BOSTON -- As you may have heard, the Miami Heat, who teamed their Finals MVP Dwyane Wade with two-time MVP LeBron James and perennial All-Star Chris Bosh, lost their first game of the 2010-11 season to the Boston Celtics.
Oh my god! Put the champagne and the cigars away. Send the Heat championship tees and hats to a third world country that could use 'em. Cancel the parade. Call off the ring ceremony for the American Airlines Center in October 2011. Commissioner, they've given away the standing reservation for your suite at the Fountainbleau. Sorry, they didn't think you'd be here. Shouldn't you be in Boston or Orlando or Los Angeles again?
With the exception of L.A. three-peating or Boston winning title No. 18, all of the above is preposterous. We should all know better by now. One game does not a season make.
"This is one of 82," Wade said. "Sorry if everyone thought we were going 82-0. It just ain't happening."
At least Wade was able to keep the loss in perspective both short- and long-term. There will be some (OK, many) who believe the Heat's 88-80 loss was the first act of karmic justice for what transpired this summer, when James announced his desire to take his talents to South Beach in an hour-long ESPN special. He was narcissistic, selfish and painfully lacked self-awareness. Failing would be too good for him, embarrassment would be even better.
Too much attention had been paid, not enough work had been done. As quick as many were to anoint the Heat, there will be those who will be just as quick to say, "See, told you so."
To be fair to the critics, the amount of attention paid to this opening game could be construed as ridiculous. The Celtics issued more than 400 media credentials, had to set up an interview room and used a transcription service that the NBA uses at events such as the All-Star Game, conference finals and The Finals. As a matter of fact, that was the theme many players touched upon.
"It's like The Finals in here."
Yes, it was exactly like The Finals except for one key issue: championship-level basketball. The excellence of June was sorely missing from both sides on Oct. 26. The first quarter produced 25 points, 23 rebounds and 10 turnovers combined. It looked like preseason basketball in a playoff atmosphere and no player showed more rust than Wade, who played a grand total of three minutes in the preseason before injuring his hamstring.
"I was a little bit out of rhythm," Wade said. "This is (like) my first preseason game."
At times it appeared as if the Heat needed to be introduced to each other. Passes were either tentatively made or whipped out of reach. Sets were broken off. No one was aggressive. Shots were short. But patience, LeBron preached, shouldn't be.
"Rome wasn't built in a day," he said.
Neither were the Heat, apparently, although it seemed that way back in July. The process of learning each other will take some time, especially against the Orlandos, the L.A. Lakers and as everyone saw Tuesday, the Bostons of the world.
The Celtics, who have won two of the last three Eastern Conference crowns, had their familiar rhythms going early and were provided with a surprise-burst from 38-year-old Shaquille O'Neal. The four-time NBA champ slammed home an alley-oop and crushed home a dunk on the break in the first quarter to send the already hyped TD Garden crowd into a frenzy.
Yet, as nice as it was for Shaq to show flashes of what he could do with 10 fewer years and 60 fewer pounds on him, that's not what the Celtics can rely upon to get them through this season. The Original Big Three(TM) of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen -- with an assist or 17, as he did Tuesday night, from Rajon Rondo -- will be what drives the Celtics. It's been their core and will be their core for another 81 regular-season games.
During that 2007-08 championship season, the Celtics were not unlike the Heat are now. KG and Allen were new to Boston and had to adjust their games to mesh with Pierce. All had been All-Stars who dominated the ball and the attention on their previous teams. Sharing was something they had to re-learn in order not to sabotage what turned out to be a season where the three got their rings and anything was possible.
"You could see that they haven't necessarily got the whole chemistry thing down," Garnett said. "I know the similarities are there.
"In order for them to get better, they're goin' to have to continue to go through rough days and dog days, and that's a part of it."
One of the things the Heat will need to figure out is who's the lead dog. Should it be Wade? Should it be James? The task weighed heavy on both in the first half. James, booed every time he touched the ball, looked as if he were the new kid at school, trying desperately to fit in and please his new classmates.
"It almost felt like we were being too unselfish (in order) to get each other in the flow of the game," said James, who had a game-high 31 points. "The reason we're here and the reason we're successful is we've put ourselves in position to be aggressive at all times no matter who's out on the court.
"We just have to play our game and it's going to be better for the team."
He was right. Once he asserted himself midway through the third quarter, LeBron looked like his MVP-caliber self. Against the Celtics early, it seemed as if everything flowed to him. In Cleveland, the offense flowed from him. If James was assertive and the defense needed to key on him, others benefited. It should work that way with the Heat as well. James is the best player in the world. He has to play like it for the Heat to meet the wild expectations.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers knows things will change for the Celtics and the Heat.
"They're going to be a lot better when we see them again," Rivers said. "Hopefully we are as well."
That would be Thursday, Nov. 11 in Miami. Let's hope the Heat and the Celtics are better than they were tonight. For their sake, and ours.