COMMENTARY | Betting on the Miami Heat to win another NBA championship this season may not be a sure-shot wager as the odds suggest. Far from it.
However, these five uncertainties, if not addressed, will not only wreck the team's quest to three-peat; they can mean the beginning of the end of the Heat's Big Three.
Will Michael Beasley behave?
Beasley, nicknamed B-Easy, had an impressive showing as a role player in two of Miami's four preseason starts.
As Miami's No. 2 overall pick in 2008, Beasley had a promising NBA future, but his reported struggles with marijuana forced the Heat to send the former Big 12 Player of the Year packing in 2009 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Similar behavior later sent him to the Phoenix Suns.
But another alleged drug-related offense in August brought his stint with the Suns to an early termination.
Lo and behold, the Heat accepted the bad boy back into the squad. Perhaps, the contagious professionalism the team exudes will compel the 24-year-old to simmer down the second time around.
Erik Spoelstra says the troubled star looks impressive in his return and is "family."
The question likely lingering on everyone's mind is this: Will the 6-10 shooting phenom overcome his demons and put his past behind? If so, he and the Heat have a lot to gain by his presence off the bench. Should he revert to past shenanigans, his antics could be an enormous distraction for Miami.
Will Dwyane Wade remain healthy?
Another growing pain to overcome is D-Wade's health status when the regular season tips off. The 11-year veteran was plagued by knee problems last season and throughout the playoffs.
Surgery was always a possibility, but, up to this point, team doctors have taken a wait-and-see stance. Nonetheless, the good news is that procedures to reduce swelling and pain have largely been successful.
Spoelstra's goal is to limit Wade's minutes in exhibition games and allow Dwyane to dictate his level of basketball readiness.
The good news is Miami has options. In fact, the acquisitions made in the offseason will likely give Wade needed rest and lessen the chances of significant injury that takes him out of the rotation.
Still, if the Heat are focused on defending their title, it's going to take a valiant effort, and a healthy Dwyane Wade Is a large part of that calculus.
Will Chris Bosh play like a big?
Like Wade, Bosh battled sore knees throughout the postseason. And while the break afforded him time to heal, no one knows for sure if Chris will be 100 percent when the regular season begins.
But let's set that aside for a minute; ice, rest and Tylenol can handle the aches and pains.
One thing that I can't wrap my mind around is whether Bosh is up to the task of playing like a true big man. I've raised this argument in the past, but it's worth exploring again.
Bosh had a genuine showing last season and stepped up in key plays down the stretch. But something was missing that nearly led to the Heat crashing and burning: Bosh's dominance in the paint.
Last time around, the Heat relied on the rotation that included Bosh and a mix of shooters down low. Apparently, it worked, but will it be enough to thwart the plans of franchises that are hell bent on going big in the paint with a "Twin Towers" state of mind?
Bosh was taken to school in the paint by scorers and had no answer on the boards. Thanks to some heroic effort from role players, they got it done. But how long can the Heat depend on lifelines and Bosh's jumper to bail them out?
And get this: Other teams are watching.
What role will Greg Oden play?
The former top overall 2007 NBA draft pick has been away from the court for several years, but he remained close as a spectator.
It's nothing new; big men typically battle injuries of their lower extremities. In fact, one of the first things players lose over time is their legs, especially if they're stationed down low. Shaquille O'Neal, Patrick Ewing and Yao Ming all endured nagging pain in their legs during their careers.
The trouble with Oden, like Andrew Bynum, is that the injuries are occurring at a much earlier time. And because the grind doesn't get any easier as time goes by, it's unknown if the 7-footer can play at a high level throughout a full Heat schedule.
At a minimum, Oden's presence in the paint gives the Heat an answer against the likes of the Roy Hibberts and Brook Lopezs of the East, depending on how he's worked into the rotation.
Bottom line is Greg Oden will either serve as filler for Bosh or work in tandem with the Big Three star should the swelling in his legs remain in check. It's just too early to tell.
Will free agency buzz cloud the Heat's championship run?
Every good franchise begins the season with the end in mind. With LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade entering free agency next summer, Pat Riley has to deal with the possibility of a Big Three breakup.
While the current squad could very well go down as a storied dynasty, a lot could derail that fairy tale ending. For starters, Miami has to deal with the reality that all three players, given their star appeal, may seek fatter deals elsewhere.
LBJ, without question, can demand -- and receive -- a maximum deal anywhere once he's free to roam. And should he pursue a raise with Miami, a large chunk of salary cap is eaten up, leaving little room for rewarding players who, like James, may want a larger piece of the pie.
The point is nobody really knows until the season ends and the negotiations begin. But chances are as soon as the regular season begins for Miami, the conversation will heat up about the summer of 2014. That, my friend, is the mother lode of all distractions.
Bradley is a professional writer, journalist, sportswriter and avid follower of the NBA, NFL, NCAA, PGA and tennis. He keeps a watchful eye on Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins developments.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dwyane Wade
- Miami Heat
- Chris Bosh
- LeBron James
- Michael Beasley