Heat hosting Air Force guests for scrimmage
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AP)
LeBron James came down the court, headed toward the baseline and made a nifty behind-the-back pass to rookie center Dexter Pittman near the basket.
Pittman missed the layup.
That's when he - and the rest of the Miami Heat - saw what having James as a teammate can mean.
The NBA's two-time reigning MVP slammed Pittman's miss home, one of many moments that left guests from the U.S. Air Force howling when the Heat held their first full preseason scrimmage Friday night. It was the first time Dwyane Wade, James and Chris Bosh played together in a game situation as Heat teammates.
''There's no time to waste,'' James said.
It was the seventh practice session out of eight the Heat scheduled for their weeklong trip to an Air Force installation in Florida's Panhandle, and by far, this had the most fanfare.
An emotional video montage - replete with moments that included Wade, James and Bosh representing their country at the Beijing Olympics - played before the game, immediately prior to the presentation of colors. About 225 Air Force guests were invited for each half, and the gym was cleared after the first 20-minute period to allow more airmen to fill the bleachers.
After the game, Staff Sgt. Kevin Kirkland told James that, when he was deployed to Afghanistan last year, he would watch Cleveland games that began at 2 a.m.
''Appreciate it,'' James said, nodding and smiling.
Wade and James guarded each other for much of the early going, and each had their first highlight-reel moments of the season.
Wade lobbed a 40-footer after getting fouled that bounced off the backboard and went in, and probably should have counted but was whistled off. James had the night's two most spectacular dunks and gave the fans a broad grin each time.
And for the second half - well, second game, really, since the scoreboard was wiped clean after each half - Wade, James and Bosh were all put on the same team.
They were sitting together at a Miami Dolphins game last weekend when it hit them: This power triumvirate is real now.
''We just looked around,'' Wade said. ''And then 'Bron looked at both of us and said, 'This is crazy. What y'all doing here? What am I doing here? What are we doing here together?' There's still those moments ... where you don't understand how it came together. But it did. And it's a special thing, especially with three guys that really enjoy each other's company.''
Understandably, after a hard week of work, there's some tired legs on the Miami team bus.
James shot 5 of 14. Wade shot 4 of 11. Bosh missed his first six shots before making seven of his final nine.
''It's been very intense,'' James said.
''I've never been in a more competitive camp than this,'' said Wade, whose sons sat behind one bench.
That's why Heat coach Erik Spoelstra - as always - isn't overly concerned with how the offense is performing, not in the first week of practice.
''When we go live, I have not noticed a dip in the intensity,'' Spoelstra said. ''I've shortened the live sessions, just to try to keep guys fresh and healthy as much as we can. That's not realistic after six practices. The guys feel it in their legs, but they're doing their part. They're coming in early, staying late, getting as much treatment as they can.''
Guests from the Air Force packed the steamy gym hoping to see the Heat put on a show. In the end, though the game wasn't always pretty - the first half was 49-34, the second was 46-34 - there were enough eye-popping moments.
Maybe the best of them all came with 13:45 left in the second half, when Wade threw a lob to Patrick Beverley, who then tipped it up for James on a fast break.
A monster dunk followed, one of many the Heat expect to see in the coming years.
''We know we can't waste an opportunity to get better,'' James said. ''And when we're on the basketball court, if we get an opportunity to come in for two hours or for an hour or half-hour, we've got to get better. So we don't want to waste that opportunity.'' NOTES: The Heat threw T-shirts to fans after the game. ... Guards Eddie House (shoulder) and Kenny Hasbrouck (thigh) did not play. Da'Sean Butler (knee) also sat out, still not cleared for full action after tearing his ACL in last spring's NCAA tournament for West Virginia. ... Miami's preseason opener is Tuesday at home against Detroit.