Wade, James stay side by side in 1st Heat season

On the court, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade typically are no more

than a few feet apart.

Off the court, that apparently doesn’t change much.

They were close long before this season, but their first year

together with the Miami Heat seems to have further strengthened

that bond, as evidenced by them often dining together, texting

constantly while watching out-of-town games and almost always doing

their interviews after practices and games side by side.

”We’re in it together,” James said Tuesday, hours before the

Heat hosted the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of an Eastern Conference

semifinal series. ”It’s not just me and D-Wade. It’s all the guys

in the locker room, all 15, the coaching staff included. No matter

what goes on throughout a game, and we had our ups and downs

throughout the season, we always stayed together.”

It wasn’t accidental that James and Wade were among the biggest

stars of last summer’s NBA free-agent bonanza. Their previous

contracts had identical structures, giving each the option of

choosing a new team in 2010 – which opened the window for them to

team up in the right situation.

Once they did that, they knew some things would get easier,

others harder.

”People forget that me and Bron were the best of friends before

we played together,” Wade said. ”We got criticized before (this

season) for being friends and hanging out before games with each

other. … Back in the day, the Lakers didn’t do that, Boston

didn’t do that. Well, today, obviously that worked because we’re

here together. We have that bond.”

It’s not always smooth sailing. Both are intense competitors,

who aren’t afraid to tell their teammates about things they don’t

like – and they don’t exclude each other from those harsh

words.

No one is immune, and no one seems offended by that, either.

”There’s a point in the season where feelings go out the

window,” James said. ”We’re trying to win a championship. We

can’t worry about anybody’s feelings, friend or no friend, at this

point. If D-Wade makes a mistake or I make a mistake, I expect to

hear from him and he expects to hear from me.”

Doing interviews together just makes sense, they quickly

learned. After the vast majority of Heat practices this season,

Wade and James have walked toward the crowd of reporters together,

saying that simply saves time.

”Do things smarter, not harder,” Wade said.

Most of their postgame news conferences at home have come with

them side-by-side as well, while Chris Bosh typically does his

before Wade and James.

There’s a reason for that, too: Bosh gets dressed more

quickly.

Even with Bosh and Wade alongside him and getting their share of

spotlight time, James says he has probably gotten more attention

this year – on a team with stars of similar status – than during

any of his seasons in Cleveland.

Going forward, that may change. But having the bonds this season

with his new team clearly helped.

”I think this year in particular has been a little bit more

because of the circumstance of me changing cities, the situation of

the whole summer of joining here and coming here with D-Wade and

C.B.,” James said. ”I think it’s been a little bit more.”