Familiarity provides different vibe for Miami Heat heading into 2017 training camp
MIAMI (AP) — This is what the Miami Heat said they wanted, a second chance with largely the same cast to show that the brilliant-yet-futile finish to last season was no mirage.
Here’s that chance.
With largely the same cast as last season, the Heat gathered Monday for media day and the prelude to Tuesday’s beginning of training camp in a far different place than they were a year ago. Most of the faces were new then; now, the core is established and the lessons learned from both the the 11-30 start to last season and the 30-11 finish have not been forgotten.
“I’ve been around a lot of teams,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our guys are just crazy enough to think we’re good enough to get the job done.”
Miami’s nine leaders in points-per-game are all back, as are all eight Heat players who logged at least 1,100 minutes with the club last season. So unlike a year ago when the Heat probably should have worn “hello-my-name-is” stickers on their jerseys for the first few practices, this team is headed to camp with the benefit of knowing basically how most of the pieces fit.
“We feel that matters. It means something,” Spoelstra said. “We don’t take it for granted. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have the results or you’ll play the way we were at the end of last season. Each season is new. You have to be open to the possibilities. But it does allow me to prepare for this training camp in a different way than last year.”
Center Hassan Whiteside, the NBA’s blocked-shot leader two seasons ago and its rebounding champion last year, agreed — familiarity will help.
“Guys know each other’s personalities,” Whiteside said. “Guys know the system. I think we had nine new guys last year. It’s going to be a lot easier for us, I think.”
Justise Winslow, Miami’s first-round pick in 2015 who was a non-factor last season because of shoulder surgery, is ready to go for camp. Kelly Olynyk, a free-agent arrival from Boston, looks lighter than he was at the end of last season. The Heat are raving about rookie forward Bam Adebayo out of Kentucky, and point guard Goran Dragic — coming off winning MVP at the European Championships for Slovenia — said he feels good as ever.
Plus, the Heat were able to not just find a way to pick up its option on Wayne Ellington but also retain James Johnson and Dion Waiters after both made brief forays into free agency.
“He’s set for life,” Dragic said of Waiters, whose four-year deal could be worth up to $52 million if incentives are met. “The only thing I can give him as far as advice is enjoy it. Play your game. No pressure. We already know what he can do.”
It’s not like the Heat feel like they’re coming off something super-special: They went 41-41 last season, losing a tiebreaker for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
But the way they played the second half is the clear reason for hope.
“Our guys didn’t feel like they accomplished something,” Spoelstra said. “There was heartbreak in the locker room. Guys wanted more. That’s the thing that probably years from now we will all look back on — we never had a chance to see what we could have done in the playoffs. Our guys are crazy enough to think we could have advanced.
“So we have to start from the beginning,” Spoelstra said. “Just like everybody else.”