Part of Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s annual mandate to players, whether a 16-year veteran like Dwyane Wade or a second-year guy like Bam Adebayo, is to evolve.
Spoelstra expects the same from himself.
The Heat opened training camp on Tuesday with players who accounted for 98 percent of their scoring, 98 percent of their assists and 97 percent of their rebounding from last season. And keeping the same team means that those players, by now, have heard just about every speech and seen just about every trick in the Heat book.
Hence, the challenge for Spoelstra this season: Keeping the message and the approach fresh.
“I look back on it now and I don’t even know how I prepared for my first training camp,” Spoelstra said after the first practice of the season at Florida Atlantic University. “With this group, this probably felt more like a practice and an extension of last year’s playoff prep because we had so many familiar faces. So that was nice.”
Wade was back in Heat camp for the first time since 2015, the 16-year veteran who was with Chicago for camp two years ago and Cleveland last year rising at 5 a.m. and partaking in a yoga session before reporting to the last first practice of his career. Every Heat player besides James Johnson and Dion Waiters, both rehabbing, participated in full-contact portions of the workout. And there was even some live 5-on-5 scrimmaging, an intense tone getting set from the outset.
“Great first day,” Wade said.
So the roster didn’t really change from the end of last season — at least, not yet, with the Heat still one of the teams involved in pursuing Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler on the trade market. And some part of the Heat DNA aren’t going to change on Spoelstra’s watch either, with the first practice of the year running over two hours as a precursor to two-a-days coming on Wednesday and Thursday.
But players know that Spoelstra will find ways to change some things.
And it should be noted that they aren’t lobbying him to go soft on them, either.
“I think Spo’s doing an amazing job,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said. “He knows this team 100 percent, what they can do and what they cannot do. Maybe this year he needs to be a little bit rough with us, put more pressure on us. As professionals, we need to embrace that and do what’s good for you and for the team. No excuses. Last year, I think we had too many of those.”
There is one obvious difference to Spoelstra’s approach already this season.
It’s the first that he’s starting as a dad.
Santiago Ray Spoelstra, the first child for Erik and Nikki Spoelstra, was born in March. Fatherhood has changed the Heat coach already, something that’s proven in any number of ways — including an increased coffee intake. Miami’s first three preseason games are at San Antonio, Charlotte and Washington, but the team is going home for about a day and a half between the Hornets and Wizards games.
There’s a lot of reasons for breaking up that trip. Family time is most definitely one of them.
“It’s been a gamechanger for my wife and I,” Spoelstra said. “He’s been a joy, something that I didn’t necessarily know was going to happen in my life 10 or 15 years ago when I was so deep in the woods in this profession. But I’m so thrilled that we have this opportunity to grow with him.”
Spoelstra’s focus is broader now that he’s a dad, but his intensity on the court isn’t going to change.
The second-longest current tenured coach in the NBA, behind only San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, Spoelstra is going into his 11th season as Heat coach. Among coaches with at least 200 games, he has the 16th-best winning percentage in NBA history and sometime this season he’ll notch career win No. 500 — a level only 31 others have reached.
“Since I’ve been here Spo’s done an unbelievable job of motivating us,” Heat guard Wayne Ellington said. “He’s going to have something to give guys the chills and get guys going. He does a great job of that all year long.”
Source: The Associated Press