Enjoy the Heat's Comeuppance While It Lasts

The Heat are only going to be better next time around.

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Jun 13, 2011  |  Updated 1:46 PM EDT
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Enjoy the Heat's Comeuppance While It Lasts

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Get your kicks in while the kicking is good.

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Even though Sunday night brought about the best possible end to the NBA season, we greeted the moment that Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd finally tasted a title with a bit of sadness.

The end of this very entertaining NBA season brings with it the promise of a lockout that will bring all of the goodwill the league built up to a screeching halt.

We'll all have to hit the pause button and stop wondering about what the Knicks are going to do, how good Blake Griffin is going to be and all that other fun stuff so that two more groups of millionaires can have a money fight that winds up making everybody sick.

If there's any upside to an extended break, it is that we'll all get to enjoy the failure of the Heat a little bit longer. There's no more popular parlor game in the country than reveling in the way that the self-anointed superteam came up short and there's no member of that team that makes for a riper target for the brickbats than LeBron James.

It is being heaped on with far too heavy a spoon and will continue to be all summer, but that doesn't change the fact that James has taken a serious blow over the last six games. It wasn't so much that he was outplayed by Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry on a nightly basis that made him look pathetic, it was the fact that he wasn't even a factor in the proceedings. 

Off the court, his defensiveness and childish mocking of Nowitzki's illness kept building up the overwhelmingly negative dossier we started compiling during last summer's "Decision"/premature celebration extravaganza.

Not only is James playacting at being a grownup (defensible for someone his age), he can't even step up and play the villain role the way that Jordan and Kobe have done throughout their careers.

He's become a punchline on every level and his unbelievably arrogant postgame tirade toward the little people will only make everyone laugh louder and longer.

"At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point."

Here's the thing, though. All that extra time this summer, while we're laughing and whooping it up at James' expense there's a pretty good chance that he's going to finally be getting the maturity he needs to make sure this never happens again.

The last time James lost in the finals, he didn't need to look in the mirror because the Cavs were only there because of him. This time is different and there's a pretty good chance that it is his Jordan losing to the Pistons moment (when he was older than James is now, as it happens) that forces him to find another level to his play that he hasn't touched in the past.

When you throw in the fact that the Heat will likely be a better unit with a year under their belt and a chance to fortify their supporting cast, there's plenty of reason to believe that they are merely scratching the surface of what they can become. This humiliation revealed flaws in James and in the Heat, but those flaws can be repaired and the strengths can be improved before they get on the court again.

That's bad news for a Knicks team that's nowhere close to being on even their diminished level. Losing the NBA Finals in six games is not the epic failure it is being made out to be, something we'd all be wise to remember when we treat this as the epitaph on a career that has at least another decade to play out on a grand stage.

So enjoy the cosmic slap in the face while it lasts. You might not get another shot at it for a good, long while.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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