Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Art Of Not Caring

The Miami Heat are clearly not students of the game.  Of course they watch plenty of film, understand their offensive sets and defensive rotations and, being professionals, generally make smart basketball decisions on the court.  But in the other meaning of that plaudit, the "we understand our places within the context of the game's history and our roles in a prescribed narrative" sense, they are thumbing their collective noses at the "students" facet of SOTG.  Instead, they prefer a tabula so incredibly rasa that it ignores all preconceptions.  The Heat have no shared knowledge or experiences with the rest of the league.  They are operating in the shadows of possibility; shimmering through the cracks and slinking into a new kind of history in a new NBA.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.  No yet, anyway.  When the playoffs started, we thought we had a reasonable picture of the league's topography.  In retrospect, we were watching an accelerated form of continental drift.  The inevitable aging process overtook the Celtics and Lakers suddenly and violently.  Cataclysmic injuries decimated the Bulls and Magic.  The perfectly calibrated machine of the San Antonio Spurs inexplicably threw several gears.  It's not surprising that the Thunder and Heat wound up in the finals, but the finality of their arrivals felt a good deal more declarative than it ought to have done given the competition they faced on the way. 

And now Miami is setting about the task of dismantling our perceptions.  They couldn't care less that the Thunder are a younger, deeper, and more talented team.  They couldn't care less that their roster construction is flimsy and their rotation beyond short.  They really, really couldn't care less that the manner of their coming together and their initial, phenomenal arrogance were and are anathema to an awful lot of basketball fans.  They are discarding it all like so much dime-store magazine blather.

To reiterate: They.  Do.  Not.  Care.

Dwyane Wade doesn't care that he's old and hobbled.  Shane Battier doesn't care that he's Nosferatu ancient.  Erik Spoelstra doesn't care that he is supposedly the inferior coach in this series.  Mario Chalmers doesn't care that he's supposed to be irrelevant.  Chris Bosh doesn't care what we think of him or how many "Big Two-And-A-Half" quips we make.  And LeBron?  LeBron is playing transcendent basketball and doesn't care about anything anymore.  He's gone beyond the realm of caring or even the concept of emotion, becoming a hoops automaton of sheer destructive force. 

This was supposed to be an epic, a six- or seven-game display of pyrotechnic excellence, histrionics, and heroics.  The Heat have chucked that narrative, electing instead to hold an eff-you referendum on "clutch" and basketball ethics and how things work in the NBA in general.  They have pushed the Thunder to the brink of a gentleman's sweep, and stand themselves on the precipice of a banner-raising victory.  Despite all the talent and force of will Oklahoma City have brought to bear and the staggeringly beautiful basketball they have played much of the time, they are Charge of the Light Brigade-ing their way through this finals, and Miami is sure-God the valley of Death. 

When the smoke clears on Thursday night, we could very well see the Heat accepting the Larry O'Brien trophy.  They certainly look ready for it.  Damn our petty storylines, full speed ahead.  This is the new NBA, and the Heat are the messengers.  They are redefining what is important and how to win: the context doesn't matter; history is immaterial; all legacies save the final score of game five are moot.  Inexorable, implacable, and uncaring.  That's the alternate narrative.  That's the new Big Three.  

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