The Miami Heat has what many longtime South Florida sports fans would readily identify as a "Miami Dolphins problem." The Heat thinks it's close to being a contender for a championship when in reality the team is as close to the bottom as it is to the top. A simple glance up and down the rosters of Miami's opponents shows the Heat would need a minor miracle to compete for a title, yet the franchise truly believes it's just a minor tweak of its recipe away from winning Top Chef. Anyone who doubts the Heat's confidence is either a "bad fan" or a "hater." Nobody can tell these parents their baby is ugly.
The Heat has apparently caught Dolphins-ydia and is in desperate need of a vaccine right away.
The latest sign of the creeping infection came in coach Erik Spoelstra's offseason talk to reporters. He did more than speak in general terms about how his team needed to improve — he doubled down on the idea that the team already has "enough." Spoelstra sounded a lot like a man who would put the same roster back into these very same playoffs if possible and count on the team hoisting the trophy at the end.
Spoelstra: ""We see progress, we see growth, expectations do not scare us. No matter how irrational people think we are, we do not care. We think we have a group that can contend."— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) April 27, 2018
Either Spoelstra is telling a white lie or he truly believes the Heat is close. But either way, he's wrong. Sure, this current incarnation of the Heat is fun to watch at times, and most of the players seem to give 100 percent out on the floor. But there is no scenario in which they can overcome the Grand Canyon-size gap in elite talent between their squad and the other teams in the league. That gap, by the way, is one that's growing, not shrinking, as the Heat's roster ages and it likely loses a couple of players this offseason, while other teams use their considerable assets to improve.
Spoelstra: "I love this team. I loved the journey of this season regardless of what happened at the very end."— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) April 27, 2018
The bottom line: This Heat team has about as good a chance of winning a championship in 2018-19 as the author of this article has of winning a Pulitzer. We're both technically contenders, but c'mon.
The denial doesn't stop there, though. The Heat is still publicly expressing its love for Hassan Whiteside and making excuses for his awful playoff performance. Let's hope this is just a tactic to keep his trade value up, but it seems as if one of the franchise's worst playoff series performances ever, coupled with his constant finger-pointing and complaining, has not affected how the team views its highest-paid player.
Spoelstra on Whiteside: "That's probably what I'll look at as the most frustrating moment as much as anything. What might have been if he didn't collide with [Nikola] Vucevic [on opening night]. That changed the course of his season."— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) April 27, 2018
Sure, maybe the sixth time will be a charm next season with Whiteside. But that's doubtful. Even if being dominated by Joel Embiid in the Sixers series weren't enough to prove Whiteside won't be a superstar worth the max deal the Heat gave him two summers ago, Miami's brain trust should at least be paying attention to the NBA's rapid move away from a style of play dominated by seven-foot dinosaur centers.
Spoelstra on Whiteside: "I love Hassan."— Shandel Richardson (@ShandelRich) April 27, 2018
If all of that weren't enough, it's crystal clear the Heat is dealing with an immature player who has forgotten he was playing pickup ball in the YMCA a few seasons ago. Whiteside thinks everything should be handed to him, even when he's playing poorly, or the game dictates sitting him on the bench. To put it bluntly, the player the Heat showered with riches has proven to be the least Heat player ever. It's been a disaster. There is no sugar-coating how bad his contract is. The Heat owes two more years and more than $50 million to a player who often makes his team worse and then complains about not having more playing time.
The Heat is either in denial or bullshitting everyone. Either way, it doesn't matter. All that matters is they stop lying to themselves and figure out how to either revamp their roster on the fly or settle for what they have for the next couple of seasons until their awful contracts come off the books.