With the NBA allowing teams to open their doors, granting players the opportunity to work with each other inside their usual team practice facility, several Heat players arrived at the AAA to begin preparing for the shortened 2011-12 season. So far the list of guys working individually (without any Heat personnel allowed to join them just yet) are Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh, Dexter Pittman, Joel Anthony, James Jones and Juwan Howard. Jones and Howard are free agents, both hoping to return to the Heat.
As we get closer to the beginning of training camp on December 9th, I'm sure that more and more players will show up at the arena looking to prepare for another run at the NBA Finals. With many ‘experts' already picking the Heat as early favorites to win it all, its going to be interesting to see how this years roster shapes up once free agency gets going. That's probably what I'm most excited for; take the excitement of last summers' signings and combine it the frenzy that took place when the NFL lockout ended.
Once training camp gets underway, teams will have a little more then a week to prepare for their first taste of true, NBA-level competition. For the Heat, they will get 9 days of camp and then it will time for their very abbreviated preseason to begin. The first game will be on Sunday December 18th at 6pm as Miami will host in state and Southeast Division rival Orlando Magic at the American Airlines Arena.
The preseason home-and-home series will then shift to Orlando, where the teams will play the 2nd game on Wednesday December 21st at 7pm in the Magic's beautiful new Amway Center. Prior to the lockout, the Heat had 8 exhibition games scheduled, including three at home, three in other NBA cities (Detroit, Memphis and Houston) and two neutral-city games in Kansas City, MO and Raleigh, NC.
It will be interesting to see how many players the Heat and Magic have on their rosters when the preseason games roll around. Along with the beginning of training camp, December 9th also marks the open of free agency. With only 9 days between that day and the first preseason game, there is a good chance that both teams will be playing without complete rosters.
The signings will likely come fast and furious in the days surrounding the preseason though, as opening day/night is on Christmas, just four days after the final exhibition game. Its going to be quite fun watching all the teams and players scramble to sign contracts while preparing for the season, I just hope that the quality of team-play doesn't suffer the way that some aspects of the NFL did. We'll just have wait and see.