Boston Hours before Tuesday night’s historic Miami Heat season-opener, Dwyane Wade’s new commercial for Nike’s Jordan brand began airing nationally, with Wade portraying a superhero performing impossible, daredevil stunts on a motorcycle.
The spot ends with him, saying, “Now THIS, my friends, gonna be fun!”
Fun? Count on it.
The most splendidly audacious experiment in the history of the NBA? That, too.
The Big 3 of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh figures for a Dream Team thrill ride of a season that will last into summer.
But now here, my friends, is what this WON’T be: Easy.
“I’m sorry if anyone thought we’d go 82-0,” Wade said.
The gleaming Maserati, so gorgeous in the showroom, so perfect to look at, hit the road for the first time Tuesday night, and the engine hiccupped a little, and the brakes squealed some.
The ride is going to be fine. Needs some tinkering and tuning, that’s all.
If anything, Miami’s 88-80 loss to the Boston Celtics verified the Heat’s awesome potential more than cast the least bit of doubt on it.
See, Miami is good enough to come this close being that bad.
The Heat shot a rusty 36.5 percent, and apart from LeBron’s game-high 31 points, nobody sparkled. Wade, evidently not yet 100 percent past his hamstring ailment or in harmony with his timing, clunked to 13 points on 4-for-16 shooting. Bosh added a tepid eight points.
“Out of rhythm,” Wade said of himself. “It’s like my first preseason game.”
And yet Wade’s three-pointer had Miami within 83-80 with 1:10 to play and had the leprechaun crowd looking for four-leaf clovers.
“There’s going to be a process with us,” said coach Erik Spoelstra. “It will take a little bit of a process and time.”
The Heat, playing badly apart from James, came that close to still beating the defending Eastern Conference-champion Celtics on their own parquet floor.
“They’re going to be great, I’ll say that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Miami.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” noted James.
Wade also says in that new commercial, “Time to bring the rings back to Miami,” the plural duly noted.
Tuesday doesn’t mean that won’t happen. Hardly. Tuesday just reminded that the rest of the NBA won’t be curtsying and lining the Heat’s championship path with flower petals and best wishes.
The record will note Miami scored first, led 2-0 when James — booed every time he touched the ball, but perfunctorily more than with venom — sank a fall-away jumper, wrist posed luxuriantly in the air as the net rattled.
From there, a lot was not so good as the Heat mostly performed like what it is: a team that opened the season because the calendar said so, not because it was entirely ready. A team not yet in sync.
A sense of mystery and anxiety followed Miami into its 22nd and by-far most anticipated franchise opener, after a rather chaotic preseason that started with a Wade hamstring injury and ended with an exhibition game being canceled because of condensation on the court in St. Petersburg.
The Heat would produce a soberly mortal preseason record of 3-4, and “the three kings” would be on the court together a negligible three minutes. Total.
Tuesday night, in effect, was more of the laboratory that the preseason was supposed to be but wasn’t, really, because Wade and James both nursed injuries.
Miami trailed 16-9 after the first quarter.
A team with Wade, James and Bosh scoring nine points in a quarter makes about as much sense as Bill Gates applying for a bank loan.
“We just missed shots,” Bosh said.
By late in the half it was 38-20, Boston, and the only cheering louder than in the Beantown arena had to have been emanating from in and around Cleveland, the city LeBron so infamously jilted by saying, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”
The irony of Miami being not quite ready for its opener is that no opener has been more savored or talked-about longer.
It was the big story nationally, with the debut of the Dream Team dwarfing the Boston debut of Shaquille O’Neal, reincarnate as The Big Shamroq.
In South Florida? Well, I’d not argue if you called it the most anticipated game by a local team in any sport since the Dolphins’ last Super Bowl after the 1984 season.
Almost literally overnight the Heat became the Yankees, Cowboys, Notre Dame or any other team you love to hate — reflected in the booing by Celtics fans. Heck, they should be renamed the Miami Hate for the emotion they mostly inspire outside of South Florida.
“That’s respect,” suggested Wade.
“We know a lot of people are putting us under a microscope,” said Bosh.
Partly because of that the effort they’ll get from opponents will be unrelenting.
You sensed even the Heat knew they weren’t quite ready for the real season yet.
“It’s not going to be a bed of roses,” Wade had said.
And yet, despite the kinks, despite Wade not yet able to be Wade just now, Miami put a nervous edge in the home crowd’s voice into the final minute.
Spoelstra calls his team “a group that’s not afraid of the lights,” calls them “big-moment players.”
They didn’t always look like that in Tuesday’s opener, especially early.
Bet big they’ll look like it soon, and often.