Miami Heat

With new players, Miami Heat now seeks new identity

Miami Heat forward Amar'e Stoudemire (5) is defended by Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford (15) in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, in Atlanta.
Miami Heat forward Amar'e Stoudemire (5) is defended by Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford (15) in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, in Atlanta. AP

The Heat practice court was a bit less crowded Sunday, after Miami trimmed its roster to the maximum 15 for Wednesday’s season opener. Now that that work has been done, without any surprises, it’s clear to players how much has been upgraded over the past 12 months.

“The front office did a great job of putting talent around,” Dwyane Wade said. “As a player and a coach, you want talent. Then once you get talent, now you want that talent to learn how to play together. So we got the talent. Now we’ve got to learn how to play together with the talent that we have. I think the biggest thing is all of us don’t need to be what we were independent of each other. We got to find our new identity as a group together.”

That new group, from the start of last season?

Amar’e Stoudemire, Gerald Green, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and three players who joined the team during last season — Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson.

Those seven replace Justin Hamilton, Danny Granger, Norris Cole, Shawne Williams, Shabazz Napier, Shannon Brown and Andre Dawkins.

Of those seven, only Cole (New Orleans) and Napier (Orlando) are expected to start the season on an NBA roster. Others who got major minutes during the season, including Michael Beasley and Henry Walker, aren’t playing in the NBA either, with Beasley in China and Walker in a new minor league.

The upgrades should benefit the additions, too.

“It’s great for me,” Stoudemire said, “because I can rest my body a little more.”

Ennis back on track?:

James Ennis wore a splint on his injured left ring finger Sunday, but was no worse for wear, not after the Heat decided to keep him as its 15th man.

At least for now.

For the second time this offseason, the Heat and Ennis’ representative amended their arrangement, with the second-year swingman now receiving roughly 40 percent of his salary if he’s on the team on opening night, and the rest if he’s still around on Jan. 10.

Did he doubt he would get this chance, after struggling with his knee, his game and his confidence during summer league? He says that he just needed to get back to 100 percent health.

“I had an OK rookie season, and I just had a bad summer league, with the injury,” Ennis said. “Everybody just went off my summer league performance, but they forgot about the rookie season I had.”

He said his mindset hasn’t changed, even without the full guarantee.

“Nothing’s promised in life, so that’s how I look at it,” Ennis said.

He said he would practice Monday.

Spoelstra’s plea:

The Heat have made their D-League arrangement with Sioux Falls a priority, and it bore some fruit last season.

Still, coach Erik Spoelstra again called for the NBA to make it easier for organizations to retain the players that they send down for development. As it stands now, there’s nothing keeping other teams from poaching the prospects, such as Tre Kelley and Greg Whittington, in which Miami has invested time and effort.

“I absolutely would,” Spoelstra said. “Because we could have lost Tyler last year. Yeah, it worked out perfectly, but that took everything bouncing in the right direction for that to happen. It just makes a lot of sense. And put a cap on it, whether it’s two, three, four players that you have to give some developmental money to, but you can keep them in your system, and you have their rights for ‘X’ amount of time to at least give it a full chance.”

Noteworthy:

Dragic, who missed Friday’s final preseason game because of illness, participated in all of practice. He has spoken about how his conditioning has lagged, after not playing for Slovenia this summer, but said he “felt great” Sunday. ... Wade, when asked why the second unit has come together quicker than the first, had a quip ready: “The [second] unit is easy. Find Gerald. You ain’t need to worry about Chris [Bosh] needs it, Dwyane needs it, Goran needs it, Lu [Deng] needs it, Hassan needs it. No Gerald needs it.” As in the never-shy shooter Gerald Green.

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