KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—It’s not often Mario Chalmers receives a louder ovation than LeBron James., his Miami Heat teammate.
On Friday night, the two-time defending NBA champions were playing the Charlotte Bobcats at the Sprint Center, about 40 miles from the University of Kansas, where Chalmers starred on the Jayhawks’ national championship team.
So Chalmers wasn’t surprised to receive more of a reaction from the crowd during the 86-75 preseason victory. In fact, he expected it.
”It’s custom out here, it’s supposed to be like that,” Chalmers said. ”Anytime I get to come back and play in front of the Jayhawks fans it’s a lot of fun.”
James paced the Heat (3-0) with 20 points while Chalmers added 10 points and four assists.
Michael Beasley, who played at Kansas State and faced Chalmers as a Big 12 foe for one season, scored 13 points. Early in the first quarter Beasley scored nine of 10 points, including six straight, in the run that gave the Heat their first breathing room.
Even with Beasley playing well, Chalmers wasn’t worried about losing any of the fans’ affection.
”This is more of KU territory, Sprint Center,” Chalmers said.
This is the fourth year Miami has played an exhibition game in Kansas City, and the crowd was decidedly in the Heat’s favor. So even though he wasn’t necessarily the star of the show, that was just fine with James.
”It’s a great crowd,” James said. ”Obviously they love us and we’re very thankful that they welcome us with open arms every time we come here and play. It’s fun to play in front of a crowd like that.”
Al Jefferson paced Charlotte (0-2) with 11 points and Jeff Taylor added 10.
The game featured little offensive rhythm, and the Heat’s biggest lead was 15 points.
But the Bobcats stuck around in the fourth quarter, using the lack of rhythm to their advantage. Every time Charlotte threatened, though, Miami responded.
Miami’s Norris Cole scored eight points in the final quarter, including 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, and finished with 15 points.
”We need those guys off the bench to come in and either get the momentum or pick us up when we’re not going,” James said. ”You could bring in five guys off the bench and sit the whole starting lineup if you need to because we have that type of talent. It’s definitely a luxury.”
Christ Bosh scored seven points, while the final member of the Heat’s big three, Dwyane Wade, sat out after playing Thursday night against Detroit.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra wanted to keep Wade, who’s recovering from a knee injury, from playing on consecutive nights.
”We just want to make sure that we’re continuing to take steps forward,” Spoelstra said. ”It’s been a very good training camp for him so far. Those are our discussions between Dwyane, myself and the training staff.”