As an avid Miami Heat fan living in Durham, N.C. seeing my favorite basketball team has always been difficult. I've been to a handful of Heat/Charlotte Bobcats games over the last few years, but hadn't been to a Heat game since the Big Three era began. When the 2012 preseason schedule was announced, I immediately noticed that Miami was scheduled to play the Bobcats Oct. 23 in Raleigh, about 20 miles from where I live. I had never seen LeBron James or Chris Bosh before, so I was fortunate enough to acquire tickets.
Getting to the PNC Arena in Raleigh was quite the conundrum, though. I left an hour before the game, but the traffic was so horrendous that I didn't get to my seat until the opening minutes of the third quarter. I left midway through the fourth quarter because I didn't want to spend another two hours stuck in traffic just to see Dexter Pittman and Rashard Lewis -- I guess that's something I have in common with other Heat fans. In all seriousness, though, I'm not complaining. I had a lot of fun seeing James, the best basketball player in the world.
James didn't score a single point after I arrived at my seat. But he dominated the game despite making only two field goals because he catalyzed Miami's offense. He actually found three different 3-point shooters in a span of 90 seconds to close the third quarter. He first found Rashard Lewis open in the right corner, then Ray Allen and finally Garrett Temple on the left corner. After Temple's 3, when most of the Raleigh crowd cheered after Miami's barrage of 3-pointers, James ran down the court "punching the air" and clapping. Although he's an amazing athlete, James has the court vision and basketball IQ to make himself more than just a scorer. James likes to play this way, just like how he played in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals and in the 2012 London Olympics. He can play as a cold-blooded assassin -- like his performance in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics last season -- but he prefers to play as a distributor. Riley has given James a roster with which he can play at his best.
Bosh made two and-ones in the third quarter, both times aggressively driving to the basket for layups. He also showed an ability to play as a defensive center, like how he played against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Finals. He swatted a shot from Ramon Sessions and was a split-second late on a Bismack Biyombo hook shot. Bosh even stepped out on a pick-and-roll to guard Gerald Henderson, forcing a backcourt violation. Charlotte's centers aren't exactly good, but Bosh won't play against Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum the vast majority of nights.
What else did I see? Ray Allen showed that he's more than a standstill shooter, though I'm still doubtful that he'll have the ball in his hands a lot once James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh play their normal loads of minutes. Dexter Pittman is still a foul machine. Terrel Harris played well, making a nice cut for a jumper and getting to the line a few times. He can be a nice young option on the wing, considering Allen, Mike Miller, James Jones and Wade are all north of 30. Garrett Temple also played well, and the final roster spot could come down to Harris and Temple.
The NBA should schedule more preseason games in non-NBA cities. Most of the people in the nearly-filled arena wore Heat apparel to the game, and I'm sure they also appreciated the opportunity to see their favorite team close to home. Many NBA fans don't have the means or time to travel long distances to see a game. Continuing to have preseason games in smaller cities would build excitement for local fans and make them appreciate the opportunity. I certainly did.