The last time LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were all on the same court in a meaningful game was also the last time all three were wearing a Miami Heat uniform.
Given what they’ve gone through since, the former Big 3 should be thrilled to see each other healthy Friday night.
James figures to be fired up for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ home opener against his old friends at Quicken Loans Arena, where Bosh played his final competitive game last season before blood clots put his life in jeopardy.
James returned to Cleveland while Wade and Bosh stuck around in Miami after the Heat’s loss to San Antonio in the 2014 NBA Finals, and though the trio all played in a preseason game in Brazil last October, they’ve yet to face each other as opponents when it counts. James played every meeting last season – home teams won all four, each by double digits – but the one Wade missed was the only one Bosh played.
That changes Friday, and don’t expect any of the three to take the circumstances for granted. James was at least briefly a question mark for Cleveland’s opener due to a sore back, Wade’s knees have long been an issue and Bosh missed the final two months of last season with blood clots in his lungs.
Everyone’s healthy for now, though, and expectations are high for both the defending conference champions and a Heat team with perhaps the most talented starting five in the East. Yet as good as that group seems on paper, there’s concern over the chemistry of the unit, even after Wednesday’s 104-94 season-opening home win against Charlotte.
"If people are worried, that means they have expectations, and that’s a very good thing," Bosh said after scoring a game-high 21 points in his first regular-season action since Feb. 12 at Cleveland. "We’ve had our challenges, but we’ve always believed in each other. We’re making sure we talk to each other and we talk through it."
The Cavs will be without two key players for a while longer, and while the absence of Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert was felt in Tuesday’s season-opening 97-95 loss in Chicago, it hardly registered a night later in Memphis. Cleveland got 50 points from its bench and hit 13 3-pointers in a 106-76 rout of the Grizzlies, cruising despite James only scoring 12 points in 31 minutes.
To the four-time MVP, though, holding Memphis to 35.4 percent shooting after the undermanned Cavs forged their way to the finals with hard-nosed defense was the most encouraging sign.
"It’s who we need to be, it’s who we are. It’s what we stress every day," James said. "In order for us to be who we want to be long term, we’ve got to defend at a high level and we need to share the ball."
They’ve done that thus far, piling up 55 assists compared to their opponents’ 28. Twelve of Kevin Love’s 13 field goals have been assisted, and James is responsible for seven of those as he tries to get his power forward heavily involved.
"Kevin is going to be our main focus, he’s going to have a hell of a season and he’s going to get back to that All-Star status," James said. "He’s the focal point of us offensively. I know I can go out and get mine when I need it, but I need Kevin to be as aggressive as he was (Thursday)."
Cleveland has outscored its first two opponents by 39 from the 3-point line and is a plus-17 on the boards, but it may need to guard the perimeter a little closer against the Heat. Miami hit 12 of 20 3s in its opener after finishing 24th in 3-point percentage (33.5) last season, with Gerald Green knocking down 5 of 8 off the bench.
The Heat assisted on 23 of their 36 field goals, efficient ball movement they’re intent on continuing.
"It’s easy to do it in your home opener, everyone is feeling good. We made a couple shots," Bosh said. "But when it’s not going as well as we want it to, when things hit the fan a little bit, that’s when we have to trust and continue to move the ball."
The Cavs have won 20 of their last 21 at home, including the postseason, with both James and Love in the lineup.