The wide gulf between LeBron James’ emotionless postgame reflection of Wednesday night’s loss to the 76ers and what actually happened on the court in that wacky game offered a perspective that Heat fans should probably adopt as their own.
No one is going to remember these early season games five months from now, no matter how important and historically significant they seem at the time.
“It was a game of runs,” James said when asked about the Heat’s 114-110 loss to the 76ers.
“A game of runs,” of course, could describe the large majority of games played in the history of the NBA. That James went to one of the most tired clichés in sports to describe an outcome so statistically bizarre as what happened in Philadelphia is telling for a few reasons.
First, James was trying to downplay a shocking loss. Many predicted before the season that the 76ers would not eclipse 10 wins. Instead, the Heat scored 80 points between the second and third quarters and, during those 24 minutes, shot 31 of 44 from the field and 13 of 19 from three-point range and still lost.
Most importantly, however, James and the Heat already appear to be settling into the long grind that is the 82-game NBA regular season. Dwyane Wade didn’t play Wednesday, after all, and the Heat instead chose to start a player who was on the inactive list the previous night.
“We just didn’t give the effort and the concentration to win the game and Philly did,” Shane Battier said.
There might be a lot of those types of nights this season. For example, Friday, when the Heat plays the potential foil for another opponent’s emotionally charged season opener. Not only are the Nets debuting their cast of stars to Brooklyn, but the team lost to Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
For the Heat, meanwhile, it will be the team’s third game in four days after a long preseason. After jawing back and forth with Brooklyn’s players for what felt like the entire month of October, James wasn’t too keen on talking about the Nets on Wednesday night. Instead, he was more focused on the team’s off day in New York on Halloween.
When asked if the Heat was already familiar with the Nets, James said, “Nah, not really. We’re going to get to work on Friday. [Thursday] we’re going to have a day off, and Friday we’re going to get to work and prepare for them.”
The Heat played this new version of the Nets twice during the preseason and lost badly both times.
James was 1 of 6 from the field in the fourth quarter and looked gassed in the final minutes of Wednesday’s game. He acknowledged afterward that his legs aren’t fully recovered from training camp, but added, “I’m getting there. In the next couple weeks I’ll be where I want to be.”
The Heat blew through the Nets last season, but since then Brooklyn has refashioned its roster with former Celtics Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry and free agent Andrei Kirilenko. New coach Jason Kidd, only a few months removed from playing for the Knicks, was brought in to arrange the pieces, but he won’t be on the bench Friday because of a suspension by the NBA for driving drunk.
“They’ve got a smart coach, really smart, and they got some really smart championship players and if they come together as a team, definitely they could be together with all of us,” James said. “We all have to play the game and work the habits.”
And, most importantly, get through these early season games injury-free.