A winning debut for LeBron as Heat cruise past PistonsMIAMI - LeBron James and the new-look Miami Heat made their highly anticipated preseason debut on Tuesday amid plenty of fanfare for a game that has no bearing on the NBA’s regular season.
When James went through his pregame ritual of throwing a handful of powder overhead to create a dusty white cloud, the roar from the anxious home crowd confirmed that business was about to begin.
From the outset, it was clear that James was eager to make an impact with his new team, even if it came during a meaningless preseason exhibition game. He scored 12 points in the first quarter, with the final two coming from a powerful dunk after a fierce spin in which he celebrated with a huge wave of his arms as Miami cruised to a 105-89 win over the Detroit Pistons.
The off-season was dominated by James’s free agency. his deliberations, his decision and the fallout from the manner he handled his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James never looked comfortable off the court, from his much criticized and televised announcement that he was “taking my talents to South Beach,” to recent comments that race may have been a factor in the backlash against him.
Because of that, the forward has won few friends with his off-season words and actions.
But he still received a warm welcome in Miami, where fans are hoping James can lead the team to its first NBA title since 2006.
“You can tell it’s an exciting time for this city,” James told reporters before the game, and certainly the buzz outside the venue was anything but typical for a preseason game anywhere, let alone South Florida.
Predictably, parking prices were up - double in some cases - and it was clear from the crowds waiting for the venue to open that Heat merchandise has been selling well. It was somewhat surprising that the arena was mostly empty when, before game time, the star trio of James and fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh ran on to the court.
But Miami residents do not count punctuality among their main qualities, and the venue soon filled with a crowd that surpassed the number on hand for many regular season games in recent years.
While Heat fans showed their appreciation for James, it was clear that they were made up mostly of longer-term supporters since the biggest cheers were for established Heat player and local boy Udonis Haslem.
The game was a welcome appetizer, but the real season starts Oct. 26 against the Celtics in Boston in what is one of the most highly anticipated NBA season openers in years.