Miami Heat preseason primer
MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade is fired up heading into training camp. That's not bad at all.
Wade could be the key to the Miami Heat's fortunes this season. There's little doubt LeBron James will have another great season and win a fifth MVP unless voters have gotten tired of checking his name. But how Wade looks remains to be seen.
The 11-year veteran has had knee issues the past two seasons. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in the summer of 2012 and had OssaTron shock wave treatment last July.
But perhaps better than a medical procedure for Wade is a mental one. When he's doubted, he always gets fired up and often comes back with big games. And now Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant has done just that.
Durant said he disagreed with a Sports Illustrated ranking that Wade was among the top 10 players in the NBA (he was ranked eighth). Durant said Houston guard James Harden, his former Thunder teammate, should be in the top 10 in place of Wade.
Wade fired back by writing, "Note to self: Make him respect your place in history ... -- again" and "Don't believe me just watch."
The Heat, no doubt, have no problem with Wade looking for motivation as they go for a third straight title. How close Wade resembles his usual All-Star self could play a key role in whether they join the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls to become just the third NBA franchise to have a three-peat. Having him really geeked up before training camp starts Monday certainly can't hurt.
Here's at look at how the Heat stack up entering camp, which will be in the Bahamas on Oct. 1-4. First, they will have media day Monday in Miami.
The only one even close to that category is Mike Miller, who was waived in July as part of the NBA's amnesty rule. But it's debatable how key of a loss Miller might be.
He was just so-so during the regular season, averaging 4.8 points. But he did step up in the NBA Finals, having two key games in a 4-3 win over San Antonio. It's only during the playoffs that his outside shooting could be missed.
If Miller is the only Miami player who could even remotely be called a key loss, that's yet another reason the Heat are heavy favorites to win another title. The only other player not back is Juwan Howard, 40, who probably wants to re-sign next spring.
The key new guy in town is center Greg Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft who hasn't played in an NBA game since December 2009 due to knee problems. Oden, who signed a minimum deal, will be brought along slowly.
It's not out of the question Oden might not play in a game until 2014 arrives. The Heat really need to just have him ready for the playoffs, when he could be used to bang against big centers, such as Indiana's Roy Hibbert.
Another newcomer is forward Michael Beasley, who played for the Heat from 2008-10 before being sent to Minnesota in order to clear salary-cap room. Beasley, who ran into many recent problems with Phoenix and was waived, signed a non-guaranteed deal.
Beasley can quickly be cut if he doesn't fall in line. If he does, he's yet another intriguing piece for the Heat.
1. Can James be even better?
He could. James had vowed during the summer to work on his free-throw shooting, which really is the only part of his game that isn't great. James shot 75.3 percent last season and is at 74.7 for his career.
James in recent years has improved his post-up moves and his 3-point shooting. It would be a big surprise if he doesn't win his third straight MVP and fifth in six years.
2. Can the Heat continue to get by with playing Chris Bosh at center?
Bosh, normally a power forward, got pushed around by some bigger centers in the playoffs but the Heat were able to survive. If Bosh doesn't get more help, it could be tougher this season. Hibbert and Indiana will be better. The big Chicago Bulls will be better with Derrick Rose back.
If the Heat can get some reasonable production by the playoffs out of Oden, they should be OK. If not, a third straight title will be more difficult.
3. How much will the Heat watch Wade's minutes?
With the veteran shooting guard showing some treadwear in recent seasons, it will be interesting to see what happens with his regular-season minutes. They actually were up to 34.7 last season from 33.2 in 2011-12, although both figures are well down from 37.1 in 2010-11.
It might be a good idea for the Heat to cut his minutes to around 32 in the regular season. Unless Miami is making another run at the Lakers' 33-game winning streak, many regular-season games aren't going to have a lot of importance.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson