You wouldn’t know it if you were watching these recent Heat playoff games on TV. TV doesn’t bother much with pregame warmups. You might not even have noticed if you were in the arena. Who pays attention to what goes on before a game?
LeBron James is in seclusion.
Maybe the most famous, talked-about, spot-lit athlete in America will take his me-time whenever he can get it.
James doesn’t come out lately as the arena and the noise are ramping up. He isn’t on the court taking practice shots. Is nowhere to be seen as the national anthem plays. Isn’t even present for pregame introductions.
He is alone in his zone, quietly slipping out just before the opening tipoff.
To a lesser extent, fellow superstar Dwyane Wade has been doing the same thing, eschewing his regular pregame warmup routine (though not the anthem or introductions).
Hey, whatever works, guys.
Based on their performance lately, the new method of operation is working.
Miami’s two superstars appear to be saving their best shots for the games rather than wasting them in warmups.
Keep it up, please, a Heat fan might suggest.
James scored 32 points with 13 rebounds Monday night to lift Miami past the stubborn Boston Celtics 93-79 in Game 1 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals.
Wade added 22 with seven assists, their combined 54 points making you wonder what was wrong — so good have they been lately as a tandem.
James and Wade had combined for a surreal 197 points in the three previous games that buried the Indiana Pacers and advanced Miami to this stage.
“They don’t have to score 70 [between them] for us to have a chance to win, but they have to shoulder a big load,” said coach Erik Spoelstra, alluding to the continued absence of third scoring option Chris Bosh. Because of an injury.
“That is the new norm for us. They are up to the challenge.”
They certainly were in closing out the last series, and they were again in starting this one right.
James, especially, asserted himself, reminding any doubters why he was this season’s league MVP.
(People who still doubt LeBron surely are as rare now as members of the Flat Earth Society, and increasingly seen with the same incredulity.)
“He’s a maestro,” Spoelstra said of James.
The Heat coach also happens to have referred to Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, before the game, as a “maestro,” evidently Spoelstra’s word du jour. Nevertheless! James was the maestro holding the baton Monday, and directing the music that sounded a lot like 20,000 fans making happy noise.
These Eastern finals are supposed to be about past vs. present, nostalgia vs. now.
The narrative is today’s Heat — younger, fresher, more athletic – vs. yesterday’s Celtics.
It didn’t look that clear-cut when Boston rallied behind a big second quarter to tie the score at 50 early in the third. But it did thereafter as Miami asserted itself.
Boston has the best big man in this series (Kevin Garnett) and the best point guard (Rondo). What Boston does not have is James and Wade, or either, let alone both.
There is a history that suggests the Celtics’ Paul Pierce “owns” James in the postseason, at least mentally. This was the 19th playoff game between the two.
“Pierce is the closest thing to a rival, if LeBron has one,” Wade said.
May we put that in the past tense now, please, about Pierce owning James?
This is supposed to be a glamour series, Heat vs. Celtics.
It has stars. It has history. It has a tinge of bad blood to the rivalry.
“The matchup the game of basketball wants,” Wade called it.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, personally,” James said of this series.
The thing is, the Celtics must prove the glamour in this series isn’t one-sided.
Boston must prove it can compete with a Heat team that is younger, more athletic and blessed with the two best players on the court.
You don’t always see James and Wade on the floor during pregame warmups these days.
You see them when it counts, though.
Oh yes you do.