INSIDER: Bitter Disappointment
Heat nation, just like the Heat locker room, was filled with mixed emotions on Wednesday night. Bitter disappointment that the playoffs weren't on the agenda and that a noon practice the next day was a thing of the past. Pride that a "team of strangers", as head coach Erik Spoelstra referred to his players when recalling the early days of training camp, refused to give up on a seemingly hopeless season when the first half ended with an abysmal 11-30 mark. The Heat not only refused to mail it in, they began on January 17th a 13 game win streak which was a precursor to a second half record of 30-11.
But the splendid mark wasn't enough. One game. One more win. That's all the Heat needed in the 82 game schedule to get into the playoffs. One win. But they couldn't muster it. Two losses to Philadelphia and three losses (three!) to Orlando will gnaw at the team. But no loss will eat away at the players this off season more than the defeat at the hands of the Knicks in late March. New York sat Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose and with nothing on the line for the Knicks and everything on the line for the Heat, New York prevailed and delivered a crushing loss to the Heat at the AAA.
But one has to remember that this bitter disappointment only exists because that extraordinary 2nd half record raised hopes to atmospheric levels in the first place. And that's a good thing! Two improbable wins against Houston and one vs Golden State made the Heat and its fans start to dream the impossible dream that perhaps this team could qualify for the postseason. And while they fell short, don't lose sight that all this team has accomplished in those final 41 games was done despite crushing injuries, done with Chris Bosh's salary siphoning off a large percentage of the payroll and done with no superstars on the team. Coach Spoelstra and his staff were outstanding and drew every ounce of success from newcomers James Johnson and Dion Waiters. Both were underwhelming players at their previous stops but their stars shone brightly here in Miami. As the off season commences, realize that the arrow is pointing up on this team and even better days and higher expectations lay ahead.