ATLANTA — The Miami Heat entered the preseason ready to work — and with good reason. Along with that whole defending an NBA championship thing, they’ve got a trip to China to get ready for.
But not that that’s anything new for the champs.
Many members of the Heat have spent time in Asia — this will be LeBron James’ ninth time — and they expect to use the trip to bond and prepare for the season.
“We just have to show up and do our job and that’s really try to improve as a basketball team but at the same time, the time together helps your team grow,” said coach Erik Spoelstra following the Heat’s 92-79 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena in Sunday night’s preseason opener for both teams.
The game, which was highlighted by LeBron’s three dunks in three minutes during the opening quarter, helped Miami work into shape. Many on the team were feeling the pace of their first game against, as Shane Battier put it, “someone who doesn’t know our plays and our personalities.”
They’ll need it in China, particularly after the 15-hour flight. Spoelstra, a veteran of the long flight, doesn’t think it will be much of a problem. He said he wasn’t bothered by his players’ business deals on the side either — notably Dwyane Wade’s recent shoe company switch from Jordan to Li-Ning — so long as the team and basketball come first.
That shouldn’t be much of a problem for the Heat, who are squarely focused in on another title.
“I got a taste of [a title] and I want another one,” James said.
The goal, much like the pressure, is the same as it was when James came to Miami.
“When we all joined, our expectations were to win a championship,” said James. “That doesn’t change.”
But with new members on the team, this year will be a new story for the Heat.
One of those players is Ray Allen, who joined from the Boston Celtics this offseason. Allen saw his first action as a member of the Heat, and notched 10 points and five assists in 27 minutes. Allen was “efficient,” Spoelstra said of the veteran who adds stability to the Heat lineup.
For now, as he and the rest of the Heat work into condition, Miami will try to come together in China.
“We’re here to win and we’re here to come together and we know it’s a process. It’s a new team and we have to form a new identity,” Battier said. “It comes with time and repetitions.”
With many trips to Asia already under the belts for many on the Miami Heat, they’ll be able to focus their energy on getting those reps as they prepare to defend their title.