By Drew Markol, Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Doesn't it feel a whole lot different than it did last June?
Sure, the willingness and the hope that they'll lose is still there, but the venom has been diluted.
Of course, we're talking about the Miami Heat and their second straight trip to the NBA Finals.
Last year, they were the villains. There were only a few out there who actually wanted to see LeBron James and his mates win a title.
The rest of us, boy, did we pull for the Oklahoma City Thunder. We didn't pull for long because the Thunder went away in five games, but pull we did.
This time around? Sure, the San Antonio Spurs seem likeable. Tim Duncan, while he moans and groans too much on the court, has been a class act his entire career - one spent entirely in San Antonio.
For that reason alone, seeing the Spurs win another championship, and perhaps seeing Duncan walk away from the game with a final ring, would be storybook stuff.
But if that doesn't happen, and I don't think it will (more on that later), it will be a lot easier to swallow now.
Why? Because LeBron, truly the leader of the band, is not as bad a guy as we believed 12 months ago. Jeez, the guy, today, just seems like a nice guy. He's all but washed away "The Decision" mess - no easy task - and has risen to near MJ status.
In other words, he doesn't make us angry anymore.
Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen? They don't anger us, either, because they're not good enough to do so.
LeBron did because he was good enough, great enough, to do it, but now he's made amends.
He won a title and was humble about it. That's goes a long way to repairing your reputation.
And if, when, he wins a second title, the few remaining cynics will likely slide away. Hard to believe, in so short a time, but true.
NBA aside, aren't you pumped to see Orb and Oxbow duke it out at Saturday's Belmont Stakes?
Oh, you forgot the Belmont was Saturday? I don't think you're alone.
Thoroughbred racing's third leg of the Triple Crown is just a footnote, again, this year as no horse is going to win all three races.
But for horse racing purists, Orb and Oxbow are both pretty good horses and it will only be the 21st time the Kentucky Derby winner (Orb) and the Preakness Stakes winner (Oxbow) have faced each other in the Belmont?
Still not excited? Well, I had to try.
Now back to basketball.
I keep telling myself I'll stop putting predictions in this space because I keep making myself look bad.
However, making myself look bad isn't hard anyway, and making predictions is fun.
That said, here's one (bad) guess at how things will turn out.
First off, the Indiana Pacers are better than the Spurs and when the Heat really need to, they were able to crunch Indiana.
Same goes for the Finals. Maybe the Spurs can steal a game at home, but that's just a maybe.
Miami, when pressed, seems inspired and if the Heat can't be inspired at this point, they never will be.
Part of me wants to call it a Heat sweep, but we'll give San Antonio one game (at home) because the crowd will carry them. But only for a game. The Heat win another championship and they do it in five games (this time, darn it, I'm going to be right).
One final NBA note: Hard as it is to believe, it's been over a year since I typed the name Jeremy Lin. From Linsanity to anonymity in 12 months.
Funny how much things can change in a year. That's what happens when you leave the Big Apple.
Speaking of the Big Apple, do you think the Knicks could have used Lin this season?
Well, I guess not, they did fine without him. Oh, that's right, they didn't.
06/06 09:28:31 ET
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