Ira Winderman Sun Sentinel Columnist
10:47 a.m. EDT, August 25, 2012
Among the most intriguing elements of the Miami Heat's championship drive was how they evolved.
They started the season in a track meet. Then the lockout-compacted schedule drained their legs and their offense, with LeBron James moving into the post. All the while, they played almost exclusively through the regular season with a true center in the middle, be it Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf or Dexter Pittman.
Now, of course, we know the rest of the story, with small ball or, as Erik Spoelstra prefers to term it, "position-less" ball taking over and delivering hardware to AmericanAirlines Arena.
Yet because of that constant evolution, Dwyane Wade said it would be foolish to assume anything about the Heat's 2012-13 approach when they regroup for training camp in a month.
"Every year is different; every season is different," Wade told the Sun Sentinel during a break from a promotional whirlwind that last weekend had him running an adult fantasy camp on Miami Beach and this weekend has him as the focus of his Wade's World Foundation charity weekend in Chicago.
During a quiet moment, Wade admitted that he could not have envisioned the formula that ultimately delivered the Heat a championship, one that had Shane Battier starting at power forward in the playoffs, something that did not happen a single time during the 2011-12 regular season.
"You feel it out, and understand that throughout the year it changes," he said. "I think we'll come in with the mentality that our success is us winning as a team, and all of us being successful at the same time."
This season that means working Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis into the rotation, while mulling whether adding height to this undersized roster is even necessary.
Ultimately, last season also meant Wade taking a step back, deferring, to a degree, to the career season put together by James.
"Our mentality, obviously, is LeBron is one of the best players in this game, hands down, and we want him to continue to be that player," he said. "But, also, you never know who's going to emerge."
To a degree, Wade said it is essential that he, James and Chris Bosh continue to evolve, that each add enough nuance to their games that it forces Spoelstra to reach the level of creativity he achieved last season.
"You never know what player is going to start off and be playing a certain way and you switch things up a little bit," Wade said. "But we have that luxury, because we have not only three marquee players, but we have a lot of other players on our team that's very capable, highly capable, and very good."
And there will be decisions to be made, from how to maximize Allen's role in the rotation, as stressed during his recruitment, to where to play Lewis, with length suited for the power rotation but a frame more befitting a perimeter player.
"So our plan to come out," Wade said, "is, let's get together as a team, let's get our team defensive concepts down, let's get our offensive continuity down and we'll see what comes out of that."
The last time the Heat returned from a championship season, they returned stagnant, the formula of 2005-06 turning rancid shortly into 2006-07. Wade does not see that as a concern, having previously gone through that process with co-captain Udonis Haslem those two seasons.
"We want to be a lot more prepared than we were," he said. "I have no worries that we will be. I'm a lot better with this group of guys we have. It's a totally different mentality being with the guys we have than then."
IN THE LANE
WHAT ABOUT JUWAN?: Amid the Heat's inspection of free-agent options in the power rotation is the issue of whether power forward Juwan Howard returns for a third season with the team. At 39 (he'll turn 40 of Feb. 7), Howard has been working at AmericanAirlines Arena. To a degree, Dwyane Wade danced around the issue when asked if he would like to see Howard back. "Obviously, if he comes into camp and we've got open spots, Juwan is a guy who has meant so much to us, we would love him around, no matter what the case may be," he said. "If it's around as a player? Yeah. If it's around as part of the coaching staff, we just want him to be here. And hopefully he'll want to stay here and everyone can do whatever they can to make it happen." While the Heat are expected to return their coaching staff intact, there is no limit on the number assistants (beyond the three who sit on the bench) who can travel with the team.
LBJ vs. M.J.: As the LeBron James-vs.-Michael Jordan debate continues to build steam, Heat power forward Chris Bosh said what is most impressive is that James has gained entree into the debate. "I think it's just fascinating that people make that argument and I think it's great," Bosh said during his Friday interview on WQAM. "LeBron can win six championships, too, and it'll still be a debate. I think it's a great thing. It shows how talented he is, what he brings to the game, and how special a ballplayer he is. He's 27 years old. We've got, hopefully, a lot more basketball to play. After his legacy is done, we'll look back then and say, 'Oh, OK, this is what happened.' But right now, just let him be and let him play basketball."
PRESIDENTIAL MOMENT: Bosh's lesson from last week's Obama fundraiser in New York was when in doubt, defer to the president. So he did just that in a pickup game that broke out away from the cameras following a fundraising dinner hosted by Michael Jordan. At one point in the game, Bosh stepped to the sideline in favor of the president, as the likes of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce continued on (Jordan did not participate). "They did some rearranging of the groups and I just sat on the sidelines at the point," Bosh told the Daily Beast. "It was a good time, but I know how I am. I'm super-competitive, too, and a lefty like the president. He was throwing down baskets with his left hand, and I kept telling him 'we lefties' have to stick together. But I know how much I want to win, so I figured I'd just stand there and watch the room filled with all those amazing players young and old. I wanted to take it all in and not get upset."
REALLY?: Remember when the Dallas Mavericks crumbled after going up 2-0 against the Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, losing the final four games under Avery Johnson? Apparently it was due to the Mavericks allowing their team psychologist to depart. Really. "I think if I hadn't done that we win a championship with Avery," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said this past week on ESPN Radio in Dallas. "Not having Doc there, hurt us." Wonder if that's what did in the Oklahoma City Thunder dared go into this past June's Finals, the lack of a working psychologist?
9. Entrances to Akron that now will now proclaim it as the hometown of LeBron James, blue-and-white designations announced this past week by Mayor Don Plusquellic, who called the Heat forward the "greatest Akronite."
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