Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Miami Heat: LeBron Era S04E81

To quote/paraphrase various Star Wars characters, "I have a bad feeling about this." The Miami Heat, in the penultimate game of the 2013-14 regular season, were blown out by the Washington Wizards 114-93. This loss wasn't as bad as the one they suffered to the Wizards on January 15, because the Heat rested LeBron and Chris Bosh (and gave limited minutes to other key players), but it was indicative of the inconsistent year the team has had in terms of play; not to mention that, however improbable*, a win against the Wizards could have helped toward the Heat securing the East's top seed and home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

I suppose I understand the logic, even while not agreeing with it: It's not worth risking an injury to your star players** this late in the season. But if the ECFs do indeed come down to a Game 7 in Indiana (a big if for me), that caution is going to be rued, especially if the Pacers lose on Wednesday.

Lately, I've been thinking about each of the Heat's four seasons with LeBron as its star in terms of television series' seasons, and this year I've found my expectations lower than they've ever been. Malaise is the word I would use to best describe how I feel about this team, this season. Again, I have a bad feeling about this.

I'd compare Season 1 of the Lebron Era Heat to Season 1 of AMC's The Killing***: lowered expectations followed by heightened interest and intrigue, then, ultimately, profound disappointment. When the Heat signed LeBron and Bosh and re-signed Dwyane Wade, I didn't expect them to win a title in their first year together. Basketball, from my experience, doesn't tend to work like that. But then the playoffs began, and the Heat steamrolled their two biggest Eastern Conference rivals -- Boston and Chicago -- on their way to a berth in the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. I actually believed then that they would stick the landing. We know how that turned out, both for the 2010-11 Heat and The Killing's finale.

Season 2 might be compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer's second season. After a shaky first year, both the Heat and Buffy came into their own. They both had the necessary pieces from the start; it just took a little time for them to find their grooves and flourish****.

By Season 3, the Heat knew their identity and at times could do no wrong (27 straight wins!), but nothing is ever assured, and they had to claw their way to the Finals against the upstart Pacers before, in the the penultimate game of the season, shocking the world with one of the biggest twists in sports history and going on to win their second straight title in the finale. The obvious analogue here is Game of Thrones' third season, with Ray Allen's Game 6 3-pointer representing the Red Wedding in "The Rains of Castamere*****."

Season 4, man? I don't know. What I do know is that this is a show I have been faithful to, of which I watch every episode, and this year the quality has been wildly inconsistent, like the coaching staff is just making it up as they go along. Much of that has to do with Dwyane Wade receiving a "Guest Starring" credit on the season, as well as the loss of an underappreciated key role player (Mike Miller), the addition of players who haven't received enough scenes to fully realize their roles (Michael Beasley, Greg Oden, Toney Allen), and the confusing lack of scenes for veteran guys who know theirs (Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier).

Shit, now I have it. Season 4 of the LeBron Era is Season 4 of LOST.

LOST of course wasn't canceled after its fourth season, and I hope Wade/LeBron/Bosh sign on for Season 5, but neither did LOST regain its prior greatness. What was once such a captivating show slowly devolved into a mess of plotholes and unanswered questions, and that's what this Heat season feels like.

I'll still watch how this season unfolds (and so will you), but unless the showrunners have a big surprise planned, I don't expect many Miami Heat 2013-2014 NBA Champions DVDs or Blu-rays getting stocked.

Word to Radiohead, I might be wrong. I hope I am. But based upon my keen observations of this season, I expect, and am fully prepared for, a let down.


* They would have had to beat the Sixers on Wednesday, and Indiana would have had to lose to Orlando in its final game of the season. Improbable, but not impossible.

** Why even play Wade, then?

*** a show I didn't watch. These analogies concern two shows (The Killing, Buffy) I haven't seen yet have read a lot about in terms of general consensus and/or plot details. In the case that I have some facts/posits wrong, please forgive my ersatz comparisons.

****  I was hoping that I could find a player on the Heat whose Bacon Number of 1 is on par with Sarah Michelle Gellar's, but the closest I got was 2 for LeBron, Wade, and Riley, 3 for Chris Bosh and Shane Battier, and 0 for Ronny Turiaf.

***** Picture Roose Bolton shouting, "Get those motherfucking Starks out of here!" as Robb lies dead and just before Catelyn starts screaming.

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