Man, oh, man did it feel good to be back in the humble abode of the American Airlines Arena.
Those feelings of euphoria were only exemplified once the actual team took the floor via the aisles of the lower bowl of the arena. The 20-man roster, with the exceptions of Dwyane Wade, Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers, all took part in a red and white scrimmage in front of 11,000 Heat fans, as well as two misguided Celtics fans and a lone Los Angeles Lakers fan.
Who said that Heat fans weren’t passionate? The two Celtics fans–two 2o-something girls wearing a Ray Allen jersey and a Rajon Rondo jersey–were initially booed out of the stadium on their way to finding seats. They would eventually find their seats, but the jeering persisted, even prompting Dwyane Wade to personally go on the stadium’s loudspeaker and call out the fans.
The Laker fan was dressed in a Kobe Bryant jersey and an outdated Lakers championship hat. He popped his collar in response to an entire stadium’s worth of jeering, only to realize that no one has popped their collar since 2006.
But Heat fans weren’t at the American Airlines Arena to dish out a summer’s worth of pent-up aggression to a few trolls. They were there to get a firsthand look at their 2012 champions, as well as witnessing Ray Allen in a Miami Heat uniform for the first time. Needless to say, it was a sight to see Heat fans venting their support for a player that they had learned to loathe over the past five seasons.
Allen had become quite the thorn in Miami’s side while he was a member of the Celtics. Which is why it was one of the most glorious sights to see when Ray converted his very first shot–a three-pointer from left of the circle–and Heat fans were as loud as they had been during the Finals. He would hit a few more three’s, ending with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
As for any worries over his ankle injury? It didn’t appear that there were any lasting affects. Allen handled the ball well, moved through screens well and was scarily open far too many times. To summarize Allen’s night in a few words: he didn’t nearly have the look of a 37-year-old who struggled with injuries throughout the 2012 postseason.
Also looking fresh and revitalized was Udonis Haslem. The Heat power forward struggled mightily with his shot last season, managing a career-low 42 percent shooting and painfully struggling to get any lift on the consistent jumper that had been a staple of his career. The poor shooting caused Haslem’s spot in the rotation to diminish as well, only playing 25 minutes per game–the lowest since his rookie season.
He didn’t have the appearance of someone who struggled with their shot all of last year, however. Haslem looked as solid and consistent as he did prior to tearing a ligament in his foot early in the 2010-’11 campaign. He splashed home a few jumpers and even broke out a spot-up jumper that proved successful. It’s doubtful that we’ll see it during the regular season, but it’s a definite sign that Udonis has appeared to regain his form.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the game was fringe player Terrel Harris. Harris, a restricted free agent, went into the offseason with hopes that he would be re-signed by the Heat, but came away with nothing more than a non-guaranteed deal telling him that he would have to play his way onto the roster.
Harris was arguably the best player on the floor in the scrimmage. His speed proved to be a real problem for defenders in the open-court and he scored a number of times on aggressive drives to the rim. With the Heat likely to depend on Ray Allen and Mike Miller–two players who are still nursing injuries–adding Harris as insurance may be the best bet, especially if he continues to play as well as he did in the scrimmage.
Boy, does Chris Bosh look incredible on the floor when he’s being looked at as a first or second scoring option. With Dwyane Wade out due to recovery on knee surgery in July, Bosh ended up leading all scorers with 19 points and showed no ill effects of the abdominal injury that forced him to sit out nine postseason games. Even more encouraging was the fact that his stroke from beyond the arc looked better than ever, rekindling that idea of Bosh becoming just as versatile a shooter as Dirk Nowitzki.
- At least Ray Allen had a good night, because fellow newcomer Rashard Lewis was absolutely abysmal. Lewis had the appearance of someone who played in only 28 injury-plagued last season, before finishing up the night converting one shot–a layup–and missing a great deal of jumpers.
- LeBron James was in full scrimmage mode; not playing nearly as hard as some of his teammates who are attempting to either crack the rotation or make the team. He did have one of the top moments, though, when he somehow banked a layup in over Mike Miller, who could only laugh as he made his way back down court. He finished with the easiest 15 points of his life.
- Dexter Pittman was unrecognizable. The center has been dealing with weight problems throughout his basketball career, but looked nothing like the former high schooler that weighed in at 400 pounds at one point. Pittman was so skinny that I ended up confusing him with Mickell Gladness a few times. Although his performance on the court wasn’t anything worth noting, him losing a great deal of weight shows the commitment Pittman has to cracking the rotation and becoming a productive part of the team.
- Shane Battier hit the first shot of the game–a three-pointer from the corner. He’s still riding high from the Finals.
- Mike Miller converted three three-pointers in a 92-second span. He didn’t hurt himself and wasn’t hunched over and hobbling the duration of the game.
- It was scary seeing a deadly shooter open on nearly every possession. This team truly is pick-your-poison, as Battier, Miller, Allen and Lewis were constantly being found for open shot opportunities.