Never mind headlining the NBA’s Media Day circuit, the Heat wasn’t even the top priority in its own building Friday.
That honor went to Disney on Ice, which has taken over AmericanAirlines Arena this week, and which bumped the basketball team upstairs to its practice court. It was there where players casually made the rounds between photo shoots and radio and TV interviews, and it is there Saturday where the team will begin the physical process of competing without LeBron James.
“We can’t replace LeBron,” Dwyane Wade said. “We’re a different team, so everyone’s opportunities will be different. Everyone’s responsibilities will be different.”
Everyone’s expectations will be different as well, and the first evidence of that was clear enough during the team’s first organized event without James in a Heat jersey.
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Yes, the media crush is officially over for the NBA boy band formerly known as The Heatles. No platinum records this year, but maybe a nice little experimental or acoustic production that highlights the spiritual growth of the band mates.
The Beatles had the White Album in 1968. The Heatles probably will consider an alternative to its White Hot marketing campaign if it makes the playoffs in 2015.
“I was satisfied with what we had,” said Udonis Haslem, who is entering his 12th year in the NBA. “We had four shots at it; we got it twice. Who’s to say if we would have had it next year if [James] would have come back?”
Said Chris Bosh: “It’s good for us because you know what’s out there. We want to prove that we’re still going to be a good team. We’re still going to be a contender in the East. Of course, we’re going to have to earn that respect. It’s not going to come from the first day of camp like it usually did the past four years.”
The source of that instant respect, of course, was James, who is back with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are now the favorites to win the NBA title. The Heat, meanwhile, is considered a long shot and not even favored to win the Southeast Division. A new cast of players around some loyal veterans begins training camp Saturday.
“I’m actually looking forward to getting out there and banging,” said Chris Andersen, who made the full move from Colorado to Miami during the offseason. After re-signing with the Heat, he’s planning to remain in South Florida long term.
Andersen and the Heat enjoyed training camp in the Bahamas last year, but there will be no training-camp sojourns over the next week.
Like everything else surrounding this team from 2010 to last season, training camp had a buzz all its own when James was in town. Now it’s just hard work under the florescent lights of the Heat’s yellow-padded practice court.
“Training camp will be more teaching and more learning than it has in the previous years because we have a lot of different guys and Coach [Erik Spoelstra] is going to introduce to us what he feels that he wants to do offensively and defensively, and we’re going to make that adjustment,” Wade said.
With only six rotation players returning from last year, Haslem said this season would be one of the more unique he has experienced as a player. In addition to James’ departure, the Heat must also replace Shane Battier, Ray Allen, James Jones, Michael Beasley, Greg Oden and Rashard Lewis, among others.
Some new faces will represent the Heat this season, but Spoelstra promised the team’s core values would carry the team into the future.
“While things change in pro sports, you can count on the Miami Heat and the bedrock core values of things we stand for: toughness and competition,” Spoelstra said. “That’s a product you always want to watch. We always have the expectation of competing for the highest prize.”
Several young players are expected to contribute significant minutes early on, including former Heat second-round draft picks Justin Hamilton and James Ennis.
Hamilton, a 7-foot center with nice hands around the rim and a solid jump shot, will help spell Bosh this season. Bosh averaged just 32 minutes per game last season, but he will now be expected to do more both offensively and defensively.
“I’ve been in a similar position like this before, and I feel like I can bring a lot to this team,” Bosh said. “I’ve had to play a role in the last four years, but moving forward I think I can show just the city and the organization what value I can bring — how much I can turn up the intensity and how much more weight I can put on my shoulders.”