Tonight, the Miami Heat, for the second consecutive year, will raise some fancy fabric and accept some gaudy jewelry in celebration of its second consecutive NBA championship. The journey to a three-peat kicks off with the Chicago Bulls, one of only three franchises to have successfully pulled off the feat, doing so twice from 1991-93 and 1996-98, the others being the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers (1952-54 and 2000-02) and the Boston Celtics (1959-66).
With validation in the rearview mirror, the Miami Heat has a goal this season that feels a tad different from seasons before. While it still might be "us against the world" when it comes to the Miami Heat and the rest of the NBA, on the outside perception has changed, and the population of "Us" seems to be growing larger and larger by the minute. People on the outside are beginning to realize what most of you locally knew already, that this Miami Heat team is just as likable as it is talented.
So what will take arguably the most talented Heat team to the level needed to repeat this season? Here are five burning questions going into the 2013 Miami Heat season.
2012 Record: 66-16, NBA Champions
Notable Additions: F Michael Beasley, C Greg Oden, G Roger Mason Jr.
Notable Losses: F Mike Miller
2013 Projected Starting Lineup: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers
Projected Key Reserves: F Shane Battier, G Ray Allen, C Chris Anderson, F James Jones, C Joel Anthony , G Norris Cole
Five Things To Watch
Stop hitting him in the knee!! Can Dwyane Wade stay healthy enough to be Dwyane Wade?
Without Dwyane Wade's health the Miami Heat are closer to the end of their run, than they are to the middle of it. There isn't one thing that is more important than Wade's health to this entire franchise right now, not even Banana man. Wade visited this far far-away bitter little land named "Chicago" this off-season, and there he turned his body into less Superman, and more Spiderman. All that "Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight" stuff sounds good and makes for good commercials when you're 25, not so much when you turn 32 in the middle of your 11th season. The adjustments look like they have added a half step to him in the preseason, or it could just be we aren't used to seeing him running with two healthy knees.
Miami Heat championship basketball has always hinged on the toughness, effort, heart, and most importantly health of Dwyane Wade, this season is no different. Rule number one, you never make Dwyane Wade bleed. Rule number two, you never doubt Dwyane Wade. Rule number three, you apologize to Dwyane Wade for making these three rules necessary, because he's a bawse.
Is this the season where entire world pays for what they've said to Chris Bosh?
Bosh has managed to seemingly finesse is awesomeness into the Miami Heat, rubbing so gently one jumper at a time. You thought you were getting something called a "CB4", but you ended up getting a "Boshy Q. Bear", and it's turned out pretty awesome. Bosh has sat back and been the nice-guy-third-option just about long enough by the looks of his play this preseason, and that should scare opponents.
Can Birdman 2 top the original?
I'm not a stats guy, but I believe I remember the Miami Heat winning roughly 90 games and losing one by repeated illegal blows below the waist after they signed Birdman last season. Birdman brought exactly what the Heat were missing midway through last season, so it's exciting to think what he can provide after an off-season filled with the comfort of job security, and Miami Heat practices.
Can Greg Oden please catch a freaking break?
Greg Oden deserves the Miami Heat. For all this guy has been through he deserves some damn success in his life, and he came to just the right place to find it. If Oden finds himself more worried about vacation than he does rehab come July, that's a win in his book, and it more than likely means that he provided the Heat with solid seven footer off the bench minutes throughout the season, something that is guaranteed to be useful in the East this season.
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Not One...Not Two...
LeBron James can't get better, right? That's the pink elephant in the room that people ignore and talk about how awesome Derrick Rose has looked like in the preseason instead. The league is screaming UNCLE. The had one plan for him and it was to make LeBron have to shoot the ball, and boy oh boy did that blow up in their faces.
LeBron has no reservations about telling you he's chasing history and he will stop at nothing until the record books are just a single piece of paper that says "LeBron James and Co." on it. If James and Co. can pull off the three-peat, rest assured everything else will take care of itself, and LeBron will be looking for the "Four-Heat" about this time next season.