- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

MIAMI (AP) - So far, everything about the latest chapter of LeBron James‘ storied life has been different.

The forklift ride toward the stage where a packed arena showed up just to celebrate his signing of a Miami Heat contract. The accusations of quitting, selfishness, being a heartbreaker from Cleveland. The often negative, sometimes even venomous reaction, from around the league not only his decision, but the way he made “The Decision.”

It’s been like nothing he’d ever experienced.

“I’ve stayed the same,” James said. “All business.”

Here’s something else he hasn’t experienced: A championship parade.

The entire basketball world knows that’s the goal, the only possible thing that will make the NBA’s two-time MVP sit back and say his first season in Heat colors was a success. He came close in Cleveland. In Miami, next to Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of a practically hand-picked roster, close won’t be close to enough.

A season of colossal expectations starts in Boston on Tuesday night. And those NBA schedule-makers knew what they were doing. Boston. Where Wade’s season ended last year, followed by his part-threat, part-prediction that he wouldn’t again exit the playoffs in the first round anytime soon. Where James‘ season, his Cleveland chapter, came to an inglorious end a few weeks later. Where Bosh has lost 11 times, the highest total he’s had as a visitor to any NBA arena.

“The big thing is that everybody is in this room together,” said Heat guard Eddie House, who, like just about everyone else on the roster, spurned higher-paying offers elsewhere. “We’re all together. We’re not worried about anything else. I don’t think guys are worried about stats. I don’t think guys are worried about getting paid. I think guys are just worried about playing and proving what we know to everybody else.”

Motivation is there in bunches for the Heat, starting with all the doubters.

Miami was considered by many an afterthought in the free agency sweepstakes of 2010. Forget landing James, or Bosh. Some thought the Heat would have a hard enough time keeping Wade.

So Heat President Pat Riley pulled out all the stops. At 12:01 a.m. on July 1, when the free-agent window opened, just about all Miami’s free-agent targets got iPads, loaded with a recruiting pitch about the team, the city, the makeup of the franchise. A whirlwind week of cross-country flights and sleepless nights followed.

“When you have two players like Dwyane and LeBron, then you have a dynamic that anything can happen on any given night, on both ends of the court,” Riley said. “When you add Chris Bosh to the equation, a guy now on the inside that also can stretch the floor with enough shooting coming off the bench and enough size and enough quickness, you have the elements of putting together a very complete team.”

Of course, the Heat didn’t stop there.

Udonis Haslem _ the guy who James and Wade both thought would be absolutely crucial _ took $14 million less to stay. Mike Miller was the next target and once he heard Haslem, his old teammate at Florida was aboard, his mind was made up. Juwan Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas followed for veteran leadership. James Jones and Carlos Arroyo were wanted for continuity. Dexter Pittman and Da’Sean Butler were targeted for the future.

“We know what we’re playing for,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Everything’s changing. Even for Wade, who’s missed virtually the entire preseason with a hamstring injury.

He won’t be called upon to score 30 points all the time for the Heat to have their best chance of winning. He might not see double-teams constantly. He might not even have the ball at the end of close games.

“When they gave me the ball and told me to make every play, I tried to do that,” Wade said. “So whatever role that coach Spo puts out there for each of us, especially for me, I’m going to try to be the best at that role I could possibly be and hopefully that’s enough.”

There’s even more irony that this title chase will begin in Boston.

After all, the 2010-11 Heat are basically trying to be the 2007-08 Celtics _ a group of superstars that, together, became a super team.

“They were able to win a championship in their first year together,” Wade said. “And they came into a team that wasn’t, at the time, as complete as this team is, but they all made sacrifices. They were the individual leaders of their team. And it worked, so, of course, you have to take from the history of the game, and put it within your team, but put your own twist on it.”

James has been asked the question so many times now, he’s got the answer pared down to one word. His expectations for his first season with the Heat couldn’t be more simple.

“Win,” he said.

That’s the only question that matters. So the others _ Can James average a triple-double? Can the Heat eclipse Chicago’s 72-win record? Can this team become one for the ages? _ all seem irrelevant to the Heat at this point.

Especially so in James‘ case.

This week, James encouraged his “haters” to keep bashing him on Twitter, and he got a slew of negative responses, many of them racially charged. James said he wasn’t bothered. Sometimes, he said, he needs to be reminded of what’s going to fuel him on this title pursuit.

“It doesn’t affect me at all,” James said. “You have that throughout life, no matter who you are. There’s always people doubting you and doubting what you can do.

“For me, I have enough motivation,” he added, “but I can always use a little more.”

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