To Huq's point, Henry Abbott writes on TrueHoop that Cliff Lee, Coveted Free Agent Pitcher, decided to join an already stacked pitching staff. Lee will have far less pressure every fifth day than he would had he stayed with the Rangers: "[D]id we learn that there's something wrong with Cliff Lee's character? Is he not a true competitor? Is he some kind of fraud? Or is he just a guy who wanted to join the best team he could? And why wasn't that option open to LeBron James?"
Sure enough ... (Hat Tip: Devin Kharpertian)
Did you catch James' behind-the-backboard desperation rainbow as the shot clock expired last night?
Chris Paul had a forgettable night, but Ryan Schwan of Hornets247 can't find fault with CP3: "Some will blame Paul. I don’t. The Heat deployed Chalmers to attack him non-stop through the final frame, and every time he started to make a move, send James or Wade or Bosh to help. Sometimes two of that three. Paul would then hit the open player -- but there was a problem. That player needed to shoot damn fast – or make a secondary move, because the athletic Heat closed fast as hell."
The Heat are inching closer to Mike Miller's return. Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post poses an interesting question: How severely do you reduce James Jones' minutes once Miller is ready to take the court? "I’d be reluctant to cut James Jones’ minutes, the way he’s been playing, not just as a shooter, but also taking charges and grabbing the occasional rebound in traffic. He’s a more mature player than Mario Chalmers, less prone to mistakes. But the Heat has played better offensively with a 'point guard' on the floor at all times. And while Miller can handle the ball, that won’t be his primary role, especially against pressure."
One of the less heralded features of a good double-team is timing. Against an explosive slasher like James, you can't afford to come too late to the party. But you also compromise your defense if you arrive too early. A player with James' vision can size up the shift and adjust his route accordingly. NBA Playbook's Sebastian Pruiti demonstrates how, on one possession Monday night, the Hornets' Aaron Gray committed well before the play materialized -- and it cost his team.
The Heat are going with Juwan Howard and Erick Dampier for stretches. The two held down the frontcourt for nine minutes against New Orleans. Raul Takahashi of Hot Hot Hoops: "The backup duo may average 36 years of age but the slow legs are compensated with veteran astuteness, crafty intangibles and concrete elbows to swing around. Toughest over-35 big men tandem in the league, guaranteed."
Hollinger (Insider) on the prognosis for an extended Heat winning streak: "Miami has three games on its December slate that seem losable -- road games in New York on Friday and Los Angeles on Christmas Day as well as a home game against Dallas on Monday. If the Heat get through those, the sky is the limit. After facing the Lakers, Miami will have eight straight games against teams with losing records before a mid-January trip to Denver and Chicago; by that point, the win streak would be at 23 games. Of course, chances are the Heat will falter before then, with the smart money being on the Lakers to snap the Heat's streak at 14 games on Christmas. But be forewarned: The way the schedule lines up, this streak has the potential to be a looooooong one."
Neil Paine of Basketball Reference calculated the odds of the Heat's current streak. Even though the Heat were favored in every game (by only a hair in Utah), the aggregate probability that they'd pull off nine in a row was only 11.2 percent.