The Heat is On

Do NBA contenders need to build rosters to match up to Miami?

Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank maintains that teams need not measure themselves by the Heat's standards.
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images
MIAMI – Back in the golden NBA era of the ’80s, before the Bad Boys were fully formed, the Lakers and Celtics countered each other’s personnel moves every season with an eye toward better matching up with their arch-nemesis in the NBA Finals.

As the Pistons inched closer to contention, Jack McCloskey adopted the same tack. To beat the Celtics and emerge from the East, the Pistons needed a power forward to neutralize Kevin McHale, or at least to contain his damage.

It’s not that simple any more in the salary cap era, where dynasties rarely took root and championship windows open and close more rapidly.

But the Miami Heat, united under unique circumstances, could be the exception, a throwback to earlier eras. Bringing together three of the first five picks from the talent-rich 2004 NBA draft – LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade – has already produced one title for the Heat with several more possible before age catches up with Pat Riley’s creation.

Lawrence Frank cautions against teams building their rosters specifically with the Heat in mind, however.

“Indiana took ’em toe to toe,” he said after Thursday’s shootaround in advance of the fifth preseason game for the Pistons, Miami’s first home game since winning the 2012 NBA title. “There’s a fine line between winning and losing. Oklahoma City, think about it, they commit two fouls late in the game at the end of the shot clock. To say, ‘I’m going to get this guy to go against LeBron James’ … those are two of the top three or four players in the league. They’re a very good team; they’re a very well-coached team; their speed, quickness, strength on the defensive end is second to none.

“With that said, they were within inches of losing. Over the last six or seven years, the teams that lost, many times, made one significant move. ‘OK, we’ve got to be able to play smaller.’ Cleveland did that when they got Jamison. The only problem with that is they didn’t match back up with Orlando; they matched up with Boston and Boston beat ’em. So you never quite know what’s going to happen.”

Frank knows this about Miami: Adding Ray Allen is only going to make the Heat stronger. Frank spent the 2010-11 season as Doc Rivers’ top assistant, charged with running Boston’s defense, and soon came to admire Allen’s demeanor.

“When you look up the word ‘professional,’ his picture is right there,” Frank said. “He’s unbelievable. He’s consummate. I can tell you what Ray is doing right now. He is that routine oriented, that habit driven. He’s a tremendous, tremendous person; he’s an outstanding player; and above all that is his professionalism is second to none. His nickname should be Everyday Ray because every day, he’s the game guy, same routine, a perfectionist in what he does. He’s a treat. They’ll love him here.”

And have Eastern Conference contenders wondering how they’ll match up with the Heat now.