Miami Heat

Enter the Matrix

The American Airlines Arena didn’t have a three-story billboard of himself. There weren’t any balloons, water guns, and certainly no black SUV’s with Superman-inspired rims.

What there was, however, was a long table with a requisite Miami Heat backdrop, a few chairs, and a couple of unopened bottled waters.

And that’s about it.
Shawn Marion’s introduction as the newest member of the Miami Heat fell way short to the extravagance and hoopla brought about by Shaq’s introduction to Miami in 2004. But don’t mistake this lack of confetti as an insignificant move for the Heat.

And while the world has made the Shaq-to-Phoenix move the `water cooler’ topic of the week, Marion’s move to Miami is equally – if not more – important to the Heat’s fortunes.

It’s true that Shaq was – and still is – a larger-than-life and revered figure in South Beach. After all, he did make good on his promise to deliver a championship parade down Biscayne Boulevard.

But that was two years ago, when O’Neal was still capable of being a dominant force in the paint. With father time catching up to him and his health breaking down every other week, Shaq has become a liability for the Heat, and as long as he was around, the Heat would be a marginal play-off team at best and a bottom-feeder at worst.

So if the Heat wanted to go back to being credible, cutting ties with Shaq was the most important thing to do.

So they did. And this move, ironically, could go down as the move that saved the Miami Heat.

With the Diesel under contract for two more years worth 20 mil per, his contract was – for all intents and purposes – a metaphorical handcuff for the Heat. Now that they’ve rid themselves of that, they now have enough flexibility to be a major player in the market – something they couldn’t have done with O’Neal still in the line-up.

The indirect effect of this is that the Heat now wouldn’t have to waste two years of D-Wade’s prime just to wait until Shaq’s contract ends. And with Shawn Marion, Wade and the Heat get a player that not only fits the style of play they want to run, but they get a proven stat-stuffer that’s younger and cheaper – relatively – than the O’Neal.

It’s premature to think that Marion’s production will decline now that he won’t be catching lob passes from Steve Nash. On the contrary, I believe Marion will take his game to a new level now that he’s out of Nash and Amare’s shadow. And while D-Wade is still Miami’s top dog – for the self-conscious Marion, being number two is a whole lot rosier than being number three.
If their first game was any indication, Wade and Marion will be a formidable duo for the Heat; not exactly in the league of Jordan and Pippen, as some have said in recent days, but good enough to make the Heat formidable again.

The next order of business is to surround these two with complimentary role players that will suit their style. The monetary relief brought about by Shaq’s contract going West will allow the Heat to be a player in the free agent market this year. They don’t need another marquee guy, just young role players that are tailor-made for Wade and Marion’s skills. Add to that the expected high draft pick they’ll be getting in the draft and it’s looking like Miami’s future is not as grim as it was a month ago.

Short-lived as it was, the Shaquille O’neal-era was a whole lot fun while it lasted. They became a contender in the league, a hot ticket among the fans, and they have a championship to show for it.

But in this day and age of the NBA, staying on top is harder than getting there. And just like what Shaq did for them a couple of years ago when they were nose-diving back down to the bottom of the mountain, the Miami Heat have brought in a new partner for Flash to help turn their franchise around.

Superman has left town and Miami has now entered the Matrix.

One reply on “Enter the Matrix”

o’neal needs to be capitalized Short-lived as it was, the Shaquille O’neal-era was a whole lot fun while it lasted

in that sentence. otherwise nice.

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