by RENALDO DORSETT
Following a festive Bahamian welcome, the rebuilding Miami Heat went to work in what head coach Erik Spoelstra called a “business trip.”
The Heat opened their 2016 training camp in the Bahamas yesterday at the Atlantis Resort.
Spoelstra and other Heat personnel raved about the welcome and the overall experience of being in the Bahamas, but insisted that training camp would reverted to a sense of basketball normalcy once the first practice began.
“It’s a business trip but it’s fun being here in the Bahamas. We had a great reception, put us in a good mood for our team meeting and guys were ready to get to work as everyone around the league is on that first day. Guys were ready to embrace a lot of the things they knew they would embrace in this first practice,” he said, “Guys came in extremely conditioned well and really ready to get into full contact this first practice. We didn’t mess around or wait, we got right to it. We were getting right to work and we need a lot of it. We have some new faces, guys have different roles and I commend them for spending the last 7-8 weeks putting in that time to get their bodies right.”
Despite the backdrop of the Bahamas’ seascape for the next few days, Spoelstra insisted the focus would be on the court and getting a first look at his team as they prepare for the upcoming season.
“They knew what to expect and if for whatever reason that escaped them, not knowing what a Miami Heat training camp would be like, then I think after the night session they’ll realize that and they probably wont have a lot of excess energy to do other things,” he said, “But being here, it’s great. It’s a great environment to get to work in. The views are fantastic, even out of our meeting rooms, coming out of our meals, it’s a nice environment and its nice to give these guys that kind of environment while getting something done.”
This year’s camp was the second time the organsation hosted training camp in the Bahamas after the 2013, event when they were led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“We love it here,” Spoelstra said, “Our last experience here was terrific. We love how private it was. It’s a perfect setting for our guys in between the practices just to have a very serene atmosphere but also incredible hospitality. The guys really enjoy it. There are great people here. We always see smiles everywhere you go. It makes the work that much easier.”
Team captain and Miami native, Udonis Haslem, is the only member of the Heat’s roster to participate in both Bahamas training camps. The veteran forward said he considered himself an “honorary Bahamian.”
“I feel good,” he said. “I enjoy it here. I enjoy the people. I enjoy the culture, the food. Everybody’s nice, the weather is great. There are a lot of Miami heat fans here. It’s just like being home. I was here this summer. I vacation here all the time. I’m like an honorary Bahamian.”
Haslem said bonding over the course of the trip will be an important factor for the new look Heat.
“I’m looking forward to maybe planning a little team get together possibly if it works with the schedule for practice,” he said, “I’ll try to get the guys together maybe hang out by the pool, just do some team bonding to get to learn more about each other.”
Haslem will be a leader on the team alongside Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic – the team’s point guard and focal point of what is expected to be a more uptempo offence.
“[This camp] is different. We’re here in the Bahamas with the beaches and the nice weather and we’re practicing inside. But that’s what we came to do, to practice and it was tough, the first day is always tough, you need to break that ice and it feels much better after first practice,” Dragic said, “I’m one of the guy’s who’s a veteran on this team and of course we need to be examples for those young guys who are brand new on this team or just a few years in the league. Our culture is everyone supporting each other like family and when the tough times come, and for sure they will, we need to be together supporting each other.”
Second year guard Josh Richardson, recovering from a partially torn MCL is expected to be an important member of an emerging group in a very young supporting cast.
As a rookie, Richardson averaged 6.6 points on 45.2 percent shooting primarily in a bench role last season.
“I was always a guy that led by example but I have to be more vocal this year and I’m excited about it. I know its going to be a group effort trying to refill our wing spots and keep going in an upward direction,” he said, “It’s great to be in the Bahamas and shut yourself out of what we’re used to everyday. We’re not as engaged with social media because we don’t get great service on our phones here, but jus to be away from the hustle and bustle of Miami helps. So it’s cool to be able to come to a place as nice as the Bahamas.”
One of those new additions, Dion Waiters, expected to compete with Richardson for the starting shooting guard spot, said he hopes to be able to enjoy some time off the court in his first visit to the Bahamas, including Atlantis’ Leap of Faith Water Slide.
“Hopefully we get a day off soon. I’ve never been to the Bahamas but for right now it’s a business trip for me. I’m just trying to get settled, learn the defence and things like that,” he said, “Hopefully if I get a day off I’ll go.”
The Heat will host camp at the Atlantis Grand Ballroom for the remainder of the week, highlighted by Thursday’s Alonzo Mourning Youth Camp.