MIAMI — Holding court before the Heat’s preseason opener, Miami’s King James was asked what he considered the biggest surprise after a week of training camp.
The rest of the NBA should take note of his answer.
“D-Wade,” LeBron James said before Monday night’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Hawks. “I think just seeing his explosiveness, his quickness, lateral quickness, everything . . . he looks healthy, he feels healthy.
“He shows it more than anything on his face when he’s healthy, and that’s a great sign.”
The last time LeBron saw Wade look so good?
“Year One training camp,” said James, referring to the Big Three’s first camp together in 2010. “We all were very excited, and it didn’t matter what was going on, we’d play through anything.”
Wade, 31, is beginning his 11th season with Miami and fourth with LeBron and Chris Bosh as teammates. Before last season, the guard underwent knee surgery and never regained full health despite helping the Heat win a second straight NBA crown.
“I understand that last year was hell at certain moments, the pain that I was going through,” said Wade, whose 21.2 points-per-game average last season was his lowest output since scoring 16.2 as a rookie. “So to try and eliminate as much as you can in the beginning, that’s what I tried to do this summer.”
When he wasn’t being a dad, vacationing or making the late-night talk show rounds during the summer, Wade worked out with noted trainer Tim Grover.
“With my busy schedule, with the short summer, I still found time (to work out),” he said. “No matter what time it is, tired or not, I’d still find time.”
The early results have been promising.
“I feel it in my speed. I feel my training camp legs haven’t recovered yet, so my lift isn’t where I want it to be,” he said. “My speed in open court is a lot better than probably the last two years, just probably being stronger and being able to push off quicker.”
James played 21 minutes against the Hawks, but Wade told Coach Erik Spoelstra he’d be sitting out.
“Spo wants me to do what’s best for my body,” Wade said. “I’ve been practicing very hard, been going very hard. I just think it’s smart to rest a little bit and let my legs recover.”
That’s partly because as good as Wade looked in 2010 training camp, he suffered a hamstring injury three minutes into that year’s first preseason game.
“I’m gonna rest and cheer my guys on,” he said. “In 2010, I felt good but I kind of knew then my hammy was a little tight. But I was so excited to play . . . it was the first time all of us (Big Three) were playing, and pow!
“Right now, I don’t want no setbacks. I want to be smart about things. I’ll pick and choose.”
Center Greg Oden, who hasn’t played since December 2009 due to chronic knee injuries, likely won’t play for a while. Forwards Chris “Birdman” Andersen (foot), Udonis Haslem (knee) and Michael Beasley (calf) joined Wade in not playing Monday night.
“They all say they’re ready to go, to a man,” Spoelstra said. “We want to manage it.”