Last season was quite a magical trip for the NBA Champion Miami Heat. Given up for dead against the high octane Dallas Mavericks in the Finals, the Heat stormed back from being down 2 games to 0 to claim their first NBA title in franchise history.
With teams gunning for them in this upcoming season, the Heat will definitely be challenged in attempting to repeat the success of last season. They believe they are up to the task. Let’s take a closer look at last year’s champs and asses their chances of making it two in a row this season.
The off-season for the Miami Heat was both significant and insignificant. There was little change on the team roster, but major accomplishments occurred with player contracts.
Perhaps the biggest re-signing didn’t even involve a player, but Head Coach Pat Riley. In August, Riley agreed to return to the bench and coach the team this upcoming season. Every player on the team lobbied for him to return for another season. Riley could have easily made the decision to retire and go out a champion. After all, it would have been a story book ending for this future Hall of Fame coach, but Riley gave it some thought and decided to give it another year.
In other contract news, Dwayne Wade signed a new contract extension. This young superstar practically carried the team in winning the NBA Finals last season. Without his heart and immense talent, does anyone believe that Miami would have overcome the Mavericks and won that series? By signing Wade to a long term contract extension, the Heat have a superstar to carry them for many years to come.
In addition to Wade, Heat center Alonzo Mourning agreed to stay on for the upcoming season. Big Zo had every reason to shut it down and retire a winner. But, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to come back and attempt to repeat as NBA champs.
Free agent guard Gary Payton also re-signed with the team over the summer. In all, the Heat will bring back everyone from last year’s championship team with the exception of guard Derek Anderson, who was waived by the team in early September.
The Miami Heat had no picks in this years draft due to previous trades and player signings.
With the extension to Wade’s contract, the Heat has a very good roster returning this season to make a run at repeating as NBA champs. With Shaq returning at center, Antoine Walker, Jayson Williams, and Udonis Haslem on the floor with Wade, the Heat lineup will tough to beat on any given night. Add to that the bench strength with Mourning, Payton, Posey, Doleac and Simien, and the Heat have a very strong lineup.
The Miami Heat will certainly be tested early on in the season. Hosting the Chicago Bulls in the season opener with their prized free agent signing, Ben Wallace, the Heat are expected to battle the Bulls for the Eastern Conference crown this season. Next, games with New Jersey and Philadelphia, both expected to be playoff teams this season.
With their entire roster returning from last season’s championship run, the Miami Heat has the nucleus to repeat as champs. The only question is whether Shaq and company have the desire to grind it out through the long NBA season? With D Wade leading the way, and Pat Riley once again behind the bench, the Heat will keep it together and win the Eastern Conference title and reach the NBA Finals, losing to Dallas in a rematch of last years series. Things are definitely bright and sunny for the fans in Miami.