The Heat spent a lot of time this offseason working on off-the-court chemistry — with team barbecues and even an RV trip to Joshua Tree National Park in California.
On Sunday night, the players put their on-the-court melding to their first preseason test.
The least important part about that was the final result, a 90-77 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The most important parts: Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts were back on the court; rookie Justise Winslow shook his rookie cobwebs off; and newcomers Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Green, chefs at a team barbecue last Friday night, showed signs they can cook up some offense off the bench.
“It was just a glimpse of what we could be,” said Dwyane Wade, who scored two of his 12 points in 23 minutes on a drive to the basket after a between-the-legs bounce pass from Bosh — the highlight of highlights in the preseason opener.
“You see the depth we have on this team,” Wade continued. “We just got to find a way to put it all together. Everyone now can start getting into their game. We can kind of see the offense we want to run — it’s an equal-offense kind of opportunity. This preseason right here is needed for us.”
Bosh, playing in his first game since he missed the last 30 of last season with blood clots in his lung, looked every bit as good as he did before he fell ill, scoring a team-leading 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds in 23 minutes.
“It’s really just amazing,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You really do have to take these moments and just be grateful for them, not take them for granted, not be so wrapped up in your business that you can’t appreciate how awesome that is. Where I saw him in a hospital bed last February — and then to get him out here right now — he looked great.”
Spoelstra said he walked off the court with McRoberts shaking his head, wondering what it would have been like last year had he had him for more than just 17 games. McRoberts scored five points and dished out two assists in nearly 21 minutes, and made plenty of the impressive passes the Heat expected from his last season.
“I missed it a lot,” McRoberts said. “To be back out there, even though it didn’t mean anything. It was kind of a good dress rehearsal.”
Early on you could tell it was the preseason. The Heat came out sloppy, turning the ball over six times in the first five-plus minutes. Wade made a bad pass on the Heat’s first possession and then got called for traveling. But the Heat quickly worked out of that, and the offensive pace and spacing Spoelstra said he wanted to see began to improve.
The second unit, meanwhile, showed flashes, Wade said. Green and Stoudemire each finished with 12 points. Winslow, whom the Heat never imagined would be available to them in the draft, finished with nine points on 2-of-9 shooting, with two rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes.
“I was encouraged defensively,” Spoelstra said of Winslow. “He’ll have to spend more time learning NBA situations and getting better and more disciplined to our system. But I liked what he did on that side of the court.”
Although center Hassan Whiteside answered questions prior to Sunday’s preseason opener about his strained right calf and when he might return, Bosh walked into the locker room and took a fun poke at the 7-footer: “Hassan Whiteside, aka The Big Day Off,” Bosh announced.
Whiteside laughed. For now at least, Whiteside’s minor setback is something the Heat can laugh about. Although a timetable for his return hasn’t been locked down, Whiteside said he expects to be back before the preseason ends.
“I feel better than what I did a week ago,” Whiteside said. “We’re just continuing to rehab, keep going about the process. It’s just something we’re avoiding [right now] to keep from making it worse. It’s preseason, so it’s really not a race like we’re in the Finals or something.”