UM Welcomes HEAT Media Day
University of Miami freshman Mark McKay left his management class early Monday afternoon when he noticed someone's Facebook status.
McKay immediately rushed over to the BankUnited Center, where the men's and women's basketball teams play, and stood behind a rail for an hour and a half waiting to catch a glimpse of Miami HEAT players taking part in media day.
"I'm a big basketball fan, a big HEAT fan," he said. "I'm actually going to start going to games regularly. A friend of mine has season tickets."
He, along with about 50 other students, threw up the "U", a hand gesture that forms the letters, for alumnus James Jones and hoped to spot LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh.
Junior transfer student Adam Morris of Melbourne, Australia follows the NBA back home and couldn't believe his luck.
He's only here for the fall semester, but hopes to catch a game or two while in Miami.
"The NBA's pretty big, but nowhere near as big as out here in the states," he said. "I always watch it."
What Morris and his classmates missed out on at media day was the "getting to know the team" phase and preparation for the start of training camp.
There were around 300 media members, double last year's number. The tally included local, national and international media.
CNN covered the event. Former HEAT player Steve Smith represented NBATV.
ESPN "SportsCenter" anchors Josh Elliott, Jon Barry and Jalen Rose, as well as about 15 crew members, got to the arena around 8:30 a.m. and first went on air half an hour later.
A stage was set up on the court. They were scheduled to speak about five to eight times on Monday and would be following the team to the Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, FL.
James, Wade and Bosh's joint press conference was streamed live on ESPN.
Elliott, who has covered basketball for several years, said he has never seen anything quite like this before.
"The only thing that compares professionally is a Super Bowl media day, which, you get a lot of 'If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?' questions," he said. "From an NBA perspective, I've been around the game a bit, this is certainly Finals-esque. It's certainly a new day."
Though Elliott and Barry joked that they were hoping to spend the week on South Beach, they can understand the decision the Miami HEAT made to conduct training camp in the Panhandle.
"This is what teams do. You're better off being sequestered, and it's basketball 24 hours a day for these guys," said Barry, who played for 15 NBA seasons. "We're here because we really want to see what the product looks like. Hopefully in the first couple of days they're going to start putting some pieces together and we'll get to watch and see what they're all about."
For some of the players, media day can be hectic with different outlets requesting interviews and photos.
It becomes an all-day affair.
"I just didn't like media day the last couple years because I was the rookie and I would be bumped down by the veterans, so my day would go longer," third-year guard Mario Chalmers said. "But now, I'm a vet. Now, I'm feeling pretty good about media day."
During his press conference in the UM Fieldhouse adjacent to the arena, head coach Erik Spoelstra addressed the fact that the media blitz and flight to training camp could affect the guys.
"I think once we get on the plane tonight after this session, when we can start to get our minds focused on training camp, and where we're going is an unprecedented and special opportunity for us," he said. "It won't take us long to get into the mindset of working and getting ready for the season."
On July 9 when a last-minute welcome ceremony was strewn together for the signing of James and Bosh, as well as the re-signing of Wade, the organization knew what it was getting itself into.
With three of the NBA's top players on one team, the media attention was sure to follow.
"The way this team has been built, let's be real about it, it hasn't been built for us to go under the radar," Spoelstra said. "There are a lot of expectations, there is pressure. I think those are good things if you manage them correctly. It can produce a lot of focus and a lot of commitment."
"You can't hide from it. You have to embrace it. I don't think you guys are going to go away as much as we hope," Spoelstra said. "We have to embrace it to the point where it's not a distraction as long as it doesn't get in the way of our daily activities and practice and focus. That's part of this team. This team is different than what we had last year. There's still a reality that we have a job to do."