With forwards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Brooklyn, coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles and point guard Rajon Rondo injured, the Heat’s first game of the season against the Celtics was decidedly less interesting than in years past. For LeBron James, Miami’s rivalry with Boston is on hold.
“It’s not a rivalry,” James said. “They’re a team that’s trying to figure things out while their best player is out.”
Replacing Pierce and Garnett in the lineup Saturday were Brandon Bass and Kelly Olynyk, players that might not be too familiar to casual NBA fans. Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley were the Celtics’ starting guards. As far as star power goes, Boston forward Jeff Green was the closest thing.
Dwyane Wade said some of the Heat’s rivalry with the Celtics “did go over to Brooklyn,” before emphasizing that he was more worried “about winning a ballgame” than any perceived friction between the franchises.
“They’re a different team now and going through a different process,” Wade said. “They got younger guys who they’re trying to build around and a new coach they’re trying to build around. The organization is in a different place.”
It was difficult for James and Wade to view the Celtics as a rival without all of their old adversaries. But Danny Ainge is still an executive for Boston. It was Pat Riley who told Ainge last season to “shut the [expletive] up.” (Through a spokesman, of course.)
“They’ll still be green in our eyes, and you know how that goes,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Asked about his thoughts on the lingering animosity between the Heat and Celtics, first-year Boston coach Brad Stevens didn’t exactly try and stoke the fires.
“I don’t really know anybody that was involved from that standpoint, or at least it hasn’t been mentioned to me, so I would say I would plead ignorance on that question,” said Stevens, who made a name for himself as the coach at Butler University. “Generally, in rivalry games, I have always treated rivalry games like anything else. You got to play, and you got to be ready to play, and if you get too high it can affect you.
“The Heat are in a position right now where teams are going to be really excited to play them because they’re at the top of the mountain and that presents its own unique set of challenges.”
James decided Saturday morning that he was healthy enough to play against the Celtics.
“If I get out the bed, I’m good,” James said. “So I got out of the bed twice [Saturday].”
James, who has been experiencing pain in his lower back since training camp, aggravated the area Thursday against the Clippers. He treated the injury with heating pads during the game when he was on the bench Thursday.
“It’s not 100 percent,” James said. “It’s still a little sore, but I feel like I can help our team get a win … so that’s what matters to me.”
James has a reputation for resiliency and has never had a serious injury in his career. He stretches at least twice daily with a personal trainer to prevent injuries but often plays through pain.
His back has bothered him off and on throughout his career.
“It’s not to a point where I feel I can’t be productive,” James said. “For me, if I’m able to go out and help our team win, then I’m going to be in uniform. That’s always been the case for me. If I feel like I’m going to hurt the team being out there, then I won’t play.”
Until his back heals, James said he would treat it on off days and rest as much as possible.
“Things I’ve been doing over the years,” James said.
This and that• Shane Battier started in place of Udonis Haslem. Haslem was inactive with back spasms.
• James’ wife, Savannah Brinson, is opening a small business in Brickell in December called The Juice Spot. The business model was borne from Brinson’s positive experience of supplementing her diet with freshly squeezed vegetables and fruits.
“I think it’s great that she is living a healthy lifestyle, and I think it started when she got down here,” James said. “She wanted to be more active and more fit, and that’s all a part of it.”