The Miami Heat are flying high.
LeBron James, the world’s best player, is having the best season of his career and perhaps the greatest individual season seen since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls.
The Miami Heat are, as Dan LeBatard describes them, currently the greatest team in franchise history, greater than that of 06 which won the club their maiden championship. They have the best record in the league at 26-7 including 14-2 at home and recently completed the most dominant back to back to back sweep the league has ever seen, at one point leading all three games by 30 points, finishing with 20+ differential leads in each.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James look increasingly comfortable together, Chris Bosh is beginning to embrace his role, Udonis Haslem is injury free, Shane Battier has brought an invaluable experience to the locker room, Mario Chalmers has developed into the point guard they hoped he would, Mike Miller is second in the league at nearly 50% from three point range, Joel Anthony is having the best season of his career and Norris Cole has been the surprise rookie of his class.
I can continue but I think you all get the point.
They are by far the best team in the league and have by far the best player in the league playing by far the best basketball he has ever played, and they are flying under the radar?
A LeBron James led Miami Heat team flying under the radar?
Is this not the same team that had a mania surrounding them unlike anything professional sport has ever barely half a year ago? The same team that were incomparably booed everywhere they went, the same team led by the same player that headed into the most hostile environment in the most eagerly anticipated regular season game not only in the history of the NBA, but perhaps in the history of American professional sports?
It is all of that and more, but no matter what spin you try and put on it, you cannot deny the fact that there is a much bigger story in the NBA than the Miami Heat and LeBron James right now.
That story is Jeremy Lin.
I do not need to explain who he is, how he got here and what he has done, because honestly you cannot turn on ESPN right now without seeing that innocent, unassuming smile as he almost single handedly burns off another opponent, to the shock of even himself.
He has brought relevance back to New York City basketball, something even Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire combined were unable to do. His record starting for the Knicks is nearly blemish free and features just one loss. He took on Kobe Bryant late in the game at Madison Square Garden and buried him.
It is unprecedented and as amazing as it has been so far, I see bigger things on the horizon. Should he continue his rejuvenation of this success hungry franchise, they may make Chicago and Miami sweat come playoff time. Carmelo and Amare will have time to get used to playing with a real point guard who will continue to flourish in the D’Antoni offense. The ceiling for this team has raised at least a few floors just in the past fortnight, if they can pull it all together they may have a deeper roster than the Chicago Bulls. They could be the nightmare second round matchup for the Heat or Bulls.
Nonetheless Jeremy Lin has taken the league with such ferocity, he has driven the streaking Miami Heat and the mind boggling play of LeBron James to the second segment of SportsCenter and really the afterthought of the league.
Miami will be thankful for it. In the 18 months this team has been together, they have been THE sports story. Every word uttered from a Heat player’s mouth, every loss, every hiccough has been met with an atomic bomb of a knee jerk. Every blowout, every triple double, every playoff demolition has been met with overwhelming, and to some, unjustified, praise from every corner of the sports world. They couldn’t breathe without it being front page material, but it seems America has been taken in by another mania, another hysteria, another Linsanity.
Nonetheless Lin’s visit to Miami is a chance for both team’s to make a huge statement.
For Miami, they can cut down their arch rival Knicks during a period of conciliation not seen since the days of Ewing and Starks.
Fot New York, they can prove to the league that this is far more than a novelty, that this is the real deal.
Can’t see the Heat letting that happen though.