Are the Heat starting to figure it out?

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3), forward LeBron James (6), and forward Chris Bosh take a break during a time out in the second half of the opening night game against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on October 26, 2010.  UPI/Matthew Healey Photo via Newscom

At the beginning of the season, when the Heat went 5-4 and then 9-8, it was funny to listen to everyone saying “I told you so” with regard to how the Dwyane Wade/LeBron James dynamic just wasn’t going to work in Miami. Truth be told, I thought that it would take some time to work out the kinks, but I didn’t think that the Heat would be just one game over .500 that far into the season.

But after a pair of home wins against the Wizards and Pistons, the Heat went on the road in a tough environment in Cleveland and pulled out an emotional win. Since then, they beat a decent Atlanta team at home, and went on the road to beat the playoff-caliber Bucks and last night the Jazz, who are currently the #4 team in the West.

Some of the growing pains stemmed from the fact that Wade missed much of the preseason due to injury. And let’s not forget that the Heat lost its fourth- and fifth-best players (Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem) to injury. Those injuries are serious blows to the team’s championship hopes, but both players expect/hope to be back before the postseason.

The Heat are sitting at 15-8 in the #3 spot in the East, just three games back of the conference-leading Celtics. They are #3 in the league in defensive efficiency and #5 in offensive efficiency.

Miami faces Golden State and Sacramento on the road (both winnable), before coming home to play New Orleans and Cleveland. They then face the Knicks and Wizards on the road, so they could potentially push this winning streak to 12 before facing the surging Mavs in Miami on December 20.

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The Return of LeBron: Reaction

Brian Windhorst, ESPN: Before the game several Cavs, including former friend Mo Williams, shunned James as he tried to come over to the bench to greet them. During the first half, James wandered over to talk to the bench only to have several players completely ignore him. Others, including friend Daniel Gibson, treated it like it was 2009 as they chatted James up. By the third quarter, when James was on fire and the game was getting out of hand, the only reaction came from Anderson Varejao, who swiped James’ headband off his head and tossed it aside when James was brazen enough to again step over to his favorite spot. “I really didn’t see that,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said, perhaps trying to be pragmatic on a night when his team had many other problems to examine. It is hard to believe that Scott, a veteran of the Celtics-Lakers wars, could endorse such behavior.

Terry Pluto, Cavaliers fans certainly dealt with the return of LeBron James to Cleveland with far more class than the defending Most Valuable Player handled his move to Miami. That’s a credit to this these fans and this city. It’s probably a downer to some in the national media who arrived in town for Thursday night’s game much like that ghoulish segment of fans who attend auto races hoping for a major crash. After all, we are supposed to be the land of the Great Unwashed, where people still live in caves, killing dinosaurs for dinner and then eating them with our bare hands. Beer Night, Bottlegate and general ugliness is supposed to rule in this cultural wasteland.

Israel Gutierrez, The Miami Herald: Cleveland fans got their say, taking their first chance to personally tell LeBron how betrayed they felt. And, for a while, they actually were convinced the whole “One for All. All for One” team motto actually meant something, that this Cavaliers team can survive just fine with Joey Graham trying to replace LeBron in the lineup. It didn’t take long, though, for the fans to recognize what had gotten away, that no matter how much they hate their former King, it doesn’t compare to how much they miss him. By halftime, James wasn’t quietly going about his business. He was smiling for fans with cameras as his teammates warmed up. He danced in the area just in front of the Cavs bench. And once that second half began, he was just as much toying with his former team and showing off for his former fans as he was performing for the Heat. Of his season-best 38 points, 24 came in that third quarter, tying a Heat record for points in a quarter. And LeBron loved every second of it. James left Cleveland showing no loyalty. He came back showing no regrets. Why should he? Look what he left behind.

Mike Wallace, ESPN: James’ night was through after the third quarter, so the only suspense remaining was to see how much he would hear and see from fans from his seat on the bench as the final 12 minutes of the game played out. To James’ credit, he largely ignored the chaos that started when someone threw a battery from the stands that landed right in front of the Heat’s bench. That drew a warning from the public address announcer. The battery was thrown right around the time when a man apparently tried to rush the court from one of the tunnels leading to it but was picked off by a security officer, which led to a scuffle. As the Heat’s lead grew, so did the craziness in the stands. One fan wearing a Heat jersey was showered with cups of beer in the upper deck. He didn’t duck. Instead, he basked in the beer until he was escorted out. Then came towel man. Maverick Carter, James’ business manager, left his courtside seat moments later and had to be escorted through the crowd by three bodyguards. James, meanwhile, was oblivious to his surroundings. Or at least he did a remarkable acting job. The “Delonte West” chants didn’t affect him. The “Akron Hates You” barbs didn’t make him crack. He simply sat, pointed a few times at familiar faces in the crowd and shared some inside jokes with Wade on the bench.

Dan Gilbert is “over” LeBron James…no, really, he is…

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, the man who probably wrote the most famous piece of literature in the history of the Comic Sans font, now says that he’s “over it” when it comes to LeBron James.

Per NBCSports:

“I’m over it. I really am. That’s the truth,” he said. “I let it all out in about 24 hours. I just think we have such a great core and a great coaching staff. We have a lot of opportunities with the trade exception and the draft. I feel good about this team.”

Everything LeBron/Cavs-related is under a microscope this week because the Heat visit Cleveland on Thursday evening. I’ll be tuning in just to see how the Cavs crowd reacts to their fallen hero. And with the way Miami is playing, maybe Cleveland can pull out a win.

Melo says he’s like LeBron, not like Bosh

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony warms up at the Pepsi Center in Denver on November 16, 2010.    UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

The Melo Watch continues. The Nuggets are a somewhat disappointing 6-5 to start the season and are no doubt affected by the off-the-court drama involving Carmelo Anthony and his reported desire to play for a contender. In several chats with Peter Vecsey, Anthony compares himself to two of the three major players in last summer’s free agency frenzy.

“I’m not Chris Bosh,” Anthony declared. “We’re not the same person. What I do will be straight up. Management knows that.”

“I’m just like LeBron,” Anthony emphasized in the Nuggets’ locker room following Saturday’s practice. “It’s all about winning. That’s all I care about. I want the chance to compete at the championship level. All the other stuff is irrelevant.”

Bosh has become something of a punchline recently, but Melo’s decision to compare himself to the most reviled star in the NBA is a little puzzling. What Bosh did to the Raptors isn’t any worse than what LeBron did to the Cavs. In fact, you could argue that he handled his departure from Toronto in a better way because there weren’t any allusions that he’d be staying. On the other hand, until the moment LeBron uttered the words, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach…” Cavs fans believed that he was going to stay.

Maybe Melo was referring to the fact that Bosh has hinted that he wanted to play with LeBron and Dwyane Wade so that he’d get more television exposure or that he can now easily get the NBA League Pass, and by saying “It’s all about winning,” that’s probably the case. But it’s not a good idea to compare yourself to LeBron, not with the way he’s currently reviled in the city of Cleveland.

I’ve said it over and over — unless the Nuggets are sitting at .500 or below, it’s going to be tough to trade Anthony before the February deadline. It’s hard for management to sell the idea of trading away a team’s star when the team is safely in the playoff hunt. Fans are called fans for a reason — they’re fanatics, and are oftentimes delusional. (Seriously, just check some of the comments from Raptor fans when I insisted that the team should get what they could for Bosh early last season.)

Unless the Nuggets can somehow bring another star to Denver, they aren’t going anywhere this season, not with one-foot-out-the-door Carmelo leading the way. The best thing would be for the team to struggle early on, allowing both management and fans to realize that the team as it’s currently structured is a lost cause. Maybe then they can move on from Melo and get a few building blocks for the future.

LeBron finally takes some blame for “The Decision”…sort of

July 08, 2010 - Greenwich, CONNECTICUT, United States - epa02241974 Handout photo from ESPN showing LaBron James (L), NBA's reigning two-time MVP, as he ends months of speculation and announces 08 July 2010 on ESPN 'The Decision' in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, that he will go to the Miami Heat where he will play basketball next 2010-11 season. James said his decision was based on the fact that he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

LeBron James and his camp have long held the ‘no regrets’ stance with regard to “The Decision,” which raised $3 million for charity but was a disaster for LeBron’s image around the country. But finally, LeBron has admitted that there was room for improvement, per ESPN…

“If I had to go back on it, I probably would do it a little bit different,” James said. “But I’m happy with the decision I made. There’s always going to be a misunderstanding. I don’t know what I would [have done], but I definitely would have changed it.”

Well, it’s not the mea culpa that so many of us are looking for, but it’s something. It would go a long way to repair his relationship if he’d just release a statement along these lines:

I want to apologize to all my fans in Cleveland for the way that I announced my decision this summer. I got caught up in the moment and thought it was a good idea to capitalize on all the attention surrounding my decision by producing a special and raising a lot of money for charity. But I now realize that it was a mistake to make such a public spectacle out of my situation and that it made my decision that much more painful for my fans in Cleveland.

Wouldn’t that repair most of the damage that he’s done to his image?

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