Every team relishes a trip to the NBA playoffs. Is there any team that appreciates it more than the Atlanta Hawks?
Well, maybe. How about the Miami Heat? Both teams experienced life at the bottom of the league in the not-so distant past, which makes them especially grateful to still be playing at this time of year.
"I savor every moment of it," Hawks forward Josh Smith said. "You're more appreciative going from the bottom to the top than you are going from the top to the bottom."
Try telling that to Miami. The Heat reached the pinnacle in 2006, winning its first NBA title with a team led by Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade. Just two seasons later, with Wade battling injuries and O'Neal having been dealt to Phoenix, Miami plummeted all the way to the bottom of the standings with a 15-67 record.
It was an awful experience, but one that taught a valuable lesson about the fleeting nature of championships. No one wants to forget what happened, even those who were fortunate enough to be playing somewhere else last season.
"All season long, those guys, we've felt their pain," rookie forward Michael Beasley said. "We weren't here, but we know what they went through."
No one was more motivated than Wade. He returned from two injury plagued seasons with a vengeance, leading the league in scoring (30.2 a game) and pushing himself into MVP contention -- all for the shot at another ring.
"The regular season, it's a warm up to this," Wade said. "The lights are brighter. I feel it already. I enjoy these moments. Our crowd's going to be rocking when we get back to Miami. Their crowd's going to be rocking in Atlanta. This is what we play for."
Missing the 5 first minutes.
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