Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers were only a few months removed from the draft and Dwyane Wade was only a few weeks away from the start of arguably his best season as a professional.
It was the Heat’s 2008 preseason training camp, and veteran players were trying to mesh with rookies and everyone was having a hard time with the defense. Sound familiar? If anything reminds Wade of the knee-deep roster soup that’s simmering in the Heat’s practice gym these days, he says it’s that first season with coach Erik Spoelstra stirring the broth.
“The last couple of years we’ve had the same group of guys, so it has been pretty much seamless,” Wade said. “Now it’s starting all over again like that season when Beasley and [Chalmers] came in.
“We had a lot of new guys and some guys who were talented, and we were trying to make it all work, and we went through highs and lows as the season was going. It’s kind of the same feeling.”
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Odds makers have projected this Heat team to finish with about 44 wins.
The team went 43-39 in 2008-09 season, earned the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed and then lost in the first round to the Atlanta Hawks in seven games.
The starting lineup for 2008-09 season opener: Chalmers and Wade in the backcourt, Beasley and Shawn Marion manning the forward positions and Udonis Haslem at center. This season’s projected starting five has more experience, but less athleticism. Of course, actually projecting the Heat’s starting lineup at this point is difficult.
Spoelstra has used three different starting lineups, and the first team could change once again for Tuesday’s preseason game against the Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“We know we have a talented team,” Wade said. “Coach has just got to figure out the right combination, and the right team to put out there.
“But as a team we’ve got to get better defensively. We’ve got a long way to go there. Offensively, we’re not bad.”
The defense allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to shoot 57.5 percent from the field in the first half on Saturday. The mistakes were many, and the daily repetition of those mistakes currently is a point of frustration for Haslem, Wade and Chris Bosh.
“Last year we could hit the ground running,” Bosh said. “We knew everything, and it was just a quick review, and then we were all about getting in shape. Now we have to review, and then after we review, we review some more, and then after we review two times we’re still going to go into the game and mess it up. So then we review again, and today we reviewed that, too.
“So, it’s a process. That’s a good way to put. But I think this group is very attentive and we’re going to get better as time goes on. It’s just a process, like I say, and the good thing about it is we’re making a lot of mistakes.”
Deng on Hawks
Heat forward Luol Deng plays against the Hawks for the first time since the organization used offensive language to describe him in a scouting report.
“Obviously that’s going to be in the back of your head, but it’s the players that you’re playing against,” Deng said. “They’re not the ones who said what was said.”
During a meeting with Hawks executives and owners over the summer, general manager Danny Ferry disparaged Deng by reading aloud a report that called into question his character. The report also inferred that Deng’s African heritage somehow detracted from his abilities as a basketball player. Following the controversy, Ferry was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the team.
Deng hopes to use the incident to “do something so someone benefits from the mistake that was made,” but he hasn’t had any contact with Ferry or the Hawks since. Deng said Monday after practice that he was closer to signing with the Hawks than the Heat at one point during free agency, and that interest from Bosh helped sway Deng to the Heat.
Heat power forward Josh McRoberts remains sidelined with injuries, and it’s unclear when he’ll be cleared for action. McRoberts had surgery on his left great toe this summer, and it hasn’t responded well in practices. Bosh said on Monday that McRoberts participated in one close-out drill at the start of training camp before pulling up lame.
“It was fast to slow to out,” Bosh said. “It’s all about the Heat culture here, and we close out a lot, and I don’t think he was ready for it.”
McRoberts is projected as a starter, so his absence is stunting the Heat’s progress during the preseason.
“He can’t get acclimated until he plays out there,” Bosh said. “Like I say, it’s theory. It sounds good, you want to do it, you can see something, but unless you have your game legs, and unless you’re in good enough condition to make those plays, it’s probably not going to happen.
“So, we need him out there to play.”
▪ The Heat waived Chris Johnson and Reggie Williams after returning from Rio de Janeiro. The roster stands at 18 players, but teams can only carry 15 players during the regular season.
2008-09 opening-night lineup