Cup of Joe: Back At It Again

Well, well, well, look at the time.


Just a mere 64 days after playing in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the HEAT will hit the hardwood once again on Monday at 7PM in their preseason opener against the Pelicans, the same team they’ll be facing in their regular season home opener on Christmas Day.

That’s quite the turnaround, isn’t it?

In preparation for the season, Miami has been training at the AmericanAirlines Arena since Dec. 6. (However, individual workouts began on Dec. 1.)

Let’s take a look at how things are shaping up heading into the 2020-21 campaign.

Continuity Is Key

With 13 returning players, the HEAT have essentially been able to pick up where they left off in the bubble.

“We’re very grateful that we’re able to bring the majority of our group back,” Erik Spoelstra said. “This is a quicker turnaround than it typically would be. Continuity, in theory, should help, but more importantly is the guys feel connected with a common purpose and have some corporate knowledge…and camaraderie that’s already been built over several months.”

Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragić

In terms of what Coach Spo’s approach will be for Monday’s game versus New Orleans and Friday’s matchup with the Raptors in Tampa, he mentioned that he’d like to maintain the continuity and simply get everybody back in rhythm, especially with such a truncated offseason and little time to rest.

“At least we have some built-in, familiar rotations already. We’ll be able to add Avery [Bradley] and Moe [Harkless] and Precious [Achiuwa] to that mix, but I want to proceed getting everybody physically right, getting everybody working on our continuity, continue to build our system specific to this group and see if we can improve our game,” he said. “So, those are the things that we’re focusing on to get ready for our first game. And we’ll use the preseason games accordingly and appropriately. It’ll be different – there are only two games – but this practice time will be really important to work on conditioning and rhythm and all of these things.”

In having so many guys from last year’s remarkable run, the team still remembers the disappointment of coming up short to the Lakers. Due to that, and some outside noise, motivation is at an all-time high.

Duncan Robinson said as much after a recent media session.

“Motivation is at an all-time high, and really, probably the biggest thing that I’ve taken away from the run is just having a better understanding of what it takes to win, particularly in the playoffs and particularly as you move on in the playoffs.”

“I think the chip right now as a group is as big as ever, especially just hearing whispers and rumors of it was kind of a fluke, and it was set up perfectly for us to be successful, and this, that and the third.”

But the OG, Udonis Haslem, really made himself loud and clear.

“We don’t listen to people that throw rocks and hide their hands. You know what that means? Throw rocks and hide your hands? That means you said something, and you act like you didn’t say it. Who said it? Tell us who said it. If you don’t tell us who said it, then we don’t care. Some people. Was it some of the people that we probably beat? Get their ass out of here. That’s why we beat them.”

What About The New Guys?

It’s hard to follow up UD when he drops the mic like that, but we’ll try.

Despite all the familiar faces on the team, Miami also brought in some new guys like veterans Bradley and Harkless, young players with some experience in Max Strus and B.J. Johnson and rookies Achiuwa, Paul Eboua and Breein Tyree.

Of that group, Bradley and Harkless should make the most immediate impact thanks to their know-how. Coach Spo even went as far as to offer some lofty praise for the duo.

“I think they’ve been in enough good systems and good programs, playoff-tested programs, that they’re plug-and-play guys,” Spoelstra said. “Really, I think they have enough experience to be able to fit in, and the way they play, they could fit in really in anybody’s system. They can play off the ball. They really impact the game defensively. The versatility and speed and quickness, I think, that they both bring to the table will just add to the versatility and some of the things that we were doing in the bubble…we’re excited about them.”

Robinson echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“Those guys just fit personality-wise, play-style wise, leadership-wise, everything across the board,” he said. “They fit in seamlessly to how we practice, how we compete, how we get up and down. [They’re] consummate pros [that] know exactly how to handle themselves and [are] just great people to be around, which is awesome.”

Bradley has helped some of the young guys get better in practice by virtue of his tenacious on-ball defense, while Harkless, a strong defender in his own right, has quickly learned that Spoelstra and his staff want their guys to shoot when they’re open.

“The coaching staff in general, Coach Spo included and especially, they’ve been encouraging guys to shoot when they’re open, especially guys like myself, Duncan [Robinson],” Harkless said. “…it’s something that I’m just going to go out there and do. When I’m playing the ball, move around a lot. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it. If not, I’m going to pass it to the next guy and just play within the system and just try to be as aggressive as possible.”

As for Achiuwa, the HEAT’s first-round pick has been working with Haslem, Bam Adebayo and Assistant Coach Caron Butler to pick things up quickly.

Adebayo actually sees a lot of himself in the rookie big out of Memphis.

“He reminds me of myself when I was at Kentucky but had way more leeway. And I feel like his rookie year is going to be better than mine…I feel like he has more skill than I did coming into my rookie year,” Adebayo said. “And it’s going to be fun to work with Precious and just figure out what his mindset is and what’s his why and how he wants to go about his rookie year.”

Bam Growing As A Leader

Now in his fourth season on a new contract extension, Adebayo has emerged as one of Miami’s leaders and faces of the franchise. As such, he now has the added responsibility of mentoring young guys like Achiuwa and showing them what it means to be a Miami HEAT player.

Haslem, who considers Adebayo family and vice versa, shared that Adebayo spent the offseason with him to lay the groundwork for that.

“That’s what I’ve been molding Bam for, to be that leader. Not just to take his game to the next level, but to take his teammates to the next level,” Haslem said. “…he spent the whole [offseason] with me training, talking basketball, thinking basketball…and the next step for Bam is to be that leader to everybody and to understand everybody and to know that everybody is motivated differently.”

Part of being a leader is setting the example, and Adebayo and Jimmy Butler certainly do that. The 23-year-old big thinks his similarities to Butler stem from their upbringing.

“I feel like we weren’t the most skilled, [and] we weren’t the most talented out of our group. And I feel like we’re similar because our work ethic is through the roof, and we both came from nothing and made something out of it,” Adebayo said. “And that’s why I respect Jimmy so much, because his story is kind of like mine, just in a way different sense of where he comes from, how he was raised. But we all were raised tough. And having a dude like that on my side, knowing what he’s been through, I know he’s not going to give up on me, and I’m not going to give up on him.”

Having come from nothing, Adebayo and his mother have forged an unbreakable bond. And although they didn’t have much, Adebayo’s mother made sure her son was taken care of.

Therefore, Adebayo responded in kind by buying his mother a new house on her 56th birthday.

“My mom never had anything she could call her own, so growing up and being able to do something different with basketball and be a special player, [buying her a house] was something I’ve always had in my mind [and] I’ve always wanted to do,” Adebayo said. “And just having the opportunity to do it for my mom is an incredible experience. It’s indescribable…I was so nervous because I’ve never really given her a gift like that, so it kind of gave me like a feel like when I first stepped on the Finals court.”

A New Bubble

Of course, the last time the HEAT stepped on the Finals court was in the bubble.

But now with teams playing in their own markets, they’ve had to adhere to league protocols and draft their own on top of that.

Enter Head Athletic Trainer Jay Sabol, who Spoelstra referred to as the COO of COVID protocols.

“We continue to educate everyone: staff, players alike…I cannot say enough about Jay Sabol and the time that he’s been putting in…he really is our Chief Operating Officer with COVID protocols…and then putting together our protocols on top of that,” Spoelstra said. “…with the help of his staff, we’re able to create this mini bubble here in our workspace. But it is not a small undertaking, and there will have to be continued diligence and discipline and education among everybody that walks in our building that are considered Tier 1.”


That Tier 1 group includes players and coaches, including kinda-sorta newcomer Butler.

Butler — we’re talking about Caron here if you’re getting confused — was drafted by the HEAT in 2002 and played in Miami for two seasons before making his way to the Lakers and a handful of other teams across a strong 14-year career.

Spoelstra reached out to Butler before for a coaching gig, but the former lottery pick wasn’t quite ready. Then when Dan Craig went to the Clippers, Spo contacted Butler again, and the timing was right.

“We’ve always kept in touch over the years, even when he played in different uniforms and then when he retired…I’m really excited about adding him to our staff. I just think he has so much to give to this game, to our players, to our staff, to our organization,” Spoelstra said. “Such a quality human being. He already has, first of all, the experience in this league…he has the HEAT DNA experience, which is important…but he also played in a lot of other organizations, which I think that perspective can help us. He’s a leader. He’s a connector. Already an incredible mentor. He’s just somebody I want around our players. I think they can really glean a lot from him, and he will grow very quickly as a coach.”

I’d say so, too, but what do I know? I just know anyone nicknamed “Tuff Juice” is bound to command respect.

Until next time.