Miami Heat

Fighting words fire up Miami Heat before preseason opener

On the eve of the Miami Heat’s preseason schedule, the back-to-back defending champions received a message from someone who knows a little about staying on top.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., the ultimate champ, attended Heat practice Sunday, spoke briefly about the difficulty of sustained excellence and, more importantly, energized the team on the day between training camp and the start of an eight-game preseason schedule. The Heat plays the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday night.

“Not many people can relate to our guys in terms of championships, so we felt he would be a great voice for them to hear,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “His message was awesome. The guys ate it all up.”

Mayweather was in town Saturday for the Miami Hurricanes football game, and Spoelstra reached out with an offer to attend practice. Few outsiders are allowed to watch Heat practice, according to Dwyane Wade, but Mayweather is a little different. He’s 45-0 over a 17-year career.

“From one champion to another, he just talked about being proud of us and how we handled ourselves,” Wade said. “He knows, as a champion, how hard it is to go out there and compete when people try to take you down. If you got up today and you were a little tired, you walk in and see the champ, you work a little harder.”

LeBron James, who is friends with Mayweather, put Spoelstra and the boxer in touch.

“With him being 17 years-and-0, we’re trying to defend two titles and he’s been defending for a long time,” James said. “He definitely knows where we’re coming from. It’s definitely exciting to have someone, one of the greatest of all time, to be in your presence. It’s something you can talk about years from now when you look back on the history of sports. That guy was at our practice.”

Both Spoelstra and Pat Riley are boxing fans. Spoelstra is a loyal supporter of Manny Pacquiao, but said on Sunday that “you can’t deny” Mayweather’s work ethic and career. Pacquiao and Mayweather are considered the best boxers of their generation.

“Seventeen years on top is ridiculous,” Spoelstra said. “We all have the ultimate respect.”

Mayweather left practice without speaking to reporters, and he didn’t stick around for the Heat’s annual preseason scrimmage either. Too bad. He missed plenty of dunks by prospect Eric Griffin, some three-pointers by James Jones and James’ interesting practice attire.

Highlights of the scrimmage:

• The biggest stars were the fans. An announced attendance of 11,289 filled the arena for a glorified practice. Spoelstra watched and evaluated players from press row with assistant Ron Rothstein while assistants Dan Craig and David Fizdale coached the teams.

• Team Red starters were James, Rashard Lewis, Joel Anthony, Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers.

• Team White starters were Jones, Wade, Shane Battier, Chris Bosh and Norris Cole.

• Also, the Heat’s new dancers made their debuts.

• Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen, Greg Oden and Michael Beasley sat out the scrimmage. Andersen tweaked his ankle in the Bahamas. Haslem is still recovering from offseason surgery.

• Wade, who appears to be feeling fine after offseason knee therapy, moved well. He dunked in the third.

• Jones, the scrimmage superstar, had 12 points on four three-pointers in the first quarter.

• Griffin had impressive dunks in the second and third quarters. Griffin, an athletic prospect from Campbell University, impressed coaches during the summer league.

• Ray Allen hit a half-court shot during halftime, which lasted five minutes.

• Andersen spoke with Heat sideline reporter Jason Jackson during a timeout and told fans he took less money to sign with the Heat this season. Andersen signed for the veteran’s league minimum. “I’m building something I can leave behind for my legacy.”

• And fans got to see James in his practice capris.

Related stories from Miami Herald