MIAMI — A week earlier, Miami players discussed how they liked being under the radar. Former President Bill Clinton was talking about going to a Heat game and nearly all the questions he got were about New York sensation Jeremy Lin.
My, how things have changed.
“The Heat is back on the radar,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade declared after Tuesday’s practice, the team’s first one after the All-Star break.
Part of that has to do with the Heat dismantling the Lin show by holding the guard to 1-of-11 shooting and eight points in a 102-88 win last Thursday. And part of that has to do with the Heat’s two biggest stars each having controversial All-Star moments.
Wade committed a hard foul on Kobe Bryant in the third quarter Sunday in Orlando, resulting in Bryant suffering a nasal fracture. Wade said he has apologized to Bryant but doesn’t deny the incident is sure to spice up Sunday’s game between the teams in Los Angeles.
“From the standpoint of coverage, media attention, yeah, it makes it interesting,” Wade said.
From a different standpoint, also interesting is the criticism Heat forward LeBron James received following his decision in the waning seconds to pass rather than shoot with his East team trailing 151-149. James threw the ball away, and his team ended up losing 152-149 to the West.
Never mind James had 36 points in the game and tied an All-Star record with six 3-pointers. Never mind he had led the East back from a 21-point second-half deficit, hitting nine straight shots at one point.
“I don’t really even have an answer for it, honestly,” James said Tuesday about the latest criticism he has received. “Is it something new? Is that something new?”
Nevertheless, the Heat are back in the spotlight. It comes as they prepare for a three-game trip that takes them to Portland on Thursday, Utah on Friday and into the Lakers’ den Sunday.
The third one will be the big one. Never mind if the Heat, who have won eight straight games, all by double digits, show up Sunday with a 10-game winning streak. The talk coming in will be about Wade’s hard foul on Bryant.
“It was already spicy enough,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “Now, it’ll be fun. It’ll be something to play on the reels over and over before the game. People like that. They like to tune in. So I’m sure it will be pumped up a lot.”
Bosh was the only member of the Big Three to emerge from Sunday’s All-Star Game without a controversial moment. Then again, he did describe Wade’s foul as the hardest he’s ever seen in an All-Star Game, although Bosh said there was no ill intent by his teammate.
With Bryant going to the basket in the third quarter, Wade wrapped him up with a thud to prevent a basket. Blood came out of Bryant’s nose but it wasn’t known until later it was a nasal fracture.
“It was unfortunate, obviously,” Wade said Tuesday. “I would never want to hurt anybody in a game …. I sent my apologies (to Bryant). But it was not intentional. If it was something that I did intentional, that’s a different story.
“I sent him a message (saying) ‘My apologies.’ Unfortunately, it happened to him. But that’s all I can do. He knows it’s no ill intent on me to do that. Did I take a foul (on purpose)? Yes, I took a foul. So talk about me for taking a foul, but I never wanted that kind of outcome.”
Bryant and Wade were teammates on the 2008 Olympic gold medal-winning outfit and respect each other. While they have faced each other in the NBA only twice a season since 2003-04 and during All-Star Games, both have been quite competive.
TNT analyst Reggie Miller criticized Wade on the game broadcast for not immediately apologizing to Bryant after the play. But Wade didn’t consider that a valid comment.
“Reggie doesn’t know what was said,” Wade said. “When I saw his blood, his nose, I was like, ‘Obviously, I didn’t try to do that.’ I don’t know if anybody wanted me to get down on my knees in front of the world and do it. I don’t have to do that …. Like I said, I sent my apologies to Kobe, and I move on from it. It’s unfortunate. It’s nothing that was ill intent. But this will be the last time I talk about it from this time on.”
But Wade then was willing to talk about James and the criticisim he has received for his decision to pass. Many of James’ critics harkened back to how James deferred in the fourth quarters of last spring’s Finals, which the Heat lost 4-2 to Dallas.
“It’s LeBron. No matter what LeBron would have did,” Wade said. “If he would have missed the shot, they would have said he can’t make it. If he would have hit the shot, they would have said, ‘He only can make in an All-Star Game.’ He’s in a losing situation. I don’t really care. He had a great All-Star Game, and if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t even have been in that situation with the way he caught fire.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also came to James’ defense.
“That’s an All-Star Game, come on,” Spoelstra said in disgust. “That’s a continuation of the theatre of the absurd …. There’s nothing we can do about the extreme exaggeration about everything that happens with our team.”
Well, there is one thing the Heat, who are tied with Oklahoma City for the NBA’s best record at 27-7, can do.
“At the end of the season, hopefully it ends the right way, and that will be ultimately the only way we can shut people up,” Spoelstra said of Miami seeking to win a championship.
But the Finals are still 3 ½ months away. And plenty of time will be spent until then with the spotlight shining brightly on Miami.
Whether they like it or not, the Heat are back on the radar.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson