The Washington Wizards host the Miami Heat tonight and it could be epic. Despite rumblings otherwise, Miami is still the best team in the NBA, especially when they're focused and motivated, and can beat anyone, anywhere, and do it by a lot. The Wizards are underdogs tonight, and yet, if recent history is any indication, they might be able to give Miami a run for their money tonight if they come out firing on all cylinders.
Over the last few years Lebron James has gone from being the best player in the NBA to quite possibly the most dominant athlete in any sport in recent memory. Hardly anyone ever gets the better of him and Miami, so when it happens, the league takes notice. A win tonight would be just as meaningful as one over a team like Charlotte or Sacramento on paper. In practice, it could make a lot of people take a second look at the team and give them some much-needed momentum at a time when they've been mediocre in spite of good health.
I spoke to our sister site Hot Hot Hoops' Matt Pineda about Miami and our exchange is below. I highly recommend checking out the site and following Matt on Twitter, and check out our exchange on HHH here.
1. At least on paper, Miami seems to have taken a step back this year, and yet the team looks to be as unbeatable as ever. Is there any cause for concern or is this just a matter of taking it a little bit easier in the regular season and letting Wade rest more?
It's interesting to hear people's perspective on the team. Miami is actually 2 games better at this point in the season than they were last year, before they dropped 27 in a row. The Heat are looking right now as a team that doesn't care to play in January. There is some cause for concern, but they have shown flashes of what they can be, and the truth is that they have shown they can flip the switch. Over here, our biggest concern is keeping Wade healthy, moving Michael Beasley along, and eventually incorporating Greg Oden into the mix.
2. As someone who's gotten to see him up close for a few years now, where would you rank Lebron on a list of the greatest players in NBA history? And do you think there will ever be a day where the general consensus is that he's as good as or better than Jordan?
It's so hard to rank LeBron right now, I mean he just turned 29 years old. He still has almost another decade to go. He is super-durable and so I do suspect he will end up at least #2 on the all-time scoring list. In my opinion, LeBron will end up being the #2 all-time behind Jordan. I think LeBron's 2 blemishes in the Finals will never allow him to surpass Jordan. But the guy just does everything really good and really efficient. LeBron will need to tweak his game in the next few years to be like Jordan, but until then we will enjoy him dunking over his opponents.
3. Is there any team other than Indiana that would pose a particularly problematic match up in the playoffs?
In the Eastern Conference...no. Brooklyn has some pieces that could make for some problems, but in a series when all things are equal, the Heat won't have much trouble with anyone in the East outside Indiana. In the West, the Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers would all be teams the Heat have some difficulty with in the Finals.
4. Perimeter players who aren't elite jump shooters tend to age very poorly once they hit their 30s and Wade turns 32 on the 17th. How much longer do you think he can be an elite player?
Wade has been dipping for a while now. I think this may be his last year as elite. Now, with LeBron by his side, those will be masked as he doesn't have to do everything all the time. The Heat should look at replacing Ray Allen, if he retires, with someone younger and more athletic next season. Wade's scoring output with continue to drop until he either gets really healthy or adjusts his game even more than he has.
5. How is Greg Oden holding up and will we see him play during the regular season?
All reports that we have gotten are that Oden is doing what he needs to do at this point. He's been practicing and working out pre-game as well. The key with Oden is that they want him to be there come May when they will need him against Indiana. So risking it in January seems foolish if he isn't where they want him to be physically. I would suspect we will see Oden start to get some time in late March, just enough time to get ready for the playoffs.