HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The championship after party for the Dallas Mavericks was extended by five months courtesy of the lockout, an extension that the Mavericks would never blame for their struggles last season but one that most honest observers would no doubt finger as a factor in their early season struggles.
The Miami Heat, on the other hand, will experience no such thing. In fact, they’ll have what longtime Heat beat writer and observer Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel coined the “shortest offseason in the Heat’s 25 seasons of existence.” And with that compressed offseason comes a few lingering issues that could impact the reigning champs, in more ways that one.
The first two he mentions are enough to cause a little bit of concern for even the most optimistic of Heat fans:
1. The two remaining roster spots.
The 13 players already under contract for 2012-13 are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller,Norris Cole, Joel Anthony James Jones and Dexter Pittman.
Rounding out the regular-season roster could be as simple as bringing back two of the players who spent time with the team last season and currently are working out with the team, a pool that includes guard Terrel Harris, center Mickell Gladness and forward Juwan Howard.
As far as extra bodies for a training camp that apparently will include several rehabilitating players, center Justin Hamilton and forward Drew Viney, two of the team’s more productive players in summer league, already has committed to teams in Croatia and Poland, respectively. Former second-round picks Jarvis Varnado and Robert Dozier, a pair of complementary forwards, both had their moments during summer league and should return for camp.
2. The rehabilitation trail.
Among the more encouraging moments of the offseason was the recent Twitter post by Miller, which read, “Gr8week being back in the gym FINALLY Way 2long of a layoff slowlybutsurely feelN better Feels good getting ready 4 another year.”
Miller has been monitored this offseason for the need for possible back surgery, a procedure than likely would end his season and possibly his career.
In addition, Wade only now is returning to court work from the July arthroscopic procedure on his left knee and Allen is returning from ankle surgery that came in the wake of the Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals demise at the hands of the Heat.
Beyond that, Gladness is working back from a wrist injury sustained during summer league.
Having seen James work in person from The Finals and through the gold medal game at Olympics, it’s hard to imagine the Heat doing anything other than finishing the 2012-13 season in the same position they finished last season, and that’s with a chance to claim their second straight Larry O’Brien trophy.
LeBron separated himself from the pack in terms of his ability to control the action in any game without having to just score points to do so. Mike Krzyzewski, coach of the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team, presented it best when he talked about things going one of two ways after a player has the sort of year that LeBron did … “Now that LeBron has finally won a championship, I wonder if it will quell a fire or start a bon fire for more.”
Based on everything we saw out of him in the day and weeks after The Finals, plus what we already know about Wade and Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley, we’re going with the bon fire!