It didn’t take long for the Miami Heat to announce that they’re planning on a large improvement from last season’s woeful club.
Heading into their home opener, the Charlotte Bobcats look like they’re headed in the other direction.
The Heat will look for their first road victory of the season on Saturday night when they face a young Bobcats team that’s struggling under new coach Larry Brown.
With star guard Dwyane Wade battling injuries and a roster in disarray for much of last season, the Heat - just two years removed from an NBA championship - lost a league-high 67 games to match the franchise worst set in 1988-89, the team’s inaugural campaign.
They already look like a much different club this season after dominating Sacramento for a 103-77 win in their home opener on Friday night. Wade had 20 points and eight assists in just 27 minutes, while rookie Michael Beasley added 17 points and nine rebounds.
After allowing 120 points in a loss at New York in its opener, Miami (1-1) was especially impressive on the defensive end against the Kings. Sacramento scored just 31 first-half points and turned the ball over 25 times for the game while shooting 38 percent from the floor.
“We played like a team. We were relentless on defense,” said Beasley, the No. 2 overall draft pick out of Kansas State. “We had so much intensity, we played with energy, we played together the whole game. That’s what felt the best.”
“And I think we can get better,” Heat forward Shawn Marion added.
Miami can’t be much worse than it was on the road last season. The Heat went 6-35 outside of South Florida, winning just two of their last 28 on the road to close the season.
They lost twice at Charlotte by a combined 27 points, and they’ve now dropped five of their last six to the Bobcats after winning nine of their first 10 against the expansion team.
But the Bobcats (0-1) struggled in Brown’s debut on Thursday, shooting 34 percent from the field and scoring only 33 points in the first half of a 96-79 loss at Cleveland.
Taking over his ninth NBA team, Brown appears to have one of his biggest challenges ahead as he looks to turn around a young franchise that went 32-50 last season and is a combined 109-220 in four-plus seasons of existence.
The Bobcats went 0-8 in the preseason, and Brown said Thursday that he doesn’t think his team is ready.
“I’m not surprised with what’s going on,” Brown said. “The big people we’re playing against seem to be more athletic and getting things done. A lot of our shots are tough shots. We’re settling for long jumpers. When we do penetrate, we penetrate so deep, we get a lot of shots blocked. They penetrate and kick it out.
“We didn’t expect it to be easy.”
Jason Richardson led Charlotte with 24 points, but that was among the few bright spots for the Bobcats. Sean May, called out for being out of shape by his coach, had two points and went 0-of-6 from the field in his return after missing all of last season following knee surgery. Raymond Felton, May’s college teammate at North Carolina, made just one of his 10 shots.
Adam Morrison also returned to the lineup after a knee injury sidelined him in 2007-08, scoring nine points off the bench.
The Bobcats won their home opener 102-99 over Milwaukee last season, finishing over .500 (21-20) at home for the first time in franchise history.