MIAMI -- Only for this Miami Heat roster could a preseason game mean this much.
That sort of thing is bound to happen when you have three of the ten best players in the NBA on the same team.
But most of all, the hype had a lot to do with the fact that two-thirds of the biggest investment in franchise history was injured.
Granted, neither Dwyane Wade's nor LeBron James' injuries are serious, but just the thought of them being out for an extended period of time scared more folks than you might imagine.
On this particular night the Heat faced the Charlotte Bobcats, and LeBron came back after a week`s absence in order to restore order in Miami.
“I felt really good,” LeBron admitted. “I got some work in today, and even though I felt confident about my leg going in, I had to test it in game-type situations.”
His first shot was an airball, his second attempt was blocked and his third was stolen before he could get it up. Hardly a good start, but you can see LeBron constantly trying his best to impress a new fan base, so you figured things would pick up.
Not long after came his first bucket.
A nasty dunk after a steal.
There was no celebration, just a stare.
Everything seemed to click from there onwards. In all, they were 29 minutes (more than in any other preseason game this year) in which he scored 33 points while making 10 of his 17 shots in a 102-96 loss to Charlotte.
The stat sheet couldn't matter less. His sole presence on the court gave Heat fans a sea of tranquility.
But truth is, up until now, LeBron hasn`t been himself. His loose demeanor has been absent.
No games, no jokes; just business.
“I am having a lot of fun, when it stops becoming fun, I will stop playing,” said James. “Now I am just focusing on playing, but it is fun to me.”
Not that anybody will complain if games like tonight`s keep piling up, but it’s quite possible there is still another level in him. He doesn’t seem to be his usual self.
In all of the press conferences till this day, Wade has outspoken James and Chris Bosh.
It is Wade County, and the Miami fans will always be faithful to the man who was the biggest piece of their sole championship.
That will not change.
Wade will continue to be the most cheered when the players are introduced, and he will probably be the leader of this team.
He has the experience that comes with age and the fact that he knows what it takes to win it all.
It is almost like James respects that so much that he forgot his personality.
You might agree or disagree with his off-the-court antics, but that is who LeBron is. His attitude and his game come hand in hand. It is a package deal that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert might reconsider taking if he had the chance.
Fans don´t cheer as loud in Miami as they did in Cleveland when LeBron throws his “magic powder” in the air in his pregame routine; even people in the stands want to make sure that Wade keeps feeling like the sheriff in town.
That’s the type of credibility that a ring and loyalty give you.
But while everybody must respect that, LeBron should let loose and get back to having fun in the basketball court, because that it when he is at his best.
That may happen when the Heat obtain a couple of consecutive regular-season victories or maybe when the first tight game comes knocking on their door.
Make no mistake. LeBron will be carrying the rock when games reach their defining point.
Many appear to think that D-Wade will take that awaited final shot when the time comes because he consolidated his reputation as a closer in the 2006 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
We`ll have to wait and see, but I disagree.
Today LeBron put out the first small fire in Miami just by appearing in uniform.
And something tells me, it won`t be the last.
Especially when he stops trying too hard to be the Good Samaritan and convince everybody that his off-the-court public relations disaster is in the past.
He should do what he does best, play basketball while having fun doing so.
That time will come soon.
When it does, the obvious question will arise: Can the Heat coexist?
Until evidence tells us otherwise, I wouldn`t bet against it.