‘A much different challenge’: Heat start process of a new season, with LeBron’s chapter closed

By Tim Reynolds


Duane Wade

MIAMI _ Erik Spoelstra has ready plenty about the notion of reinvention, which seems appropriate given the task that he and the Miami Heat are embarking upon.

The post-LeBron James chapter of Heat basketball is beginning.

Spoelstra, the coach entering his seventh season in Miami, somehow sees it as opportunity.

Spoelstra and the Heat went through media day on Friday, the annual prelude to the start of training camp. For the first time in five years, Miami will begin a season without being widely expected to end the season as NBA champions, an obvious side effect of James returning to Cleveland and leaving the Heat.

“We have a much different challenge,” Spoelstra said. “I can’t believe this, but I’m starting my 20th year here. And we’ve had many different chapters and different challenges. If I’ve learned anything in this seat, I’ve learned that’s what coaching in this NBA business is about, is embracing change, adapting with change.”

And there are changes. Plenty of them.

It’s not like James is the only departure from the team that lost in last year’s NBA Finals. The Heat had 18 players in uniform at various points of last season; only seven of them are back in uniform for the start of this training camp. Miami has 51 per cent of its scoring from last season back; by comparison, San Antonio _ which needed five games to oust Miami as NBA champions _ has 99 per cent of last year’s scoring returning this year.

“I might have to start passing out nametags and stickers,” Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. “I thought I’d seen everything in this league. This is my first year experiencing something like this, with 11 new guys. Weird? No. But interesting. … It’s definitely different.”

It won’t be wholesale changes for the Heat, even though the roster is markedly different. One of the very first things Spoelstra said on Friday is that “the Heat culture, the Heat code, that will remain the same,” which means defence will come before everything else and the internal expectations will be as high as ever.

“The bedrocks of playing together _ attacking, helping each other get the best available shot _ that’s what important. Those things remain the same,” Spoelstra said. “But certainly, some of the finer points have to be a little bit different.”

Many players, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh included, tried changing their bodies over the summer. Wade did not give reporters a specific total with regard to his weight loss, but he did appear lighter than he was at the end of last season.

“We have a foundation here,” guard Norris Cole said. “There’s a way that we do things here. The guys that are new, they’ll learn from the guys who have been here, and we’ll set a good example. Then we’ll just keep the ball rolling. … We’re still the Heat.”

Spoelstra has been fond in recent years of saying the Heat have enough to win, and that refrain will likely be repeated this year.

Wade and Bosh make the Heat one of seven teams to have at least two players on the camp roster with more than 15,000 career points. There’s seven players in Heat camp _ Wade, Bosh, Haslem, Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers, Cole and newcomer Shannon Brown _ who have at least one NBA championship ring in their possession.

And Wade, Bosh, Luol Deng and Danny Granger have been selected to the All-Star Game a combined 22 times.

“We have a Heat standard and that’s to compete for an NBA title,” Spoelstra said. “Every year that I’ve been here, for 20 years, whether the team turned out that way or not, that was the objective from Day One in training camp. That’s how we’re all wired and that’s what we expect from this team. Regardless of what people are saying about us out there or not, we want to start the process of building a very competitive team.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *