Finishing a season one or two wins from a championship doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire nine-plus month campaign is a failure. It doesn’t mean the losing team should trade their biggest stars or fire their coach. However, that’s where we’re at in not one sport, but two.
LeBron James’ underwhelming performance in the NBA Finals has sparked discussion from all sides about what the Miami Heat should do with him. Most notably, Jason Whitlock, the Prop Joe of sports columnists, wrote that Miami should look to blow up their team and trade LeBron for Dwight Howard.
All this after a regular season in which they finished second in the Eastern Conference and took the Dallas Mavericks to six games in what was statistically the closest finals in years.
Last summer, the Heat signed LeBron and Chris Bosh to matching six-year, $110.1 million contracts. They also re-signed Dwyane Wade for $107.5 million over six years. Six years. Not one. If they wanted to try the Marian Hossa one-and-done, they could have, but there is a mutual commitment to make this experiment work.
They didn’t miss the playoffs. They weren’t swept in the first round. They won 14 postseason games.
This is where real sports are different than fantasy sports. Real-life general managers can’t cut players or change personnel on whim. I mean, they can, but then no one would take them seriously.
Imagine if the Bruins had fired Claude Julien in November like GM Peter Chiarelli had been pressured to do. There’s a very good chance they wouldn’t be playing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight in Vancouver.
Sticking with your guns and not making changes for the sake of changes requires the patience a lot of fans or sports journalists don’t have. I thought Nathan Gerbe would never find success in Buffalo. But Darcy Regier did and now Gerbe is a fan-favorite with a bright future — he’s even featured on the Sabres’ homepage advertising this fall’s European trip.
Now if Vancouver loses tonight, I’m sure LeBron-like discussions will swirl around Roberto Luongo’s future with the Canucks. Luongo also has an annual cap hit of $5.33 million through 2022. He’ll be 42 years old when the deal expires. Luongo is a finalist for the Vezina and had, statistically, one of the best regular seasons of his career on a team that ran away the President’s Trophy.
With the way Luongo’s played this postseason though, the trade conversations might not be that far-fetched. This isn’t Luongo’s first year with Vancouver so there’s a larger sample size to determine whether or not he’s the problem there. And he very well might be. He was the captain for awhile until they decided that that wasn’t working and then the team took off when he took on a less-vocal role.
But if Luongo wins tonight? Like when he won a gold medal, his mediocre play will be an afterthought. Winning has a way of quickly changing perceptions. Look at Ray Bourque, Wilt Chamberlain, Dirk Nowitzki or Alex Rodriguez.