MIAMI (AP) Getting a reminder that the looming Miami Heat season debut marks the 13th opening night of his professional career made Chris Bosh pretend to cringe a tiny bit.
”It’s 13?” Bosh asked. ”Good grief.”
Make no mistake, he was feigning the disdain.
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Bosh insists that opening night – Miami hosts Charlotte on Wednesday in the season opener for both clubs – will not have any overly sentimental feelings attached. Not ever after the 6-foot-11 forward’s season ended and career was essentially threatened last February when blood clots found their way to one of his lungs.
He was suddenly in the health fight of his life.
It will have been 258 days since he played an NBA game, but there’s no looking back for Bosh. He’s full-speed ahead, recovered from the clot scare and expecting that the Heat will be good enough to become a contender again in the East after missing the playoffs in the year that immediately followed LeBron James’ decision to leave Miami and return to Cleveland.
And teammates say he’s back to normal.
”He’s the same old Chris,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. ”Defensively, he’s one of the best bigs in the league. And offensively, he’s one of the most dangerous bigs in the league with his ability to knock down shots, the way he moves the ball on the perimeter, to get guys coming off pick and rolls, etc. Same old Chris.”
Wade saw the worst of the worst with Bosh last season. They were vacationing together with their wives after the All-Star Game last February when the pain in Bosh’s side just wouldn’t go away. Days later, Wade saw Bosh in the hospital, tubes in his side, his future most uncertain.
The Heat would play at home later that night. Wade remembers the hospital trip. He doesn’t remember the game.
”That became bigger than the game,” Wade said. ”I think we had a game that day I went up to sit with him. Basketball didn’t matter at that moment … no one knew how sick he was and how sick he was going to be. It was scary.”
All is well now.
Miami has a starting five – Wade, Bosh, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside – that on paper looks like it can match up with just about anyone in the East. Bosh would have to play a big part if Miami’s hopes for a resurgent season are to become reality; he averaged 21.1 points in 44 games a year ago, a slight uptick over his career average and was an All-Star for the 10th time.
The return to normalcy, Bosh said, happened weeks ago when he officially returned.
”I’m at the gym every day, being around the guys. It happened as soon as training camp started,” Bosh said. ”I was probably the happiest vet in training camp, probably in the league. Just to be around the players, be around the guys, be around the coaches … I’m going to complain about something so it may as well be basketball.”
So yes, Wednesday will have that first-day-of-school feeling.
But when the ball goes up, it’ll be back to work for Bosh – just the way he likes it.
”I’m kind of just really appreciating every moment that I’ve been given, really, with this whole situation,” Bosh said. ”It’s been back to normal. Wednesday just means they’re actually keeping records now. So I’m excited.”
NOTES: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said everyone was able to participate on some level Tuesday, the final practice before game day. ”The guys are eager to get out there, for obvious reasons,” Spoelstra said. … Spoelstra is 7-0 in home openers and 199-80 in regular-season home games. … Assuming Bosh is in the starting lineup, he will become the fourth Heat player to make six starts in openers – joining Wade, Udonis Haslem and Rony Seikaly.