By Sekou Smith, NBA.com
Posted Sep 18 2012 3:33PM - Updated Oct 16 2012 1:55PM
MIAMI -- Erik Spoelstra wants no part of the Miami Heat's "repeat" bid.
He doesn't even want to use the word, for fear of what that might signify to his team and their chances of putting together a run of championships during the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh experience.
He has philosophical reasons for shying away from using the word, something about this being a "new team" and a "new journey" and all of this other metaphysical coaching stuff that makes Wade smile.
According to Spoelstra, his team is simply trying to win another title, not solidify legacies or cement reputations or punch Hall of Fame tickets.
"Wait a minute, let me get this straight. He's not saying repeat, but he's going to say we're trying to win another title?" Wade asked before looking off into the distance and smiling. "Alright, I'll roll with him. That's our leader. I'm going to use it to. We're going to try and win another title."
The only reason the Heat could afford a lighthearted moment like that at Media Day is because they are locked and loaded for a repeat -- sorry, Coach Spoelstra -- bid. The team that limped to the finish line on the shoulders of the regular season and The Finals MVP, James, looks slightly different as this relatively new editoin heads into its third year.
Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis have joined the mix. With no other team in the Eastern Conference making a move seismic enough to alter the balance of power, the Heat have to focus on maintaining control there before worrying about challenges from the Lakers and Thunder in the West.
But that doesn't meant they're not looking forward to taking on the challenges from all comers, near and far. The made-for-TV tension for those Heat-Lakers matchups will no doubt be epic.
"It's going to make the entire season more competitive, more exciting and it really makes you work harder," Wade said. "For us, we're going to focus on the Miami Heat and when we play the Lakers we'll focus on the Lakers. And that's that. We're not like the Clippers. They're not in our division or anything, so we don't have to look over our shoulder. That's what [Clippers point guard] Chris [Paul] and those guys have to do that. We'll play them twice and then hopefully we'll see them later."
With James entering into his prime and hungry for more hardware to add to his growing collection, it's the health and play of both Wade and Bosh that becomes the main focus.
Both of them are coming back from nagging injuries that nearly cost them and the Heat that Larry O'Brien trophy in June. The Pacers had them on the ropes in the Eastern Conference semifinals. And Miami trailed the Celtics 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals before James and Wade rescued them.
It wasn't until James embraced his inner power forward in Game 2 of The Finals against the Thunder that the Heat finally seemed to find a consistent comfort zone with James as the catalyst and Wade, Bosh and the rest of the supporting cast feeding off of his leadership and energy.
He continued that flow in the Olympics, guiding the U.S. Senior Men's National Team to a gold medal in London, showing he had the mental strength in every single situation to match the physical abilities that have made him the world's greatest player.
James dismissed any concerns about fatigue settling in after such a rigorous ride. He also said his motivation will be high to finish this season the same way he did the last.
"We didn't stumble into a championship," he said. "We had to battle our way through some adversity to get there. With the injuries to [Wade] and Chris and the way we got pushed in the playoffs ... when you chase something your whole life and you finally accomplish that goal you get a weird feeling. For me, it all happened so fast, the celebration and us in the locker room. I went right into the Olympics and everybody went their separate ways for the summer. I want to have that feeling again. And I want to put us in a position where we have that feeling again, so I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Spoelstra is counting on it. They won't have the pain of losing in The Finals to fuel them this time. They won't be able to sustain themselves on a diet of doubters who relished seeing them stumble on their way to what was supposed to be the first of "not one, not two, not three, not four ..." titles they famously crowed about on the night they were introduced to the world in the Summer of 2010.
"Being around winning teams and two championship teams, I just have a deep-seeded respect for how hard it is to win one," Spoelstra said. "Everybody will be gunning for us this year. Teams have loaded up. They are primed and ready to take on the champion. And you've got to love that. It's a different challenge for us this year, but it's cliché to say it's harder to win the second time. It's just difficult. You have to commit fully and reinvest into the team. But we're looking at this as an opportunity to win a title, a completely new journey through an 82-game season where we peak at the right time and persevere through the moments of truth of this season."
1. Those rumors of Wade's demise that circulated early in the playoffs last year were exaggerated just a bit. Clearly he wasn't himself, and nowhere near the player Shaquille O'Neal nicknamed "Flash" during the Heat's 2006 title run. He's recovering from offseason knee surgery and will have the luxury of pacing himself over the course of a full, 82-game season. The Heat need him at his healthy best if they are going to repe ... win another title.
2. Now that Chris Bosh has embraced his inner big man, the Heat can fully implement Spoelstra's position-free approach and allow James and Wade the freedom they need to exploit the mismatches that come with having two of the most versatile and unique players in basketball on the same roster. Bosh will log more minutes in the paint this season than he ever has and it should be to the Heat's advantage.
3. Allen, Mike Miller, Battier, Lewis, Mario Chalmers. The list of shooters on the Heat's roster has swelled with the additions of Allen and Lewis. The two seasoned marksmen will take advantage of the benefits of playing with rim finishers like James and Wade.
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LAST YEAR: 46-20, 1st in Southeast
FINISH: Won NBA Championship
2011-12 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2011-12 Stats|
MARIO CHALMERS, POINT GUARD
9.8 PPG | 2.7 RPG | 3.5 APG
Chalmers was better in the postseason, statistically, than he was during the regular season. He delivered in The Finals, continuing a trend that dates to his college days.
DWYANE WADE, SHOOTING GUARD
22.1 PPG | 4.8 RPG | 4.6 APG
When healthy, Wade remains one of the league's unstoppable forces. His quest to be more efficient means we'll see less of him spotting up and more of him attacking the rim.
SHANE BATTIER, SMALL FORWARD
4.8 PPG | 2.4 RPG | 1.3 APG
There might be better scoring options (Ray Allen or Rashard Lewis), but Battier proved during the Heat's title run last season that he's the perfect compliment to the Big Three.
LEBRON JAMES, POWER FORWARD
27.1 PPG | 7.9 RPG | 6.2 APG
James has redefined the "point forward" position and in Erik Spoelstra's position-free system, The Finals and league MVP will be free to dominate from wherever he wants.
CHRIS BOSH, CENTER
18.0 PPG | 7.9 RPG | 1.8 APG
Bosh now understands he'll collect most of his minutes as a low-post force on this team, a role he embraced and excelled at during The Finals.
|Ray Allen||6-5||205||G||One of the greatest shooters in the history of the game.|
|Rashard Lewis||6-10||230||F||Reunites with former teammate Allen.|
|Norris Cole||6-2||175||G||Not ready for stardom yet, but he has shown flashes.|
ADDED: C Justin Hamilton, G Ray Allen, C Mickell Gladness, F Rashard Lewis, F Jarvis Varnado
LOST: C Ronny Turiaf
LEBRON JAMES, POWER FORWARD
He finally silenced the critics and naysayers, but don't think for one second that James will rest on his laurels after last season's ultimate success. Not one, not two, not three ... right?
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