Erik Spoelstra addressed several issues in a season-opening news conference, but the Heat said he would not address anything regarding trade speculation about Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, who has been linked to the Heat:
▪ Does Spoelstra believe this team, even with the same cast, can be better than last season? “We do. We believe in continuity. There are a lot of different ways to build teams. There is one team that’s figured it out. Golden State has figured it out. They have the template right now. Everybody else is trying to figure it out. Some think they have a better track than others. Figure it out. We think we have a unique group, a special group. [When] fully healthy, we have depth and talent that we like. We think we can be better than last year. We don’t care what anybody thinks about it.”
▪ On Dwyane Wade: “I am not going to call it a farewell tour because he doesn’t want it to be about that. Most pro athletes, unfortunately, do get to know when the end is. Or they’re the last ones to know. He has this incredible blessing to have that perspective and know where the finish line will be and have the perspective to make every day matter. It’s the right player, right organization, right timing for all of this. I want him to know I am going to give it everything I have to make sure it goes the way he wants it to and in turn for him to give everything he has to make sure this team goes the way we want it to. His intuitive leadership has grown so much over the years.... He has more to give to this game.”
Spoelstra was frequently approached in public this offseason by fans asking him about whether Wade would return. He said the conversation would go like this:
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Stranger: “We want Wade back.”
Spoelstra: “So do I.”
▪ On Wade’s role: “We discussed it a little bit. But there are so many bigger things. We’ve always been able to figure out the basketball stuff. It’s the bigger things we want to be aligned on. “
▪ On Hassan Whiteside: “I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue this relationship. It’s been a very good summer for Hassan, a great opportunity for growth. In many ways, there were uncomfortable things he had to navigate through last year.”
Spoelstra said Whiteside impacted winning during the second half of 2016-17. “I still see that guy. The most important relationship he has right now is with his head coach. I feel good about the work he’s put in. He’s in terrific shape. More importantly, his mindset has grown.”
But how will the minutes situation be resolved? “That will work itself out. He is working on his mindset, preparation, skill set. In my discussions with him, it’s good to work through some of the adversity and noise and be able to persevere. He and I know. The [outside] storylines will be able about many minutes did he play? Did he play with two fouls? Did he play in the fourth quarter? Being able to compartmentalize ... and do it when it gets uncomfortable, that’s the growth opportunity. And to be able to overcome all of that will be gratifying for him.
“We need him. He knows him. We know that I haven’t forgotten about the player that he’s capable of being. I remember the kind of player he was two years ago and preseason and this [past] season, before he got injured.”
▪ On Goran Dragic, who did not play for the Slovenian national team this past summer for the first time in a while: “He’s put in a lot of time on his body, working on skill development, which is one thing he hadn’t been able to do the last few summers, playing for the national team. You will see that Goran Dragic speed right from the get go.”
▪ On Josh Richardson: “You have to put yourself out there and get comfortable to take that next step. He’s got a coaching staff that supports him, believes him. Everyone wants him to take that next step. I don’t put ceilings on players. We want them to accomplish their dreams.”
▪ On his roster’s versatility: “That’s the way this league is going. You better have versatility, very good perimeter play and guys who can defend multiple players. That’s why we’re excited about this group. I’m not sure why others don’t see it that way. This league is about quickness, speed, adaptability.”
▪ On Pat Riley saying in the offseason that the Heat has too many good-to-great players: “If they’re described as good, let’s make them great. How can you make players great? ... I keep going back to fact that 29 other teams don’t have an answer.”
▪ On Dion Waiters likely not being ready for the start of the season: “He didn’t have a setback. He’s actually on course. He’ll be back when his body tells him he can be back. I’m encouraged by the fact he’s able to work. He’s on the court and able to do stuff. We’ll continue to monitor. He’ll be with us.”
▪ On James Johnson, who had sports hernia surgery in May: “Not yet 100 percent full go … but will be participating in every practice.”
▪ On Bam Adebayo: “A perfect example of a player committing for five months at that age, 20 years old, and doing it every day for three to four hours a day ... He’s improved his other skills. You will see a different player, no question about it.”
▪ On Justise Winslow: “We all want to build on [the 76ers playoff series]. That will happen because of his work ethic and competitiveness. I have an idea where I’m going to play him but I won’t be able to be as definitive and clear with him as other players and that’s a great compliment to have that type of versatility.”
▪ Spoelstra said “it won’t be a fun day” for him when Udonis Haslem steps away from the game. “He does it so selflessly every year. He doesn’t have anything else to prove. He can still produce, particularly in short bursts. Every team is looking for players like UD who can bring that leadership. That’s not his only role. He’s still a player. He’s Heat culture, he’s Heat life. Who else do you want showing that, being an example to those guys?”
▪ Spoelstra, on having a young child: “I drank more coffee this offseason than I did during a playoff run or four games in five nights. It’s been a game changer for my wife and I. It’s been a joy. Something I didn’t necessarily know was going to happen in my life 10, 15 years ago when I was so deep in the woods in this profession.”
Greg Cote will have a Dwyane Wade column later, but a few quick takeaways from his news conference:
▪ Wade said he was 90-10 toward retiring at one point this offseason.
▪ He wants his experience this season to be a combination of “savoring” the season and preparing for each game.
He said “we’ve got a lot of things planned” for this season but said it’s not time to discuss that.
▪ He said he will be “very uncomfortable” with the farewell tour and people around him know he “really, really didn’t want this.”
▪ Wade on coming back for minimum: “None of it involved money. That’s never been the main reason ... It’s not that I don’t love money. There are other things that are more important when you are making decisions about your family. Would I have loved to go out like Kobe did making $25, $30 million? Hell, yeah. Would I like to go out scoring 60 in my last game? Hell yeah. That’s probably not going to happen. I made a lot of money away from this game... I didn’t push for most I could get.”
▪ He said “ultimately, I wanted to give my fans ... and myself ... an opportunity to say goodbye.” He said he didn’t have an opportunity to do that last season.
▪ He said he made his decision last Sunday, Sept. 16, two days after meeting with Spoelstra. “If I was going to play this year, we had to sit down and connect and it had to feel right. Ultimately, I gave coach about five percent of why I’m sitting here today. He made me feel calm, comfortable about how this last year could go.”
▪ Regarding his video saying he was coming back for one last dance, he said the “one last dance thing came out of nowhere. I don’t even know how to dance.”
▪ Wade said of asking a player if he wants to start: “It’s like asking a player if you want breakfast in the morning. Of course.”
But he said he’s fine with any role. “I don’t go into camp worrying about starting.” He noted: “I haven’t always been the No. 1 option ... When coach decides who’s going to start, that’s his right.”
▪ He said he wanted to keep a promise he made “a long time ago” to Udonis Haslem but said he doesn’t know what Haslem will do after this season.
▪ He said the “Eastern Conference is open. It’s a new wave coming” and that young Heat players “should be thinking about being at that level.”
▪ On what he expects this season: “I expect to lead. Some nights are going to be better than other nights. I can guarantee that.”
▪ He said he has been “open about wanting to be part of ownership” of a NBA team. He previously has expressed interest if Seattle gets a team again.
▪ Wade said he will “continue to be a figure in this community” when he retires.
▪ Wade wants to be an “open book” to young players to share his knowledge. “I am all about the next generation.”