- LZ Granderson, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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I will be the first to tell you my lukewarm feelings toward the Miami Heat this postseason are unfair.
Miami won 58 games. I had my sights on 80.
LeBron James and Co. appear to be cruising into the second round of the playoffs, but so what? What's impressive about a trio of All-Stars beating up on a mediocre team that made the playoffs by beating up on bad ones?
Even with Boston, San Antonio and Los Angeles all struggling a bit in the opening round, there is still a reluctance to consider Miami the favorite. That's because as good as the Heat are, they were suppose to be better than this, weren't they? Every other possession was suppose to be a highlight, like Showtime on steroids.
Instead, I still have that 9-8 start on my head.
I still have that tear-inducing five-game losing streak in my head.
The Heat lost to Cleveland in the final weeks of the season. They coughed up a 22-point lead at home against Utah. Did I mention they lost to Cleveland?
No doubt the media is responsible for talking up Miami all season, but the team independently of us contributed to its overexposure as well, with the TV special and intro party in July.
Thanks to the ad nauseam coverage heading into the season, I sit here profoundly disappointed, like the time I saw "Snakes On A Plane" during its opening weekend. I'm so over talking about the unspectacular Heat it seems the only thing that could really get me to pay attention to Miami now is a trip to the NBA Finals. Anything short of that and, well, the team's been pretty forgettable in terms of NBA history.
Is that fair? No.
But what about the NBA really is?
The Portland Trail Blazers could be crushing the Dallas Mavericks right now if their All-Star guard, Brandon Roy, wasn't hurt.
And what of the unexplainable career of Eddy Curry?
So no, the league is not fair.
But the arrogance with which the Heat players carried themselves for much of last summer has brought on this disinterest. Now that it's "put up or shut up" time, it doesn't really matter what they tweet or how many jerseys they sell. The only way the "big three" will silence and re-engage critics like me is by winning eight games against the two teams they beat a combined once during the regular season, the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls.
Flexing on the Philadelphia 76ers means nothing when a team is 1-6 against the possible next two opponents. If feelings got hurt last month after a loss to Chicago in March, the Heat may need a bucket of Prozac if Boston -- or worse yet, New York, which split the season series -- sends them packing in early May.
Now unlike a lot of my jersey-burning, scathing-letter-to-the-editor brethren, my indifference toward Miami has nothing to do with LeBron leaving Cleveland and joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. None of them have come close to having a run-in with the law and all do a tremendous amount of philanthropy and volunteer work, so individually I like them.
My problem is, as a team they haven't been deserving of the kind of attention they have been receiving, so I've simply tuned them out. I'm more invested in Memphis at this point. The "Heatles" didn't break any significant team records. Wade, Bosh and 'Bron won't receive any significant, individual hardware. All the guys did was sign contracts and blended in with the other top teams. Past seasons are littered with talented squads that won 50-plus games but did very little in the playoffs. LeBron's been on a pair of 60-win teams -- and part of a very funny Muppet-like ad campaign -- and didn't even reach the Finals those years, so can we please chill talking about The Heat?
Yes, they've had moments of brilliance -- such as winning 21 of 22 games from Nov. 29 to Jan. 9 -- but if you look closely you'll see only seven of those wins came against teams that finished with winning records. When the Los Angeles Lakers ran off 17 of 18 after the All-Star break, 10 of their wins came against winning squads. Chicago hasn't lost more than three games in a month since January. Boston has the top defense in the league. The Heat have been celebrated as if they're head and shoulders above the league, but really there's parity at the top. Just about anyone can win and so, for now, I don't see why any of the top six teams should be singled out -- particularly a squad with a core that's been together for only a few months.
It's not entirely the players' fault they've been the talk of the season. We all got so excited thinking about what they could become, we sorta overlooked what they actually were.
But now is the time for the Heat to actually do something worth talking about. Not the expected -- such as sweeping aside the 76ers -- but the unexpected, such as getting past the one squad that embarrassed them on opening night and the other that swept them to tears.
When they do that, I'll happily rejoin the conversation.
LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wait. Didn't everybody already concede a Finals spot to the Heat? Why are they wasting our time with this Philly series? Somebody wake us if the action ever gets . . . you know, heated.