Watching TNT’s telecast of the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks, I couldn’t help but pay attention to Marv Albert and Steve Kerr alluding to Pat Riley’s assertion that the defending NBA champion Miami Heat are falling prey to the ‘Disease of More’. The disease of more is the most dangerous thing that can happen to a defending champion in any sport. After reaching a Mount Rushmore of success, everyone gets complacent by having more and being less contented with wanting more. Role players want to cash in and be paid above market value, stars indulge in the vices that come with being champions, and Pat Riley can’t help but sit back and ponder whether his notion of success being the first step towards disaster is ringing true with his Heat.
The preceding storyline was that the Knicks (13-4) and Heat (12-4) sat atop the Eastern Conference. But did New York really have enough to contend with the defending champs? The aftermath — the battle in Miami between Eastern Conference leaders was lopsided even though the Knicks were underdogs with no Carmelo Anthony. Not to mention the Knicks were coming off the 2nd game of a road back-to-back against a healthy, rested Miami team that was previously undefeated at home. How’s that for a flip of the script.
While having a 12-5 record, leading your division, and being second in the Eastern Conference is nothing to scoff at, Miami’s play of late has been troubling. Is there a crisis in the works? Handed their worst home loss since LeBron James and Chris Bosh arrived in Miami to form the big 3 with Dwyane Wade, it appears so. Peering closely into Miami’s updated efficiency ranks on NBA.com, statistically there is a huge divide as the team ranks 3rd on offense and 23rd on defense.
Perhaps we’ve become spoiled by LeBron’s significant feats. Whether you’re a stats buff or an enthusiast of the eyeball-test, when it comes to production in the NBA, there’s LeBron James as the gold standard and then there’s everyone else in the league. LeBron, who was an assist away from his second triple-double in as many nights, is operating on a different level. So what about his teammates?
Ray Allen’s impact has been noticeable because we’ve seen him make three game-winning 3-pointers through the first dozen or so games, single-handedly snatching the Heat a few clutch victories with his late-game heroics. Allen, who is shooting nearly 48% from beyond the arc, thus far has epitomized the Heat’s season: first-class on offense and dreadful on defense. He has been the grim reaper for opponents in late game situations, but the Heat’s defense dramatically declines when Allen is on the floor.
Considering Chris Bosh is not assertive enough on a consistent basis on either end of the court, he remains the key cog for Miami in their quest to repeat. Taking on the responsibility of playing Center, even though he is a Power Forward, shows the kind of versatility the big man provides the Heat in their transition to an exclusively small ball team. The proof is in the fact that the Heat were on their way out of the playoffs last year — even with LeBron James playing effectively — until Bosh came back from injury to help fuel their final run to a title. The bigger story may be Dwyane Wade’s lingering leg issues. Wade has not played like his usual self, which has many whispering that the former Finals MVP has lost a step or two. Wade’s reckless play may be slowly taking its toll on his body in his 10th season in the league. The Heat need a healthy Dwyane Wade to be his aggressive self at both ends of the floor in order to play at a level even close to their championship level of last June.
The Heat have not shown a great amount of interest in every game to this point. We have to expect the Heat’s struggling defense to lock down as the season progress. Barring a disastrous turn of events, the Eastern Conference is still Miami’s conference to lose despite their second 20+ point drubbing at the hand of the Knicks. Once Miami’s defense wakes up from its post-championship slumber, the East belongs to the Heat until someone proves otherwise. Will the Heat’s complacency derail their quest for back-to-back titles? History says the Disease of More will be something to watch for all season long down in South Beach.