NBA

LeBron's Heat odyssey begins with win over Pistons

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MIAMI (AP)

There was a moment, in a nearly empty gym a couple of hours before tip-off of a Miami Heat preseason opener like no other, when Dwyane Wade looked around and couldn't believe his eyes.

Nearby, LeBron James. Over there, Chris Bosh.

What they talked about for years was truly real.

''I was just like, `Wow - these are my teammates,''' Wade said. ''It feels good to have guys that have the capability that these guys have.''

And that capability has already been proven. When Wade went down with a bad hamstring not even halfway through the first quarter, James and Bosh gave the Heat all they needed and more - combining for 38 points as the Heat easily beat the Detroit Pistons 105-89 in the preseason opener for both teams Tuesday night.

Wade played just 3 minutes, 17 seconds. His right hamstring had been sore for a few days, and something went wrong while he was trying to guard Detroit's Richard Hamilton. The Heat called it a strain, coach Erik Spoelstra called it a tweak, Wade described it as a pull.

No matter: Wade will likely miss 1-2 weeks, but expects to be back in plenty of time for the Oct. 26 regular season opener in Boston.

''I think Miami's seen me play for a long time,'' Wade said. ''And they'll get a lot of time to see the 'Big 3,' as they say.''

Bosh had 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting. James, the NBA's two-time reigning MVP who took his championship pursuit from Cleveland to Miami this summer, added 18, and the Heat weren't challenged after running out to a 20-point lead by halftime.

Udonis Haslem added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Heat. Ben Gordon led Detroit with 17 points.

''I don't really think they played that great,'' Gordon said. ''Obviously, we didn't play that well, either.''

The Heat gave themselves considerably higher marks than Gordon offered.

''It was something I've waited for all summer,'' James said. ''To be able to be back on the court, it was great. The reception from the fans was awesome and it was great we were able to give them the same energy that they gave us.''

By the final buzzer, most of the crowd was long gone. Most came to see the opening moments of this trio's time together, and the fanfare was the sort simply not seen at most preseason games.

James walked from the bench moments before tip-off with the traditional stoic look. He filled his hands with rosin powder, threw it into the air to create a white cloud, then clapped his hands three times.

Same as always. Just totally different.

''The season,'' James said, ''is back.''

And when Wade left, James just took over.

He put much of his repertoire on display in the early going: no-look passes, drives to the rim, 3-pointers, even playing some point guard in the first quarter. It wasn't always perfect - he airballed one try from beyond the arc and failed to see a wide-open Bosh under the basket on another possession.

At times, it was downright scintillating.

One play after missing Bosh, he set up his new teammate for a dunk that left the former Toronto forward screaming with delight. And with 4.7 seconds left in the first quarter, James ran off a Haslem pick, then spun before going down the lane for a two-handed dunk - waving his arms with a flourish after giving Miami a 24-15 lead.

''I think everyone's been waiting to see us, to see what we've been doing in practice and bringing it into a game setting,'' James said.

James had 12 points in the first 12 minutes, either scoring or assisting on eight of Miami's first 11 field goals. He returned to the game with 5:03 left in the half to a raucous ovation, set up a 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers with a wraparound behind-the-back pass, and went into intermission with 14 points on 7-of-15 shooting.

Miami led 58-38 at the break, holding Detroit to 39 percent shooting. James and Bosh both played late into the third quarter, before Spoelstra declared their nights complete.

''There's some encouraging things to come from this game,'' Spoelstra said. ''The No. 1 thing was our guys wanted to play in front of the home fans. You could tell with their energy. It's been a long week of hitting each other and not seeing any other competition.''

Bosh knew Tuesday was a big deal when his father insisted on coming to the game.

''He was that excited about it,'' Bosh said. ''He was ready to see us take the court for the first time. Just this fact that he was super-excited about it, that let me know kind of how everybody else is going to be. And if that's how everybody is, it makes it a lot more fun to play.''

Tagged: Pistons, Heat, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Ben Gordon

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