HOUSTON - If Kobe Bryant's season seems tough, imagine what Dwyane Wade went through five years ago.
"I came to All-Star weekend one year, I think we had won nine games. Seriously," Wade said Friday. "I was looking for my 10th win at the All-Star Game."
Things sure have changed for his Miami Heat.
Back where they first teamed up as all-stars in 2006, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh return as NBA champions who will start together for the Eastern Conference on Sunday.
Now the misery belongs to Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers, whose season has been 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 its way to a 15-win debacle just two years after it 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 it beat in five games last summer for the title. Miami has 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.
"It's really indescribable," Bosh said, "just to not only win a championship with great guys, be in a great locker room, and just to have fun doing it, but just to be an All-Star every year, play with great teammates, I mean to play in front of a lot people in arenas every night. I don't take those things for granted."
• What: NBA All-Star Saturday Night
• When: 6:30 p.m.
• TV: TNT