Self-aggrandizing bravado aside, did you really expect the Miami Heat to win it all this year? Sure, the summer concert/celebration was over the top. LeBron’s “seven-title” proclamation was outrageous, and the in-game showmanship was often agonizing, but honestly — and real sports fans know this — the Heat is right on schedule for where they want to be. When you put a squad together over the course of two months, it can usually take up to two years before that team is up and running properly.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and although South Beach is quite the paradise, a two-day free agency coup has never guaranteed any NBA team a title. Miami’s collapse in the NBA Finals will definitely haunt them throughout the summer and perhaps all the way into next year’s Finals (yes, I’m penciling them in for 2012). But the “Heat haters” should lay off. Miami basically had its antagonists on pins and needles with their entrance to the 2011 Finals. Boston was supposed” to clip them in the second round and, when that went up in flames, the league-leading Chicago Bulls were “likely” to cool them off in the Eastern Finals.

By the time Dallas came into the equation, Miami doubters had already printed their “it’s not fair” excuses as to why Miami was ahead of schedule. Today, they’re singing the praises of Dirk Nowitzki and kissing his feet, thanking the Mavericks for extending their hate into another year. Even without a title, it was a great year for Miami. A fledgling team playing in the Finals in their first year together spells promise. We knew going in that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would make for a formidable force. But while critics want to question James’’ manhood and the Heat’s coaching hierarchy, there’s nothing wrong with the Heat.

I’m not buying the “LeBron shrinks in big moments” theory because from his nationally aired high school game to his first NBA debut as a rookie, James has risen to the occasion. What I will buy, however, is that James’’ game needs some improvement. It’s either the three-point line or the rim for LeBron, and when Dallas took both away from him, he was limited. I think this series exposed what the Heat need to improve upon. James needs a post game and more trust in his jumper.

Wade needs to continue to be Wade, but he also needs a more reliable jump shot as well. Chris Bosh needs some more touches and an extended post game. And Heat coach Eric Spoelstra needs a better offense strategy.

Critics will laugh today and hit Twitter hard, but people should remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and no NBA champion has ever been built in one summer.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO