Heat president Pat Riley challenged his team after its grueling title run to stay fit during the offseason, and many of them arrived at the Bahamas for training camp in the best shape of their lives.
For some, it was a friendly wager between Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers over who could lose 10 pounds in one week soon included LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as well. For others, such as veterans Chris Andersen and Rashard Lewis, it was a commitment to the Heat’s work ethic that culminated in what many Heat players deemed their favorite training camp of all time.
For the win-now Heat, though, it’s not how they start the season but how they end it as they face a fourth straight deep run in the postseason. Health is arguably the biggest X-factor on a team that relies largely on thirty-something veterans outside of LeBron, Bosh, Chalmers and Norris Cole.
While Greg Oden’s comeback bid is certainly a fascinating subplot, the bigger question is if Wade can truly recover from his injury woes and be healthy in time for the postseason.
With a tougher Eastern Conference, the Heat will need to work harder to secure the top seed in the playoffs, and having their players in top condition is essential. Their training staff is highly regarded, but there are plenty of question marks for several players on one of the older teams in the NBA.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at each Heat player’s current health status heading into opening day…
We all know he’s a freak of nature physically and the MVP is at the peak of his powers and in the prime of his career. With only 19 games missed in his entire career (several of them simply to rest), LeBron’s health is almost never in question with an unwavering dedication to training hard in the gym or on the floor before, during and after each NBA season.
That being said, it would be wise for the Heat to continue their late-season maintenance program on the reigning MVP after locking up a high playoff seed. No one wants a repeat of LeBron suffering cramps down the stretch of a critical game, like what happened in Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals, or looking gassed in crunch time because he was asked to do too much during the entire game. LeBron himself complained in 2010 after a regular-season loss against the Celtics that he played “too much” after 44 minutes of game action.
LeBron has consistently averaged less than 40 minutes in Miami and that likely won’t change this season. He has had no injury setbacks while preparing for his 11th pro season and sat out the Heat’s last preseason game against the Spurs only to rest.
Chalmers changed his diet during the offseason and quickly shed 10 pounds thanks to a bet with Ray Allen.
As a result, Mario is in great shape and is as quick as he’s ever been as a pro, which has been noticed by his teammates.
While he sat out the Heat’s preseason matchup versus the Pistons with a minor hip injury, it’s the only game he’s missed thus far and was more than likely to rest. He'll likely play big minutes this season, especially if he’s in top shape.
Battier is another savvy veteran on the Heat’s roster that knows how to keep in shape during the offseason and arrived at training camp ready to play.
The 35-year old swingman has participated in five of the Heat’s six preseason games with no setbacks reported.
Birdman made an immediate impact after signing with the Heat in January of this year and with a full training camp under his belt, he looks to continue his crucial role off the bench.
He bounced back nicely upon his return to the NBA, just in time for the Heat’s historic winning streak. The extended time off away from the NBA was not so much because of his well-documented legal woes but because of offseason knee surgery.
The 35-year old big man started working out early at the AA Arena this summer well in advance of training camp and has been looking good. He’s only participated in half of the team’s preseason schedule so far as he’s been dealing with a troublesome blister on his foot as well as another lingering foot issue.
Though he may not be completely 100 percent by opening day, Birdman will certainly take flight regardless.
Miami resident James Jones looks to benefit with more minutes this season after the departure of Mike Miller and has had some solid moments so far in the preseason.
He’s also been a bit shaky from long range at times during the preseason but has been healthy since the start of training camp.
Jones has only been used sparingly in his time with the Heat so his health has never really been too much of a factor. However, a boost in minutes is possible should Jones continue to shoot well.
The Heat’s warrior suffered a torn meniscus through most of the second half of last season along with a growing collection of smaller injuries to his shoulder, hip, ankle and knee but unsurprisingly played through it all during the 2013 playoffs.
He did require surgery to repair the torn meniscus in the offseason, but that didn’t seem to hold him back for training camp. He has looked active in the preseason after sitting out the Heat’s first game as he rebuilt his conditioning.
Haslem took Monday off against the Spurs to rest his body, but he appears to be fully ready for the start of the regular season.
Yes, the player formerly known as Flash may never totally regain the explosiveness he had when leading his team to its first title in 2006. He spoke earlier this preseason that he may never truly feel 100 percent again and assigned some of the blame to knee surgery he had in 2002 while with Marquette.
Wade just had one of his least productive postseasons in his career as he faced a variety of elements to his feet, ankles and most critically a deep bone bruise injury suffered on March 18 against the Boston Celtics that hobbled him for the rest of the season.
He faced unfair criticism for his postseason dip in production, but Wade deserves far more credit for pushing through the pain to help secure his third title. His injuries overshadowed an otherwise exceptional regular season, averaging 21 points on a career-high 52 percent shooting. Wade’s scoring average dipped down to 16 points in the playoffs, but he raised that to 19.6 points per game in the NBA Finals, pouring in 80 total points in the final three games of the series.
Two of the three bone bruises were above Wade’s right knee, but the most painful bruise developed directly under the knee cap in an injury that Spoelstra stressed at media day was not a wear-and-tear injury. But Wade’s troublesome left knee, which had required surgery the year before, needed to be drained and worked on for eight hours of treatment before the all-or-nothing Game 7 of the finals.
Wade has since come on strong in the offseason as he works harder than ever in a bid for a fourth ring. He resumed work with famed trainer Tim Grover and received Ossatron shock therapy for tendinitis on his troublesome knees, as he did in 2008 with positive results.
Heat teammates were raving about him in training camp and while he has wisely chosen to sit out some preseason games, he had a splendid, well-rounded game versus the San Antonio Spurs as the first offensive option while LeBron took the night off.
A regular-season maintenance program would be of benefit to Wade and the team if he can have more nights such as these.
While his head and heart have been questioned virtually nonstop since being drafted No. 2 in 2008, Beasley has stayed relatively healthy in five pro seasons without any major injuries.
A mild calf injury held him out of the team’s “Red and White” open scrimmage held after training camp as well as the first preseason game. After efficient appearances off the bench in their next two games, he then missed a pair of preseason games due to an infected left elbow from a scrape suffered during a game.
There’s also that little incident in which he repeatedly punched himself as punishment for a botched play against the Detroit Pistons. However, erroneous reports blamed that for Beasley needing treatment after the game when in reality it was courtesy of Jonas Jerebko’s elbow.
Despite these minor setbacks, Beasley appears to be fully recovered from any injuries as he fights for one of the final Heat roster spots.
He blamed the extra weight for pulling his hamstring back then and he suffered persistent knee injuries during his time with Toronto. Though he continues to wear knee braces, these days it's for preventative measures.
Bosh's time in Miami has been largely pain-free, though his abdominal strain suffered against the Pacers nearly derailed the Heat’s 2012 title run. Ultimately, he proved his true importance to the team as he came back in time to help the Heat win it all.
Bosh had some minor ailments last season, including a sore right knee near the end of the regular season and an ankle injury against Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
He is currently enjoying a healthy and productive preseason as one of the few Heat players to have made an appearance in all six of their games so far.
Pat Riley loves high-IQ veterans that fit right into the system, and with no major health woes, Mason Jr. has responded with quality minutes on the floor.
Though he was held out of two preseason games with a mild quad strain, his conditioning has helped him impress teammates and the coaching staff with his all-around play.
The journeyman has made a compelling argument to stick around with the Heat and is a near lock to make it to the final roster.
The all-time NBA leader in three-pointers made showed up to the Bahamas in the best shape he’s been in years thanks to a gluten-free, paleo diet. As a result, he lost about 10 pounds and is down to his college playing weight. At 38, Allen recognized the importance of staying fit during the offseason and currently has had no setbacks during camp or preseason in his 18th year in the league.
Allen’s impressive new physique was on display in the Bahamas, and the team’s oldest player by three years set the tone for his teammates to follow.
Lewis is finally playing pain-free since arriving in Miami and continues to get stronger and active under the direction of the Heat training staff.
His shooting form has improved as a result, as has his defensive activity, and Lewis could be counted on during the season to provide quality minutes off the bench with his long-range shooting to stretch the offense.
Rashard is finally able to dunk again, something he wasn’t able to do for the last couple of years due to chronic arthritis in his knees. After signing with the Heat last year, he had OssaTron shock therapy on both of his knees in what would eventually take several months to fully recover from.
Now that he’s healthier and more active, he stands a better chance of grabbing more minutes as a reserve—though it remains to be seen what role he will have this season.
Anthony has seen limited time during the preseason but all indications are that the defensive specialist is pain-free and ready to go for the season.
Spoelstra has elected to play other big men more in the preseason to take a better look at projects such as Justin Hamilton and Eric Griffin. With Birdman's arrival last season slicing into his minutes and Greg Oden possibly contributing as well, we just don't know how big of a role Anthony will have this season.
The young point guard is the first and only Heat player currently locked into the 2014-15 team payroll and the speedy guard has played consistent minutes off the bench in five of the Heat’s six preseason games.
The Cleveland State product has proven to be durable in his first two seasons and if he wants a third ring, he’ll need to step up his shooting and playmaking as he transitions to becoming a seasoned NBA vet.
From a health standpoint, though, he’s good to go.
The 2012 Heat draft-day acquisition has had a successful training camp and has shown flashes of promise during the preseason, but he faces slim chances of making the final roster.
Hamilton battled injuries while playing overseas last season and was unable to compete in the Heat’s summer league tournaments due to a pesky hamstring injury. As soon as he was medically cleared to play, he was signed by the Heat in time for training camp.
The 23-year-old 6'8" swingman has no reported issues with his fitness or conditioning, quite the opposite actually. He escaped possible injury when he bit on a pump fake but avoided Brooklyn Nets rookie Mason Plumlee by jumping clear over the (slightly crouching) 7-footer.
That's a pretty impressive way to avoid fouling your opponent. Though Griffin’s highly athletic play has impressed the Heat staff, he has little chance of sticking with the team.
Unfortunately for Greg Oden, any and all discussion involving the former No. 1 draft pick has been about his health instead of his play.
But it’s his potential on the court that Pat Riley and the front office couldn’t resist when signing him this offseason. The plan all along has been to bring him along slowly but surely under the guidance of the Heat training staff.
Oden did finally receive clearance last week for five-on-five work in practice and even blocked one of LeBron’s drives to the rim, a positive step forward to be sure. Though the overtly optimistic plan to sneak Oden into a preseason game for a few minutes was quickly dashed after trainers detected swelling in his knees afterwards, the fact that he is already training on the floor with his new teammates is great news so early into his comeback bid.
The Heat can afford to let him rehab at his own pace, but if he can provide a few quality minutes against elite opponents this season, then the Heat’s investment will be worth it.