ORLANDO (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat have been ready to open the NBA season for weeks, even months.
The majority of the team that went a league-best 30-11 during the second half of last season has been in the gym all summer, working hard and preparing to continue that stretch in their new campaign.
Part of the chip on Miami’s collective shoulder is due to missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
Heat president Pat Riley decided to keep the band together, re-signing pending free agents Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Wayne Ellington to pricy contracts.
All three excelled during their year in Miami and had career seasons, with the key being that every player on the roster has embraced the franchise’s well-known work ethic.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra has spent the preseason tinkering with the Heat’s lineup, trying to figure out his starting five and what roles his players will have in the rotation.
What Miami lacks star power it makes up for in depth as the talent level across the board is extremely high.
Granted, to say that Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic aren’t stars in this league may be considered a stretch by some but it’s hard to put them in the same class of the LeBron James’ and Steph Curry’s of the world.
Nevertheless, the Heat enter the new season with a stacked roster of motivated players that have bonded together over the course of their time together.
Spoelstra has 11 players that could all play significant roles this season, but it’s not likely that the coach would employ a rotation with that many guys.
It’s safe to assume that Dragic, Waiters and Whiteside will be starters.
Beyond those three, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow, Wayne Ellington, rookie Bam Adebayo and Okaro White could all contribute on a gamely basis.
The Heat also hope to get Rodney McGruder back from injury sometime in the next few months, barring a setback in his recovery.
McGruder was penciled in as Miami’s starting small forward before suffering a stress fracture in his left tibia. He underwent surgery on Tuesday in Coral Gables.
- Miami has won six consecutive season openers, including last season’s 12-point victory at Orlando.
- Hassan Whiteside averaged 16.5 rebounds and 19.3 points on 60 percent shooting during his four games against the Magic last year.
- Orlando was last in the Eastern Conference in scoring (101.1 points) and field goal percentage (44.0 percent) last season.
- This is the sixth time Miami has faced Orlando to open the season, with the Magic holding a 3-2 edge.