5 Things We Learned About Miami Heat During First Week of Training Camp
The Miami Heat are known to have one of the most rigorous training camps in basketball. With Erik Spoelstra being a clone of Pat Riley and also employing a defensive scheme that requires each player to be quick, the Heat need all of their players to be at their physical and mental peak in order to keep up with Miami's quick pace on both sides of the court.
But what did the Heat have to say about this year's training camp in the Bahamas?
"The best training camp ever," raved Chris Bosh. "One of my favorite training camps in my 11 seasons," said Dwyane Wade. LeBron James and Erik Spoelstra also expressed similar sentiments as to how their first week of training camp came to an end, setting up a scrimmage for Sunday and their first preseason game against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
There's no championship hangover; the Heat are satisfied with the way training camp was run and are anxious to get the 2013-14 season started.
The rotation is likely to remain the same, and the only absentees from last year are Juwan Howard, who is now with the team as an assistant coach, and Mike Miller. Greg Oden was the only free agent signed by Miami this offseason while Michael Beasley, Jarvis Varnado, Larry Drew II, Eric Griffin, Justin Hamilton and Roger Mason, Jr., are on non-guaranteed deals, requiring them to play their way onto the final roster.
Beasley—for his versatility—and Mason—for his experience and shooting ability—are the most likely to make the final 15-man roster, but their roles will most likely feature spot minutes outside of the rotation at first.
This year's training camp was mainly utilized as a way to bring everybody back up to speed and attempt to integrate Michael Beasley into the rotation as a complementary player. Oden will have to wait before he is experimented with in lineups as he has spent training camp playing without heavy contact.
Since it's the same rotation as last year—plus LeBron being better and Dwyane being healthier—this Heat team can only chalk up another year of experience playing together as the focal point of their training camp. Each year they have improved, and each year they have appeared more dominant with last year's 27-game winning streak being evidence of that.
Whether or not this year's team will match the success of last year's team that won a franchise-record 66 games, we will find out in due time. For now, we can only take away what we saw from the first week of training camp.
Michael Beasley Is Committed
Since leaving Miami, Michael Beasley's career has been in a downward spiral that's been weighed down by several arrests related to marijuana possession.
Beasley had his best years with Miami, in terms of his PER, and it is sounding as if the Heat may have received a steal judging by comments on Michael out of training camp. Word is: the coaching staff is impressed with Beasley, and the effort he's exerting is being noticed.
The Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman had this to say about Beasley:
"Michael Beasley has been pushing himself, trying to make the best impression, practically affixing himself to Dwyane Wade's side for mentorship. He wants to make this work, and he's trying, really trying. This won't fail for lack of effort, and apparently not for anything off the court, either. It's a matter of making the not-so-easy adjustment to complementary player, something he never had been asked to do. I asked him about that Friday and he insists you won't see him as a ball-stopper anymore."
One can no longer question Beasley's commitment to becoming a better player and attempting to salvage his career, but there are questions in whether or not he can adjust to becoming a role player. He has been looked at either as a first or second scoring option throughout his NCAA and NBA career and will most likely end up in a small rotational role if he does end up making the team.
What the Heat are going to look for from Beasley is whether or not he can successfully acclimate to the fluid motions of the Heat offense. As Beasley pointed out himself, he can no longer be a ball-stopper that is indecisive as to what to do when the ball is in his hands. He will have to involve himself off the ball, as well as being someone who can make smart decisions in the few opportunities he receives.
Motivation does not appear to be a problem in Beasley's life, which is usually what happens when your career is nearly over and you join a championship-bound team, but it's going to take far more than that to earn consistent minutes.
He will have to struggle through adjusting and adapting first, making the preseason an interesting one as the coaching staff will likely feature him in a number of roles.
Greg Oden Is on the Right Pace
Don't expect Greg Oden to play in Sunday's scrimmage or Monday's preseason opener.
However, you can expect him to play a role on this Heat team as soon as he is medically cleared by the training staff that has adamantly worked with him since he got here. Oden has yet to play in full-contact drills but is on the court practicing and is excited about the opportunity before him.
The Heat released a video on Instagram of their big's practicing scoring around the rim. One of those big's was Oden, who did not suffer any sort of lower-body injury on the shots he was attempting.
Although the Heat are not expecting Oden to become the 20-10 guy he was projected to be out of Ohio State, there will be hope that he'll be healthy enough for the Heat to fill in one of their most glaring weaknesses in keeping athletic and active power forwards and centers out from under the rim.
More important, however, is having Oden healthy enough for the postseason. Miami cannot enter another postseason hoping that Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen will be the keys to stopping 7-footers Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez from scoring or keeping Joakim Noah away from the rim.
For now, it's just closely watching Oden and weening him back into the game. Miami isn't expecting any miracles to occur with Greg, and they'll play him on his own terms when he, as well as the medical staff, are comfortable enough to the point where he can begin splitting time with Andersen at backup center.
The Addition of Oden Means Less Small-Ball
Greg Oden has shown great strides since joining the Heat, and it's giving the coaching staff the possibility of running lineups that don't entirely focus on small lineups and position-less basketball.
While those types of lineups have led the Heat to consecutive titles, the rest of the league, namely the Indiana Pacers, have caught on and are attempting to impose their will through offensive rebounds and easy looks near the rim.
It's the main reason why Greg Oden was brought on. Despite the injuries that have devastated his career, Miami was willing to take a chance on the oft-injured center for the purpose of defending the likes of Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez while also giving the team a rare look at a true center on their roster.
Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen split those duties throughout last year's championship run but struggled to defend Hibbert and Tim Duncan as well as keep Joakim Noah off the boards. The need for a center who could not just be a rim-deterrent but an athlete as well was obvious, leaving the Heat with the idea of experimenting with Oden.
If Oden were to remain healthy—with Miami keeping his minutes monitored and low throughout the season—it means the Heat running lineups that could feature Bosh back at his natural and comfortable position of power forward. Although Bosh put up a PER of 20 when playing center last year, per 82games.com, his struggles playing the center position were magnified in Miami's series with Indiana and San Antonio.
Andersen's role will likely be reduced as he'll split time with Oden. However, it could also mean experimenting with lineups that play Andersen at power forward and Oden at center, leaving the Heat with a frontcourt that possesses a defensive presence that has not been seen in Miami over the past three years.
It's all a huge stretch since it's relying on the knees of Oden, but it's currently giving the Heat another dimension to work with—as well as allowing LeBron James to finally work with a young athletic big as he did so fluently in Cleveland with J.J. Hickson.
Udonis Haslem Can Shoot Three-Pointers
Has Udonis Haslem become the latest Miami Heat player to incorporate a three-point shot into his arsenal?
It appears so after the Miami Heat Instagram account released this video of three separate training camp highlights, one of which featured Haslem knocking down a three-pointer from the corner.
Haslem is 0-of-13 from three for his 11-year career and hasn't attempted one since 2007. It's unlikely he begins to take three-pointers when he's needed under the rim and in his strong suit in the mid-range, but it's reassuring to see him capable of such a feat.
Or, who knows, perhaps the Heat are trying to work a three-pointer into Haslem's repertoire. With all the experiments the Heat have run, such as turning Chris Bosh into a 40 percent three-point shooter in last year's postseason, it's entirely possible the Heat run such an experiment.
I'm just saying, it's a long regular season.
Dwyane Wade Is Ready
After scoring 23 points and grabbing ten rebounds in Miami's Game 7 win over the San Antonio Spurs, Dwyane Wade didn't get back onto the court until August.
Since then, he's worked with his usual trainer, Tim Grover, while getting ready for what is sure to be another lengthy season that should feature over 100 games being played. Wade is coming off a season where he played in 91 games, missing 13 regular season games and even sitting out a postseason contest in Miami's series-clincher over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wade was averaging 23 points on 53 percent shooting through Miami's 27-game winning streak and was well on his way to finishing strong. However, a knee injury, occurring by a knee-to-knee hit, derailed any promises of Wade being healthy for the postseason, effectively rendering him as hurt—as he was in the Heat's championship run from the year before.
Dwyane's numbers suffered as a result. Averaging only 15.9 points on 46 percent shooting, Wade put up the lowest numbers of his postseason career last season, putting up as many games scoring over 20 points as he did scoring less than ten points prior to Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Despite the criticism he faced for not playing the role of an effective sidekick to LeBron James, Wade endured and finished with at least 23 points in three of Miami's final four games of the season, including an impressive 32 points in a crucial Game 4 victory.
Wade shot a career-high 52 percent from the field in the regular season.
So much rides on this season for the franchise, yet it could be the words of Kevin Durant that are going to motivate Wade into strangling the 2013-14 season until it's out of breath. It seems as if many have forgotten how prolific, dynamic and explosive a player Wade can be when he's healthy and not suffering a knee injury a few weeks before he heads into the playoffs.
Word is that Wade has been looking great in training camp and has even shed some pounds, something that Pat Riley has been asking of Dwyane. He'll be ready for Miami's preseason opener against the Atlanta Hawks and should also be playing in Miami's scrimmage Sunday evening.
Wade will be a key player this season as the Heat aim to keep all of their key players' energy levels and health in check for the postseason. Miami cannot afford to have Wade limping into a postseason for a third-straight time when this will most likely be their most enduring and arduous championship run yet.