Jeff Van Gundy: Heat can win 73

When Michael Jordan presents Scottie Pippen during his Hall of Fame induction this weekend, it's a safe bet the Chicago Bulls' record-setting, 72-win season of 1995-96 will find its way into the speech.

According to Jeff Van Gundy's thinking, it's a good thing Pippen is being inducted this year, because Van Gundy predicts that record might fall this season.

Van Gundy, speaking Monday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000, backed up a prediction he made to the Miami Herald that the Miami Heat can break the Bulls' record.

"I would think that everybody would think they would have a great shot at it," said Van Gundy, a former NBA head coach and current ABC/ESPN analyst. "I don't know if I said they will or they have a great chance, whatever I said, I just think if they're healthy, the discrepancy between their talent level and and the next level is so great, that I just don't see how they lose games. I think they're that good."

Van Gundy told the Herald that the Heat will break the record, and that they have a "legit shot" at the Los Angeles Lakers' 33-game win streak, which they set in the 1971-72 season.

Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, who retired after the 1993-94 season, did not dismiss the possibility of the Heat threatening the record.

"On paper, that's one heck of a team," Paxson said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "You look at what they can throw out there, night in and night out, they're going to be difficult to defend at a lot of positions.

"When the salary cap came in higher than it was anticipated, not only did it help a lot of teams, but it really helped them because they were able to gain a little more flexibility and sign guys like Mike Miller. They're going to be very good, and only time will tell. But that's why we strap it up and play."

Van Gundy based his prediction at least partially on what James was able to accomplish in Cleveland.

"Erik Spoelstra is a heck of a coach, so they're going to be motivated to play well defensively, which is about coaching, and offensively they're going to be an absolute nightmare to deal with," Van Gundy said on ESPN 1000. "If LeBron James can win 66 games in the regular season with the guys he played with, who I think are better than people have given them credit for in Cleveland, then I think you add Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller, it's not a stretch to say they can win six more."

Van Gundy backed off -- slightly -- from his claim that the Lakers are the only team that could beat the Heat in a playoff series.

"I think Boston -- with the [Shaquille] O'Neal signing -- has a legitimate chance as well," he said. "But I think those are the only two teams that have a chance in a playoff series to beat them."

Van Gundy said he likes what the Bulls have done in adding Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans, but he still doesn't see Chicago among the elite in the Eastern Conference.

"I think you've got Miami, and you have Boston just a notch below them," he said. "Orlando would have to be right below them, then I think Atlanta's a very good team.

"I would put those four teams clearly ahead of them right now, and I think Chicago could be fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth -- somewhere in that range."

Van Gundy believes it's become popular to pick against the Heat.

"I think people are trying to pick on Miami right now instead of opening their eyes to just how great they are," he said. "There are going to be no chemistry issues. Wade and James are unselfish players.

"That doesn't mean if they win a championship it's a great accomplishment either, because they're so much better than everybody. But to discount just how good they are, I think people are making a mistake."