We are about a month away from finally beginning to settle the biggest feud in the NBA. No, not Lakers-Celtics. Sure those guys hate each other, but there simply does not seem to be the pure and utter hatred from throughout the entire organization... OK, maybe there is.
But for us, no team has represented a bigger rival than the Miami Heat.
And the rivalry works on so many levels.
This most recent iteration was stoked when Miami acquired Chris Bosh and LeBron James. It was further inflamed when Stan Van Gundy said Bosh was following Dwyane Wade, who has already made a habit of torching the Magic throughout his career as he averaged 26.5 points per game and 6.2 assists per game -- "like a lap dog." And it was further incensed when guys like Charles Barkley and Otis Smith criticized James for abandoning his own team to join other superstars in a quest for a title.
While the Magic are being inspired by just about everyone handing the Eastern Conference championship to the Heat, Miami might be inspired by the people doubting whether its three superstar scheme will work.
It took a couple months, but Pat Riley has finally fired back. The war of words has begun with the actual battles preparing to start. I see no chance of appeasement or negotiations. This will be all-out war.
Riley expressed disappointment and shock over Van Gundy's comments. Van Gundy replaced Riley as head coach in Miami before Riley allegedly pushed Van Gundy out at the beginning of Miami's 2006 NBA championship season. Van Gundy cited family reasons for his departure, but if you ask people in Miami it was either Riley's itch to coach (watch out Erik Spoelstra) or Shaquille O'Neal's dislike of Van Gundy's style (Shaq doesn't like guys screaming at him) were the real reasons.
Riley also had choice words for Smith's assertion about James. Smith said he was disappointed James was not more of a competitor as he left a team where he was "The Man" to share the load with other superstars.
""He never made any kind of comment like that when he signed Rashard Lewis and brought him down from Seattle to a $128 million contract,” Riley said.
First off, Pat, Rashard Lewis is no where near the talent LeBron James is (although Lewis is getting paid more... yeah, that might have been a mistake). Lewis needs another superstar around him to succeed. James does not. Or at least, he should not. It goes to the whole James is a Scottie and not a Michael mentality. That is fine. But James handled it all horribly.
Stan Van Gundy fired back in an article on the Orlando Magic's Web site. He criticized Riley for criticizing anyone who does not believe what he does and pointed out the personal attacks Riley lobbied against his brother Jeff while Jeff Van Gundy was at New York. Stan also admitted he was probably wrong to make his "lap dog" comments about Chris Bosh.
"`I thought it was pretty typical. I was kind of amused by it, especially reading down through the interview," Van Gundy said to Orlandomagic.com's John Denton. "He goes into Charles Barkley, me and Otis and then says he doesn’t worry about what people say. Wait, you called the press conference, you went off and everybody and you don’t care what people say? Clearly, he cares a great deal about what people say. I was laughing when I saw that."
The war of words is on. And you can tell that basketball lifers like Van Gundy and Riley are itching to see what their teams can do against each other on the court.