HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Miami Heat are the NBA champs and with all their key players coming back (apologies to Ronny Turiaf), they’re the clear favorite to repeat.
That doesn’t mean the Heat could just stand pat this summer. As Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra remember the 2006-07 season, when complacency doomed the team’s bid to win a second straight title.
The first time the Heat defended a championship, in 2006, that defense began with players reporting to training camp out of shape and ended with the Heat being swept out of the first round of the 2007 playoffs, to go three consecutive seasons without winning a playoff series.
“This year has been different than it was in 2006, when we won that title,” Spoelstra said of what has been a six-week whirlwind since finishing off the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals. “It seemed as if that celebration lasted all the way up ’til training camp.”
Spoelstra recounted how the Heat this offseason have gone from their championship celebration to the NBA Draft to the free-agency period that so far has netted the team Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to summer league in Las Vegas and now to this tour alongside video coordinator Dan Craig.
“If we learned one thing from the 2006 title, it was that you need to continue to reinvent yourself and improve as a basketball team,” Spoelstra said. “That year we brought the exact the same team back, we thought it would be the same path and same journey. It never is.”
Adding Allen and Lewis is a nice way to restock the cupboard. But it also pushed the Heat further toward a completely positionless roster. Imagine a lineup of Allen, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Shane Battier and Chris Bosh out on the floor together next season. Who’s playing what position there?
But that’s the way the Heat — and to some extent, the rest of the league — is going.
“The more we played positionless, the better we were,” Spoelstra told ESPN last month. “The more we tried to play conventional and force that type of game, it wasn’t a good formula for us.”
For Spoelstra, the key was Battier. As evidence, the Heat outscored their opponents by almost 12 points per 100 possessions when Battier and James were on the floor together in the postseason. And Miami’s most-used lineup in the playoffs was Mario Chalmers, Wade, James, Battier and Bosh, with James playing power forward defensively and often playing point guard offensively.
Next season, Spoelstra will have even more flexibility. And if the Heat don’t win a championship, it won’t be because they stood pat.