MIAMI (AP) — Erik Spoelstra bounded into his first Miami Heat news conference of the season looking tanned and relaxed, the benefit of having nearly six months off.
He’s hoping next summer is much shorter.
Even without the now-retired Dwyane Wade and after a season where Miami didn’t make the playoffs, Spoelstra said Monday at Heat media day that there’s no reason for his team to not see big opportunities this season. The Heat landed four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler in July and go to camp starting Tuesday in West Palm Beach with Spoelstra insisting that his expectations will be at their usual lofty level.
“Feels good to be back,” said Spoelstra, entering his 12th season as Heat coach. “We’ve had plenty of time this offseason to reset, recalibrate and reorganize to get ready for this season. It’s been 172 days. I think that is probably 70 some days too many for this organization to have during the offseason. … We’re excited. Feels like a new team, a new opportunity.”
There are new opportunities and new challenges.
The Heat are the NBA’s only team to enter training camp without their three top scorers from last season — Josh Richardson (now in Philadelphia as part of the Butler trade) scored 1,209 points, Wade scored 1,083 and Hassan Whiteside (now in Portland, also via the four-team deal that landed Butler) scored 887.
Miami returns basically half its scoring, 3-point shooting, rebounding, assists and shotblocking from last season. Clearly, Butler isn’t going account for all those differences. So the Heat are counting on guards Dion Waiters and rookie Tyler Herro to fill some of the shooting gaps, betting center Bam Adebayo’s numbers rise with additional minutes and hoping point guard Goran Dragic can be healthy for more than 36 games this season.
“Our camps are for competitors only,” Spoelstra said. “There are opportunities. But ultimately, this is about winning — and how can you contribute to winning.”
Spoelstra was amused by Butler’s telling of the story last week about how when he was in Chicago he hated the Heat. Turns out, in the first five minutes of their first dinner together this summer after the deal got done, Spoelstra told Butler that the Heat hated going against him then as well.
Bonds started to immediately form.
“I like that our shootarounds are what they are supposed to be, you breaking a sweat,” Butler said. “I like that we compete in practice every single day. I like that every time we step onto this court, there is a certain way you have to look, there is a certain mentality you have to have. It’s never like you just step on here just to go through the motions.”
Spoelstra’s team shares his level of preseason optimism, even knowing there are tons of questions to answer such as who’ll start at the point (Goran Dragic or Justise Winslow), who’ll make up the closing lineup and who emerges as the next options after Butler.
“The sky’s really the limit with this team,” Heat forward Kelly Olynyk said. “We have a lot of pieces to a puzzle and I think our pieces are going to fit together the best they have since I’ve been here. I think that’s something you can’t take for granted.”
Miami is planning two-a-day practice sessions for each of the first four days of training camp, and isn’t scheduled to have a day off until Oct. 10 — following a back-to-back against San Antonio and Charlotte to open its preseason slate.
The Heat have six players in camp on what’s called Exhibit 10 (one-year, non-guaranteed) contracts, and two of them will likely be converted into two-way deals before the season begins. Among top candidates: former Miami Hurricanes standout Davon Reed and former Kentucky guard Mychal Mulder — one of Adebayo’s college roommates.
Udonis Haslem is back for his 17th season in Miami. He’s already had 130 different Heat teammates in his career, not counting the new faces that will make their first Miami appearances this season like Butler, Herro and Meyers Leonard.
All Heat players should be ready to practice Tuesday except Olynyk, who has a bone bruise in his knee that he thinks may take a couple more weeks. Olynyk believes he can still play at least one preseason game. Olynyk got hurt while playing for Team Canada this summer, and said he would like to play for his country again in 2020 during the Olympic qualifying tournament.
Herro, the No. 13 overall draft pick, said he’s benefited from spending a lot of time with Butler this summer. “For him to take me under his wing early on just means a lot to me,” Herro said.
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