MIAMI — LeBron James arrived with great expectations, joining Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat two years ago with talk of multiple NBA titles and the jaw-dropping acrobatic plays that made him a star.
After falling short last year by losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, the Heat went 46-20 this season to earn a No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs behind NBA overall leader Chicago.
That will send the Heat into a first-round matchup starting at home on Saturday against the New York Knicks. The Heat went 3-0 against New York during the regular season.
“I’m looking forward to it,” James said of the playoffs. “I’ve been ready for this moment for a while.”
While the focus will be on making this season a success, the Heat will take inspiration from having lost last year’s best-of-seven championship final to the Mavericks in six games.
“I’m a firm believer of moving on,” Wade said. “But, also, I think, for us, we have to have guys take a minute and go back to that dark place and how we felt and understand what we’re shooting for and what we want to get back to.
“Obviously, we’ve got to look back and we’ve got to feel that pain a little bit to remember.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says the entire roster is ready despite Wade missing the final three games of the season with a dislocated left index finger and Bosh sitting out the last six with a right hamstring strain.
“We would have loved to have an extra day, but it is what it is,” James said of time to heal. “I do like to prepare a lot longer than one day.”
Whereas the Heat stars were still coming together last year even after a full season together, they know each other much better this time around.
“We’re more comfortable with one another heading into this post-season,” James said. “Last year, we were playing a lot off instinct.”
Miami players also know what they are getting with the Heat. James figures to see a lot of Carmelo Anthony, his 2008 US Olympic gold medal teammate, and Bosh will be tested by Amare Stoudemire.
New York’s inside players will try to open up 3-point shooting chances for J.R. Smith and others.
“We know that we’ve got to run ‘em off the 3-point line, try to contain them from getting layups,” Wade said. “It’s kind of what we’ve been working on.”
Wade said the Heat players know their roles better than they did a year ago.
“We have done a good job of figuring out who’s going to close games and that’s not always meaning it’s going to come out to a positive result, but we’re comfortable with who has the ball at the end,” Wade said.
“It’s not that, ‘Maybe-I-should, maybe-I-shouldn’t’ thing. I think we’ve figured it out. It’s unspoken.”
Bosh could miss some time with the Heat in the second round because his wife, Adrienne, is expecting their third child in mid-May.
“I’ve got a beeper,” Bosh said. “When it goes off, I’ll be ready. We’ll see what happens.”