In an NFL town, nothing makes a fan's eyes roll faster than a preseason game. Stars sometimes sit out even when they're healthy. If they do play, it's rarely for long.
The NBA also has preseason games, but unlike the NFL, the stars see a significant amount of time on the court. So in tonight's preseason game between the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, fans can expect to see the best players competing for lengthy stretches.
Heat superstar guard Dwyane Wade is averaging more than 25 minutes a game (and 16 points) this preseason. In Miami's preseason game in Jacksonville against the Orlando Magic last year, Wade scored 29 points in 34 minutes. Magic star center Dwight Howard played more than 34 minutes in Orlando's 100-92 win. Both Wade and Howard played the majority of the fourth quarter.
"Basketball is a little different than football because in the preseason games you're really trying to work up to the regular season," said Nick Arison, Miami's senior vice president of Basketball operations. "Our guys come in and are in great shape, but we have to get to regular-season shape.
"We have to make sure our guys are as comfortable as they can be playing with each other. So everybody plays in the preseason as long as they are healthy."
Michael Beasley, who finished on the NBA's first-team All-Rookie squad last year, tops the Heat and logs more than 30 minutes on the court during the preseason.
In all, nine Heat players are averaging more than 20 minutes a game, including former Wolfson High and University of Florida forward Udonis Haslem, former All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal and promising second-year point guard Mario Chalmers.
"We need that game time to get a rhythm established," Chalmers said. "The preseason is very important to building a flow. Plus, you beat each other up in practice, so it's nice to go up against somebody else."
Fans should also expect to see plenty of Atlanta's top players, including up-and-coming forward Al Horford, a two-time national champion with the Gators.
The three-year veteran is averaging more than 21 minutes a game in the preseason. Atlanta has eight players averaging more than 20 minutes a contest, including guard Joe Johnson (21.4 ppg last season) and 2005 slam-dunk champion Josh Smith.
"In the NFL, you have over 80 players on a roster in the preseason, so the coaches have to get a long look at a bunch of players," game promoter Tim Johnson said.
"With the NBA, there are 15 guys at most on a roster, so you're going to see much more of the recognizable players that fans want to see."
NBA PRESEASON GAME: Hawks VS. Heat
When: 7 p.m. today.
Where: Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Tickets: Prices range from $10 to $115 and can be purchased at the arena box office or through Ticketmaster.