LeBron James makes his Miami Heat debut at Philips Arena tonight against the Atlanta Hawks. (Oh, and Chris Bosh. Former Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets star Chris Bosh, too.) We haven't been blessed with James' presence since last year's regular season finale, when the Hawks won 99-83 as the Cleveland Cavaliers (remember that team?) sat most of its starters. In his last actual playing experience at Philips, James pounded out 48 points as the Cavs beat the Hawks, 106-101 in late December.
Heat G Dwyane Wade, who's injured and/or got court, as the kids say, won't make it tonight. In Wade's most recent showing, the Heat needed only 18 points from their star guard to put away the Hawks by ... 18. I attended both of those games, and have the grumpy face to prove it.
The Hawks played both James and Wade in their '08-'09 playoff run, needing way too many games to put away Wade's Heat and way too few to show they didn't belong on the same floor as James' Cavs. I don't know when Chris Bosh last came to town, and I really don't care enough to look it up. OK, fine.
The last time Bosh showed his face around here, the Hawks won by 31 points as Bosh played for 15 minutes and scored two points. Yes, I'm happy again after looking that up.
Through five preseason games, the Hawks are 1-4 and banged up. Jeff Teague leads in LIKE every statistical category except rebounds (Marvin Williams) and blocks (Josh Smith).
For Joe Johnson, this game is a look at what might have been. Johnson had been rumored to be a potential James tagalong in the great EA Sports NBA Real Life build-a-roster battle royal, but was offered
the keys to the city by the Hawks to stay. Now he hopes to lead a mostly young squad with a first-year coach back into the playoffs as James, Wade, and that guy giggle, dunk, and preen their way to the NBA Finals.