Healing, re-tooled Heat want to win again
MIAMI — Halloween might be a month away, but LeBron James got spooked Friday.
Actually, it was in a good way.
"It's scary to look in the locker room and say that we can be better than we were this past season," the Miami Heat star said at media day at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat won the NBA title last June. And what did they do not long after the victory parade?
Just add two multiple All-Stars.
New to the team are guard Ray Allen, a 10-time All-Star, and forward Rashard Lewis, a two-time one. Both will practice with the Heat for the first time when they open training camp Saturday.
"Are we better right now?" said James, the reigning NBA regular-season and Finals MVP. "Of course not. But we got time to get together as a team. And from that, we have the potential to be better. We have the potential to be a lot better, and that is scary."
Actually, it's opponents who should be scared. In addition to adding Allen and Lewis, there are other reasons the Heat should be better than when they dusted off Oklahoma City 4-1 in June's Finals.
Dwyane Wade had knee surgery during the summer, and coach Erik Spoelstra believes that he'll eventually get his "cat quickness" back.Chris Bosh is healthy after playing the final eight playoff games with an abdominal strain that Spoelstra said would have continued to have kept him out had it been the regular season. And swingman Mike Miller is feeling much better after a back injury had him contemplating retirement after the Finals.
Wade will be limited during training camp and the preseason. But Spoelstra is hopeful he'll be ready for the Oct. 30 opener against Boston.
"We'll just have to see how much he can to do," Spoelstra said about the next month for Wade. "We're looking at it strictly big picture. ...We'd like to put him in a position to be able to play regular-season games and be ready for Game 1."
Wade had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee July 9 after he experienced soreness throughout the playoffs. He knows it will be a gradual process working his way back.
"My focus is Oct. 30," Wade said. "I'm not going to be ready for the Finals today. I understand it's a process."
The way an injured Miller shot in the clinching Game 5, he might be ready now for the Finals. Despite barely being able to walk, he drilled 7 of 8 of 3-pointers and scored 23 points.
After deciding against surgery that Miller said probably would have knocked him out for the season, he rested for 1½ months before getting back in the gym. Spoelstra said Miller is looking good enough that he will go through a full practice Saturday, although he will take some time off during camp.
"My back feels great," Miller said. "It's just a matter now of maintaining that. ... We're happy with the progression. I have pain from time to time, but it beats what I've been going through. ...You're going to have bouts (of pain)."
Miller, 32, said he still needs to see how his back responds over the long haul. He didn't rule out the possibility of this being his last NBA season.
"We got to see if I can make it through one," Miller said when asked how many more years he hopes to play. "That's all I can do right now. I got to focus on what I can do this year and make sure I stay healthy and stay on top of things, and see how it goes."
Another player returning to health is Allen, who underwent right ankle surgery last June. The Heat will be cautious with Allen in training camp, but that's also because he turned 37 in July.
"You wouldn't know," said Allen, agreeing with Spoelstra having said his ankle isn't 100 percent but nobody watching can tell. "My goal is for you never to know."
Allen's main goal is to add a title to the one he claimed with Boston in 2008. He agreed with James that Miami has the potential to be "scary" good.
"Yeah," said Allen, who knows a bit about playing with stars from having teamed with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. "It requires a lot of work because there's a fine line (with having so much talent). You have to work between being selfish and unselfish. You have a tendency when you have a team like this where you overpass because you want to get out of people's way and you want to make sure the other guys fit or are comfortable. And I don't want them to do that for me."
And that's being spoken by a guy who has played in more All-Star Games than James (eight), Wade (eight) or Bosh (seven). Throw those four guys together along with Lewis, and Heat players have appeared in a total of 35 All-Star Games.
That's a lot of star power. No wonder the Heat are favorites to repeat even if Spoelstra doesn't want to use that word.
"I'm not even going to use the word repeat," Spoelstra said. "We have an opportunity to win another title."
Wade chuckled at hearing about the semantics preferred by Spoelstra, who later had said he's trying to regard 2012-13 as a "new journey."
"He's not going to say repeat, but he's going to say, ‘We're trying to win another title?' " Wade said. "But OK, I'll go along with him. I may use it too. Another title."
Whatever you call it, if James is spooked by all the talent surrounding him, the Heat sure expect to again be hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson