W Debate: Time to break up the Big Three?
Question: If the Miami Heat lose the NBA Finals, should the Big Three be broken up?
Melissa Isaacson: Every other NBA team, particularly those Eastern Conference foes of the Miami Heat that have been slapped down the past three years, have to just love this one.
Break up the Heat's Big Three if Miami loses in the Finals to the San Antonio Spurs? Absolutely, say the Bulls. Go for it, say the Pacers. Definitely, the Nets and Knicks chime in, giggling.
Ever since Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and Tommy Heinsohn laced 'em up together, it has been obvious that NBA teams with the best three-man cores are the most likely to win championships. You don't necessarily have to have a Chamberlain-West-Baylor, Bird-McHale-Parish or Jordan-Pippen-Rodman triumvirate to do it, but it doesn't hurt.
Will the Heat, down 3-2 to the Spurs, change their makeup if they lose in the Finals? Absolutely. But why in the name of all good reason would Miami willingly tamper with a team that has made it to three straight NBA Finals; a team that won 27 straight games in the regular season; a team with, granted, an aging Big Three but still one that nearly every GM in the league would trade his entire roster for?
Kate Fagan: I think the Heat will change their core if they lose. And, unlike my friend from Chicago (Hi, Missy!), I think they definitely should change their core. Unfortunately for the Heat, they're measured differently than any other team in history. And for that, they have only themselves to blame. ("Not one, not two, not three ...")
The Heat were, in a way, an experiment, so I don't see change -- even after three straight trips to the NBA Finals -- as a rash move. These players came together for only one goal: to dominate in a way we hadn't seen before. Obviously, if the Spurs win this series, that hasn't happened, and it's definitely time to make some moves.
Let's remember, this team wasn't created organically. Pat Riley and the Miami staff didn't cultivate young talent and make smart draft picks and build and grow over years. This team was an artificial creation, arranged in a couple of weeks. The robot has underperformed; time to move onto the next model.
Missy: Maybe what we should be asking, Kate, is not whether the Heat will want to keep LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together, but whether LeBron --- who, like the other two, becomes a free agent after next season -- will want to stick around if they lose (or maybe even if they win).
Is it inconceivable that he takes a look at the inconsistent Bosh and the aging Wade and decides to take his talents somewhere else, forming another Big Three and thus turning another fan base abruptly against him? Definitely not. And obviously, it will be expensive for Miami to keep the core together.
The Heat brain trust may well decide to look for trade opportunities, which could include a draft pick that would free up cash to use in the free agent market themselves. But before you think I am starting to make your argument, this will not yield another Big Three capable of what this one can do. And it probably won't be enough to keep James happy.
Back to the original question: The Big Three are still formidable. Bosh is still one of the most versatile offensive players around and Wade, when his knee is just mildly agonizing, is still breathtakingly talented and knows how to play with James, which is not a given for every superstar.
They can tweak the supporting cast, which they obviously will do, and that will help. But to address your last comments, you have to get to the Finals to win. Getting there three straight times is at least putting yourself in position to win.
Kate: OK, I'll just cut to the chase ... I want LeBron to go back to Cleveland! I don't care if it "didn't work" before, it'll work this time because the universe (as well as the media) loves coming-home stories.
Can we agree on this? LeBron back to the Cavs?