Miami Heat has become a national punch line

Heat index: The Ice Age Cometh

Remember the Heat?

Most feared, hated team ever from the moment LeBron James announced he would “take my talents to South Beach?”

It’s a national punch line now, abbreviated in hip circles as TMTSB.

At 5-4, speculation has shifted from winning 72 to team President Pat Riley replacing Coach Erik Spoelstra — a lock the moment things went wrong.

That was last week when they blew a 22-point lead to the Jazz, before the Celtics came in and really kicked their busts off their pedestals.

Tweeted Paul Pierce: “It’s been a pleasure bringing my talents to South Beach...”

This just in: 49 states in ESPN SportsNation favor Riley’s return!


Hawaii is undecided, or hanging too loose to respond.

Whether this turns out to be the best NBA season ever, it’s already the funniest.

They’re glad that he asked

Times are tough when Nike’s cutting-edgy commercials can’t fix your image.

With YouTube listing 59 LeBron parodies, including Dan Patrick’s and ESPN SportsNation’s Michelle Beadle’s, an amateur video — “Lebron James ‘Rise’ Commercial & Cleveland’s Response” — just broke out, attracting 3.5 million hits in 10 days.

In it, Cavalier fans provide answers to James’ question, “Who do you want me to be?” like “Who you said you were.”

It closes on an upside down Swoosh, over the word “Quitness.”

Stand by your men

On the warm, fuzzy side, there’s ESPN’s “Heat Index” where its “Chase for 72" updates still live!

Not that they’re disheartened, but John Hollinger’s post, giving the Heat a 3.2% chance, hasn’t been updated since Nov. 3 when the team was 4-1.

Of course, Hollinger’s Power Ratings, which are updated daily, still has the Heat No. 1.

Not even the Worldwide Leader in Hokum would make a mathematician fudge his calculations (would it?).

In fact, amid prosaic rankings —Lakers at No. 2, Celtics at No. 4 — are psychedelic insights on more teams without their own microsite, like:

6. Chicago, 4-3

7. Milwaukee, 4-5

8. Phoenix, 4-4

13. Houston, 2-6

14. San Antonio, 6-1

17. Philadelphia, 2-7

21. Oklahoma City, 5-3

I think John’s calculator just went haywire and he didn’t notice.

Apocalypse now

Of course, there’s a bigger picture....

Isn’t there?

As a wave of scorn broke over the Heat, TNT announcer Kevin Harlon asked partner Reggie Miller:

“Are we underestimating Reggie, how hard it is… how much time it takes?”

Nah, it’s been two weeks. We’re replacing the rest of their games on our schedule with New Orleans.

On July 11, they had five players — James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley.

Riley did a great job, with everyone they brought in coming for less. Spoelstra has them defending like banshees. They’ll be better when Mike Miller returns.

Unfortunately, compared to the hulking Celtics and the towering Lakers, they’re tots.

The willowy Bosh is averaging 6.0 rebounds — 2.4 fewer than reserve Udonis Haslem, who plays 26 minutes to Bosh’s 34.

Bosh is a beast compared with starting center Joel Anthony, at 3.8 rebounds.

The other big men, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire are 37, 35 and 32, respectively.

Happily, they have all season to work it out, because they’ll need it.


Now with his fourth team, not counting Oklahoma City, which traded for him and sent him back, Tyson Chandler’s career has been decimated by injuries, but his spirit has never failed. Said Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle: “This guy’s becoming one of our heart-and-soul guys.”... Dirk Nowitzki says Chandler and Brendan Haywood are the best center tandem he’s played with. Of course, Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop were probably No. 2.... Advised by Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte to rest his aching feet, Rajon Rondo refused to come out of the lineup. Before the season, Coach Doc Rivers was more worried about conserving the 24-year-old Rondo, who carries the Celtics, rather than any of the veterans.

Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, the kind of underdog who makes you root for the Evil Empire, insists he stands by his controversial letter promising Cavaliers fans a title, kind of.... Gilbert: “You never know. Look, these things will play themselves out and we’ll see what happens. It was certainly something that put more emphasis on the future and put more pressure on everyone here to say, ‘Hey, let’s deliver as smart and efficiently as we possibly can.’ We’ll see what happens.”... In other words, I said THAT?