There's no sugarcoating the fact that the first two months of the Miami Heat's season have been a dumpster fire hotter than the surface of 10,000 suns. Beset by injuries, COVID-related absences, and some underperforming new additions, one could say the Heat — currently a 10-14 team — hasn't exactly surfed the wave of last season's NBA Finals run.
It is what it is, folks. If there's one thing everyone has learned recently, it's how to make the best of a shitty situation and keep going until you get to the other side. Contrary to popular opinion at the moment, the Miami Heat will find the other side.
Here are a few reasons Miami Heat fans should pull up their big-boy pants, accept that there's a storm before every rainbow, and, for goodness' sake, get ahold of themselves. The Heat, at its absolute worst, is basically still a playoff team in the East. In the Eastern Conference, two things can be true this early in the season: the Miami Heat is near the bottom of the conference, yet is less than a game or two from making the playoffs. We're not talking about some huge hill to climb here.
The Heat is literally one good week of basketball away from making the playoffs and being the team nobody wants to see. In the end, everyone starts off with the same record once the playoffs begin. Some teams just make it easier on themselves in the first two rounds. It appears Goran Dragic will be starting now. The Heat is a much better team when Goran Dragic is in the game. It's clear this season calls for Dragic to start and for Tyler Herro to come off the bench. That's the exact move Coach Erik Spoelstra made last week before Dragic exited the game with an injury.
The Heat looks better with Herro coming off the bench with one thing in mind: to score. Every season is different and its own puzzle. Heat fans should look forward to more of this moving forward. Precious Achiuwa is only getting started. It's clear the Miami Heat hit on another first-round draft pick when it selected Precious Achiuwa just a few short months ago. Unfortunately, the team has needed to rely on him more than anyone predicted heading into the season. So far, he's thrived.
Precious is said to remind people of a young Bam Adebayo. Any Heat fan will tell you Bam wasn't this Bam at that point in his career. Precious will only get better as the season progresses, and the Heat will have another young rotation player who is playing beyond his years by the time of the playoffs. Jimmy Butler has missed more than half the season. Even the most pessimistic Miami Heat fan would acknowledge that having Jimmy Butler on the court is pretty important. The Miami Heat is, very obviously, not the same team when its best player isn't on the court.
This season, Butler has missed over half of the Heat's games, appearing in just 12 of 26 games. That means that what you see in the standings is not exactly what you'll get the rest of the way from the Miami Heat. The situation is basically as if the Miami Heat just traded for Jimmy Butler. It's easier to think of it that way. No coach in the NBA is better equipped to turn a season around. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has seen it all. He's had the best of teams, and he's had the worst of teams. He's had 27-game winning streaks and teams that made it feel like they'd lost 27 games in a single month.
Spo, unlike many top coaches in the NBA, has been through the fire and back a few times. If anyone can keep 15 guys together to figure out a turbulent season, it's Coach Spo. This Heat team has already overcome bigger obstacles in the past. It's easy to forget that the Heat was the fifth seed in the playoffs last season. Miami didn't exactly enter the playoffs as a favorite. The Heat didn't come into the NBA bubble as the team to beat or anything other than a team most agreed would be a pain in the ass for other teams on their way to a title.
Then they played the games. And when this team was put in a series, it came out on top more times than not. While the pieces are a tad different, the main cogs remain the same. Don't count Miami out against anyone if it gets in the playoffs. And it will. Bam Adebayo is quietly having his best season, even amid the team's bad start. Bam Adebayo is averaging 20 points, nine rebounds, and five assists this season, which, if the season ended today, would be his best season to date. It's impressive to see Bam living up to his elevated status in the NBA, but it's even better knowing he's been forced to do so all season with the moving parts surrounding him — and with his partner in crime, Jimmy Butler, out for more than half of those games.
Now that Bam isn't being relied on as heavily, he should receive less attention from other teams' defenses. That could lead to a Heat offense that generates points a lot more easily than it has been, giving it a chance to set itself up on defense more often. There will be a trade that improves the current roster. Team president Pat Riley will make a move before the trade deadline on March 25. You can bet on that. It's what he's always done. Last season, the Heat added Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, a deal that ended up catapulting Miami's season from just an average year into one of the best the franchise has ever had.
This season, the Heat has some expiring contracts (Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard, Iguodala) and some trade exceptions to offer a team, in addition to future draft pics and possibly someone like Duncan Robinson, who is about to get paid a lot more than he earns now. The All-Star break is much needed. The Heat will get a much-needed break from action for a few days because of the NBA's All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7. That will give the Heat time to get healthy, regroup, practice, and hopefully come out the other end a much more pulled-together team.
The Heat may also decide this is the best time to make a trade, as is the case many seasons. Either way, the break could not come at a better time for a team that is barely keeping it together. When in doubt, trust the culture. It's this simple: Either you believe in the Miami Heat or you don't. It may not win a championship this season, but you'd be a fool to bet that the Heat will remain the same team you saw early on in the season when most of the lineup was either injured or recovering from a once-in-a-generation virus.
The Miami Heat will be fine. It's been here before. Heat fans should do themselves a favor and act like they've been through this before, too — because they have.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.