The Dish: Heat Edition

#HeatNation

It’s happened more than once this season, so often that it’s almost comical.  A thunderous road chant of “Lets go Heat, Lets go Heat” is sweeping across the various arenas of the National Basketball Association.  It’s been heard the loudest in Denver, New York and most shockingly of all, Orlando.  Despite the departure of the False King nearly two seasons ago the Heat have remained relevant and are still possible contenders to dethrone Miami North.

Thousands of fans flocked from the franchise when LeBron James departed but many of the faithful stayed; some new, some old but the passion remains the same.  In a world that sees many Drakes, fans that flow whichever direction the wind blows in, fans of the Miami Heat have stayed true, trusted the process that has been in place for years, a controlled excellence that has seen the franchise visit the NBA Finals 5 times in the last 10 years.

J. Rich 2.0?

While speaking with a writer of Hardwood recently I bragged about the incredible game that “J. Rich” had the night before.  The writer, Bryce Ward, paused and said the following sarcastically:

“J. Rich?  When did he start playing for the Heat?”

Laughter ensued as I apologized for the mistake but reality soon hit.  Potentially I could have been right.  J. Rich 2.0 could very well be playing for the Miami Heat in the form of one Josh Richardson.  A depleted Heat backcourt combined with the poor shooting of off-season prize Gerald Green has given rise to J. Rich 2.0 who like his predecessor Jason Richardson has been exciting the fans of the NBA with amazing, powerful dunks.

Showcasing that he’s more than a one-dimensional player, Richardson has been a terrific defender thus far and since the NBA’s All Star Break the rookie guard has shot 62.9% from beyond the arc which leads all players in the NBA.  After every practice Richardson doesn’t leave the court until he converts at least 70% of this three-point attempts.

Per the Miami Herald

“Just setting a standard’s been big, man,” Richardson said. “Because I never leave the gym until I make 70. And I never really shoot under 70 now.”

For the season Richardson is averaging 4.8 points per game but his stock is quickly rising.  The 4 year product from the University of Tennessee is proving to be a diamond in the rough and has bought completely into the Heat system and alongside of fellow rookie Justise Winlsow can possibly be a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.

Joe Johnson, Secret Weapon Against Cleveland?

Miami has in a sense had Cleveland’s number for the past two seasons all the while with James uncomfortable in his return trips to South Beach.  Last season offered a chance at a possible first round playoff matchup between the two franchises that are forever linked but the Basketball Gods would have none of it.  While still overcoming the mental barrier of the loss of their false idol, the Heat were ill prepared when franchise star Chris Bosh was lost for the second half of last season.  Fast forward to the present and again circumstances are the same.  Due to another blood clot, Bosh was again sidelined after the All Star Weekend but to date the Heat have not faltered.  They grew stronger, faster, and larger with the addition of the 6’8, 240 pound swingman Joe Johnson.

Upon his release from the Brooklyn Nets Johnson was heralded and courted mightily by the Cavaliers which included a personal plea from James.

“He knows that we want him,” James said. “He knows that we want him and if he decides to come here, it’d be great. But if not, then we’ll continue to move on with what we have.”

Perhaps James knew that the latter would happen as Johnson signed with the rival Heat citing a strong recruiting effort from Heat veterans Dwyane Wade and Udonis, the only players in team history to be a part of all three Heat Championships.  Bypassing the stability of Miami over the dysfunction of Cleveland was another signal that times are changing in the Eastern Conference.  Cleveland has enjoyed a year and a half as the conference’s most dominant team but that may soon be coming to an end.  Much to the chagrin of one LeBron James, the Basketball Gods may want that playoff matchup that they denied us all of last season.

Heat Q&A:  Kenneth Teape

Speaking to this young man is like reaching into the vault of The Hardwood Nation.  He was instrumental in the evolution of Hardwood from a single person blog to a fully functional NBA News and Rumors machine which has stood the test of time as many independent NBA sites were born and have died during Hardwood existence.  Now writing for Hoops Habit, Kenneth made time to come back home in a sense and answer some questions regarding this season’s Miami Heat.

 

1.  You cover the Miami Heat for Hoops Habit, What has been the biggest surprise of the season for the franchise?

The biggest surprise has probably been their ability to handle adversity. With the foundation that the Heat have built from the coaching staff up through the front office and ownership, it really should not surprise anyone but what they have accomplished this season has been quite the feat given the circumstances. Injuries to main cogs of the rotation such as Chris Bosh, Tyler Johnson, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic throughout the season have not hurt the Heat in the standings; every button that Erik Spoelstra has hit this season has been the right one despite dealing with a litany of injuries and personalities.  Add in Pat Riley getting the team under the luxury tax while still adding talent and the Heat are in position to make some noise not only this season but in the future as well. It makes me envious as a Knicks fan covering a team that knows what they are doing.

2.  Joe Johnson has been a great fit for the Heat, do you see him retiring with the franchise?

With how things have gone thus far, I could easily see Joe Johnson retiring with the franchise. He had plenty of offers once the Brooklyn Nets bought him out, yet the Heat is where he wanted to be. Playing for a winner and in a place as nice as Miami would be difficult to pass up. At this point in his career, winning probably takes precedent over money for Johnson, and he won’t find many better places at succeeding than Miami. They have the track record to prove it, and his relationship with Dwyane Wade should help when it comes to negotiating this summer.

3.  Josh Richardson has been impressive post All Star Break, what is his possible ceiling going to be?

The play of Josh Richardson has been a pleasant surprise to watch. He is someone I actually highlighted in an article on HoopsHabit last week after he scored a career-high 22 points in a big win over the Chicago Bulls. The Heat never expected him to take on as prominent a role as he has in recent weeks, but he has hit the ground running. Not only is he playing well, he is doing it at a position that is unnatural to him, as he is masquerading currently as a point guard despite playing shooting guard throughout his career at Tennessee. His size makes him an intriguing player, as he stands 6-feet-6 inches so he can play alongside virtually anyone in the backcourt. There is no reason that he cannot carve out a role as the lead guard off the bench for the Heat, as he will only continue to grow alongside these veterans as he gets more accustomed to playing point guard in the NBA.

4.  I’ve predicted that the Miami Heat are going to defeat the Cavaliers, should they face in the playoffs, your thoughts?

A Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Miami Heat playoff series would be must see television. With LeBron James facing off against his old team, there would be a number of storylines and angles to watch for during the season. Coming into the season I believed the Heat had the strongest starting lineup in the Eastern Conference and would give the Cavaliers the most problems. Their ability to play defense and experience in tough playoff games is matched by few teams. The Heat matchup with the Cavaliers very well, even more so with Joe Johnson now in the fold. They have a number of options to throw at James, including Johnson, Luol Deng, Justise Winslow and Gerald Green. We could even see Wade take a crack at his buddy. Ultimately, I believe it comes down to the health of Chris Bosh. If he is able to get back on the court, the Heat have the best chance at knocking off the Cavaliers in a playoff series. But, without him, the Heat could struggle to match up. They have the advantage on the sidelines though with Spoelstra, so if a team is going to keep the Cavaliers from the NBA Finals it would be Miami.

5.  How does it feel to know that you had an instrumental part in the growth of the Hardwood Nation and that its one of the few independent NBA news outlets still remaining?

I am very proud of the work that I was able to contribute to The Hardwood Nation and that I was given the chance to be an editor on the site. It has helped immensely in reaching where I am now as an editor on Empire Writes Back on the FanSided Network and a lead contributor on HoopsHabit for both the Heat and Houston Rockets. There is no guarantee that wouldn’t have happened had you not found me on Twitter writing about the Knicks a little over two years ago. Your encouragement and pushing us to put in that little extra amount of work has helped me grow as a writer, teaching me plenty of things that I try passing along to my own staff now. I am very grateful for the opportunity that I was given at The Hardwood Nation and am proud to tell people that I had a part in growing the brand, and that you still lend a helping hand whenever needed. I not only gained invaluable experience that helped me in the journalism world, I also have gained a great friend and mentor to learn from.

 

 

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