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Home / Articles / Columnists / Sports Feature /  Avoiding Mediocrity aka The Danger Of Standing Pat
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Friday, May 5,2023

Avoiding Mediocrity aka The Danger Of Standing Pat

By Mark Tudino  
One of the challenges of writing a column in advance of its distribution is that, as a writer, you try to identify what sports topic(s) will be relevant by the time you, the reader, will review our work. Sometimes, as with preview columns, it’s fairly straightforward, and your predictions and analyses may or may not come to fruition. So be it. But other times you run the risk of being seen as out of touch, or just wrong, and neither evaluation is a comfortable thought.

Such is now the case, because as this is being written, our hometown Miami Heat are battling the presumptive cofavorites to win the NBA Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks – a team that swept the Heat two years ago in a similar situation. The Bucks feature arguably the game’s most gifted player in Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 7-foot freakazoid who moves like a shooting guard, with the skills of a power forward. Oh and he can run like a deer (pun intended). His supporting cast is formidable, featuring veteran talents Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, along with a home court advantage, all of which present quite the challenge for the Heat.

As for Miami, they limp into the playoffs as the number eight seed, looking to take down one of the best in the East. The only reason they are playing Milwaukee is because, somehow, they scraped together seven minutes in the fourth quarter of a play-in game to defeat the outmanned Chicago Bulls. Hardly what one would expect from a team that took Boston down to the wire in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals a year ago. But now we come to the crux of this column, and the basis for its title.

Too often teams that experienced recent success will rest on past efforts, instead of looking for ways to improve themselves, enabling them to climb the last rung of the championships ladder. The Heat, in a way, did this a few years back just before the Big Three came into existence. Fresh from winning the 2005-2006 NBA title, the organization thought it could “run it again.” Big Mis take. A first-round loss was followed by four years of mediocrity, arguably wasting the prime years of Dwayne Wade’s magnificent career. This time it’s the belief that journeymen like Max Strus and Duncan Robinson could retain the magic they brought to the squad last season (along with the free agency loss of gritty power forward P.J. Tucker). The result? A very average 44-38 record, with horrible rebounding deficiencies and long periods of poor shooting, that at times resembled the guys from your local YMCA. And it’s not like these revelations were a surprise to the front office – they knew it was risky to hope average guys could duplicate career years – but to do nothing about it is the real crime. Say what you will about a now-fading dynasty, but at his zenith, the Patriots’ Bill Belichick was not afraid to make tough decisions even if his team was on top – if it meant improving his team. The Heat thought otherwise and stood pat.

Now, if by some miracle by the time you read this, Miami beat Milwaukee and move on, then all bets are off. After all who am I to second guess, arguably, one of the two most influential and successful men to ever grace the sidelines and front offices of this league? (Red Auerbach being the other). But I’ll leave the reader with this reminder from the animal world: remember that no shark ever died from a lack of movement; in fact it’s just the opposite: a shark’s existence is predicated on moving forward at all times – and the NBA is full of hunters looking to take down the next Jaws. And those guys won’t lose a minute of sleep doing it.


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