By Tim Reynolds
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MIAMI _ Erik Spoelstra wanted Wednesday to be a full-contact practice day for the Miami Heat.
Instead, school was in session.
Everyone around the Heat knew that getting ready for this season would be different, since LeBron James has changed addresses and the roster looks much different than the ones Miami had on the way to making appearances in the NBA Finals in each of the last four years.
The Heat are 0-4 in the preseason. They’re giving up 109 points per game, on 48 per cent shooting. And while everything happening now gets erased when the regular season starts in two weeks, there’s some reasons for concern.
“I still want to win basketball games,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “There is a balance. You say process _ I do say that a lot just to be politically correct _ but in all actuality we’ve got to win some games. We’ve got to play better defence. We have to start seeing something different.”
Process is a word Spoelstra uses often, and the process right now is certainly far different than the one Miami went through starting in 2011.
There’s new players in the locker room, some of them being tried in multiple roles already this preseason. The defensive numbers rank near the bottom of the NBA. Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Danny Granger are all struggling with their shot, and Mario Chalmers, Josh McRoberts and Justin Hamilton are all hurt.
“We’re not making excuses,” said Spoelstra, the Heat coach since 2008. “Every team is going through something, missing guys. It’s about the type of team you’re developing, committing to that, showing improvement. We’re showing flashes. We’re not showing improvement, yet.”
Tuesday’s exhibition against Atlanta underscored Spoelstra’s words.
One flash came early, when Miami ran out to a 19-point lead early in the second quarter.
And then came the collapse, with the Heat not just blowing that entire lead but actually trailing by 20 at one point in the fourth quarter.
Then came the next flash, with Miami getting within four with 2 minutes left, but no closer.
“We’re process-oriented, so we’re not necessarily talking about the win, we’re talking about playing a consistent game _ which we haven’t gotten to,” Spoelstra said Wednesday. “Last night was schizophrenic, in terms of some of the very best of our basketball and some of our very worst. We’re not playing to our identity.”
There’s no outward signs of panic. Wade is shooting 39 per cent, Deng and Granger are both shooting 37 per cent, but the Heat expected it would take time for everyone to get into game rhythm. Chalmers’ hip pointer is improving, McRoberts (toe) and Hamilton (heart ailment) both worked out Wednesday, and soon the Heat will be whole again.
“We’re still trying to build our system,” Spoelstra said.
The Heat went through the film on Wednesday, worked out specific details in practice and then spent much of the session again honing defence.
With four preseason games left, there suddenly doesn’t seem like a lot of time to get all the kinks ironed out. Bosh said it’s the little things, like whiffing on screens and not making an extra pass, that’s hurting the Heat on game nights so far. And strangely, he doesn’t see those things happening in practice, only in the exhibitions.
“The potential is there,” Bosh said. “We’ve just got to do the hard stuff.”