It’s glass half-full time.
In the age of instant gratification, the idea of long-term, delayed success being anything but an inconvenience is something of an antiquated notion.
But for the Miami Heat, having to suffer through an extended summer of regret and anxiety-laden nights could be the best thing to happen to this crew of megastars.
From a league standpoint, it certainly is.
As Bill Simmons recently put it in his podcast with the Miami Herald’s Dan Le Batard, by having the Heat go so far and lose, it guarantees that next season — if there is a season — the league will enjoy similar Jordan-era television ratings. As he put it, Miami losing was the sports equivalent of a hit show being picked up for another season.
But that aside, from purely a South Florida perspective, losing, and losing in such a painful fashion can put certain egos back in check and help lessen the likelihood that the same mistakes are made again.
After knocking off Boston and Chicago, the Heat’s collective confidence was at an all-time high.
You could see the swagger. The Wade follow-through up 15. The mocking of Dirk Nowitzki. The constantly casual nature the players had after losses in the earlier games of the series.
There was an underlying sense that no matter the hole, these players felt they could climb out of it.
This confidence becomes a double-edged sword: a certain amount is necessary for winning, but too much of it leads to digging holes to deep to climb out of.
Winning the championship this year would have only increased the collective hubris.
The mercury in the swagger thermometer would have shattered the glass.
Overconfident defending champions often get their comeuppance the following year.
Especially when the team collectively bypasses the acidic flavor that one only tastes by losing on the highest stage.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how Miami could have also fallen to the same trap.
The confidence and self-belief would have grown exponentially, but the execution and effort? Probably not.
Sure, Wade and James have experienced such losses individually. But this is a different situation.
A star-stacked team such as this can shorten memories in that department.
A championship would have been the basketball ambrosia that would have made this team feel invincible.
This series had to have taught the team that it can’t rely on the mantra of talent always winning out.
It takes relentless defensive effort as well, something lacking in the last two Heat losses.
Miami took significant leads into every fourth quarter in the first four games.
But in two of the instances, you felt the Heat relax ever so slightly, which allowed Dallas back into the game.
So instead of a sweep, Miami went into Game Five level at two games apiece. And that was the series.
Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, the two sole holdovers from the ’06 team that Miami shell-shocked, did not make the same mistake.
Dallas took a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter of Game Six. It was a lead it never relinquished.
When Miami had its hand around Dallas’ throat in game two, up 15 with six minutes left, it let go, stepped back and whirled its arm around for the most showboating of sucker punches.
Step-back James three-pointer, here; double-teamed fade-away there. Miss and miss.
It was the small window Dallas needed to steal the game.
When it was Dallas’ turn, it didn’t take its hand off Miami’s throat, it squeezed harder, sucking the air out of the Heat’s season.
Sometimes in sports the cruelest lessons serve as the best reminders.
If this loss doesn’t cause James to reflect introspectively, nothing will.
The loss has to serve as the ultimate teaching tool for Erick Spoelstra.
When you see the jugular, you have to go for it.
Because if this series taught these players anything, it’s that you might not see it again.