Monday, November 29, 2010

The Heat is On

  The NBA season is almost a quarter of the way done and it looks like the 1973 Philadelphia 76ers record-low of 9 wins is safe for another year since every team has at least 3 wins and are well behind the pace. At the other end of the scale, only the San Antonio Spurs are close to the 1996 Chicago Bulls top record of 72 wins against 10 losses. The Spurs are currently 1 game behind the pace at 14-2, but I can’t see them keeping up the pace, given the age of their best players.

  The big surprise in pro basketball this year is the star-studded Miami Heat’s pedestrian record of 9 wins and 8 losses. When superstars LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, their fans celebrated as if the championship was already theirs and many of the basketball pundits were all but conceding multiple championships. I thought that if the Heat had gotten off to a fast start, they would have the confidence needed to win the championship (See my prediction here), but they have been set back by injuries and the weight of high expectations.

  I’ve gotten to see the Heat a few times on TV and it seems to me that the other championship contenders playing against the Heat with an effort level that is normally given to a hated rival or a defending champion. The Heat don’t have a top-notch center (Bosh is more of a power forward) or a point guard. Championship contending teams generally have at least one of those components and most championship teams have both. The Heat team seems designed to have Bosh do the rebounding while James and Wade do the scoring, but I think the team does better when Bosh is the top scorer, pulling the opposing teams big men away from the basket so Wade and James can penetrate and score. This is how the great Knick teams of the early 70's played with undersized 'big men' Willis Reed and Dave Debusschere, who would shoot from the outside while guards Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe scored close to the basket.

  There have been rumors about the Heat complaining about their young coach Erik Spoelstra. Even an accidental bump by LeBron James is interpreted as disapproval of their coach. Spoelstra is a good coach, but if the slow start is not his fault, then it would be the fault of the players and that probably won’t be allowed. I think Spoelstra keeps his job for the year since I don’t see 67 year old GM Pat Rielly taking over the coaching duties like he did 5 years ago when the Heat won a championship with Shaquile O’Neill, Wade, and a bunch of cast offs. If the Heat don’t win the championship this year, Rielly will steal a championship coach from another franchise and try again next year. The Heat's season is still a candidate for redemption. Basketball, like most sports is a game of confidence and as soon as the Heat string a few wins together, November's turmoil will be a distant memory.

  President Obama is also feeling the heat, but I think he is bringing more on himself. With the Democrats having lost control of congress to the (at the moment) budget-minded Republicans, Obama is trying to get ahead of the deficit debate by proposing a 2-year freeze on government employees salaries. In a country where 60 million people collect Social Security and 40 million more are getting food stamps, Obama would be better off letting the Republicans make the enemies by deciding what spending to cut, rather than ticking off a group of people who would otherwise be in his corner. He could still look fiscally responsible by proposing to freeze the salaries of just the employees making over $125,000, which would dovetail nicely with his wanting to let the 2001 tax cuts for families making over $250,000 expire. I don’t know how many 10 or 20 dollar an hour jobs the governments really has, but it looks bad to be trying to cut off the raises of those people just to make a point. And even worse, since President Obama can only propose the pay freeze and not enforce it, he is allowing the Republicans to pose as the 'friend of the working people' by not letting the 'mean' president have his way.