's usual firmness. No one ever imagined the Celtics being in the jeopardy of losing a series, now trailing 2-0 to the Heat.

For Miami, now in full control of the series, they are the hungriest and strongest equipped with a disruptive and assertive defense. In this generation, known as the era of "Where Amazing Happens," the Heat bypassed the hysteria and lives up to the hype with a relentless effort against the defending Eastern Conference champs. It was an edgy night for the Celtics, a testimony to the Heat's anxiousness and heartiness to revolutionize their intensity as the deepest and boisterous triple threat in the East if not in the league. As the Heat's youth dictates the significance of this series, a common trend noticed all of the sudden in such a startling semifinals, the older Celtics are breaking down.

The premature disrespect inspired the Heat to heal the heartaches and it has placed fear on the minds of the Celtics, fading quickly as the topflight squad. Forget about the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference semifinals with higher expectations than the Heat. Forget about Boston supposedly being the toughest unit with much postseason experience, when perhaps the reign has ended completely. But as much as everybody tries to downplay the Heat's rebound in time for the postseason, with talented star power on the floor nightly, the Heat are rising quickly.

In this one, James had the signature dunk and poured in 35 points, many of which came in the fourth quarter alone when he dominated at will and stunned all his critics. His counterpart, no doubt, scored 28 points, and on this particular night, he wasn't too worried about an ailing Pierce. No ejects or technicals, but he was seen limping to the locker room with a probable "strained foot" diagnosis. No need for a wheelchair either but, in all, the injury was revealed to be a strained Achilles' tendon.

In his return, he was limited and had a 5-for-11 performance to finish with 13 points, all while his teammate Allen accounted for seven points and ended an abysmal night in shooting. Everything, it seemed, was falling for the Heat in the final quarter after witnessing the Heat take a 14-0 tear in the fourth to complete another lopsided ending. The lack of fight in the Celtics, with the passive and careless mindset, is killing Boston and finally James and Wade are gaining closer to riding the Celtics with the last word at last.

Without a healthy Rajon Rondo, battling with problematic back ailments, the Celtics aren't nearly explosive or robust but very fragile and vulnerable that gives Miami an advantage in an unpredictable series. Early in the fourth, he lied flat on his sore back and had been worked on by trainers. Earlier in the season, the Heat were overpowered in three games by the Celtics and bullied while in uncertainty with the lack of defensive effort.

If the age was revealed, finally, it's a real notion that Miami has solid defense to halt the Celtics when Allen, the NBA's all-time three-point leader, couldn't hit a three exhausted from the Heat's speed and energy that dictated the tempo. It was ridiculous for nine voters to exclude James off their MVP ballots, given that he transcended in one of his most balanced playoff performance of his strange career. But all of this essentially fueled his capabilities to unleash his stylish attack on the older Celtics by shooting a mere 14-for-25 and collecting seven rebounds, compiling 14 of the Heat's 16 points in the third and fourth.

"I've been in moments before in the postseason where I've gotten it going," James said. "And tonight was another night where you felt like whatever you threw up or whatever play you were making for you team, it was going to work."

It will probably go down as one of his greatest games, hitting consecutive three-pointers and crossing over his opposing defender to finish on a smooth floater off the glass. When James stormed down the floor quickly, he literally flew over the top of Rondo in the fast break and slammed in a basket on the putback dunk. And he even caused damage on defense when he blocked Garnett late in the game.

This tells us that LeBron and company is no match for the Celtics.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Good Vibes in South Beach, If Wade Dictates Series

The crowd in the stands, lathered in Miami white, stood as Dwyane Wade posed for the cameras and dived into spectators as he stormed for the ball in the second half, where celebrities watched amazingly. The celebs, such as P. Diddy, Gloria Estefan and Drake, gathered near courtside to soak in a wave of excitement and intense drama, easily hypnotized by the electricity at American Airlines Arena, where nearby a train of cruise ships rested at the docks on a refreshing late afternoon in America’s tropical setting.

No one is a larger celebrity in South Beach than Wade, a basketball star and television marketer globally, whether he features in his comical T-Mobile or Gatorade commercial ads. The world belongs to Wade in Miami, where he is marked as the face of a franchise in prime contention with the welfare of two marquee megastars coming to his aid, on pace to possibly win an NBA championship in June. If we forget to acknowledge a noteworthy iconic figure in the league, a player with a colossal impact on his team's brilliancy and state of mind, it's Wade we are wrongly neglecting.

At game's end, he was given a loud, kindhearted standing ovation for a 38 point performance, settling for a game high in the scoring category and playing like he was the Flash we once were familiar with, when he was a dynamic duo alongside Shaquille O'Neal -- dating back to the time in his delightful career when he won his lone championship as a member of the Heat. What's more conspicuous, after the Heat beat the Boston Celtics 99-90 on Sunday in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinals, is that he's virtually the veteran leader for a dominant core on a quest for an NBA title, coming out with a fierce, fiery mentality.

He not only qualifies as the Most Valuable Player in a town where basketball is priority, ever since the masterminded president assembled talent to solidify and form an unparalleled Superteam in South Beach, but also qualifies as the cultural icon in Miami -- even after LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined forces that built conceivably the greatest trio all-time. The iconic faces, beloved by the vast majority in South Florida, were the enormity of the league's most talented team and an eye-opener on an afternoon when the Heat finished a resplendent spectacle, in what appeared to articulate sheer dominance that came into view so nicely.

And most importantly, almost convincingly, if not, Wade played his most dazzling game of these playoffs after he could've brought smiles to thousands, believing in a team on the verge of a title amid a daunting postseason of ills and thrills. When he sauntered off the court and walked toward the locker room, Wade acknowledged the fans and stared fatigued, knowingly pleased with the victory but not satisfied, knowing there is plenty left in the series.

Meanwhile, the Heat faced a rigid challenge of their own, with discussions that the ageless Celtics were well-experienced, poised and robust in defeating Miami in a lengthy series of breathless and surprising fireworks. D-Wade and company took notice and had been clearly aware of the Celtics' dominance, after meeting on three occasions in the regular season.

The teaming of multiple stars is a useful tool for Wade, relieving lots of pressure on the explosive floor general who needed assistance, including LeBron at his aid in chase for a championship. The anger in a bitter town that hasn't witnessed a major championship in ages, along with the world perceiving James as a pariah and the world's most hated athlete, described the Heat as the villainous franchise in professional sports, holding grudges against James after abruptly departing a depressed community where residents burned his expensive No. 23 jerseys following his egotistical extravaganza.

It was "The Decision," a full-blown reality show that crippled his legacy and increasingly killed his popularity as populace conveyed animosity towards the global megastar. The emotions of a fallen star, when he clearly dropped from grace by his poor choice during his free agency last summer, became a national disturbance and has not earned his celebrity as a likable athlete, even though he sacrificed his legacy and ceded his ego. It wasn't long ago, particularly at the beginning of the regular season when Miami struggled to accumulate victories because of egos, imperfections, limited experience and the lack of mental capacities, that the Heat became fearful, gutless and soft. Few believe, but for many of whom hate the Heat, that the recent prosperity of Miami's postseason surge engenders an emotional outpouring for the magnitude of a championship-starved town.

Meanwhile, in the past week, the Heat became less vulnerable and the scariest assassins in the playoffs. It wasn't just a matter of bodies crashing to the floor or mini scuffles, provoked by the exchange of words from one of the stars -- sent to the locker room early after he was ejected -- but it was essentially the consciousness in a sensational, epic series of conviction and craze. The difference in this case was the Heat, a cohesive unit with trust and confidence, acting like unstoppable contenders. When Paul Pierce drew his second technical foul with seven minutes left, as the irritable Celtics' star was escorted to the locker room furious over Wade's peskiness that forced Pierce to lose his composure, he was battered and lost his match against Wade.

"It's the playoffs," said Wade. "We're trying to win."

The Heat arrived on the scene and bullied the Celtics, delivering the knockout punch in which it sort of dictated the concept of what could be a prolonged series, an epic battle with engaging drama. And as combative as the Heat are playing, it's been a drastic turnaround for Miami, once criticized for its early lapses and not jelling as a tenacious unit. Wade was fierce and had been the scoring machine for much of the night. James was the selfless playmaker, mostly dishing off passes to James Jones, who had 25 points off the bench.

With that in mind, he was near-perfect from three-point range and shot an incredible 5-for-7, giving the Heat a cushion in a large deficit. This comes as no surprise that the Heat are clicking on all cylinders. The good vibes are telling by Miami's scorching firepower, mindset and toughness, dominating the East and bringing out the oldness in the Celtics, a unit with aging veterans but fully capable of showing signs of life when the stakes are higher. There are good vibes partly because Wade vanquished four miserable regular season downfalls by pouring in 38 points with 14-for-21 in shooting, five assists and two blocks in a well-rounded performance, all coming in 37 minutes of playing time.

The point is, just moments into the late matinee in South Beach, Wade bullied and emotionally teased Pierce as much as Jones peeved the Celtics captain when he was clobbered around the shoulders by Jones on a play where Pierce was faked and tried to hinder him from firing the jumper for a three-point opportunity. In response, he nudged his nose into Jones' cheek, and of course, Jones retaliated. There was an abundance of trash talk that escalated into fighting words to some degree, really by the time the Celtics were trailing 87-74.

As Wade stormed the baseline defensively, breaking out of the screen, the refs blew the whistles immediately and called double technicals on both superstars, and then sent Pierce to the locker room. The customary inhabitants in the stands witnessed an earnest Wade pose as a leader in his role, and then as superior as ever, he demanded the ball and shined as the popular star on the shores of South Beach. If he's finally the primary scoring assassin, if James is the crafty playmaker and if Jones can be a factor off the bench, then it's easy to figure that the Celtics are in for a tremendous fight, a rival showdown that can crucify Boston. For now, however, the Celtics are labeled underdogs on the road against a younger, tougher championship-caliber squad -- perhaps scarier if Wade hit pull-up jumpers and score fastbreak points.

All of this makes him thrilling to watch regularly. And in this particular scenario, the Heat's relentless defensive effort was designed to frustrate the Celtics and make it complicated. It was effective and very well executed, as the Celtics stumbled in a sense. Early on, Rajon Rondo, Celtics explosive point guard, earned three fouls, played a total of eight first-half minutes and couldn't defend Wade successfully.

Wade, as we know, is suited to attack the Celtics and can be very creative with the ball in his hands, equipped to attempt the pull-up jump shot. So even if James is his counterpart, the Heat are aggressors and superb with Wade having an impact, taking on the substantial game-winning play. By now, the Heat are probably inspired to reach higher levels in Game 2 on Tuesday, while the Celtics are revealing signs of weakness as the team ages instantly.

Sure enough, beware of Wade. Pretty soon, on the arena in downtown Miami, it should be a banner that reads "BEWARE OF WADE!!" After all, it is Wade County or Wade's World, which ever you prefer.