The comfort level where LeBron James finds himself entering the Heat’s training camp was measured in jokes on Monday during the team’s media day at AmericanAirlines Arena.
So at ease with his surroundings, the back-to-back MVP and champion of everything even poked fun at himself during his news conference. Self-deprecating humor is the best form of funny, and James delivered when he said he wasn’t going to be happy here in Miami until he won “not 11, not 12, not 13, not 14” championships.
For now, his third title with the Heat is the goal, and after a short offseason that included his wedding to Savannah Brinson and their honeymoon, James said he is refreshed and ready to begin the long process of attempting something historic.
“I missed the game of basketball, so I’m very excited,” James said.
In the history of the NBA, there have been five instances of franchises winning at least three consecutive championships in a row. The Heat flew to Nassau, Bahamas, on Monday to begin its journey toward attempting to join the Minneapolis Lakers (1952-54), Boston Celtics (1959-66, eight in row), Chicago Bulls (1991-93 and 1996-98) and Los Angeles Lakers (2000-02) in the record books.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team’s front office chose to begin training camp in the Bahamas as a reward for last season but also to cut down on the potential distraction of too many TV cameras and reporters. Inside a large ballroom at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, Spoelstra said he will challenge his players to “let go of what we did last year” while also focusing “on now and not be obsessed with the future.”
By “future” Spoelstra means the contract decisions looming for so many players on the team after this season. James said Monday he doesn’t plan on discussing his future at any point this season, but did say he wants to be the “greatest of all time.” The city of Miami is hoping he plans on accomplishing that goal with the Heat.
“Our guys aren’t naïve to the business of basketball, and I think you have to respect everybody’s point in their careers when they become a free agent,” Spoelstra said. “There is nothing wrong with it, and we absolutely respect a player’s opportunity to be free when they earn that opportunity. It doesn’t come along very often.
“So, when you have a team built like this with a big picture, and we understand that we have to come together, we’ve been trained and conditioned probably for this type of moment more than any other team. What we talk about all the time is just focus on now.”
In the Bahamas, the team will practice twice daily on Tuesday and Wednesday, once on Thursday and once on Friday before flying home.
“I can’t see Bahamas training camp,” Shane Battier joked. “I just see training camp. Training camp stinks. Whatever I’ve been telling people is you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Training camp is your body hurts and you’re sore. Right now, it’s, ‘We’re going to the Bahamas,’ but after the first day you can’t get out of bed.”
But don’t expect the Heat’s veteran players to experience a truly grueling training camp. James, Battier, Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade each said the key to this season, more than anything, is staying healthy, and that begins with making it through the first week of camp unscathed.
“If we can stay healthy and we can improve each month, then we’ll put ourselves in position to compete for another championship,” James said.
James then reiterated his concern over the team’s health.
“If we’re healthy as a ballclub, it doesn’t matter who you put up against us, we can compete with anybody,” James said. “If we’re not healthy, then it’s going to be tougher. It was tougher last year when we weren’t healthy, and it was tougher the first year we won it when we weren’t healthy.”
Bosh was injured during part of the Heat’s first championship run, and Wade suffered through a sore knee in the last postseason. Wade, who gave his knee a rest this offseason and also had OssaTron shock wave therapy, said he plans on “going at my pace” in training camp.
“I’ve got a different pace than everyone else,” Wade said. “We’ve got a month until the season starts, so you take that time.”
On Wade’s knee, Spoelstra said, “There’s a major misconception — a major misconception — about his health and where he was last year. He had one of his most efficient productive years up until the point he had a bone bruise.
“It was a bone bruise. It wasn’t a knee issue of wear and tear, something completely different. But that’s fine, the misconception.”