A common critique of the modern NBA is that it lacks the competitive spirit – hatred is a better word – of the 1980s and 1990s. Players are friends first and opponents second, detractors say. That sentiment passes muster; growing up playing AAU basketball and the presence of social media keep these guys far closer socially than their predecessors. We don’t think that’s a bad thing, but can understand those that enjoy an air of outright vitriol in a basketball game. Might the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat be headed that way? It’s doubtful, but there are signs pointing the game’s newest rivalry is heading that direction.
Perhaps members of the opposing delegations will run into each other at a restaurant, club or tourist attraction. But it sure sounds like any such fraternization would be by chance. For as much as the players on both sides want to downplay it, there’s no missing the chill running between these two teams right now.
“We’re trying to build our chemistry with our team,” Dwyane Wade said. “So the little time we have, we’re trying to focus on the Miami Heat.”
“It’s going to be special to see those guys on Saturday,” [LeBron] James said. “But we’re here to work.”
“We’ll see each other on the court,” Chris Bosh said. “That’s plenty of time to catch up.”
“We haven’t talked to those guys, at least I haven’t, since we’ve been here,” Mario Chalmers said. “It’s like Miami 2.0 over there, basically.”
This comes in the wake of Bosh admitting that he hasn’t spoken with James since the latter announced he’d be leaving Miami for Cleveland. Bosh also stoked the fire yesterday by saying it would be “very difficult” for Kevin Love to co-exist with LeBron and Kyrie Irving.
Bosh, Wade, and other members of the Heat organization maintained all along that they hold no ill-will towards James. And though they’ve yet to publicly support fellow Miami defectors Mike Miller and James Jones, it’s safe to say the Heat feels the same way about them as it does about LeBron.
Wade has been especially effusive in his understanding of James’ departure. The two have been very close friends since they were drafted together in 2003, and each say their relationship extends far beyond the court. But Windhorst notes that the pair used to meet up for social engagements before games as opponents; that hasn’t happened in Rio de Janeiro yet, and all signs point to it not happening at all.
We certainly understand why Wade and James would prefer to avoid such fraternization. Both are building new teams, and chemistry is always of utmost importance in basketball. Focusing on his current teammates makes extra sense for Wade. The Heat have made a pointed decision to avoid mentioning LeBron since media day last week in efforts to turn a new page. If Wade met James in Rio, it would fly in the face of his team’s all-encompassing goal of moving on from the “Heatles” era.
Is there bad blood between the Cavs and Heat? We wouldn’t go that far. Will their meetings this season be more contentious than they were even the past few seasons? Clearly. And the league is better off for it.
Is Cavs-Heat the league’s best new rivalry?
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