So much for finally getting the whole band together.
The Heat’s first practice of training camp Tuesday at Florida Atlantic University was supposed to mark the first time Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside were out on the floor together. Only, it wasn’t.
Whiteside, who came into camp in the best shape of his career, according to coach Erik Spoelstra, missed Tuesday’s practice with a strained right calf. It could be a couple of days before the 7-foot center and defensive stopper finally gets out there with his teammates.
Whiteside said he strained his calf doing some extra conditioning work last Friday and will be taking a couple days off under the advisement of trainer Jay Sabol.
“During the workout, I just felt like a tug on my calf muscle,” Whiteside said. “I didn’t really know what to expect because I never injured it before. They just told me take it day-by-day. So, it’s no rush.”
Spoelstra didn’t seem to be too bothered or in a rush to get Whiteside back out there.
“He’s feeling better, but he’s probably not ready for this right now,” Spoelstra said. “So we’ll just take it day to day, see how he feels with another full day of treatment. He did a long day of triple treatments [Monday], more treatment [Tuesday] morning. And we’ll see how he feels in the morning. But everybody else was able to go.”
Wade said as long as Whiteside is back at the right time, that’s all that matters to him.
“Obviously, we want him out there, but we want to be smart,” Wade said. “It’s the time of the year, especially the veteran guys, when they have to take care of their bodies. We don’t want something small to become a bigger deal — especially with someone who is so valuable to our team.”
As for the team’s first practice, the Heat, as usual, focused nearly all of its efforts on defense. Spoelstra said he threw everything in the defensive playbook at the team with the hope some of it would stick for the newcomers.
“I thought everybody did good,” Wade said in his assessment of practice. “Veteran guys communicated, talked with the newcomers, just trying to help everyone fast-track things.
“We do things a certain way and that will never change. We’ve added a few things here and there, but our defensive principles are the same. Now it’s about getting guys on the right page. It was good talking to Gerald [Green], talking to Goran, coming from Phoenix and a total different camp style. It was good to kind of look in their eyes when we started getting it going.”
The Heat ranked 19th in defensive efficiency (103.8) last season. Over the four previous seasons — all trips to the NBA Finals — the Heat ranked 11th (102.9), seventh (100.5), fourth (97.1) and fifth (100.7) in the same statistical category. So getting better defensively is a key to the season.
“It’s a tough defensive concept to grasp. It’s not easy,” Wade said. “Once you get it, it’s special. But it takes a while. You have to program a lot of guy’s minds to do something they haven’t done their whole life. A lot of us have been told when the ball is away from you, you’re just by your man chilling. Not in this defense. You got to get off. You’ve got to be able to help the other person. It’s not something common for other guys. So it takes a little while.”
Bosh, back from the blood clots in his lungs that cost him the final 30 games of last season, enjoyed being back out there with his teammates. He said he had no trouble breathing. He also didn’t feel any extra emotions despite everything he has been through in the past year.
“I’ve been blessed to put that situation behind me,” Bosh said. “That’s the best part about all of this. I have no worries. I’m just able to go out there. Like I’ve told so many people before, it’s a little easier just being able to go and play basketball. Being a thinker is a little bit tough when you are confined to a space.”
Spoelstra said Bosh looked to be in good physical condition. He also liked what he saw from forward Josh McRoberts, who missed 65 games last season with a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Before they were lost to season-ending injuries last season, Spoelstra said he designed 70 percent of the offensive playbook to run through Bosh and McRoberts’ hands. He would like for that to finally be the case this year.
“You don't have to make any kind of case to our players to get the ball in Josh’s hands,” Spoelstra said. “He’s very unselfish, wants to make plays for guys. He makes the game easier for guys.”
With the focus primarily on defense, Bosh and Dragic didn’t get much opportunity to zero in on their pick and roll game. But that eventually will be a big focus in camp and in the preseason.