HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Who knew all it took was a little time for everyone to calm down and come to their senses? The tone of the discourse has changed dramatically between the Magic and Heat over the course of the past month or so.
For the most part, both sides have abandoned the snarky rhetoric for a much more measured and controlled sense of respect for one another, you heard Stan Van Gundy (above) praising the Heat. It’s a stark contrast from the verbal shots fired back and forth in the summer and then again early this season, when the war of the words was far more impressive than the actual back and forth on the court.
They’ve met twice already this season, with each team winning on its home floor. Tonight’s matchup in Orlando is the first between these two teams since the day before Thanksgiving, and since the Magic revamped their team with a blockbuster trade that brough Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas to town.
While Van Gundy has spent more time poking his own team, admitting recently that “we are not ready to contend,” Heat star LeBron James broke ranks, briefly, and spoke freely about his intentions (apparently he also threw a party last night at an Orlando night spot as his warm up act) and true feeling about this rivalry:
“The simple fact that it’s a division opponent, that means a lot,” James told reporters. “Trying to win your division is very key. And also playing exceptionally well on the road is definitely key. That definitely helps later on in the season. And being an Orlando team that basically said a lot of things about us in the offseason, that definitely adds a little bit to the fire.”
He stopped short of a Bart Scott-style shout out to the next opponent, but make it clear that he’s anxious to hit the Amway Center court tonight.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” isn’t exactly like B. Scott’s “Can’t Wait!”
But we’ll make it work around here.
To be fair to our friends from Miami, the chatter from the Heat is much more grounded these days compared to what has gone on at any other time prior to this point. The Heat have been through their downs and up and down again, riding the wave of this season the way any team has to when they are transitioning so many new face on the fly and dealing with the injuries they’ve had to deal with.
They know there are certain advantages their competition will have over them now and throughout this season.
“You talk about Boston, you talk about Orlando or the Lakers, we’re never going to catch those guys in experience,” Dwyane Wade said. “I think the stat is, Boston is 30-15 in the playoffs since they’ve been together. We’re 0-0.”
It’s telling that Wade included Orlando in that mix.
We’ll see if any of this yapping means anything tonight, when the Heat and Magic go toe-to-toe on TNT (8 p.m. ET).