At 5-4, Heat know their bashers are rejoicing

Dwyane Wade has been part of a Miami Heat team that stumbled at

the start of a season, and been part of a Heat team that began the

year flying high.

The slow-starting team won an NBA championship.

The fast-starting club got bounced in the first round of the

2010 playoffs.

Go figure.

While everyone inside the Heat locker finds this 5-4 start

disappointing and at times frustrating, Wade knows – and has

history to show – that how a season begins isn’t always the best

way of forecasting how it will end.

”Of course (outside) people are smiling and feeling good about

our 5-4 start and as well as they should be,” Wade said Friday

before leaving the practice court, noting that last season’s Heat

team started 6-1 and went nowhere quickly in the postseason. ”The

Heat haters, that’s fine. But as long as we continue to get our

support from our fans and in here, we’ll be fine.”

True, the last three eventual NBA champions – Boston in 2008,

the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and the Lakers again this past June

– didn’t get their fourth loss, on average, until the 27th game of

the season. The Celtics’ 112-107 win in Miami on Thursday night

dealt the Heat their fourth loss in nine games.

Such a start does not doom a season. Michael Jordan’s first

eventual championship season in Chicago started with the Bulls

losing their first three games and six of their first 11. In the

last 20 seasons, five teams started 5-4 or worse and went on to win

the NBA title. The 2006 Heat team that won it all only managed a

6-4 start, which Miami will try to match Saturday when it hosts

struggling Toronto.

It’ll be the first time Chris Bosh faces the team he spent his

first seven NBA seasons with.

”I think when you lose two in a row early on, I think everybody

is expecting us to panic,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”I’m

sure the outside perception is in a panic right now. And that’s the

most important thing for us right now – to stay together as a

group. It is a tight group and they want to make it work, and so we

will get it done as long as we keep that mindset.”

Spoelstra stood in the Heat locker room after Thursday’s loss

and told his team that it’s ”us against the world.”

Given the outside reaction to the slow Miami start in this first

season of LeBron James, Wade and Bosh playing together, Spoelstra

might be right.

”It’s like they’re not like expecting somebody to slap the hell

out of them,” TNT analyst Charles Barkley said on-air early

Friday. ”Dude, let’s get something straight: Y’all are the Miami

Heat. Y’all wanted this thing, the Big 3. Every time y’all come to

town, y’all better bring your ‘A’ game. I’m surprised they’re in

shock that everybody’s not loving them.”

And then there was this tweet posted to Paul Pierce’s account

late Thursday night: ”It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to

south beach,” a not-even-veiled jab at James’ decision this

summer.

That one got noticed.

”Look up the definition of a studio gangster,” Heat forward

Udonis Haslem said, making a reference to someone who, delicately

put, appears to be tougher than they really are. ”Nobody pays them

dudes no mind, man. I’m here to play basketball. … They can say

what they want to say. It’s just basketball. For us, this team is

built and we’re not going to be at our best right now. We

understand that.”

Bosh has watched most of Toronto’s games so far this season, and

has not enjoyed seeing his old team get off to an awful start. The

Raptors took a 1-7 record into Friday’s matchup in Orlando.

Since the Heat have their own issues to deal with, don’t look

for him to be sympathetic Saturday night.

”There’s no anxiousness for tomorrow,” Bosh said. ”The sky

never falls. It’s too pretty out there.”

OK, the sky may not fall, but the Heat landscape may change a

bit.

Spoelstra said he’s considering lineup changes, and given that

center Joel Anthony didn’t start the second half against the

Celtics, that would suggest either Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Jamaal

Magloire may be in line for a new role soon.

”We’re not there right now,” Spoelstra said, reiterating his

message from Thursday night. ”We will be.”

James agrees.

Optimists would say Miami’s four losses have come against teams

that have dropped a combined five games – entering Friday, Boston

was 7-2, New Orleans 7-0 and Utah 5-3 – and that the Heat had an

opportunity in each of those defeats. Pessimists would say the

union of James, Wade and Bosh isn’t working and Miami lacks what it

takes to beat elite teams.

James insisted that the Heat locker room remains undeterred.

”We knew it was going to be a challenge,” James said. ”I knew

it wouldn’t just be a bed of roses stepping into this situation.

But I came here for the challenge.”