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Monday, October 1, 2012
Expect Heat to ease into the regular season

By Brian Windhorst

Dwyane Wade
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat may not be up and running at full speed by Oct. 30.

MIAMI -- Two seasons ago when the newly formed Miami Heat held training camp at an Air Force base in the Florida panhandle, the mood was as jovial as the average department of motor vehicles lobby.

Last season, when coming off a Finals defeat while facing a daunting, lockout-shortened schedule, the Heat moved through camp with an almost emotionless precision and focus.

It is not a surprise, however, their disposition now has taken on a new shade. Life as champs has agreed with the Heat and it is showing in the early stages of their camp. It may show in the early stages of the season, too.

There have been no two-a-day practices thus far, coach Erik Spoelstra having canceled the evening sessions. The on-court workouts have been two hours or less. The smiles and laughter have been flowing freely.

“This training camp is a little different than last year, it will be a different journey,” Spoelstra said. “This is a veteran group, this is a familiar group. They’re bringing it out here for two hours and I haven’t felt the need [for two-a-days].”

There’s been plenty of platitudes from players and Spoelstra that the early practices have been workmanlike and efficient, thus negating the need for the marathon sessions Pat Riley-influenced teams have endured over the decades.

Dwyane Wade said Spoelstra’s training camp demands have taken a “360 degrees-plus turn,” which sounds like it’s nowhere near as tough as it used to be. Championships have their spoils, it does seem.

“We signed some good guys but we also got older,” said Wade, referencing the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. “When you sign veterans you bring in professionals that can do their jobs and pick up things fast. But we also signed guys whose body can break down a little faster than the younger guys.”

Wade isn’t wrong. There is no real need to push it in October when the Heat certainly plan on playing into June. But it does bring in the reality that the Heat may not exactly be priming themselves for a fast start to their attempt to repeat.

For one, the Heat are pretty banged up for a team that hasn’t played a game yet. Consider:
While considering all that, know the Heat are leaving for China this weekend for a goodwill tour to Beijing and Shanghai for a week. It’s a worthwhile business trip for the league, but no doubt ruins the flow of camp. When the Heat return they’ll be facing some serious jet lag and will have just two weeks before their opener against the Boston Celtics.

It’s not exactly a recipe for starting the season on a hot streak, especially with seven of the team’s first 11 games on the road.

Last season, with revenge on their minds, the Heat blasted the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas Day and didn’t stop. Miami opened last season 9-1, rolling through veteran teams like the Mavs and Celtics who were obviously taking a more laggard approach. This year it could be the Heat who settle into that role.

Not that there’s anything truly flawed with that. Playing well in November for a team with the Heat’s pedigree hardly has many rewards. Nonetheless, it’s worth pointing out that the sense of urgency the Heat displayed in the past two training camps is missing somewhat as they enjoy the last days of their victory lap.

“We’re being smart with it,” Spoelstra said. “It’s been full contact, fully-padded, guys aren’t trying to ease into it. I’m looking at this big picture.”