For most fans of NBA basketball, Christmas Day doesn’t come on December 25th, it arrives on April 17th.
For the Miami Heat on April 16th marks the most important event of the season because it begins the most important time of the season, the NBA playoffs. For all of the people who were pessimistic about the Heat season because they started off slow and had a bunch of drama surrounding them, they finally have a team they can be proud of.
Let’s just recap a few of the roller-coaster rides Miami had to take this year in terms of adversity. Chris Bosh got injured medically. Tyler Johnson also joined him on the injury list. Josh McRoberts was put on a milk carton because his game was nowhere to be found. Two of the Heat’s most beloved players in the decade in Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen got traded to a playoff team in the Memphis Grizzlies. Gerald Green even got rowdy in a lobby where the police had to get called.
Even with all of the turmoil, drama and difficulty that this roster had to face this year, in less than a week the Heat will be one of the eight teams in the Eastern Conference with a chance to win a championship. Outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers, they’ve got one of the best chances to reach the finals.
The person who that’s going to depend on the most is Dwyane Wade. In his 12th year in the league, Wade has slowed down a bit as a player but there are few competitors in the game of basketball who have a more fierce attitude or the experience that he possess. With his three rings, he by far is the greatest winner entering into the playoffs. Now that it’s right around the corner and the Heat only need to win 16 games to hoist up another trophy on Biscayne Blvd. Wade will have to play at the top of all his powers.
In Wade’s last five games he’s looked like he’s ready to make a big splash in the playoffs because his numbers have been outstanding. Wade has averaged 17.8 points on 50 percent shooting, 3.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals a night in 28 minutes a night. Outside of the bad road loss to the Orlando Magic, Wade has helped Miami get wins over the Detroit Pistons and the recently eliminated from playoff contention Chicago Bulls.
Additionally, when you think about the playoffs you think about defense, physicality, grit and passion and no one the Heat personifies that more than their center Hassan Whiteside. The 26-year-old hasn’t played one single minute in the playoffs but yet he’s the second most important player for the Heat if they’d like to win. The kicker is, for most of the season he wasn’t even the starting center. Until now.
“We need a higher level from Hassan, and I thought the time was right now. This basketball team needs him to play at his best level, his most aggressive level, his most consistent level, his most reliable level, his most dominant physical level.”
– Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra
No one could expect Whiteside to have a good understanding as to why he’s coming off the bench, but since coach Erik Spoelstra made the decision this team has found their super sub and it’s looked like the decision that could get this team deep in the playoffs. Whiteside changes the game defensively when he checks in. If Miami has a big lead when he comes in it increases because the defense gets better. If their losing, the team catches up because he makes such a profound impact defensively it shifts the philosophy of the offense he’s playing against.
Now that he’s in the starting lineup, Whiteside will have to bring it every single night.
“I’m still going to play the same way. I’m still going to come out there and play with high energy, make it tough on the other team to score and try to make the best plays for my teammates while I’m out there.”
– Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside
Hopefully, we’ll be able to see it in the playoffs. Christmas time in Miami has finally arrived. For the last six months, we’ve been waiting and we don’t have to wait a second any longer.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter @DJoumbarey