He calls it a “dichotomy.”
That’s how Heat coach Erik Spoelstra describes his team’s seemingly contradictory task of celebrating accomplishment and forgetting about it.
The two-time defending NBA champions received their rings Tuesday night for the title they won in June, and Spoelstra hopes it was the “burial” of that particular glory.
“You can’t deny the emotions. We do want to respect it,” Spoelstra said, “but we have to understand what’s coming.”
The Heat got off to a good start in that regard with a 107-95 win against Chicago after the jewelry party.
Not that anything definitive can be drawn from the result, but the Bulls — fortified by the return of Derrick Rose from knee surgery after he missed all of last season — are supposed to one of Miami’s main challengers for Eastern Conference supremacy this time around.
It wasn’t a big-stakes game, but it was a big-moment game.
Hand out the rings.
Make room for another banner.
And then let LeBron James and Dwyane Wade take the stage for Act I of the 2013-14 drama.
“It’s always exciting,” Wade said of the pregame festivities. “Every moment is different.”
So, of course, is every season different even if Miami remains every opponent’s favorite target.
“Nothing will surprise us,” James said.
That’s probably true.
Miami figures to win 60 times or so if it stays healthy during the regular season, and do it without considerable exertion. It’s why Wade described the Heat’s pre-playoff goal as “not to get bored … don’t get bored with trying to be great.”
The complication is that the Heat can achieve greatness only by winning a third consecutive crown. Anything less will be judged a failure, and that judgment depends solely on postseason performance.
It renders the regular season, save for selected highlight encounters like the opener against the Bulls, to the status of a forced march. James insists the Heat will pay necessary attention to details through the compulsory slog if only to gird against losing an edge.
“We can be really good,” James understated. “Begin a new journey.”
It will be one filled with traps.
The Heat will ignore speculation about the possible breakup of the team next summer when James, Wade and Chris Bosh hold contractual opt-out clauses. That nonsensical conjecture won’t unsettle the Heat, but how might they cope with the inevitable boredom about which Wade already has warned?
“We can’t overthink,” Spoelstra said. “You just have to compartmentalize.”
The next test comes immediately when Miami should get a breeze of a win in Philadelphia tonight against the woebegone 76ers before moving on to a Friday night date in Brooklyn — big moment, not big stakes — against the dangerous-looking Nets.
In the present, there was a celebration to enjoy, and then dismiss.
There were glow sticks in the darkened arena and a video montage of last season’s run to the title superimposed on the court. A table under a tented black cloth was rolled out to the middle of the floor, and the championship trophy and rings were revealed with a flourish.
“We came back into the locker room (after the presentations) and reset a little bit,” Bosh said. “It’s always good to have a good test early.”
Miami got one to some extent as Chicago cut a 25-point deficit to single digits in the closing minutes, but couldn’t ruin the champions’ night.
Commissioner David Stern complimented the Heat as a “captivating” NBA story.
It’s as good a description of the team as any, because it remains the league’s most interesting and marketable commodity. Stern is a savvy businessman at the core, and recognizes a valuable property to sell to consumers when he sees one.
And so the James-led Heat have taken their first step on his “new journey.” He’s the game’s best player by a wide margin, and has promised to improve.
That’s a daunting vow, but, if fulfilled, likely would carry Miami to that third consecutive crown.
It was quite a pregame soiree, and Wade kissed his ring as it ended.
“We’ve enjoyed being champions,” he had said in the locker room.
It sounded like both a fond memory and a warning to all comers.