Fort Walton Beach, Fla. – The male bonding experience known as NBA training camp will begin today for the Miami Heat on an air force base, strange in one sense, appropriate in another. Isn’t this the team everyone expects to take off?
The club landed late Monday night at Eglin, tucked away on the Florida Panhandle and far removed from the ruckus the Heat left behind in Miami. Although the escape will be in the physical sense only. A media swarm that numbered at 350 for Media Day on Monday afternoon will shrink only by 150 this week at Elgin, because as coach Erik Spoelstra correctly noted, “this team wasn’t built to go under the radar.”
The Heat will stay until camp breaks Sunday. And yes, they will stay on the base, bunking up in rooms that are less spacious and luxurious than most millionaires are used to. Their practices are closed to the media, and since the general public isn’t allowed on the base, peace and security will be the order. And that’s an order!
Each media member was put through a security and criminal check that lasted anywhere between 24 and 48 hours, or roughly the length of the longest Heat losing streak this upcoming season (you think?). Reporters will be bused to the base daily for interviews, which will last no more than 20-30 minutes. Then it’s back on the bus and toward the exit for the scrum while the players do whatever one does on an air force base.
“We look forward to it,” said Spoelstra, “spending time with the men and women who protect us and embrace sacrifice and service commitment. We can learn a lot from them, in that sense.”
An intra-squad scrimmage is scheduled for Thursday, which raises a question: How do you evenly split up the Big Three, so the sides are fair? Figure LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be placed on separate teams, and maybe Chris Bosh will change jerseys at halftime.
Anyway, the idea was to spend a week in isolation, perhaps the last stretch of tranquility before the Heat spend 6-plus months traveling like rock stars. Where the beds will definitely be plusher.
Watch the Heat’s first preseason game, Tuesday at 7 p.m. on NBA TV.