Almost exactly four months after the Miami Heat’s season ended in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, the team went back to work Tuesday.
Following media day on Monday at FTX Arena, the Heat opened training camp Tuesday morning at Baha Mar’s Grand Ballroom in the Bahamas with 13 players returning from last season’s season-ending roster. The only new faces are first-round pick Nikola Jovic and two-way contract players Marcus Garrett and Darius Days.
“It was great. Just to be around the guys, compete a little bit and be able to play basketball as a team,” Heat star Jimmy Butler said following the morning session to kick off five days of practices in the Bahamas. “This was a great first practice to something special.”
But one familiar face was not present Tuesday. Head coach Erik Spoelstra remained away from the Heat following the birth of his daughter, Ruby Grace Spoelstra, on Monday.
Heat assistant coach Chris Quinn led Tuesday’s practice in Spoelstra’s absence. Spoelstra is expected back for Wednesday’s work day.
“It’s a cool new experience for me personally,” said Quinn, who turned 39 on Tuesday. “Obviously, I’m constantly in communication with Spo. Last night, this morning, a lot of the practice planning is still his. So we’re just forging ahead. Obviously, there are things bigger than basketball. Him being there for the birth of his child. Our job is just to get off to the right start here in training camp.”
Once Spoelstra returns, the Heat will be whole again and the team’s hope is its roster continuity will serve as an advantage.
“A lot,” Butler said when asked how much continuity means. “But we’re a long ways away for us to have to worry about that. Right now it’s about getting back into a groove, get in a rhythm and having fun. I think these first couple of days is about having fun and getting back around the guys and then the basketball starts.”
Because of the roster continuity, Quinn said “there’s a lot of things that we can do right away that maybe in past years we would have to teach more.”
“The habits that we need to create, the install that you have to do in a training camp to get guys organized and this is the start of a new year, the start of a new journey for all of us,” Quinn continued. “Today was just the start to build the foundation of what we’re looking to do.”
All while also enjoying a few days away in the Bahamas before returning to Miami on Saturday afternoon for the Red, White and Pink Game on Monday and its preseason opener on Oct. 4 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Obviously, we’re here first to work, to prepare for the season,” Quinn said. “But it is a great time just to be together, connect and bond constantly throughout the days. Do things on and off the court together and it has a totally different feel from when we’re in Miami, so I think all that helps just to build a team and do it a little different.”
Guard Gabe Vincent was the only Heat player who did not take part in the team’s first training camp practice Tuesday because of right knee swelling.
Center Dewayne Dedmon (left plantar fasciitis) and Jovic (right Achilles tendinitis) were both limited participants because of injuries. The rest of the roster went through the entire practice.