The Heat won the NBA title this past season with LeBron James capturing his first championship ever. The common sentiment is that now it’s going to get easier for LeBron and the Heat to keep winning championships because the pressure will be less.
That’s just not true.
“If we learned one thing from the 2006 title, it was that you need to continue to reinvent yourself and improve as a basketball team,” Spoelstra told the Sun Sentinel. “That year we brought the exact the same team back, we thought it would be the same path and same journey. It never is.
“It’s always going to be different. And we ended up losing the first round and we were swept in four games. Another year later, we only won 15 games and we were the worst team in basketball and that’s how fragile this game can be.”
The 2012 team isn’t built the same way the 2006 team was. The 2006 Heat team was one of the worst teams to ever win a title and practically stole the title away from the Dallas Mavericks with a lot of help from the referees. Shaquille O’Neal was very much on the decline and there was not a lot of support around Dwyane Wade.
The expectations for the Heat when LeBron came to town was to win multiple titles. One title would be considered a failure. Even two will not be enough. The Heat have already been to the Finals in each of the first two seasons since acquiring LeBron but Spoelstra is right, it isn’t going to get easier.
Defending a title and repeating is one of the toughest things to do in this league. It’s really a pretty short list of teams and players that have been able to do it.
For the Heat to have a chance to repeat as the champion it would mean making a third straight Finals appearance which is no small task. They have been pretty fortunate in the first two years to make it there with the landscape of the Eastern Conference being pretty weak but that could change this season.
The Heat have gone about the reinvention process this summer by acquiring Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. It’s a move that looks great on paper but it might not have the kind of impact some are anticipating.
LeBron had possibly the best season of his career last year really carrying the team while his running mates Wade and Chris Bosh battled injury and essentially their production declined from the season before. It should not be expected for LeBron to continue playing at this level. He did so much for the team and while he shouldn’t decline in terms of talent, to keep up that kind of efficiency might be too much even for him.
The Heat will likely need bounce back seasons from Wade and Bosh to seriously be a threat to repeat. Neither are too old yet but they shouldn’t expect to have the same kind of season they did last year with the same ultimate result.
Teams will be waiting for the Heat next year, hungrier than ever to give them their best shot. The Heat beat one of the hungriest teams in the league last year in the NBA Finals in the Oklahoma City Thunder who are poised as much as anyone to get back to the Finals again.
The celebrating can stop for LeBron and the Heat and it has. They are self aware of their situation and should make a strong defense of their title. It definitely won’t be easier now though, it never is.