It’s September 25, 2000, a timestamp of great underestimation from the entire league of what a young Paul Pierce was capable of becoming.
There’s no need to worry, Miami Heat fans. Despite the setback of losing your All-Star big man for the season, something’s still simmering in south east Florida.
Sure, Chris Bosh would have been great for the playoffs. But with his recent illness, you start to appreciate life is bigger than basketball.
And that sentiment just might be what’s spurring Bosh’s teammates on as the NBA heads down the home stretch, with Miami well in contention.
Yes, they remain below .500 at the time of writing this article, but this is the Eastern Conference, where losing basketball can still sell-out stadiums.
If there’s any team that should be forgiven for such a record, it’s the Heat. There’s certainly been some change in Miami lately, not least of which at the most important position on the floor – point guard.
The point has been one of the Heat’s achilles heels in recent times, right up there with transition defence and an annoying penchant for stuffing around with their uniform designs. But we won’t hold that against them because even more traditional teams like the Lakers and Celtics have jumped on that bandwagon to nowhere.
So a motley crew of point part-timers go to the bench and in comes professional playmaker Goran Dragic.
If you haven’t seen Dragic, you’re probably picturing a 6-5 heavy with from central Europe with a razor sharp haircut. But Dragic is quite the opposite – light, speedy and crafty. He looks a little delicate, but he’s tough as anybody out there. You think Birdman’s hard? He’s got nothing on Dragic.
Teaming up the young Slovenian with Dwayne Wade was a stroke of genius by Heat general manager Pat Riley. Miami officially has one of the best passing backcourts in the NBA now, where Dragic is the regular set-up man, and Wade has extra space to issue the sorts of clever dishes we sometimes forget he can make.
And haven’t you noticed how spritely Wade looks with Dragic alongside him? He’s 33, but the combination of the Miami sun and savvy point-guard play seems to have reinvigorated him. It’s almost as if he’s suddenly realised this club has a chance to make some noise come the playoffs.
Wade also knows Miami still has the tools to do so. Think about their depth: Luol Deng is so versatile at forward. His defence and scoring punch can’t be underestimated. How about Hassan Whiteside? He’s a pogo stick. A rebounding and blocking freak. And unbelievably, because nobody had heard of him before the season. His energy and presence in the middle might be the difference for Miami in the playoffs.
The role players aren’t too shabby either. Adonis Haslam, Henry Walker, Mario Chalmers – you know the names. More recently, there’s been Tyler Johnson. Altogether? Well, to paraphrase Hubie Brown, “I mean, come on!”
Now all we need is Miami to win a few more games before April and for the Cleveland Cavaliers to drop a few, and we’ll get an opening round bout for the ages.