Three things I've noticed about the NBA Finals so far . . .
1. Miami's Dwyane Wade is starting to score again after a woeful start offensively vs. San Antonio, but Wade's defense has been outrageously bad -- and lazy -- for the entirety of the series.
How does Danny Green remain wide open time after time? Mainly it's because Wade has been his primary defender, and Wade has pretty much given up chasing Green around the court.
Instead of actually guarding the series' most dangerous shooter, Wade -- especially in Game 5 last night -- has been habitually looking for the easiest way out, either pre-jumping a passing lane or allowing himself to get screened, which means he can point to another Heat player to go run after Green.
Wade also has been awful getting back on defense if he blows a layup, and he has blown more than a few. That's a big deal because HIS GUY IS THE ONE SHOOTING ALL THE THREES.
Wade is doing the Kobe-Carmelo-Stephen Jackson I-don't-want-to-run-back-so-I'll-just-stand-here-and-beg-for-a-foul deal.
And as has become my mini-credo: Bad, lazy defense almost always costs a team more than good offense helps it.
Guard Danny Green at the three-point line. Doesn't seem like a genius strategy. But Wade won't do it. If he's too tired to try, he shouldn't be out there, no matter how many points he scores.
You can say losing this series would put LeBron James behind Michael Jordan forever on the greatness list, and I'd agree.
But this series -- win or lose -- absolutely puts Wade way, way behind Scottie Pippen on the list of great teams' second-best players.
Pippen doesn't get enough credit for what he did for MJ and the Bulls. Wade is showing how crucial that role is.
2. LeBron James hasn't been great, but he's also been stymied by the presence of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter inside; you can see James' hesitation every time he starts a drive.
LBJ just can't rely on his mid-range jumper, so he's consumed thinking about the Spurs' shot-blockers; before he ever starts dribbling, he's pre-planning his SECOND move, and that freezes him so that he often can't even get past Green, Kawhi Leonard or even Boris Diaw because he's having to think two moves ahead.
And therefore does zero moves. Then LeBron just passes it and hopes somebody else can do something.
That's what shot-blockers do to even the greatest penetrators.
What would help? LeBron could use a center who can finish with power after he draws Splitter or Duncan, but Miami doesn't have that.
Or he could use another Heat player who can get into the lane reliably, draw the shot-blockers, and then either finish or kick it to LBJ or Wade or whoever, but nope, Miami doesn't have that, either -- not with Wade in his cement-shoe career period.
3. On the defensive side for Miami, it's notable that Tony Parker gets to the lane and doesn't have to worry about the things LBJ is worried about . . . because Miami doesn't have anybody like Duncan or even Splitter.
Well, Chris "Birdman" Andersen can sort of be like Splitter, but Erik Spoelstra isn't playing him much in this series. I'm sure there are reasons for this -- probably because he's committed to going small and Udonis Haslem and Bosh are the two bigs he's going with.
Add this all up, and by the way, Miami could still win the title -- all the Heat has to do is win two home games and it's title No. 2 for the LBJ-Wade-Bosh "dynasty."
Very possible. It would be a big moment for LeBron, for sure, and for Wade and Spoelstra, too.
But Miami isn't quite looking like a two-in-a-row team -- either for back-to-back titles or for tough playoff games. (The Heat hasn't won two in a row since winning five in a row vs. Chicago and Indiana in the last two rounds, from Game 2 of the East semifinals to Game 1 of the East finals.)
It's a perilous situation . . . so perilous that I think it's fairly easy to conclude that even if Miami wins this title, it won't be winning many more in the coming seasons.
And it's interesting that Wade has won as many titles (one) with an aging Shaquille O'Neal (a CENTER) as he has with LeBron and Bosh.
My concluding point, which was supposed to be my main point, but I took so long to get to it:
And Miami doesn't even have average NBA players at point guard or center. They're below average at both spots. And San Antonio is above average at both spots -- actually, they're at Hall of Fame levels at both spots (if you consider Duncan a center, and I do).
The point guard creates and causes havoc, and the center makes it easier to finish on offense and he protects the rim on D. That's the usual recipe for a dynasty.
(Or you have two of the greatest defensive wings of all-time -- including the greatest player of all-time -- which the Bulls had with Jordan and Pippen.)
Some of this, it turns out, was quite wrong (example: Riley dumping Spoelstra? Nope).
But some of it was right -- particularly the point about point guards and centers leading to dynasties and the Heat coming up short in both areas.
The column, from July 11, 2010 . . .
Maybe it wasn't about endless piles of money for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Probably wasn't entirely about winning, either. I think in May or June 2011, everybody might understand that.
On Friday, we saw what drove the whole cloak-and-dagger lead-up to the fireworks-and-frolic welcome in Miami.
It was about the party -- the high school graduation giddiness, samba sensibility and utter lack of self-control.
That's the party James, Wade and Bosh -- the super team of free agents uniting in South Florida -- surely believe will thump along into February, May and for what they assume will be a championship in June, then another.
"Not one," James told the crowd Friday. "Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven . . . "
He's confident, and that's the right of any epically blessed 25-year-old who just started a statewide conga line. (And devastated Cleveland, too.)
But championships aren't won by showmanship and name recognition alone. Even the "Showtime" Lakers -- led by once and future Miami coach Pat Riley -- were more about intensity, unity and precision than the party.
I'm saying that the Heat will not win the title next summer and will have trouble winning multiple rings over the six-season life of the three players' contracts.
And I'm going to give six reasons the "Three Kings" will face more difficulties than they expect on their way to an actual championship party.
1. Dynastic teams are often built around centers (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell) and point guards (Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy), and the Heat doesn't have enough money to fill either spot comfortably.
Yes, I know that the Bulls won six titles with no pure point guard and with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen sharing the distribution duties.
Yes, James can serve as a monster distributor any time he wants to, and Wade is capable of getting into the lane and dishing, too.
And I know that Miami is reportedly talking to Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard and Derek Fisher to help fill those spots.
But Miami still will have to go into every playoff series having to cover up talent deficiencies at center and point guard.
2. Even if the Headliners can keep their egos in check with each other, it's tough to see how that will translate to the rest of the players, who will be added on the fly, incorporated into whatever system the Headliners want and needed to fill key roles.
The Lakers had Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for their back-to-back title runs, but they also had Ron Artest this season, Trevor Ariza the previous season, Andrew Bynum, Fisher and Shannon Brown.
When Boston won it three years ago, they had Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen at the front, but they also had Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Big Baby Davis, Tony Allen, and James Posey.
It looks as if Miami will add Mike Miller . . . but there's not a whole lot else out there.
3. The Lakers haven't indicated that they are forfeiting their shot at a three-peat.
One question: How will the Heat defend Gasol and Bynum?
One point: Artest is the perfect guy to guard James, and Bryant vs. Wade would be tremendous to watch.
Last point: The Lakers have an ingrained system, so it was easy to absorb Gasol three years ago. What's Miami's system? Has LeBron told anybody yet? Does he want a system?
4. How awkward will it get when Riley is ready to make his 100-percent-anticipated move to shove aside current coach Erik Spoelstra?
And does Riley, at 65, still have the energy to ride herd on personalities as large as James/Wade/Bosh?
5. There's too much pressure, and under pressure, massive egos tend to detonate.
That's what we saw with the splintering 2003-04 Lakers, who added Karl Malone and Gary Payton to the Shaq-Kobe duopoly.
That's what we saw with LeBron vs. everybody in Cleveland this past season.
Wade did not help tamp expectations when he said that Miami now has "arguably the best trio to ever play the game of basketball," which would be true if Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were erased from the NBA history books.
I get the distinct feeling that LeBron, Wade and Bosh are treating this like their free-and-easy 2008 Olympic sprint, which is when they first contemplated uniting in the NBA.
But galloping up and down against Argentina or Spain is not quite the same as grinding it out, possession after possession, against Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson.
6. They all have the ability to opt out of their deals early and become free agents again in 2014.
Gee, you think James might start wondering aloud about new scenery after one or two restless, nontitle seasons? Yes, he could.
That's the bad thing about wild parties -- they're great until the moment they're not great, and then everybody wants to leave before it's time to clean up the mess.