The Miami Heat can be the first team in over a decade to win three consecutive championships. And while on the outside, it may seem natural for the players to be relaxed and just wait for the postseason, the culture of Heat basketball doesn't allow for relaxation.
There's a plethora of mini story lines and intricacies surrounding Heat players as the head into the 2013-14 NBA season. What's most impressive is how they have prepared their games, bodies, and minds for the season ahead. With only a few newcomers on the team, everyone else tried to get better. The rest of the Eastern Conference improved as they hope to dethrone the Heat, so here's the new approaches and goals Heat players have towards this season.
Because of the championship and happy offseason, most people have forgotten that Chris Bosh went scoreless in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, granted he was terrific in Game 6. But Bosh hasn't forgotten. Stories have flurried that Bosh has been working on his footwork and post game this offseason to further his game. And it's been clear that Chris has been effective in the preseason, leading the Heat in scoring their first two games (21 and 28 points).
Bosh has also spoken of a new mindset in his fourth season with the team. He's wanting to be more aggressive and know his spots better. Bosh has gone through spurts of being the right kind of aggressive, and also passive. If he's able to hone in on his role on this team even better, he will help more than he has.
Oden is simply progressing. He's one of the biggest story lines surrounding the Heat right now, and for a good reason. He has the potential to really improve the Heat defensively and rebounding. But his mindset, along with the coaching staff, is and will continue to be small steps. Oden for the first time practiced 5 on 5 in several years. It was a milestone, but nowhere near what he wants to be.
"I'm not as back as I want to be. But you know, it's little steps. Today was another step, getting out there and doing some five on five" Oden said after practice.
It's hard to imagine LeBron getting even better than he is, but that's what he is aiming to do. LeBron has stated that he got better this offseason, and he got married. James was asked about the possibility of shooting 60% from the field this year.
"I don't really set out goals as far as what I want to shoot from the field," James said. "I know I want to take good shots and I know I want to be in attack and if that results in [60 percent] then it will be great, but I want to get the best shot for myself and for our team every possession."
James shot 56.5% from the field last season for the Heat, highlighted by a 21-game stretch in which he shot 63.2% from the floor and largely attributed to more focus toward scoring in the paint. If LeBron gets better, everyone gets better. And if he is more efficient that what he already was, then the league is really in for some trouble. LeBron has been working, and the Heat will be the beneficiaries.
"[The bet] started with Ray," Chalmers said. "Ever since then, I just got a little extra push. I've just been working harder. We wanted to three-peat. They all said, 'We need you to be the head of the team, you need to be in tip-top shape and we need you to lead by example.'"
Ray Allen was the one to finally push Chalmers? After all the demanding from Wade, James and Bosh, Ray Allen is the one to get him to take the next step to becoming a better point guard. If Chalmers is in the best shape of his career, then it can really help Miami at the point guard position, a position they have committed to Chalmers and Norris Cole moving forward.
"I feel a lot faster. It helps me get to different spaces on the court and small cracks easier. [Losing the weight] was more of a conscious thing of winning, helping the team. It wasn't an individual bet but what can I do to help the team get better."
Ray Allen has also been rumored to be in the best shape he has been in years. I'm not sure how Allen could be in better shape than he is, but if he has improved at age 37, it could mean for better results throughout the season.
The latest project for Pat Riley is the reclamation of his former #2 overall 2008 pick. Beasley, although with a non-guaranteed deal, seems like he has the mindset to be focused. "I'm coming in here with an open mind," Beasley said. "I'm here knowing that this team doesn't need me. I just want to show them that I can help. I just want them to want me."
Beasley has been productive in his first two games with the Heat. He scored 9 points in 9 minutes, and 13 points in 19 minutes so far. All the players have been very supportive of him, but what's most important is Beasley's attitude. We all know he has the skill to be productive, especially off the bench, but where is his head at will always be the question.
"It's the way they live, the way they play," Beasley said. "It's doing things the right way. It's doing things in good faith and doing the work hard."
If Beasley is fully on board with the Heat culture, winning, and being able to have a secondary role - Miami's bench just got way more productive, and younger.
So that's it. It seems as though Miami has been busy getting better and preparing for the season. They have goals, new approaches, mindsets, and some new faces.
The season will unveil which of this approaches are real, and which are just talk.
Stay tuned to Hot Hot Hoops as we continue to be your #1 source for the Heat.
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