Both the Heat's Defensive Rating and Opponent Points Per Game are down from last year. Miami ranks 15th and 10th in those categories this year as opposed to 9th and fifth last season. What are the causes of this slight drop off?
Honestly, some of the games I would attribute it to a lack of focus and effort, which are overused phrases but the team simply does look disinterested at times. The Heat have looked sharp against some elite teams and have notched impressive wins but they're just as capable of coming out flat against a much weaker opponent, particularly in the first half of games. It might be a bit of complacency that comes from being back-to-back champs but also having a hobbled Dwyane Wade, a departed Mike Miller, and Ray Allen as well as Shane Battier looking a step slower (that comes with being a year older) are not helping matters. Spoelstra has been wise to limit minutes for his regular guys with a goal towards making the playoffs with a healthy roster, but can they turn it on again in the postseason? The Heat definitely think they can do it, but they'll have to prove it against the Pacers and they may not have homecourt advantage this time around.
The Heat are the worst rebounding team in the NBA. Does rebounding even matter to them?
It's a bizarre statistic but they consistently win even while being out-rebounded, sometimes by large margins. We all know they don't have much size on their roster and Birdman as well as Greg Oden can only play so many minutes off the bench before they run out of gas trying to keep up with the Heat's style of play. Rebounding does matter to them but their defensive schemes might sometimes end with a big such as Bosh without good rebounding position. I also feel some players like Birdman too often go for the improbable block attempt or that LeBron will go for a steal or get ready for an outlet pass instead of attempting to secure the rebound. They also don't grab a whole lot of offensive boards either.
Dwyane Wade has been nursing injuries all season. He has only appeared in 36 of the Heat's 51 games, often not playing on the second night of back-to-backs. What is the timetable for him to return to full health? Also, if his injuries persist, how will his career be affected?
There is no timetable, just the hope that with continued rest and not overexerting himself he'll be effective by the postseason. Wade had a superb regular season last year so it's a bit surprising that his knees have been THIS troublesome so deep into the season. Wade himself admitted he may never be 100% again but when he has felt good his game can still be deadly and playing alongside LeBron and Bosh can allow him to be more efficient on the offensive end. He would do well in continuing to hone his jumper and work on his range so he can avoid too much wear and tear when he's attacking the basket.
LeBron James will be the subject of an obscene amount of trade speculation in the coming years. He has an early termination option in his contract that he can use at the end of the season. The following season he has a player option. It is extremely early, but is there any real possibility that James leaves Miami?
No, not for me at least. Not this time around. It still feels like he's just getting started and he's only lost one playoff series in three Finals appearances since arriving so it's worked out so far. Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison haven't come this far to not have a clear plan of the future and their centerpiece is LeBron. They sold him on the idea of leaving Cleveland so convincing him to stay, especially in light of their success, should be easier.
Heat fans have a terrible reputation across the league. This stems from the empty lower bowl of the American Airlines Arena during much of the first half of games and especially from the mass exodus of fans from Game 6 of the Finals last season. Are Heat fans just misunderstood?
Definitely, but that doesn't mean they're the best fans in the NBA either. The lower bowl is a hot ticket in town and not necessarily purchased by the most savvy of basketball fans. For that, you'd have to visit the upper bowl where the tickets are a bit cheaper and the fans show up on time and passionately root their team on. It may not be one of the newer NBA franchises but they still don't have too many generations of fans either. Most South Florida fans can't afford to go to games but they are still passionate about their team regardless. They certainly have fans in every arena they go to.