With LeBron James ready to stand alongside him, Dwyane Wade wants the offseason to end.
There's a championship for the Heat to chase again, now that James and Chris Bosh have decided to play with Wade for years to come. And Wade already is counting down the days. "It's still surreal, man," Wade said. "Me, Chris and 'Bron. We ready. We want to go to the gym now."
Wade, James and Bosh were together in their new home building for the first time Friday, as the Heat braced for 13,000 fans to arrive for a hastily called welcome party. Fans were given posters with James, Wade and Bosh together in Heat uniforms, and the throng crowded around a runway surrounded by video screens and smoke effects.
"When I look around and see No. 6 and No. 1 on the court with me, that's when it's going to seem real," he said.
James will wear No. 6 instead of his usual 23. Bosh will don No. 1 instead of No. 4, Wade said, because he "wanted a new beginning."
* * *
Magic shots, part I
A few shots at LeBron James are heating up the Sunshine State rivalry. Magic GMOtis Smith said he was surprised James went to Miami because he thought the two-time MVP was "more of a competitor." He said the "great ones" do it on their own and "usually stay in one location." It was rare public criticism from the usually coy Smith and perhaps a move to motivate his Magic. Asked if James' move to Miami will cause a power shift in the NBA, Smith responded, "Is Kobe (Bryant) retiring?"
* * *
Magic shots, part II
Around the NBA, everyone was talking about the impact of James' decision.
"It seems everybody has a bad taste in their mouth, unless you're in Miami," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said at the NBA's Orlando summer league. "Just the way the whole thing was handled, on TV and everything, it really leaves a bad taste in everybody's mouth." But 76ers coach Doug Collins actually likes the view in the Eastern Conference. "For us, the decision of Bosh and LeBron helps us because it weakened Toronto, it weakened Cleveland, and LeBron didn't go to like a New York or New Jersey that's in our division," Collins said. "For us, it took a few teams out."
* * *
Favorite in state, in East
Even as he criticized the method of James' announcement, Van Gundy said Miami would be tough to beat for the 2010-11 Eastern Conference championship. "I think that certainly on paper they have to be the favorite," Van Gundy told the Orlando Sentinel. "You've got three guys right in their prime. You have to make them the favorites in the East on paper. Then, Los Angeles, as the two-time defending champions, you can't write them off."
* * *
Cavs owner goes ga-ga
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert continued his tirade directed at James, saying the star "quit" in the playoffs. Gilbert, who owns Fathead, the maker of life-sized cutout photos that stick to walls, cut the price of James memorabilia to $17.41 - as in 1741, the year Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold was born. Arnold was a colonial army officer who offered to surrender West Point to the British for money in 1779 and wound up moving to England.
Gilbert said he feels James quit on the Cavs during their second-round series against the Celtics, who rallied from a 2-1 deficit to eliminate Cleveland.
"He quit," Gilbert said. "Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar."
* * *
Cleveland smolders as hometown boy departs
Charred remains of a torched James jersey were scattered among ashes and 10 spent wooden matchsticks on a sidewalk across the street from Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena. On Ontario Street, workers prepared to remove a massive 100-foot-high billboard of James, his arms outstretched, that has been a downtown tourist attraction for years. Now, it's only a painful reminder of another Cleveland sports loss. "It's a disgrace," Rev.Jesse Harris said nearby. "It's time to bring it down." By 10 a.m. Friday, every No.23 jersey bearing James' name inside the Cavaliers' temporary gift shop at the arena had been boxed up and taken away. Every banner with the MVP's face on it stripped from the walls. Every figurine, T-shirt, coffee mug and pennant associated with James was gone. Upstairs in the team's offices, employees tossed mementos of James in garbage cans. "I understand why he left, but he should have done it on a better note," said Bobby Beese of Norwalk, Ohio. "It wasn't right."
* * *
Lack of state income tax attractive
When he announced his intent to sign with Miami, James stressed winning, not cutting his taxes. Still, Florida boosters used James' decision to tout the state's lack of an income tax. "Make no mistake, LeBron James is as large as any corporation moving to our area," Kelly Smallridge, president of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, told the Palm Beach Post. Smallridge noted James will save millions on the five-year contract he's expected to sign. James entertained pitches from teams in six states. Five impose income taxes. The highest rates on individuals in 2010 range from 3 percent in Illinois to 10.55 percent in California, according to the Tax Foundation.
* * *
Much love from the guv
Gov. Charlie Crist says he'd like to get in touch with James to welcome him and adds, "he's going to get a whole lot of love from Florida." Crist of St. Petersburg says he'll attend more Heat games.
* * *
TV ratings high
Early TV ratings for ESPN indicate there was twice as much interest in James' decision in the city he is leaving than in the city he's going to. The Nielsen Co.'s overnight measurement in the nation's 56 biggest cities show more than seven of every 100 homes with television sets was tuned to ESPN for The Decision. In Cleveland, the show drew a staggering 26 rating (percentage of all TVs). In Miami, the show had a 12.8 rating.
* * *
"It's bad, it's not good. We'll deal with it. It's Cleveland, it's typical Cleveland." - Cleveland bar owner Frank Borally
"They (the Cavaliers) had the best record in the league the last two seasons and didn't make it out of the Eastern Conference. I can understand LeBron's frustration." - Former player Reggie Miller
"In fairness, if I was 25, I'd try to win it by myself. Not technically by myself, but I would want to be the guy. ... LeBron is never going to be the guy." - Former player Charles Barkley