- Associated Press - Monday, October 25, 2010

MIAMI (AP) - Before leaving for the airport Monday and catching the flight to Boston, Dwyane Wade had a conversation with the friend he calls Larry.

As in, the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The one they give out for winning an NBA championship.

“I asked him where he’s been,” Wade said. “He’s eluded me. He’s been missing for a while.”

Larry will be waiting for someone in June, and on Tuesday night the Miami Heat will take what they hope is their first steps toward winning him when a season of title expectations finally opens in Boston. Miami squares off against the reigning Eastern Conference champion Celtics in a matchup loaded with story lines.

LeBron James‘ opener with Miami after seven seasons in Cleveland. Wade’s first time with James and Chris Bosh as his Heat running mates. Shaquille O’Neal _ once a teammate to both Wade and James _ playing his first game in Celtics’ colors. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett motivated by a Game 7 loss to the Lakers in last season’s finals. Miami’s new Big 3 vs. Boston’s not-so-new Big 3.

Oh, and the small fact that Wade and James were both ousted from the playoffs by Boston last spring, defeats that helped along their decision to play with one another.

“I think the NBA did an unbelievable job of picking a great first game,” Wade said.

O’Neal says he believes it’s just another game, noting that the only big games in which he’s played in are the ones where “jewelry” _ a ring _ is up for grabs.

Not everyone is of that opinion.

“Once LeBron took his talents to South Beach, I think everyone got excited,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

The Heat practiced one last time in Miami on Monday morning, followed by coach Erik Spoelstra gathering his team in the locker room for a quick meeting.

He didn’t have to say much. Spoelstra brought Miami’s 2006 championship trophy and reminded everyone of the season’s lone goal.

“We’re all ready for this because of how long the summer has seemed,” Spoelstra said. “Seemed like it’s taken forever to get to this point. But it’s finally here. And finally we can have most of the talk about the game and not all these other things which people are interested in right now, which is normal. But let’s play.”

James feels the same way.

By the time tip-off rolls around Tuesday night, 110 days will have passed since he made “The Decision” to leave Cleveland and join Wade and Bosh in Miami, and the NBA’s two-time reigning MVP acknowledged Monday that South Florida still doesn’t totally feel like home.

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