With the Eastern Conference Finals set to start Wednesday in Miami, it seems like the war of words has already begun. During Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel’s post-game interview after defeating the New York Knicks in game six to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, Vogel referred to star LeBron James and the Miami Heat as “just the next team” in their way to a championship. Apparently, James took exception to the comment, and addressed it today.
Here are some details via Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:
“We’re not just another team,” James said. “I don’t understand what he’s saying. But we’re not just another team. That’s not true. He said we’re just another team in their way. We’re a great team. If we’re just another team, you really don’t prepare for just another team. You have to prepare for us.”
This marks the second straight postseason that the Heat and Pacers have engaged in a war of words before facing each other. Vogel was fined $15,000 last spring for saying the Heat were “the biggest flopping team in the NBA.” Indiana took a 2-1 series lead before the Heat won the next three games while playing without injured center Chris Bosh.
James said his ears perked up when he heard Vogel’s postgame remarks Saturday night after the Knicks series. The Heat and Pacers play Game 1 on Wednesday, a series that starts six days after Miami ousted the Chicago Bulls in five games.
“We’re very confident,” James said. “We’ll be ready for them. We don’t need bulletin board material. We’ve heard everything, we’ve seen everything. But I would say we’re not just another team, though.”
It seems like LeBron, though saying the Heat don’t need “bulletin board material” is using Vogel’s statement, which seems innocent, to motivate his team. Vogel probably had some motivation toward his original remark as well. You can’t have your team thinking the Miami Heat are this unbeatable Juggernaut that you have a minimal chance of defeating, even if it is the truth. Instead, it is your job as a coach to convince your players the Heat ARE “just another team” that you CAN beat.
Personally, I give the Pacers a much better chance than most, if they have another gear left. The way the Pacers beat the Knicks could prove to be the formula against the Heat, specifically dominating the boards, one of Miami’s weaknesses. Granted, the Pacers beating the Heat would certainly be an upset, but I see the series being extremely competitive, and a Pacers victory wouldn’t shock me.
By: Frank Santos