Mario Chalmers sat at his locker tying his new shoes. Surrounding him was a small gaggle of reporters. He was back in the heartland, back in the middle of the country where he is, and will always be, a hero of the national champion Kansas Jayhawks.
And something else was back as well: Chalmers’ legendary confidence, that Alaskan swagger in its most concentrated form.
“I had a good Game 4, a good series at that, so it just shows that I can compete at the highest level,” said Chalmers, when asked by local reporters about his effort in the 2012 NBA Finals.
For the first time since those Finals, Chalmers took his place in the Heat’s starting lineup in Wednesday’s 101-94 loss to the Washington Wizards at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. It was the Heat’s final road game of the preseason and second to last game until the season opener. Miami’s final tune-up is on Friday against the New Orleans Hornets.
With Chalmers back in the fold, the Heat featured for the first time this preseason the same starting lineup that won the 2012 NBA championship. And, for the first six minutes of the game, it was as if Miami hadn’t missed a beat.
The Heat raced out to a 12-1 lead after a mid-range jumper by Chris Bosh, who scored in double figures (10) in the first quarter for the second consecutive game. Wade was even more impressive in the opening period, looking every bit like a younger version of himself with hard drives to the basket and impossibly difficult off-balance shots made to look easy.
Chalmers looked like the same old Chalmers, which is to say LeBron James had a good laugh when his point guard’s first alley-oop of the preseason was off the mark. A notoriously inconsistent passer of alley-oops, Chalmers sent an arcing lob too high above James in the first quarter. James couldn’t reach the ball to grab it but did tip in the errant pass.
Chalmers had three assists in his first quarter of action and finished the game with five. He also had eight points, including a three-pointer in the second quarter that received a loud round of applause from the Kansas Jayhawks fans in attendance. Of course, the Missouri fans in Sprint Center had a fun time booing Chalmers all night. The Mizzou faithful even booed the Jayhawks’ dance team at halftime.
James finished the game with 13 points, shooting 5 of 11 from the field. He also had six assists and five rebounds in 29 minutes of work. A difficult shot by James gave the Heat a 30-22 lead with 2:23 left in the first quarter. Miami’s intensity waned after the first period of the game but the Heat was explosive in the first 12 minutes, scoring 32 points.
Wade led the Heat in scoring (23) and rebounds (seven). He was 7 of 14 from the field and 8 of 8 from the free-throw line. Wade logged minutes late in the fourth quarter, a good sign for his ongoing rehabilitation from offseason knee surgery. Bosh finished with 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting to go along with four rebounds.
Also making his debut for the Heat this preseason was Udonis Haslem, who, like Chalmers, missed the first three weeks of the preseason with a strained muscle in his upper leg. Haslem had played 24 minutes, and had eight rebounds and one point.
“I’m excited to just get out there and compete and get up and down with the guys and get some conditioning in and stuff like that,” said Haslem, who absorbed an off-the-ball charge from rookie Bradley Beal with three minutes left in the meaningless exhibition game. “I’m real encouraged by the way the guys have been playing, so I just want to be a part of it.”