Heirs to the Throne

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 with 1 comment
There's one opponent that the greatest champions of this world cannot defeat, an opponent that has taken out greats like Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and Jerry Rice.  Father time is that opponent......he has no favorites, doesn't discriminate and eventually claims every champion as he wages his never ending battle against the world mightiest athletes.  Sports dynasties usually have a shelf life of around 4 years, some lucky ones have more before they have to retool to climb that elusive mountain top once more but no matter how invincible they may feel, eventually father time will choose them as his next victim.

The 2 time defending NBA Champion Miami Heat are entering their 4th season together as currently constructed and after coming off of 3 straight NBA Finals appearances, the clock is ticking.  Any true NBA fan could see that during last season's NBA Finals, the Miami Heat were on the ropes, destined to receive the knockout blow from the San Antonio Spurs but something that to this day can't be explained occurred......the San Antonio Spurs choked by blowing a 5 point lead with 30 seconds left in Game 6 which set up the decisive Game 7 that saw the Heat claim victory.  The Miami Heat used the Power of Belief to shock the basketball world and defeat and team that had gone undefeated in its previous 4 trips to the NBA Finals, a coach that is considered to be the best by his peers, and a future Hall of Famer who turned back the clock one final time in Tim Duncan.  It was Rudy Tomjanovich who once famously stated "never underestimate the heart of a champion" after his Houston Rockets won the second of back to back titles in 1995 as the sixth seed in the Western Conference that season and the Miami Heat proved that statement to be true once more.  The Miami Heat are the Kings of the NBA but their reign may be coming to an end.  The Eastern Conference is as strong as its ever been and the Heat caught in a crossfire from the likes of the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and the Indiana Pacers.  The winds of change are indeed blowing over South Beach.

New York, New York

The so called notion of the "Super Team" in the NBA comes and goes, through time the NBA has always had them and some even were not successful in their goal of winning an NBA title, a recent one that comes to mind were the Houston Rockets of 1996-2000 which first featured the trio of Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Charles Barkley all past their primes and later Scottie Pippen joined the fray after Drexler retired before things fell apart.  This years incarnation of the Brooklyn Nets is quite similar to that team.  Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have joined the young core of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez and are looking to make one last run at a championship despite making "one last run" during the last 4 seasons with the Boston Celtics.  On paper the Nets look formidable, in reality they will have a great regular season and fizzle in the playoffs.

The New York Knicks have put themselves in a position where they must win the NBA Championship this season.  Knicks G J.R. Smith has already guaranteed a title and F Carmelo Anthony has indicated that the window of opportunity is closing on the franchise.  The Knicks sought out a showdown with the Miami Heat in last year's Eastern Conference Finals but they fell to the Indiana Pacers during the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in what some considered an upset.  Carmelo Anthony is hungry, but is he hungry enough to change his style of play?  Can he be the selfless leader that can use his teammates as a crutch to carry the franchise to victory?  Despite being named as potential contenders, the Knicks have many issues that they have to work on and more so on the offensive end.  Defensively they can be as good as anyone but they tend to be front runners, in crunch time, in a close game is where they tend to crumble and that's where trust in one's teammates must be born.

The Windy City

Two out of the last three NBA seasons the Miami Heat have eliminated the Chicago Bulls causing much bad blood between the two franchises.  The Bulls have been patiently anticipating the return of Derrick Rose as he is the most important piece to their championship puzzle.  Since this incarnation of the Heat were constructed, the Bulls were seen as their chief rivals and even their regular season wins and losses reflected just how close in dominance that the two rival franchises were.

The Bulls are always one of the most prepared teams in the NBA as they are always pushed to the brink by Head Coach Tom Thibodeau but they're short comings are always the same and it's glaring in the playoffs.  The Chicago Bulls simply run out of gas as they have little to no support from the bench and they are run into the ground by Tom Thibodeau time after time.  One must factor in the return of Rose who's looked spectacular during the NBA's preseason but again, those old demons will come back to hurt the team from the windy city.  They're always a threat to the Miami Heat but the Bulls will prove not strong enough to dethrone them as champions and claim a throne that they once owned.

Small Market Darlings

The biggest threat from the NBA's Central Division will not be the Chicago Bulls but will be the Indiana Pacers.  From the ground up, the franchise was built to dethrone the 2 time defending champions.  A few years back I wrote an article describing how certain teams can take those "Championship steps" and there's no doubt that the Pacers walked that path and made many strides which saw them push the eventual champion Heat to a seventh game in last season's Eastern Conference Finals.

The Pacers and the Heat have danced this dance for the past two seasons in the NBA Playoffs with the Heat leaving victorious but if there's to be a third consecutive encounter, the Pacers are ready to strike the knockout blow.  The mistakes of the past are gone, after having the Heat on the "ropes" for the past two seasons, the third time may prove to be the charm as it is their destiny.  The Pacers reloaded, hurt by guard play during last season's series, they've acquired back up point guard C.J. Watson, gone is the erratic Tyler Hanbrough and in is skilled veteran Luis Scola.  New franchise star Paul George will continue his ascension even with the possible return of former franchise Danny Granger.  The deck is now stacked against the Heat and the Heirs to the Throne have revealed themselves.  A wise man once said by will or by force, it will be thy will of the Indiana Pacers come June.