Tag Archives: Miami Heat

On Fire – Putting the Miami Heat’s Winning Streak into Context

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

Yesterday someone asked me why none of us have written about the Miami Heat given their (at the time) 22 game winning streak. Good question. The obvious reason is that I’ve been swamped with work (the real work, the one that I get paid to do) so haven’t been writing as much lately (shout out to Hoa for carrying us with two strong posts in the past week). Busy isn’t the only reason I haven’t covered the Heat and their streak though; after all, I found the time to write a couple Quick Slants about the Seattle Seahawks. So why haven’t the Heat piqued my interest enough to write about them?

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The Most Disliked Teams in America

By Kevin York

Two weeks ago I started a series on the Most Disliked entities in sports. I began this little series of posts questioning Forbes original article listing the ten most disliked athletes in America. Since I didn’t agree with all the athletes on their list, I revised it and published my own. I followed that up with a post on the most disliked coaches in America, which I decided on by crowdsourcing answers from my Facebook friends and input from the other Couchletes.

I considered doing a post on the most disliked owners in America, but decided there aren’t really enough that are universally disliked right now. There’s Jerry Jones and….Jerry Jones. You could make an argument for a few others, but I realized most of the owners that we as a general public don’t like aren’t with us anymore. Guys like Al Davis and George Steinbrenner. So instead of going the owner route, I’m just going straight to the final installment, the most disliked teams in America.

In deciding the teams that belong on this list, I decided not to ask for other opinions. Not because I think I’m that smart, but because these disliked teams all really stood out. I think most would agree with the ones on this list – except maybe the fans of these teams.

In reviewing this list, I noticed that the teams on it are all popular with large, dedicated fan bases. That’s part of what makes them so disliked. You’re not going to find a team like the Kansas City Royals or the Milwaukee Bucks on this list. To be disliked as a team, there a few things you need to have:

  • Success: At some point in the team’s history, they have to have seen success. It doesn’t even have to have been recent success, just prolonged.
  • Personalities: There are very few examples of teams that become disliked for reasons other than the people on the field and sidelines. We as the audience connect with people – the players, the coaches, sometimes the owners. By the same token, we develop a dislike for people, not logos or colors or cities.
  • Good fan base: It’s not always the personalities on the field that irritate us. Sometimes it’s the obnoxious people in the stands that we grow to hate.

All ten teams that I list below have all three of these characteristics. So without further ado, here they are. The ten most disliked teams in America, at least from my perspective.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Boston Red Sox

Dallas Cowboys

Duke Blue Devils

Los Angeles Lakers

Miami Heat

New England Patriots

New York Yankees

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Ohio State Buckeyes

So what teams did I miss?

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at kevin@thecouchletes.com

Heat Win, Thunder Lose….Now What?

The NBA Finals are over and it’s been an entertaining month for all of us watching. But now I’m left asking one question – what’s next? I don’t mean ‘next’ literally, as in, what will I watch now that the Finals are over, but rather, what comes next for these two teams.

As much as many people hated them and cheered against them, the Heat proved that they are undoubtedly the NBA’s best team. All the pieces finally came together. LeBron got a look on his face in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and began playing better than we’ve ever seen him. Chris Bosh returned from injury and proved to everyone that although awkward and at times, downright weird, he is a great player that adds a dimension to Miami’s team that they just can’t find elsewhere on their roster. Shane Battier and Mike Miller showed everyone that they can be valuable role players. And Dwyane Wade….well, I guess he proved that, as he’s been saying for two years, indeed, this isn’t his team anymore.

With LeBron playing at this level, Bosh complementing him nicely and Wade playing the role of Scottie Pippen, we have no reason to believe this team won’t be in contention for years to come (likely winning several more titles). ESPN’s Colin Cowherd also mentioned this morning that they shouldn’t have trouble bringing in solid, veteran role players. Those guys want to win a championship AND LeBron is such a good distributor that they know they’ll get their looks at the basket too.

The Thunder, it would seem, will also be in contention for years to come with a solid, young nucleus in place. But I have to ask, is their young nucleus, the right one? They have a lot of good, young players, but do these players mesh together? I think Sam Presti has to ask himself this question after watching the finals.

In game 4, Russell Westbrook played a great game. Everyone talked about how well he played. What those people failed to notice though, is what that game did to them in the greater scheme of things. Westbrook came out in game 5 looking to play the same way. The problem was he wasn’t playing the same way. He wasn’t on like he was in game 4. Yet he kept shooting and shooting and shooting. Ignoring open teammates, making dumb mental mistakes.

If anything, I think these Finals proved that while Westbrook is very good, he’s in it for himself. He wants to score points. He wants to be the guy. He doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Kevin Durant. Westbrook isn’t the guy though. He doesn’t have that in him. He’s too selfish.

If I’m Sam Presti, I have to ask myself, is this guy the point guard that can win us a title? Think long and hard about it, Sam. Would you be better off with a distributor and creator at point guard? A team player? I can’t help but think the Thunder would’ve been better off if they had Rajon Rondo at point guard against the Heat. Rondo keeps teams on their toes (yet often leaves them on their heels) with his unpredictable style. He finds extremely narrow passing lanes, makes his teammates better, yet can still score if teams start to overplay the passing lanes. Westbrook didn’t force the Heat to change their approach. They wanted to prevent Durant from getting the ball (which they did a good job of) and make others beat them. Once they saw Westbrook wasn’t going to pass the ball, they had him where they wanted him. He was getting double teamed and still wouldn’t pass.

Thinking back about the comment Colin Cowherd made about the Heat not having trouble bringing in veteran players, I can’t help but consider how it applies to the Thunder. People see that Westbrook is greedy. They know they won’t get their touches from him. Will they be able to bring in some of the free agents that they need?

Some people hate the Westbrook bashing (see: Jeff Van Gundy), but the player showed it was warranted. Prove me wrong, Russell. Show everyone that you can be a real point guard, a guy that distributes the ball and finds the open man. So far, you haven’t shown that.

‘The Look’ and the Expectations It’s Set

Two days ago we witnessed one of the greatest playoff performances of all time. LeBron James single handedly beat the Boston Celtics. They couldn’t stop him. They couldn’t even contain him. He was able to do whatever he wanted and the most impressive part of the performance is that Boston was playing good defense. They were on him. Hands in his face, bodying him, staying with him step for step. And he was still burning them.

This was a LeBron I don’t think we’ve ever seen. He’s always been a great player, but we’ve never seen him as this unstoppable force. When he stepped foot on the court Thursday he was different. He had a different look to him – ‘The Look.’ The look on his face, which didn’t leave until about midway through the fourth quarter, was sullen, removed and pouty. (Side note: will we see this from him more? Will it rise to the level of The Manning Face?) I’ve seen some describe LeBron’s look Thursday night as emotionless. I didn’t see it as that. To me, it seemed more like an act. “I’m going to have this look on my face the whole game as a statement.” It struck me that way because you could see him make an effort to keep the look on his face. He’d drive the lane and get fouled, face contorting, as always players typically do in that situation. As soon as the whistle blew, you could see him consciously make the effort to put that look back on his face. To me, it didn’t seem emotionless, it seemed more pouty.

I don’t know if that was LeBron’s effort to look intense or if it was the result of being beaten down for the past two days by fans and media (didn’t help him that after Kevin Durant closed out San Antonio some were now saying he jumped past LeBron as best in the league and has undoubtedly been the best player in the playoffs). But either way, it didn’t strike me as genuine. Some players have an intense look to them that is transparent and honest. You can tell that they’re intense in all facets of their lives – Michael Jordan had that, Kobe has that, even Kevin Garnett has that look. LeBron never has. He’s a little more happy go lucky. Not to say he doesn’t take the game seriously – he does – but he likes to have fun while he’s playing. He’s never had that stone cold vibe to him like Michael or Kobe. And that’s fine. Everyone is their own man and succeeds in his own way. Magic Johnson didn’t strike me as being a stone cold killer either and he succeeded without it.

Now, if ‘the look’ was the result of two days of intense criticism and scrutiny, that seems more plausible than the sudden emergence of high intensity, but as I mentioned earlier, it was visible that there was effort to keep ‘the look.’ If it was a beaten down LeBron, he never would’ve come out of that mode and there were moments you could see he did.

Moving beyond the look on LeBron’s face, there was something more important about his performance Thursday night: now we’ve seen he can do it… After that game, I was asking, “where has this been before?” The guy’s always been great, but not dominating at such a high level. What happened? He destroyed one of the NBA’s best defensive teams. The rest of his team was flat and offered little help. Wade has been stymied and frustrated by Boston’s double teams the whole series and he didn’t have a good game. Bosh might as well have not been there. The cast of supporting players filled their roles, but did nothing spectacular. LeBron forced a game 7, the Heat didn’t.

He had some great games in Cleveland, some really great games. He led a cast of misfits to the NBA Finals, but I don’t recall seeing anything like Thursday night from him before. I’m trying to keep perspective and not get caught up in the moment, but I don’t ever recall being as impressed with LeBron as I was Thursday night. Had we seen this side of him before, we could be looking at him as the greatest player ever right now. Should he have broken out ‘the look’ before? Has he been coasting, somewhat wasting this insane amount of talent that emerged Thursday night which we haven’t seen anything like since Jordan? The answer is of course no, LeBron is no coaster, he exerts tons of effort, but after such an astonishing performance, I know there were people asking that.

Heading into tonight’s game 7 I have to wonder what we’ll see from LeBron. He’s now shown us he has it in him to just completely and utterly dominate a game. That also means we’re now going to expect it since we know he can do it. So tonight will we see the return of ‘the look’? Can LeBron give us those performances consistently? Or did ‘the look’ set such astronomical expectations that he can only disappoint? After all, most people have now already put the Heat in the Finals against the Thunder. We’ll see tonight. I, for one, don’t envy the position LeBron is in…