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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Heavy scrutiny remains a reality for Heat

By Jon Greenberg

CHICAGO -- A handful of reporters clustered around the Miami Heat locker room, but the scene was far subdued from the bygone days of 2011.

Chris Bosh stared at his iPad, wearing giant headphones. Dwyane Wade sat and talked to a friendly Chicago reporter about the Bears. LeBron James sat at a locker and listened to loud rap music, sans headphones, with a plastic bottle of ketchup at his feet.

No one bothered them.

Of course, that’s because the so-called “Big Three” have a policy of not speaking to the media before games, just at the morning shoot-around. And since shootarounds are often canceled this season, that takes the hype down a few notches.

Shane Battier
Shane Battier's first season in Miami has been a far cry -- in terms of media attention -- from his prior NBA stops.

“We’re just trying to go out and play basketball,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “Last year the majority of conversations were about us, and it’s kind of hard to get used to sometimes, but I think we’ve kind of settled in.”

But the Heat still get booed wherever they go, and they did Wednesday night at the United Center. LeBron James got booed louder than any opponent this season.

“People still dislike us,” Haslem said with a chuckle.

The Bulls have been open and honest about chasing the Heat this season. The loss in the Eastern Conference finals still stings.

"To beat them you've got to play almost a perfect game," Derrick Rose said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000.

The Bulls had a 2 1/2 game lead in the East going into the teams’ second matchup. So Haslem, the Heat mainstay, doesn’t see it like that.

“No, we don’t look at it as they’re chasing us,” he said. “We look at as they’re the best team in the NBA right now with the best record. They’ve got the reigning MVP. They’re very physical, very good and mentally tough.”

Haslem was surprised when a reporter told him Rose was out -- “Are you sure?” he asked --ut he didn’t think that would make it easy.

"They’ve won without him this year,” he said. “I’ve been watching them closely and those guys have competed without Derrick Rose.”

“Derrick’s an unbelievable player and we have a lot of respect for him, but this team is more than Derrick Rose,” forward Shane Battier said. “They don’t have the best record in the league with just Derrick Rose.”

Battier missed the media circus last season, but unlike Haslem, this kind of attention, however muted, is something new for the erudite Duke grad.

“It’s been dynamic, it’s been dynamic,” Battier said. “It’s been interesting. It’s been a good change for me at this point in my career. It’s a fun challenge.”