The NBA season is upon us... or at least it would be if this lockout were not going on. Nobody is quite certain when the NBA season will start. But if the collective bargaining agreement gets figured out soon, we will see a flurry of moves to make up for our lost offseason. So, with that in mind, it is time to begin opening the book on the 2011-12 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store -- especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year's NBA Blog Preview (don't worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks).
Last Year: 58-24
Last Year vs. Magic: Won 96-70 in Miami; Lost 104-95 in Orlando; Won 104-100 in Orlando; Lost 99-96 in Miami.
This Year vs. Magic: Feb. 8 in Orlando; Feb. 19 in Miami; March 13 in Orlando; March 18 in Miami
Magic Connection: Juwan Howard (Player, 2003-04); Mike Miller (Player, 2000-03)
Previews: Bryan Saul/Sports Agent Blog
The Miami Heat. Where to begin with the Eastern Conference champions? The media coverage that began when LeBron James and Chris Bosh announced they would join Dwyane Wade in South Florida was overwhelming, adding to the bravado of an already star-studded team.
People began wondering if 72-10 was in line before even playing a game and there was, of course, James jokingly saying the Heat were going to win "not one, not two..." and so on.
This Heat team was never going to be all that. Very good. Absolutely. This is a championship-caliber team by having those three players on the floor at the same time. Miami's prudent salary cap moves paid off in getting the team to the precipice of a championship.
But these three players -- and really the entire league -- learned in the 2011 NBA Finals that role players. chemistry and, yes, making shots matters during the postseason. When you get deeper and deeper into the playoffs, you cannot rely on your superstars to just bully their way to victories.
James and Wade were simply astonishing in the first three rounds of the Playoffs last season. And they are undoubtedly an incredibly difficult duo to handle. These two guys will always make the players around them better. Usually much better.
The problem with the Heat, and this is well documented, is the role players are just not up to the challenge. There is virtually nothing coming fromt he center spot and defensively Chris Bosh is not much of a post presence.
The Joel Anthony, Juwan Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas platoon failed miserably for Miami as Dallas' Tyson Chandler caused some serious matchup issues and was a force in the paint during the Finals. Not to mention, the constantly attacking Mavericks were able to let their drive-and-kick game get to work.
Miami knows it must find a way to gain more presence in the paint somehow through free agency.
The point guard isue might be a bit overblown, but there is no doubt that Mario Chalmers is not the best point guard option. The Heat's thought of surrounding the Big Three with shooters proved to work until the shots dried up.
Miami might need another secondary player who is thinking to drive and get to the basket. It is hard to say what improvements Miami needs to make on the perimeter because James and Wade are so good.
So focusing on building chemistry, committing (or re-committing) to defense and looking to improve their position at center will be good steps forward for the Heat. This is a team that should be considered the favorite to win the title whenever 2012 starts. James and Wade are just otherworldly and when the team is realy clicking -- and that is all five players -- this team is probably as close to unbeatable as they come in the modern NBA.
Redemption is close for this team. Real close. They are missing a little piece somewhere. But with James and Wade the Heat are as close as you can be.
Miami does not need a whole lot to get that first title, except perhaps that right mix or player to get the team over the top.
How the Heat will beat the Magic: Wheenver I think of what Miami can be, I think of that second game from 2010-11. In that game the Heat simply ran all over the Magic. Remember Orlando is a team that stresses getting back on defense and not going for offensive rebounds. But in that game in Miami, Miami just found a way to run on Orlando in a way few teams have since Stan Van Gundy took over. The Heat beat Dwight Howard down the floor and could take out the Magic before the Magic's defense could get set. It was this way that Miami built big leads in three of the four matchups last year. And damn, Miami can be scary when they play with almost reckless speed. The Heat have the players in James and Wade to play with this sort of controlled chaos. And really this is what the team is best suited for, even if Pat Riley is not a big fan of this breakneck style of play.
How the Magic will beat the Heat: It took a lot of patience and a lot of skill to mount the comebacks Orlando did in two of the games. In one case it resulted in an incredible comeback win, the other a loss that reminded us this team did not have it all together. The Magic in both instances did something simple: make shots. The 3-point barrage was in full effect, proving the Magic were never too far out of game. and actually, Dwight Howard offensively was not as much of an advantage as we believed. He was important to keep the offense honest and anchor the defense. As always. But Orlando had the right amount of intensity and desperation to get the wins against the Heat. They would need to come with that effort throughout the entire 48 minutes to steal some more wins against Miami.
Photos via DayLife.com.