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Miami Heat: Five Reasons Erik Spoelstra Faces Agony of ‘Three-Peating’

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Miami Heat: Five Reasons Erik Spoelstra Faces Agony of ‘Three-Peating’
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Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

COMMENTARY | Ahead of the 2013-2014 NBA regular season, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra may find comfort in adopting a LeBron James bad habit: nail biting.

Three-peating is a tall order in any sport, and five things could stand in the way of doing so, either of which could create pressure beyond the fair to partly cloudy ranges.

On getting three in a row, survey says: "Good luck with that"

Let's be frank here: Winning three or more championships in a row, no matter the sport, is a Herculean feat by any stretch of the imagination.

Only a handful of NBA franchises have done so, according to Basketball-Reference: The 1952-1954 Minneapolis Lakers, the 1959-1966 Boston Celtics (is "eight-peat" a word?), the Chicago Bulls (1991-1993 and 1996-1998) and the 2000-2002 Los Angeles Lakers.

Should the Heat coach add another championship to his resume, he joins a small and elite fraternity of others who've earned the honors. However, should Miami fall short of a third-consecutive championship, it's back to the drawing board for Spoelstra.

I'd argue that being in his shoes -- going into what is likely to be a grueling season -- is pressure a number of coaches not named Phil Jackson would be happy in doing without.

The new and "improved" Brooklyn Nets

Undoubtedly, Spoelstra is fully aware of the road ahead the Heat are facing and how the players will have to endure the wear and tear the regular-season grind presents.

By the same token, he knows Miami is facing an Eastern Conference that's gotten better since last season.

Take the Brooklyn Nets, for example. The new-look team under newly minted coach Jason Kidd was already fairly decent in some respects.

And with the departures of Jerry Stackhouse, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Josh Childress and others, it made room for the likes of Kevin Garnett, Shaun Livingston, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko.

What the Nets lack in speed over the rapid-fire Miami Heat offense, they gain in experience and high -basketball IQs. That said, I don't believe the season ahead for Miami is going to be a cakewalk.

The Nets' 86-62 rout of the Heat Thursday was only an exhibition game, but I'm sure none of the alpha males on the court had losing on the agenda. Preseason or not, both teams wanted to send a message. And it seems Paul Pierce's semi-hard foul on LeBron James set the tone of what is to come: gladiator basketball.

The Heat have a King, the Chicago Bulls have a Rose

The return of Derrick Rose, the offseason adjustments made by the Bulls and the ever-present threat from the Indiana Pacers will likely pose defensive challenges to Miami.

It's been more than 500 days since the former NBA MVP tore his ACL in April of 2012. However, after scoring 22 points in 22 minutes, 18 of them in the first half in the Bulls' rout against the Detroit Pistons in Wednesday's preseason game, Rose left no doubt about his return to form.

In fact, the Bulls guard says he's "more explosive now," adding that his vertical has improved 5 inches to 42 inches since the injury.

Miami has to figure out a way to contain his surgical-like ability to score at will in the paint. That alone could give Spoelstra many sleepless nights.

And let's not forget how John Wall and the Washington Wizards beat the Heat days ago by 18 points in their exhibition game. Who saw that coming?

Rotation, rotation, rotation

In business, it's all about "location, location, location." Similarly, in the NBA, a coach is brought to task on choosing the right rotation. One miscalculation could spell disaster for a well-rounded Heat roster.

The trouble, something many other teams would love to have, is Miami has a mess of shooters this season. Mario Chalmers, the Big Three, Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, Chris "Birdman" Andersen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and others got it done last season.

Miller's gone now, but with a slew of rookie acquisitions, Greg Oden, Roger Mason, Jr., and Michael Beasley, Miami's roster is chock-full of scorers.

The challenge for Spoelstra is to get the mix just right, even at the expense of benching struggling veterans, should it come to that.

Obviously, Pat Riley realizes that last year's formula -- a darn good one, might I add -- won't necessarily produce the same results this time around. Adjustments have to be made. It's just that simple.

Sore-leg syndrome

This is perhaps the largest unknown the Heat's coaching staff must plan for, but it's often like forecasting the development of a tropical storm and then predicting its path.

Dwyane Wade's legs were an issue last season. And judging from his lack of play during the preseason, the problem is not quite under control.

However, D-Wade, like Kobe Bryant, is known to play through injuries; that's the hallmark of a true champion. And by Wade's own admission recently, he'll likely never be "100 percent" when he steps on the court.

Chris Bosh battled knee pain throughout the postseason, but Birdman was healthy enough to give the Heat starter extended rest at times.

Finally, Greg Oden, the poster-boy of leg woes, is trying to mark his NBA comeback at South Beach. But like Bosh and Wade, he too has recurring problems with his legs.

That all said, buckle up for a rough ride ahead.

Undoubtedly, LeBron James and the Heat are ready, but is Spoelstra ready to deal with the stress of achieving an NBA rare feat?

As the old saying goes, pressure bursts pipes.

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.

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