The expectations are different now.
It's why, after five losses in its past seven games, the Heat is feeling this sort of hurt.
It's why an old-school, Pat Riley-type two-and-a-half hour practice (with a film session mixed in for good measure) was necessary the night after a 17-point home loss to Denver and a day before the final game prior to the All-Star break.
This team is no longer being held by the standards that sank during last season's disastrous 15-67 campaign. Last time I checked, Luke Jackson, Blake Ahearn, Stephane Lasme, Bobby Jones and Kasib Powell weren't walking through that door.
You get to six games above .500 and a win or so away from being in fourth place in the conference standings, and expectations change. Yes, this season was supposed to be step 1 in a two-year rebuilding job leading into the blockbuster summer of 2010.
But as we saw with the Dolphins, sometimes things get fast-tracked. It's why Riley is itching to make a move for the present, when every bone in his body looks ahead to 2010. While it's unfair to expect this team to be a title contender, as is, it's not out of the question to expect a run to the second round of the playoffs now. And once you get there, who knows?
Who saw the Arizona Cardinals coming on their way to the Super Bowl?
Who saw either Tampa Bay or Philadelphia navigating their way to the World Series?
Who knew that convention speech Barack Obama gave four years ago would open his door to the White House?
And last but not least, who saw Lil' Wayne rapping his way from second-string status with Cash Money Records to Grammy-winning performer? And that may be the biggest upset of them all.
Sure, .500 may be as good as it gets for the Heat this season. But you'll never convince Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade of that. There had to be accountability for Tuesday's blowout loss at home to Denver. And that's why the balls kept bouncing on the practice court until that message was drilled home.
Remember, this is the same team that defended its turf against the Magic, Lakers and Cavaliers.
And that's why expectations are different now.