Heat want to be Bulls’ heir
MIAMI (AP) _ The Miami Heat say they will be the dominant team of the future. There is just this matter of Michael Jordan and his world champion Chicago Bulls standing in the way.
The Heat hope the future is now when they take on the Bulls in Chicago tonight in Game 1 of their best-of-7 Eastern Conference championship series.
Heat players couldn’t help but posture a little after becoming just the sixth NBA team to come back from a 3-1 series’ deficit when they beat New York on Sunday.
``We are just going to get stronger and stronger,″ center Alonzo Mourning said. ``We are going to be a team to reckon with in the future.″
First, however, they will concentrate on the Bulls. The Heat realize they must find a way to contain Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and not allow Dennis Rodman to distract them.
Jordan has often abused the Heat, scoring 50 points against Miami earlier this season. He is looking to lead the Bulls to their fifth NBA title in seven years.
``They have in their minds they are better than us,″ coach Pat Riley said. ``Our guys just have to play with their heart.″
What the Heat crave is a nod from Chicago that they are a worthy opponent.
When Chicago swept Miami in the first round of last year’s playoffs, Heat players were razzed by the Bulls. Heat players were still talking about it when training camp opened last fall.
``Nobody had this dream other than us at the beginning of the year,″ said guard Tim Hardaway, who grew up in Chicago.
Much of the team that lost to Chicago last year is gone. Riley built around his core of Mourning and Hardaway with physical players such as P.J. Brown, Dan Majerle and John Crotty.
``We’re more prepared mentally for what Chicago has to offer,″ Mourning said. ``We’ve been successful against Chicago this year, and we know we can be successful if we take care of the ball and play rock-solid defense.″
Chicago has said that last year’s debacle will hound the Heat. Not so, say Miami players, who point that they have staved off elimination four times this postseason.
``Nobody expected us to win the Atlantic Division and nobody expected us to beat the Knicks,″ Mourning said. ``If we listened to everybody that said we couldn’t get the job done, we wouldn’t get anything accomplished.″
Still, short of winning, the Heat at least want the Bulls to know they are right on their heels.
``(This) represents a team arriving as a young ballclub, trying to gain experience and respect in this league, which we haven’t gotten yet,″ Mourning said. ``It’s a challenge.″