Miami Dolphins training camp is upon us, ushering in another August of obsession over a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since Tiger Woods was good enough to win a major and the Philadelphia Phillies were world champions.
Yeah, it’s been a while.
Isn’t it nice to know, however, that the Miami Heat are never far from a run at the NBA Finals with Pat Riley in charge and Dwyane Wade still happy to be here?
Think of it. The Heat, with LeBron James and without, have been to the Eastern Conference finals six times in the last 11 years.
The San Antonio Spurs have been to the Western Conference finals six times, too, but nobody else in the league, and certainly no one in the East, has been as consistent.
Here’s the list of conference finals appearances since 2005, with the most recent appearance in parentheses.
San Antonio 6 (2014)
Miami 6 (2014)
Detroit 4 (2008)
Cleveland 3 (2015)
Oklahoma City 3 (2014)
Boston 3 (2012)
L.A. Lakers 3 (2010)
Phoenix 3 (2010)
Indiana 2 (2014)
Dallas 2 (2011)
Orlando 2 (2009)
Golden State 1 (2015)
Houston 1 (2015)
Atlanta 1 (2015)
Memphis 1 (2013)
Chicago 1 (2011)
Denver 1 (2009)
Utah 1 (2007)
It gets even better when you examine the dropoff Miami suffered once LeBron was gone compared to the pit that Cleveland fell into under the same conditions.
In the season after LeBron, Miami went 37-45, missing the playoffs but knowing that they might have gotten there with Chris Bosh available for more than the first half of the season. Knowing, too, that things are looking pretty good for next season with Wade and Bosh and Goran Dragic and Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside and newcomers Justise Winslow and Amar’e Stoudemore ready to go.
Cleveland, on the other hand, bottomed out at 19-63 the year after LeBron abandoned them for Miami. What’s more, in the four seasons after LeBron bolted, the Cavs never once reached the 37-45 mark that Miami hit last year.
Big Three isn’t the only kind of math that Riley understands. Because of that, when you say wait until next year with the Heat, there’s actual promise in the phrase.
In Cleveland, it’s always the ‘One’ or done.