Tuesday, October 29, 2013
3-on-3 Preview: Bulls at Heat
In another installment of the Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on the storylines before the Heat face the Bulls on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPNRadio).
1. Fact or Fiction: Derrick Rose has more to prove than Dwyane Wade this season to justify elite status?
Israel Gutierrez: Fiction. Rose has little to nothing to prove. He's already shown he has recovered physically and mentally. And while some have MVP-level expectations from him, not many are expecting a championship. Even if he does slip-up, he always has the knee injury as a legitimate reason to fall back on. It sounds silly to say a three-time champ like Wade has anything to prove, either. But he at least needs to remind people that when healthy, which he hasn't been the last two playoffs, he remains among the elite.
Tom Haberstroh: Fiction. Derrick Rose has a full career ahead of him to justify his elite status where as the window is closing for Wade. Throw in the fact that Wade is in a contract year alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh, there's more on the line for Wade this season both in dollar terms and his legacy.
Michael Wallace: Fiction. Even if Rose struggles a bit this year to regain his MVP level of play, he's still in his mid-20s and has several more seasons to work his way back to his prime, elite level. Wade is at the opposite end of that spectrum. He's entering this season with a chip on his shoulder again because of the doubts even some peers have raised. With three titles, Wade's legacy is set. But that doesn't mean he's ready to concede anything to anyone.
2. Fact or Fiction: The Heat and Bulls will open the season, and also be the last two teams standing in the Eastern Conference finals?
Gutierrez: Fact. The last time Rose went through a season healthy, he and LeBron James faced off in the Eastern Conference finals. And even though the top of the East has gotten better and deeper, these are still the two best players on this side of the bracket. And when making predictions, going with the best players is a good place to start.
Haberstroh: Fact. Heading into the preseason, I had it as a coin flip between the Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets for that second spot in the East final. But Rose has looked nothing short of spectacular so far, which bends the coin flip into their favor.
Wallace: Fiction. This one is difficult. Very much so. Ultimately, the East is going to come down to which top-four team avoids an unappealing matching and falls to the more favorable side of the bracket. I think Miami would very much rather face Chicago than Indiana if it came down to it. On paper, the Pacers present the much stiffer challenge to the Heat. But the Bulls feel they're a better team than the Pacers and have the recent matchup history to prove it. All that said, I think Indiana's much-improved depth will thrust them back into the conference finals against Miami.
3. Fact or Fiction: This will likely be LeBron's final season opener in a Miami Heat uniform?
Gutierrez: Fiction. It's obviously not impossible he'll leave. But likely? There's almost no one that assumes he'll "likely" leave Miami. Even the most skeptical put the chances of him leaving at about 40 percent -- and even that would require a lot to go wrong this season.
Haberstroh: Fiction. I still think he's a good bet to come back. Of course, a lot can change between now and July, but Heat fans can feel good about buying their LeBron jerseys. This summer, I put the odds at 60 percent that he returns to Miami next season and I don't see any reason to think otherwise.
Wallace: Fiction. Barring an absolute collapse - meaning the Heat get embarrassed in the conference finals or fail to get there - I don't think LeBron's decision will hinge much on what happens this season. If he opts out and leaves Miami, it'll be because those seeds for his departure have already been planted. I still say there are far more reasons for him to stay in Miami than to go elsewhere. The only destination that could rival Miami's intrigue is with the L.A. Clippers to play alongside best buddy Chris Paul and for Doc Rivers. If the Cavaliers relocate to Akron, they've got a shot to bring LeBron home. But he'll likely be in a Heat uniform next year.