HOUSTON (AP) — The last All-Star game in Houston was a glimpse of what Miami Heat games would become.
LeBron James scored 29 points and was the MVP. Dwyane Wade added 20 and made the go-ahead basket to cap a huge comeback, and the Eastern Conference beat the West 122-120 in 2006.
"I had a pretty good experience the first time around, looking for the same thing this time," Wade said Friday.
The way things are going for the Heat, why not?
And think about this: James was already the best player that night, and he was nowhere near the player he is today.
"I'm a better player. At that point in time, I wasn't a complete basketball player. I couldn't shoot as well as I can now, I never posted up back then," James said. "More games, more playoff games, more knowledge. You continue to learn each and every day, it makes you a better player. That's what you want, to become a better player. That's what I want. I want to be the greatest of all-time. I try to do whatever it takes to get me in that position.
"Seven years, I've tried to improve each and every year."
Back where they first teamed up as All-Stars, Wade, James and Chris Bosh will start together for the East on Sunday night, another highlight for the NBA champions.
Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers aren't having nearly as much fun in a season so disappointing that Bryant was asked Friday if the All-Star weekend was a "retreat" for him.
"I don't know if it's a retreat, it's just more of an opportunity to get some rest, regroup, put the first half of the season behind us and move on," he said.
As Wade knows, the All-Star break can be just that — a break — from a forgettable season.
He arrived for the 2008 All-Star game with a 9-43 record after the Heat lost on Valentine's Day to the Chicago Bulls, on their way to a 15-win debacle just two years after they won the NBA title.
"I put all that aside, though, and I came and I enjoyed the weekend, and when I went back to Miami, it was like, 'Oh my God, we're back in it,'" Wade said. "But All-Star weekend, you just enjoy being an All-Star. You enjoy being around the guys. You can kind of forget about that a little bit, unless you have the cameras and the microphones in front of you asking you questions about it, but besides that you try to enjoy it."
This time, the Heat celebrated Valentine's Day in Oklahoma City with a 110-100 victory over the Thunder, the team they beat in five games last summer for the title. They have won seven in a row, James is playing arguably the best basketball of his career, and they can relax and reminisce as they return to Houston.