Heat Ready for Heat Haters This Season
It's tough to blame them. You too could use an extra hour in the sack if you believe everyone is out to get you.
The Heat's "Us Against the World" tour starts Tuesday night in Boston, and thanks to one crazy summer in which they signed LeBron James, Chris Bosh and re-signed Dwyane Wade, the Heat know they're not going to have too many fans outside of South Florida.
"I don't think we have a choice," Wade, pictured above among a throng of reporters, said about being hated. "We can't lobby not to be. We're already that.
"And that's fine. At the end of the day, the fans in Miami and South Florida appreciate us. That's the only thing we can control. We can go out and try to win ballgames."
They'll try to win games under an intense and possibly unprecedented scrutiny. Including television crews, the TNT studio crew and various media, the Celtics estimated they've issued 400-plus credentials.
"And it's growing by the minute," one Celtics rep said. It's the most anyone can remember for a Celtics regular-season game.
"You see the cameras and you think it's The Finals," Wade said to, yes, many, many TV cameras, "and it's only the first game of the season. You can say you're used to it, but you understand the dynamics of what this summer brought."
In Tuesday's edition of the Boston Globe, Paul Pierce said that he could write an 800-page book about his three seasons with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The Celtics, however, went through their growing pains in a relative cave compared to what the Heat will experience this season.
The Heat could write an 800-page "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" essay. But forget the essay. Miami's revolution has been televised, blogged and tweeted.
And that's why there could be an unusual level of animosity directed toward the Heat this season. Never has a team that has done so little on the court received so much attention for what they've done off it.
Since James announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach in the ill-conceived "The Decision," the Heat and James' intentions have been poked, prodded, measured, examined and psychoanalyzed. They've been given their own blog on ESPN.com. LeBron even made a commercial in response to it all.
The Heat have been in the spotlight since July 8 and have cast long shadows on the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics and the Heat's intrastate rival Orlando Magic.
Udonis Haslem, the only other Heat player besides Wade who was on the 2006 NBA title squad, said the team tries its best to close ranks.
"You don't listen to it," Haslem said. "The only thing we worry about is each other. And we hold ourselves accountable. The only thing that matters is this organization and this team."
Given the level of coverage this summer, it's no surprise that TNT has shipped its studio crew to Boston.
Still, TNT's Craig Sager, who has covered the NBA since 1988 for Turner Sports, noted that he's always at the opening night ring ceremony. Instead of enjoying the nice Southern California weather, he's 3,000 miles east enjoying the unseasonably nice weather in The Hub.
"I was with Doc Rivers when 'The Decision' was aired," Sager said, "and he called up Pat Riley shortly thereafter, and said, 'Pat, what's going on? I've never seen a parade before the season.'
"And even Riley said, 'Doc, even I got a little carried away.' "
Who could blame the mastermind though? It's that level of anticipation that has fueled the constant coverage. With James, Wade and Bosh, the Heat have three of the top 10 players in the league in their prime of their careers. LeBron, with a supporting cast not nearly as good in Cleveland, won 127 regular-season games. Now he gets to run with one of the game's best guards and a power forward who averages 20 and 10. You can see why hoops heads have started to drool at the thought of it.
The reality, though, has been different as Wade injured his hamstring three minutes into the Heat's first preseason game. Wade and coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade will play. How well he will play, though, is like everything else in the Heat's world: unknown.
"I haven't played a game yet, so I can't tell you," Wade said about being in game shape. "I'm in practice shape."
That probably goes for the other 29 teams in the NBA, but everyone is wondering what they'll get from the Heat when the NBA unwraps the bow on this season.
"This is as wild as it's ever been," Haslem said. "It's well deserved. These guys have built themselves as great individual players. They've carried their teams. They've been All-Star MVPs. They've been regular-season MVPs.
"We have it all on this team. I can understand all the hype and excitement around this team."
Just don't plan the parade quite yet.