A new era is set to open in Miami, and across the NBA


It’s a new day in the NBA, even if it looks like a Frankenstein revival with villagers brandishing pitchforks and torches as the creature that Miami President Pat Riley put together in his basement — IT’S ALIVE! — emerges.

It’s a bonanza for the league, already coming off a three-year renaissance as the Celtics arose to confront the Lakers once more, with new blood rivalries (Miami vs. Celtics, Magic, Lakers, Cavaliers, Little Sisters of the Poor, et al.) and a new wave of excitement, part fear, part loathing.

The Heat is isn’t just a marquee team such as the Celtics with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in 2007.

With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat skipped “marquee” and went to “Lakers of the East” at creation, in that ESPN special, a.k.a. “The Worldwide Leader Presents LeBron’s New Team and Image.”


Lost in the ensuing sound of screeching metal, James’ decision wasn’t criticized as much as the media circus, which LeBron had nothing to do with … until the end when he and his “marketing people” (read: high school friends) chose to join in.

Now the Heat, which did nothing wrong and went through years of hell to get here — or breaking up with Shaquille O’Neal is so very hard to do — is doomed to be the center of controversy for 10 months, or years.

This will be a relief for the Lakers of the West, centers of controversy the last 10 years, now seen as the mature ones, as when Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy noted how low-key Kobe Bryant’s contract extension was.

Of course, Kobe had his weak moments, but it’s nice to see him hand the ceremonial spittoon to James after a career of being bashed for everything but global warming.

At least the Lakers got their notoriety the old-fashioned way — they earned it soap opera by soap opera.

The Heat got its the modern way, because it was a slow news day.

As opposed to imagined plots, Miami’s coup was an accident, or a head fake by the gods, which began with Riley staring into the abyss while Wade agonized about going home to Chicago and taking Bosh.


“Chicago, they have my heart,” Wade said afterward, getting emotional on ESPN’s air.

“I’m tearing up a little right now just thinking about the opportunity I had.”

This stuff isn’t unusual, as in 2007 when the Lakers, who could not have cared less about any Celtics rebirth, fumed about Minnesota General Manager Kevin McHale turning down Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to send KG home, er, to Boston.

Nevertheless, with the ESPN/Bron special as the maraschino cherry atop the media sundae, this is more like the coming of the apocalypse than the Heat.

After pulling off his Jerry West-level miracle, Riley went into seclusion, emerging last week to gird his loins for the battle, picking out jibes by, among others, Orlando GM Otis Smith and Van Gundy, the Magic coach who was once his right-hand man.

“Stan’s out there making comments about Chris Bosh being a lapdog to Dwyane Wade,” Riley said. “I don’t know what happened to some of these guys along the way.”

What happens is they go to other teams and become the other half of a blood feud.

Replied Van Gundy in an in-house interview on the Magic’s website:

“I thought it was pretty typical. … He goes into Charles Barkley, me and Otis and then says he doesn’t worry about what people say.

“Wait, you called the press conference, you went off … and you don’t care what people say?”


Nevertheless, they don’t make scourges the way they used to.

The Heat is made up almost entirely of players who took less, such as Mike Miller, the shooter they had to find, whose $5-million salary is almost $1 million below the midlevel exception.

James, now held to have joined Wade and Bosh to make up for his inadequacies, tried valiantly to get someone to join him in Cleveland, where, after seven seasons, the Cavaliers had only the players who remain, who won’t come close to the playoffs without him.

Unfortunately for James and Cleveland, he was the only one who wanted to be there. Amare Stoudemire chose the Knicks. Bosh chose Miami, taking $109 million — $15 million less than the Cavaliers offered.

James, who was also supposedly “all about the money,” left the same $15 million on the table.

Wade took $105 million, leaving $19 million on the table.

Controversy isn’t right or wrong, it just is, so the Heat has to deal with it as fans and local police circle key dates:

Oct. 26: at Boston. Nationally televised season opener.

Oct. 29: vs. Orlando. Home opener.

Nov. 24: at Orlando. Something else to give thanks for, another lovely little war on Thanksgiving Eve.


Dec. 2: at Cleveland. Will the witnesses riot? Boycott?

Dec. 25: at Lakers. Don’t you hate the holiday season? If the Heat didn’t, it will.

Happily for the Heat, tough starts don’t last forever, even if — ask Bryant — it seems as though they sometimes do.