By Mike Cugno

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat are preparing to open the new season on Wednesday night in Orlando.

Fans in South Florida are extremely excited as the Heat are coming off an amazing run during the second half of last season.

After winning just 11 of their first 41 games, Miami finished the year with a league-best 30-11 record but still missed the playoffs thanks to a tiebreaker.

The Heat may be a playful bunch, but make no mistake they are hungry to get back into the postseason after last year’s near miss.

“I’m just trying to go in and win one game at a time,” said Justise Winslow with a smile.” Go 82-0, one game at a time.”

Center Hassan Whiteside shared Winslow’s optimism but was a bit more grounded with his prediction.

“How good do I think this team’s going to be? I think this could be a 50 win team,” Whiteside said.

Monday’s practice at the American Airlines Arena was one of Miami’s final tune-ups before Wednesday’s opener in Orlando.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra has yet to announce a starting five but it may not matter with the core group of Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, and Dion Waiters playing together for a second season.

“When that time comes hopefully we’ll be ready,” Waiters said. “We should be ready. I’ll be ready.”

Spoelstra is known as a great communicator and his players can appreciate always knowing where they stand and never being turned away when they have a question.

“That’s a really important thing, everybody knows their roles,” said Dragic. “Coach is doing an amazing job to tell us ‘you are doing this, this, this’ and everybody’s doing their job. When we’re like that we can improve as a unit, as a team, and hopefully we’re going to play well.”

In years past Spoelstra has been able uncover diamonds in the rough, like a Whiteside or Rodney McGruder, but this season he’s expecting some seasoned vets to set a new bar and take this group to the next level.

“Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic. Yea. I hope they’re much different players this season,” Spoelstra said. “We don’t want to put any boundaries or limits on any players no matter what their age is. No matter how many years’ experience. They have just as much of an opportunity to make a jump just like Rodney [McGruder] did as anybody else. But these guys that are new to our roster, Kelly [Olynyk], Bam [Adebayo], we feel great about.”


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