Chris Bosh had the microphone Wednesday night, and then he had the season’s first points. Both seemed fitting. Earned.
The power forward stood at center court minutes before the Miami Heat opened its 28th franchise season in the NBA and addressed the home fans who filled every seat of the downtown arena by the bay.
“It’s been awhile, huh?” he said, to cheers.
Moments later he was slicing in for the layup that opened the scoring.
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That had been awhile, too.
There was much to like about Miami’s 104-94 victory over the visiting Charlotte Hornets, and we’ll get to it. But the evening’s emotional tug was the sight of the crane-like player with the pterodactyl wingspan, No. 1.
Bosh was back at work, doing what he loves, and loving what he feared he’d lost.
Blood clots in his lungs, so serious if not properly treated, sidelined Bosh the entire second half of last season, and Wednesday he thanked fans for their prayers and best wishes — and then went out with maybe just a little bit of rust evident in his first meaningful basketball game since last January.
“It was more emotional when I couldn’t play,” he said. “I’m living my dream again.”
Bosh had a team-leading 21 points and 10 rebounds, and aggressively reached the free-throw line 10 times in 32 minutes of action. His quickness had would-be defender Spencer Hawes spinning like a dreidel. And his joy to be back at it was evident, from the backward shot from near midcourt during pregame warmups to the grins and open-mouthed shouts into the din.
For Bosh, it was a “welcome back” night.
A LOT TO LIKE
For Justise Winslow, it was a proper (and impressive) introduction. The team’s first-round draft pick flexed his potential with five points off the bench, including a rim-rattling, crowd-thrilling dunk, along with seven rebounds and — maybe most importantly — excellent defense.
You want more to like? Newly acquired Gerald Green had a big 19 points off the bench, including 5-for-8 on three-point shots.
By the way, you know how Miami is supposed to be such a bad-shooting team from beyond the perimeter, right? How the lack of three-point shooters is seen as such a liability? The Heat made 12 of 20 three-balls Wednesday. That’ll work.
Oh, and old reliable Dwyane Wade began his 13th Heat season with 20 points.
You also had to love Miami displaying its new and improved depth, with 10 men playing at least 10 minutes. And that was without Amar’e Stoudemire, who sat out but is expected to play Friday at the Cavaliers.
BIGGER TEST FRIDAY
This was just Charlotte, yes. That’s fair. Miami has now won 19 of the past 21 meetings with this opponent. For the Heat, having the Hornets for a season opener is like a major college football power scheduling the University of Abysmal for homecoming.
A hugely bigger test is immediately on deck: At Cleveland on Friday night. Or should we say “at LeBron James.”
We are into the great unknown with this Heat team and season. We don’t know exactly what we have here. The sold-out arena held 20,000 curiosity seekers.
One school of thought is that Miami — a 37-45 non-playoff team last season as the post-LeBron Era began wracked with injuries — will be marginally improved and make the playoffs but as a low seed likely to not advance far.
Another school of thought is that Miami will be significantly better, a top-four seed and a challenger to fulfill the franchise’s clear desire to meet LeBron and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals.
Friday will give us a better idea which school is in session, but the opener was encouraging on its own.
It was that for the three-point shooting, for the depth and for the big Heat debuts of Winslow and Green.
It was, mostly, for the sight of a healthy Chris Bosh, back where he belongs.
Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote