The Heat played host to an emotional opening night in downtown Miami on Tuesday as the team celebrated its second NBA title by raising its championship banner and taking possession of new jewelry before holding off the Celtics.
Those feelings may pale in comparison to what the Heat takes part in Friday.
Miami’s second game of the season will most certainly be more than just basketball as the Heat visits Madison Square Garden in the first major event to be held in New York City since it was crippled by Hurricane Sandy.
The Knicks were supposed to open their season Thursday night against the rebranded Brooklyn Nets at the new Barclays Center. That game was postponed by the league.
“We have no clue what they’ve been dealing with,’’ Dwyane Wade said. “It’s a moment to get them away from that, and it will be a very emotional game. They are going to try and give their city something to be happy for. It’s something we have to battle against. ... They didn’t get a chance to play [Thursday], so we didn’t get them off a back-to-back.
“We’re getting the fresh Knicks, a team starving to play. We have to take that first initial hit then settle into the game.’’
The Heat left for New York after practicing at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday afternoon. The Heat doesn’t seem to know what to expect.
Friday’s game will be the first major event held in the region since Sunday’s Dolphins-Jets game in New Jersey. Mass transit was shut down soon after that game ended as the weather deteriorated.
“We think this is a good sign that New York City is on its way back,’’ coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s been a tragic storm up there that affected so many thousands and millions of people. We’ll try to bring back some normalcy. We’re a go, a green light to play [Friday] night and we’re looking forward to that challenge.
“Hopefully we’re there to provide an escape and some hope and optimism that the city is on its way back, will make its way back. We can lift some spirit in the city. We’ve been through storms like that. [The game] is a small thing. We’re just doing our job. But we want to help out in any way we can.’’
The Heat didn’t expect to face many travel challenges getting to New York as the three major airports in the area have reopened since the storm. Getting into the city could be the biggest challenge, however, as there have been long lines getting through the tunnels and across the bridges.
A number of subway lines have started to reopen after many of the tunnels were flooded from the storm. Power is still out in parts of Manhattan.
“The challenge will be getting the fans to the game,’’ Spoelstra said. “But we’ll get there fine, the Knicks will be there fine.’’
The Heat is used to playing in big games in emotionally charged arenas and remembers what the atmosphere was in New York last spring when Miami faced the Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs.
These two teams have a history with each other — which should add to the ambiance in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
“Sports can be a mental vacation from the ills and tragedies of life,’’ Shane Battier said. “Hurricane Sandy is one of these times where we can lend a few hours of relief. People can hopefully tune in if they have power or go to the game and see some great NBA basketball.
“I’m interested to see how the crowd will be. With the Knicks, there’s always a great atmosphere at the Garden, which to me is the most historic arena in the league. Throw in opening night and Hurricane Sandy and it will be a different, emotional night.’’
Said Chris Bosh: “We saw what happened in the first game at the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. You know, there was emotion and they were very loud. Basketball is back, and they think they have a chance this year. Knicks fans are very excited. We’ll have to be ready for that, and we did win a series there last year. It’ll be a great game, I think."
When asked if he was worried about the Knicks “turning up the heat’’ in the Garden to get him to cramp up, James smiled. “I usually do that,’’ he said.