, Newburyport, MA


October 31, 2012

Linda Robertson: For Heat, only playoff wins matter

MIAMI — The Heat’s season opener against the Boston Celtics last night will be followed by seven months of preamble.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has issued a gag order on any talk of REPEAT, and Heat players will become as adept at swatting away questions regarding a possible REPEAT as they are at rejecting weak shots.

But, let’s face it, the third season of the Big 3 is all about whether the group can win No. 2.

The 2012 championship banner was hailed with a celebration inside AmericanAirlines Arena, then attention was immediately turned to the pesky Celtics, who upgraded their roster in anticipation of meeting the Heat again in the playoffs.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh agree that their alliance wasn’t formed to raise just one banner.

James has shed one burden — can he win a championship? — only to shoulder another — can he win multiple championships, as he predicted? Can he narrow the gap between himself and Michael Jordan? The preoccupation with James hasn’t ended, but at least the theme has changed.

It’s a long, long way to June. Littered among games against the Celtics, Bulls, Knicks, Lakers and Thunder, expect a lot of routine games against bad teams. Such is the NBA these days. That’s why playoff time is called the Second Season and why the first 82 games should be called Warmup Season.

But interspersed with the constant speculation about the Heat’s chance of a REPEAT, and whether it will come versus Kobe Bryant and the Lakers or Kevin Durant and the Thunder, there are ways to keep the regular season interesting:

Monitor development of the Heat’s bigs. Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman will be essential if the Heat meets Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the Finals. Bosh, James and Udonis Haslem need help battling that combo inside while Steve Nash is making his pinpoint passes. It’s time for Anthony and Pittman to break through and show some additional dimensions.

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