Had Jimmy Butler’s late three-point effort in Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference Championship Game not rebounded, the Miami Heat would have reached their second NBA Finals in three years.
And while few predicted the Heat would go far in the playoffs last season, it’s perhaps a little surprising that the same view would prevail again heading into this campaign.
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The Heat, experts say, just don’t have enough firepower to win in a conference where the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks are favorites to finish at the top of the seed.
Opinion is cool on the Heat, largely because the club failed to make big moves in the offseason and came back with a roster nearly identical to last season.
But the Heat seem to like being overlooked, using what they see as disrespect as fuel for their fire.
“They don’t talk about us there in the media and stuff,” center Bam Adebayo said in a recent interview with Sirius XM radio. “But when it ends, a lot of people don’t like playing us. They don’t. They don’t like to play with us.
Adebayo suspects the absence of big stars, aside from six-time All-Star Butler, leads many to undervalue the team, but knows opponents are well aware of what they face on the field. .
“I don’t know if it’s, you know, scrappiness. But yeah, we play great lousy basketball,” he said.
“We’re going to scrap you to death.”
In Erik Spoelstra, the Heat have one of the most successful coaches in the league, and team president Pat Riley is one of the most respected figures in his role.
But the figure who perhaps best embodies the determined, aggressive style played by the Heat doesn’t have a big job title and barely figures on the court.
Miami-born Udonis Haslem remains on the list despite reaching the age of 42, largely because of his importance to locker room culture.
More than simply representing continuity with the Heat of Shaqille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Haslem is in many ways an enforcer of Heat standards, as his infamous verbal confrontation with Butler so explicitly underscored the season. last.
Haslem’s 20th NBA season will likely be his last and he sees Adebayo as the man who will continue his legacy as the ‘gatekeeper’ of the Heat approach and is determined to push Butler back to the championship ring that eluded him until now. now.
“I want to pass the torch to Bam as the next carrier of culture,” he recently told ESPN.
“I want to continue to shape and help Jimmy be the champion he deserves to be. And I just want to leave this locker room in the right direction.
The newcomer who will have to quickly adjust to those standards is 19-year-old Serbian Nikola Jovic, a 6ft 10in small forward who was drafted 27th overall and made an early impression.
– Yurtseven will step up –
But while the names remain the same, Spoelstra believes his team will have different characteristics this season.
There are high hopes for guard Tyler Herro, who played eight 30-point games on the bench last season and has been tied to a new long-term contract. There is also a belief that Kyle Lowry can really deliver after a mixed effort last season following his trade from Toronto.
Spoelstra also has a great track record of turning undrafted players into key parts of his teams and with PJ Tucker leaving for Philadelphia, there could be an opportunity for Turkish center Omer Yurtseven.
Yurtseven, who showed promise when introduced to the team last season, believes the team has what it takes to build on last season’s achievements.
“I think we failed last year because there were times when the team needed another guy or two to step in in all areas – sometimes in attack, sometimes in defence,” he said. he declared. “And that’s what I think we’ll do this year.”
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