Heat Strokes, Games 12-14: The Deathly Hallows

FreeDarko's Bethlehem Shoals, a regular contributor to NBA FanHouse and co-author of The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History (visit the FreeDarko store, too!), is keeping a game-by-game diary of the Heat's season — the one you're pretending not to care about.

Result: Heat 95, Bobcats 87; Grizzlies 97, Heat 95; Pacers 93, Heat 77
Record: 8-6

Hi there. It's me, your regularly scheduled Miami Heat commentator. If you want the latest news, facts, and analysis on this year's biggest NBA story, call me at the laundromat, and I'll tell you where to go buy a dime bag down the street.

When I agreed to this assignment, I did so assuming I would want to watch the Heat play whenever humanly possible. They would make basketball worth living again. I am sorry if this sort of unmitigated love and sunshine doesn't play well on this site. Since Deadspin is stationed in New York, I'm also up against the proud, scabrous tradition of covering the Knicks — for the last decade, a combination of sadism and masochism that reminds you why the DSM combines them into a single hyphenated monster. Right now, we are well south of sunshine and only just north of the whips and ballgags.

I taped Miami's victory over Charlotte on Friday; I decided to go see Harry Potter and the Carnival of Feces Doctors, despite having never read one of the books, or seen more than 30 minutes of any of the other films. Fuck you, it was fun. That elf was adorable, the landscapes vast and serious, the mood really intense, and Harry himself, totally useless. That's kind of what the Bobcats game was like — there was some beautiful interplay; you saw the schematic; LeBron James took over as if on auto-pilot; and yet still Charlotte nearly won. I finished that one just in time to catch the Heat's loss to Memphis. Wade-less, and down the stretch, Udonis-less, the Heat showed us all what they were really made of. Then on Monday, Wade came back and stank up the joint, as Indiana blew out the team projected by many smart people to win over 65 games. I watched a movie about fancy skiing in the 1970s with Robert Redford and Gene Hackman instead.

The odd thing, though, is that the Pacers loss — truly gruesome, shameful, and for those looking for blood to drink, invaluable — barely registered. Not because anyone was so stunned, but because as a media phenomenon, this team has realized its absolute worst-case scenario: total mediocrity. They're neither awe-inspiring, nor so flawed as to be compelling; there's little in the way of Valkyrie-like glory, and yet gossip and rancor flow not freely from their midst. The Heat, after starting methodically, are now simply coasting on talent and bumping up against the limits of their non-Bron, non-Wade personnel. This is not why ESPN created the Heat Index, nor why I thought this series would be a good idea.

Forget about Heat fatigue. It feels like they never really existed in the first place.

Maybe tonight's visit to Orlando will change everything. But if this team can lose to the Pacers and Grizzlies, what exactly would it tell us if they beat the Magic? I suppose beating the opponents that matter says more than succumbing to the ones that don't. Except what if, to Orlando, the Heat aren't one of those teams that matter?

At least I've learned one important lesson so far. No, not that covering the Heat these days is pretty much like being a team blogger for a crappy team, as Eric Freeman put it. Remember the so-called "super-team"? Miami was the first, and there could be another one, or two, in the offing, depending on what Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul feel like doing with themselves. I used the term as recently as three days ago. I don't think that notion is going anywhere; you can always attribute Miami's problems to their particular set of superstars, or their lackluster supporting cast (yes, I realize there's a problem with that statement). I wonder, though, how many GMs — or even players — would still salivate at the chance to put together the next of these juggernauts. I still think Wade and James can play together, and yet that's only part of the puzzle here. For all the credit Pat Riley's receiving, what exactly did he pull off?

My Thanksgiving message: There are no shortcuts; the Heat are dead; and if we didn't kill them, then we might as well have killed ourselves.

Bethlehem Shoals is a founding member of FreeDarko.com and a regular contributor to NBA FanHouse. You can buy The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History and lots of other stuff at the FreeDarko store.