Heat avoiding grind of 2-a-days so far in camp
MIAMI (AP) -- LeBron James and Ray Allen were at midcourt Monday afternoon, arguing in half-serious tones. After a shooting contest that lasted for about an hour after the regular Miami Heat practice concluded, there was a disagreement on who was actually winning.
Both claimed victory. Both walked away grinning.
Yes, everybody seems pleased so far at Heat camp.
The reigning NBA champions have gotten new workout gear and new luggage in the past few days, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has handed out a couple of other gifts as well -- afternoons off.
The dreaded two-a-day practice schedule has been nonexistent in Miami so far, with Spoelstra believing that enough work is getting done in one workout a day and therefore not seeing a need to further tax players' bodies so early in camp.
"It makes us want to work hard just with one practice," James said. "Knowing that he's given us that luxury, we come in and get our work done. You guys know us, guys are staying after shooting, guys are going down to the weight room and making sure we take care of our bodies and all of that. That's the good thing about our veteran ballclub, guys are still getting their work in to get better."
James, Allen, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and James Jones were all in group down at one basket long after practice ended, getting up jumper after jumper, free throw after free throw. Other players were scattered around the gym as well, and even more were downstairs in the weight room and training room until mid-afternoon or so.
The Heat have nine players in camp entering at least their 10th NBA season. So Spoelstra's thinking is clear: The fresher Miami's legs stay now, the better it might be for the Heat in the long run.
"From his first year to now, he's done a 360-plus-times-two with the way he's approached things," Wade said. "I think it's good for this team."
There will be at least one double-session coming up for Miami: The team plans to practice Wednesday morning, followed by an open scrimmage for fans that night. Miami's first preseason game is at Atlanta on Sunday, and the Heat depart after that game for China and two exhibition games there next week against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Spoelstra said the looming China trip isn't affecting his practice planning. A desire to keep the bigger picture in mind, that is at the forefront of his thinking.
"We are being smart with it," Spoelstra said. "We haven't done a second practice yet, but in terms of when we step out here in between the four lines, there's no holding back. It's full-contact, fully padded, physical and guys aren't trying to ease into it."
The Heat practice court is where the team held the first of many celebrations after last season's NBA Finals win over Oklahoma City. For hours of the night after winning Game 5 over the Thunder and clinching the title, Heat players, employees, family members and guests dined, danced and drank as the gym was transformed into a reception hall of sorts.
It's been back to normal for months, and Spoelstra didn't have to issue any reminders why.
"When Spo says 5-on-5, pads up, mouthguards in, we kind of already know," James said. "We just have competitive guys that do not like to lose drills or do not like to lose no matter what's going on."
The Heat have 12 players back from that championship team, and even the new additions -- Allen and Rashard Lewis, most notably -- pretty much already know what's going on in camp. Miami installed some of its half-court offenses on Monday, ones that Allen said he already knew from his years of scouting and playing against the Heat.
Count Allen among those who think a couple hours of brisk work is enough to get the daily grind of camp done.
"Those juices are flowing," Allen said. "I love the rhythm of how practice is going because everybody's on the same page and a lot of us are learning on the fly but there's not a lot of standing around. That's what I love. I've been used to throughout my career being able to play up-tempo and getting up and down the floor and that's how we practice."
Heat center Chris Bosh couldn't hold back a smile when asked about how the first pair of two-a-days were canceled, saying the Heat aren't "going to fight that."
But to him, James, Wade, Shane Battier and other returnees, there's also a sense that the Heat are picking up where they left off in their title season.
"I think that's the best part about it," Bosh said. "This feels like practice. Now, we've got the camp legs. That's going to be a part of it. But it just feels like we're practicing like last year."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)