MIAMI -- Some of us have skeletons in our closets.
In addition to those, I've got old notebooks and tablets, too.
Buried in a suitcase in my wife's closet was pure reporter's gold -- or something close to it. Digging through one of the piles in there, I found a bundle of notebooks where I had kept daily entries from Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh's first preseason as Miami Heat teammates.
I had been wondering for months where they were, and figured I had left them somewhere in a hotel on the road during the season. The timing of this discovery was perfect. Exactly a year ago this week, the Heat lost their highly-anticipated season opener at Boston and won their home opener against Orlando.
It was a humble start for one of the most gifted and galvanizing teams in the history of professional sports. We know the story ended with Miami's six-game series loss to Dallas in the NBA Finals.
Yet, there's an urge to re-live the experience anyway. What else is there to do as we wait out what we hope are the last laps of this lockout labor dispute that has delayed the start of the season? Collateral damage from this lockout is everywhere.
Before my man card is temporarily suspended, please allow me to explain why I was even hanging out in my wife's closet in the first place. I had no choice. NBA commissioner David Stern and Players' Union chief Billy Hunter haven't done me many favors over the last 120 or so days.
I lost a bet. Or, perhaps I came up on the short end of an ultimatum. The wife and kids are tired of me hanging around the house waiting out this lockout. So about a month ago, I boldly claimed that if this lockout doesn't end by the date the Heat's season started a year ago, name the house chore. I'll do it.
So as I'm separating the high-heels from the sneakers, I get to a suitcase that was borrowed from my side of the closet. And there they are. Quotes, notes and anecdotes from the weeks and days leading up to the Heat's Oct. 26, 2010 showdown with the Celtics.
Looking back, it's amazing how prophetic some of the statements were from the Heat. Yes, you remember how it ended. But it's amazing how much may have slipped your mind from the early start.
Exact dates from these notebooks are sketchy, but these preseason details easily jar the memory. So I'll take a break from my own lockout labor and share 10 soundbites from this time a year ago that essentially projected just how hot the Heat's season would get.
Forward Udonis Haslem (on his message from a team meeting before the opener): “This is going to be the toughest season any of us probably have ever encountered. We've got to prepare for everything.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra (on reminding the team of its 2006 championship success during that same team meeting on the eve of the opener): “I brought out the Larry O'Brien trophy. Let it sit behind me. And for the first 10 or 15 minutes, no one looked at me -- which is good.”
LeBron James (on potential cohesion issues with Wade and Bosh): “I can't defer. I don't have to. I'm never in defer mentality. I'm always in attack mode.”
Wade (on fallout from season-opening loss to Boston): “Least of our worries. This is one of 82. Sorry if everyone thought we (were) going 82-0. It wasn't going to happen.”
Heat president Pat Riley (on circus atmosphere he anticipated around the Heat from his training camp press conference): “I coached Showtime (Lakers). And I've been in New York. Frenetic was normal. Just let this team be what it can … or not.”
Spoelstra (on adjusting in training camp to LeBron's impact on the team): “We want him to feel comfortable. He's a two-time MVP. We want to incorporate that greatness into what we do. It's better when you've got two guys who can do that.”
Wade (on hamstring that set him back in preseason): “I'm not a stranger to minor setbacks. I'm a professional at that.”
NBA commissioner David Stern (on his reaction to learning where LeBron was headed in free agency): “It was before the 'Decision.' I didn't know how much was going to be written. It wasn't like, 'Who?' It was more like, 'Hmm.'”
Bosh (on prepping to visit Boston in opener): “They're supposed to hate you. You're the opposing team. And it's Boston. They hate people a little more than usual cities.”
LeBron (on one of his missions as a member of the Heat): “It feels right … to be in this position. We're going to make the world know, not just the league, that the Heat is back.”
Back story: Haslem couldn't have imagined it would turn out as grueling as it did. The Heat's co-captain dedicated the season in the memory of his mother, who died from cancer last year. He was also dealt another blow when he sustained a foot injury in November that cost him most of the season.
Back story: Wade would pull a similar move on the eve of the NBA Finals, when he brought out his championship ring, which he rarely removes from his home safe, during a team dinner. The Heat were on the verge of a reunion with O'Brien after taking a 2-1 series lead, but lost three straight games.
Back story: Critics can feast off the juxtaposition of that quote and the position LeBron would find himself in some eight months later amid his fourth-quarter struggles in the Finals. Who could see this coming, especially with LeBron being most adamant among the Big 3 about not changing his game.
Back story: The Heat wouldn't go 73-9 to surpass the Bulls regular-season record, either, as some rather outlandish analysts would suggest. In fact, they wouldn't even win 60. But 58-24 was enough for third-best in the league and ended up landing the Heat homecourt advantage in the Finals. But it was a money quote at a money moment from Wade at the height of his sarcasm.
Back story: That became Riley's private plea throughout the season. His embrace-the-process-and-disregard-the-madness mantra served the Heat well in controversies that ranged from Spoelstra's job security to injuries that claimed Haslem and Mike Miller to the LeBron-led shortcomings in the Finals.
Back story: The MVP-level talent from LeBron and Wade would lead the Heat to a lot of victories. But there were also plenty of times when their games overlapped and led to questions about roles. It's one blessing/curse that remains an unresolved dilemma entering the upcoming season. Ultimately, Wade and LeBron must more sharply define their roles in key moments of games.
Back story: Unfortunately for the Heat, they were never a team that played at full strength during their first go-around last season. Wade's injury robbed him of the entire preseason and forced him to limp into the regular season. Miller was also lost to thumb surgery during that time, and weeks later, Haslem went down with foot surgery. From an injury standpoint, Miami certainly was no stranger to setbacks.
Back story: Stern actually said this last July at the Las Vegas summer league, but it's as obvious now as it was then that there would be league-wide discomfort and a level of disdain throughout the season. The “Hmm,” part of the quote said it all, didn't it? This lockout shouldn't be blamed on LeBron, but rest assured that how the 'Decision' went down is an episode the league doesn't ever wish to view again.
Back story: If I had a dollar for every time I'd hear or write the word 'hate' involving the Heat last season, I'd buy the New Orleans Hornets, move them to Seattle -- pending the construction of a new arena. Bosh certainly didn't hold back any punches on that quote. Don't count on him ever taking over for Kevin Garnett at power forward somewhere down the line for the Celtics.
Back story: Courtesy of the much-maligned press conference pep rally the day Wade, James and Bosh signed their Heat contracts. LeBron's addition made the Heat relevant, viable, formidable and an annual favorite to win a title as long as they're together. Love them or loathe them, people will invest tons of emotion in the Heat. They'll always be the lead story. But will they earn championship glory?
Of course, that can only be answered once the lockout ends -- if it ends.
For now, it's back to being locked in the closet.
You never know what you'll find in the midst of a potential season being lost.