Life as a curiosity factor became more apparent to the Heat on Tuesday as the NBA released the full regular-season schedule. A travel-heavy early run puts them on full display and adds to the challenge of a team expected to produce crushing results despite no proof of cohesion.
Miami’s home-road breakdown is split evenly between the first half and second half of the season, but six of the appearances at AmericanAirlines Arena are in a November homestand. Beyond that, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh & Co. will not get more than two games in a row there until late February, while getting a stretch of four road games in six outings, another of five in six contests and another of four in five, all before Christmas.
Even that Dec. 25 benchmark is unique: the Heat are getting a two-game West Coast trip in an unusual, and no doubt unwanted, itinerary. Monday at home, Thursday night in Phoenix, Saturday/Christmas Day in Los Angeles against the Lakers, Tuesday back in South Florida. That’s a lot of flight time for not a lot of game time.
Mostly, it’s the cost of being the 2010-11 Heat — have klieg lights, will travel. A Christmas showdown with the Lakers was an automatic from the moment of James’ signing, leaving only location to be decided. The two-time defending champions will be in Miami on March 10.
It’s the glamour of three stars on the same team in a chic, international city, the unknown of how the collision of egos will play out, and also the potential ugliness. TNT is covering the Heat at Cavaliers on Dec. 2, expecting to capture James returning to a warm embrace. The Cavaliers at AmericanAirlines Arena on Dec. 15 and Jan. 31 will be much more basketball-centric, but the first trip of his life to Cleveland as a visitor will be cauldron of hostility.