The only problem with traveling to Brazil with a basketball team that’s nowhere near ready to start the regular season is, simply, there’s no time to practice.
The Heat arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday morning for its all-important — yet completely meaningless — preseason game Saturday against former teammate LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers. Then, abruptly, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra canceled practice.
For a team that’s 0-2 in the preseason, most recently benched its long-time starting point guard — and not to mention still trying to figure out how to play basketball without the best player on the planet — it was a less than ideal day.
The red-eye flight from Miami to Rio after Tuesday night’s preseason loss to the Orlando Magic was 8½ hours, and then it took most of the morning to clear the traveling party through customs, load three buses and drive through the city. At that point, Spoelstra didn’t have much of a choice but to cancel practice.
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After all, there are other things on the daily agenda for teams during these NBA Global Games, and the time slots for prearranged corporate engagements are not flexible.
Full slate planned
Already for this team there was too much to do and not enough time to do it.
“In the grand scheme of things, we have a lot of stuff that we need to work on, and things we need to sort out, or perfect,” power forward Udonis Haslem said earlier this week.
“We have to continue to build those relationships with each other and move forward to the season’s first game.”
For a team with so many new faces, relationship building off the court won’t be a problem in Brazil.
But while down time and team bonding exercises are important, so are things like understanding the amount of energy needed to properly run the Heat’s effort-intensive defense, or how to run an offense without a 6-8 point forward who led the team in pretty much every major statistical category each of the past four years.
What has the Heat learned in its first two weeks of retooling?
Answer: Replacing a player such as James is far more complicated than simply rebuilding the team’s engine. It’s more like building a new motor from scratch, but with random bicycle parts.
“It’s a process,” Bosh said. “It’s coming along, and I think you have to continue reading each other and reacting to each other to make sure that we’re making the correct reads when it’s time. And it takes a lot of time to gel.
“We can put in set plays, but we don’t have that feel for the game to take what the defense gives to us. We eventually have to work to that point.”
Search for scoring
Bosh was better on Tuesday night against the Magic than in the Heat’s preseason debut, and that was a positive step.
He finished with 18 points and found open shots early in the game thanks to better ball movement behind new starting point guard Norris Cole.
But the Heat is still searching for offense, and will be until Dwyane Wade plays himself back into shape. And he’ll need to be in far better shape than he was last season, when he sat out 28 games.
For the first time in four years, Wade is once again the Heat’s primary scorer from the wing.
“When we were all together, we had certain things we had to do, in a sense, and now coach is asking us to do more than just those certain things,” Wade said. “You’ve got to flip that switch, and just kind of get more aggressive, especially offensively.
“For example, I used to just float to the corners, and Chris used to float out to the corners because LeBron can make that pass over to him. Well, now you’ve got to be a little bit more involved in the offense. You can’t just float. We’ve got to make sure that our teammates see us.”
Like old times, the Heat floated through Wednesday in Brazil waiting for James to show up.