BasketballInsiders.com’s Alex Kennedy and CineSport’s Noah Coslov preview the 2014 NBA Finals by talking about the lessons from the 2013 Finals & the matchup between Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James.
Will HEAT Complete Three-Peat?
Back in 1988, Pat Riley trademarked the word “three-peat” several months after his Los Angeles Lakers won their second consecutive NBA championship. Riley’s Lakers didn’t go on to three-peat (they were instead swept by the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals), but he has made some money off of the trademark thanks to teams like the Chicago Bulls and New York Yankees winning back-to-back-to-back titles. The Lakers did go on to three-peat from 2000 to 2002, but Riley was long gone by that point.
Riley has never had one of his teams pull off the feat, but that may change over the next few weeks. Over 25 years after he trademarked the phrase, the 69-year-old president of the Miami HEAT may finally be able to experience a three-peat rather than just cashing in on other dynasties.
The HEAT have won two straight titles and are one series away from hanging a championship banner for a third straight year. They’ve been to the NBA Finals in four consecutive seasons, but lost to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, which was the first year that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were in Miami.
If the HEAT win it all this year, a dynasty case could certainly be made since Miami would have the fourth-most titles in NBA history (tied with the San Antonio Spurs) and all of them would’ve been won in a nine-year span.
In order to complete their three-peat, the HEAT will have to take down the Spurs for the second year in a row. This proved difficult last year, considering it took Miami seven games to defeat the Spurs, who were seconds away from winning it all in Game 6 until Miami fought back, forced overtime with a clutch three from Ray Allen and escaped with the win to stay alive.
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Wade said. “Obviously, we beat them in the Finals. Last year, [they felt] they had us. But we wouldn’t want it any other way. I think having the four best teams in the NBA all season to represent the Western Conference and Eastern Conference is ideal and perfect for this league. The two best teams will meet. We’re just happy and excited that we’re one of the best.”
The HEAT discussed the possibility of winning three championships in a row and going to four straight Finals on the first day of training camp, but they haven’t talked about it since. The players and coaches understand the enormity of their accomplishments, and the challenges that come with it, so the team didn’t need to discuss it more than once.
“We talked about it from the first day, we talked about the legacy of this team,” Erik Spoelstra said. “The players that weren’t here that first year, they inherited all of those experiences. But it was only that first day. We’ve never brought it up since then. It was about now tackling the challenges of the day‑to‑day life of an NBA season.”
Looking back on their stint in Miami, Wade and James are grateful that they’ve had so much success.
“We don’t take this for granted and hopefully our fans in Miami, our supporters, don’t take this for granted neither,” Wade said. “This is not something that happens every day. But we’ve worked as a unit. We sacrificed as individuals to be in this moment, in this position, so we understand where we’re at right now. But it’s still crazy too. … You get drafted, and you’re just happy to be in the NBA. You want to make a name for yourself. Eleven years later, you’ve gone to the Finals five times and you’ve won championships. You just never know how your life and your path is going to pan out. If you just do things the way that you should do them, the way you feel that it should be done, live with the mistakes that you make, get better from them and just be who you are, great things happen to you. That’s a prime example for all of us. … Me and [LeBron] meeting in Chicago [at the combine], sitting in a room getting tested by teams, getting tried out, we didn’t know that this relationship that we were going to have was going to turn into this. You just never know. I think we’ve all put ourselves in great situations, and we’re just going to continue to try to enjoy this moment that we’re in because it’s an amazing moment. It’s something that, for a lifetime, is going to fulfill us as athletes. Even when we can’t play this game, we’re going to always be able to talk about this, so we just want to continue to add to what we’re accomplishing.”
“Just to piggyback off what D‑Wade said, we don’t take this moment for granted,” James added. “We’re going to celebrate tonight because it just doesn’t happen every year. We’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this four straight times, and you just can’t take these moments for granted. It hasn’t really hit us that much yet because I think we’re in it. I think it will once we’re done and we’re able to look back at what we were able to accomplish as players, as a franchise, I think that’s when it will really hit us. We definitely don’t take it for granted to be in this position.”
After being eliminated, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel referred to James and the HEAT as this era’s Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls (a team that pulled off two three-peats). That statement was repeated to James after the Game 6 victory over the Pacers, and he was flattered.
“Me and D‑Wade grew up watching the great Chicago Bulls team and the great Michael Jordan and the rest of those guys, so any time I hear my name or our team in the same breath with legends and great teams and franchises, it’s so humbling, man,” James said. “It’s like, I really don’t know. We’re just two kids from the inner cities. We never thought we’d get to this point. To be able to play the game that we love at a high level for one another, for our teammates, it’s the ultimate [reward]. When you hear the comparisons, you respect it, you’re humbled by it and you just feel like while you’re in the moment hopefully, while you’re playing the game, that you can make an impact enough to where you move on and people will start comparing you to ones that’s in the game at the present time. It’s very, very humbling.”
Miami has grown a lot since their first Finals appearance, when they lost to the Mavericks back in 2011, which is something that Wade pointed out.
“I just remember being kind of a young team and still figuring it out,” Wade said of their first Finals trip of the Big Three era. “Still figuring out at the end of the game where the ball was going, how it was going to get there, what we were doing defensively. But we did our job, and we got to the Finals. It seems like a long time ago. We were still kids, it seemed like, and now just being more prepared for this moment, seizing a moment. There wasn’t a moment, I don’t think inside none of us, that we felt we were going to lose this ballgame [to Indiana in Game 6]. We knew we were going to impose our will. We didn’t know the outcome, but we knew we were going to impose our will here at home. I think we were a little unsure years ago, so that was the difference.”
Miami used that loss as a learning experience, and clearly it has worked over the last two years.
“A really good friend of mine told me that the best teacher in life is experience,” James said. “When you go through so many things, you’re able to learn from it. You’re able to know how to go about it. Next time you face those trials and tribulations or whatever the case may come, and you’re better prepared for it. So being around a group of guys like this, me being in positions that I’ve been in the past where I’ve failed… To be able to come back from failure and continue to come back and mentally be able to stay strong, it defines who you are as a man more than anything.”
“We have a group that’s earned a lot of trust with each other; there’s a lot of equity of going through pain, of going through joy, of going through everything in between,” Spoelstra said. “I mean, this is your extended family. Even the guys that haven’t been with us for the four years, what we say to them when they join our team is you inherit all of the experiences we’ve had before. All the pain, all the joy, you inherit that and you’re part of the family.”
Now, Miami is four wins away from hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy for a third-straight time and emerging as the NBA’s newest dynasty. The 2014 NBA Finals tip off on Thursday evening.
NBA’s All-Defensive Teams Announced
Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, winner of the 2013-14 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, headlines the 2013-14 NBA All-Defensive First Team, the NBA announced today.Noah received 105 First Team votes (223 points) to make his second consecutive appearance on the First Team.
Joining Noah on the NBA All-Defensive First Team are forward Paul George of the Indiana Pacers (161 points, 65 First Team votes), guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (156 points, 64 First Team votes), forward Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder (152 points, 54 First Team votes) and guard/forward Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors (148 points, 57 First Team Votes).
The voting panel consisted of 123 writers and broadcasters from the U.S. and Canada. Two points were awarded for a First Team vote and one point was awarded for a Second Team vote.
Noah, who appeared in 80 of Chicago’s 82 games, ranked sixth in the NBA in rebounding (11.3 rpg), 12th in blocks (1.51 bpg) and added 1.24 steals. He was one of just three players (Detroit’s Andre Drummond and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis) to average at least 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals. Behind Noah, the Bulls held opponents to a .430 field goal percentage, second-stingiest in the league. Paul led the NBA in steals (2.48 spg) for the fourth consecutive season and sixth time in his career to earn his fourth First Team nod. George ranked fifth in the NBA in steals (1.89 spg) and was the only player in the NBA to average at least 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals. In his first season with the Warriors, Iguodala averaged 1.50 steals, as the Warriors improved from the NBA’s 19th best defense in terms of points allowed last season to 10th in 2013-14. Ibaka appeared in 81 games for Oklahoma City this past season as the Thunder held the opposition to the third lowest field goal percentage in the NBA (.436).
The NBA All-Defensive Second Team consists of forward LeBron James of the Miami HEAT (57 First Team votes), guard Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets (44 First Team votes), guard Jimmy Butler of the Bulls (29 First Team votes), forward Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs (16 First Team votes) and Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers (15 First Team votes).
The following players also received votes, with first-team votes in parentheses: DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers 63 (14); Anthony Davis, New Orleans, 62 (18); Tony Allen, Memphis, 60 (17); Tim Duncan, San Antonio, 45 (12); Dwight Howard, Houston, 26 (6); Taj Gibson, Chicago, 21 (2); Mike Conley, Memphis, 21 (5); Ricky Rubio, Minnesota, 19 (5); Lance Stephenson, Indiana, 14 (3); P.J. Tucker, Phoenix, 13 (2); Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City, 10 (2); Kyle Lowry, Toronto, 10 (3); Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix, 9 (1); Marc Gasol, Memphis, 8; John Wall, Washington, 8 (1); Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City, 8 (1); Kirk Hinrich, Chicago, 7 (2); Trevor Ariza, Washington, 5 (2); Avery Bradley, Boston, 5 (1); Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City, 5 (1); Klay Thompson, Golden State, 5; Andrew Bogut, Golden State, 4; Chris Bosh, Miami, 4 (1); Luol Deng, Cleveland, 4 (1); Wesley Matthews, Portland, 4 (1); Tony Parker, San Antonio, 4 (1); Nicolas Batum, Portland, 3 (1); Stephen Curry, Golden State, 3 (1); Danny Green, San Antonio, 3 (1); Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte, 3; Shaun Livingston, Brooklyn, 3 (1); Victor Oladipo, Orlando, 3 (1); DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta, 2; Matt Barnes, L.A. Clippers, 2 (1); James Harden, Houston, 2; George Hill, Indiana, 2; Jeff Teague, Atlanta, 2; Dwyane Wade, Miami, 2 (1); Kemba Walker, Charlotte, 2; David West, Indiana, 2; Arron Afflalo, Orlando, 1; Corey Brewer, Minnesota, 1; Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia,1; Darren Collison, L.A. Clippers, 1; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 1; Andre Drummond, Detroit, 1; Monta Ellis, Dallas, 1; Danny Granger, L.A. Clippers, 1; Draymond Green, Golden State, 1; Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City, 1; David Lee, Golden State, 1; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 1; Rajon Rondo, Boston, 1.