Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra excitedly took the podium Monday to kick off Media Day and appeared to be excited not just for his team's chances of competing this season but to finally begin coaching again after an unexpectedly long layoff.
Saying it was the first time in almost 20 years he was able to personally visit his mother on Mother's Day, he jokingly warned her not to be too excited about it but that he didn't want the experience to be repeated.
With the start of training camp at Florida Atlantic University at Boca Raton tomorrow, Spoelstra simply just wants to get back to work.
"We're looking forward to getting into work finally tomorrow," he said. "We're excited about this team. We're excited about the expectations that we have on this team. We're not running away from those expectations but just as importantly, we're excited about the commitment and the work that's required to match those expectations. I can't wait to get started tomorrow morning, 10:00am in Boca. It's an opportunity for us to really set the tone for the season."
"I'm starting my 21st year here and I've said it before, every single season that I've worked for Micky Arison and Pat Riley, we know what we're trying to play for. Last season was a challenge for everybody here. We've had a lot of opportunity to recalibrate and re-energize this offseason and we want to compete for it. That goes without saying here in this organization what we're trying to put together."
While the start of a brand new NBA season always brings optimism with every team, Spoelstra recognizes that this particular roster was built from the from the ground up to compete and he's aware of the pressure that brings.
"We've added some veteran pieces," he said. "Our team has a nice blend of veteran, experienced and talented players who have tasted and known what it takes to get to the top of that mountain. Players that have been extremely close to that and feel the pain and agony and the motivation of falling short. But also to have guys right in the prime athletically and experience-wise of their careers and then to have some youthful exuberance to add to the roster just to give your team some energy.
"We like the roster, I think most teams do right now, but while there may be a handful of teams that say 'We want to compete for a title,' we don't know how many really actually are committed to that or feel that way."
Encouragingly, Spoelstra claimed that all players are reporting to camp in good health and with no minutes restrictions for any of them -- though that remains to be seen.
With the extra time off the court, Spoelstra has plenty of time to envision how this team with point guard Goran Dragic at the helm will play. It will still be a work in progress with several new players joining the mix and veterans such as Dragic, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside and Josh McRoberts needing time to get on the same page together out on the court.
"The operative word I've used all offseason is pace," he said. "This team has to play at an appropriate pace. We want to play at a pace that gets us up the court quickly to take advantage of the strengths that we have with this roster. How that translates necessarily to what other people think pace is, I don't know and really I don't care. I don't necessarily know whether that will translate into fast break points or how somebody else may translate pace. I know we have to get the ball up the court and get into attack positions as quickly as we possibly can; get to some spacing and play out of the strengths of our offensive players. That's going to be vital for the success of our offense.
"I think that our guys understand that. It's part of the reason why the guys showed up to camp in shape. But ultimately the team will tell, but we want to leverage the strengths of our attackers. To do that with open space and speed is the more efficient way to do it.