Ask Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about more than half his roster believing they should be starters and he smiles the wryest of smiles.
“I don’t mind it in terms of players’ ambition,” he said, with the Heat breaking camp Saturday after five days at the Baha Mar resort. “We should have a lot of players that feel like they can start. And we probably do have eight to 12 starters.
“Either they can start on this team right now or they can start on another team or at some point they’ve been starters. Or could start with a little bit more development a year or two or three years down the line.”
The givens in the first five are Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry. The contenders for the other two berths are Caleb Martin, Max Strus, Tyler Herro, Victor Oladipo and perhaps even Duncan Robinson, Omer Yurtseven or Haywood Highsmith. About the only members of the 14-player standard roster not directly in the conversation are Gabe Vincent, Dewayne Dedmon, 42-year-old mentor Udonis Haslem and 19-year-old neophyte Nikola Jovic.
“I think you need talent in this league, you need ambition,” Spoelstra said. “I want to leverage all of that.
“At some point, to be a part of something special, you have to embrace that concept of sacrificing and sharing in the game.”
So, yes, sacrifice is back as a core tenet.
“It’ll be really important for this team to understand that each guy will have to sacrifice a little bit to be able to unlock the talent that we have,” Spoelstra said. “Once you embrace that, all of this is bigger than each one of us, and you can really connect the dots on the concept, you can find more purpose and gratification out of great team basketball. So we’re laying that foundation right now.
“The magic happens when everybody can get to a place where you’re vulnerable and giving up something for the betterment of the team. We have a lot of firepower, have a lot of talent, have a lot of defensive versatility. There’s a lot of encouraging things about our roster makeup and our depth. And we fully intend on using all of that. How that’s going to play out right now? I don’t know, but I do like the possibilities.”
With the Heat wrapping up their stay in New Providence, with Saturday including a youth clinic at the makeshift courts at the resort’s convention center, Haslem summed up the experience.
“A great way to finish my last training camp, in paradise,” said the veteran power forward who is retiring after this 20th Heat season. “Well loved, always much love when I come here in the Bahamas. Just like being in Miami for me. The love is unmatched and I appreciate it a lot.”
Haslem said camp had a different feel, with 14 players returning from last season.
“We’re ahead of the game, because we had so much time last year. We didn’t lose very much,” he said, with only P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris departing. “We pretty much know everybody. Health is always a major concern, but we’re bonding, we’re enjoying it, we’re here in the Bahamas, paradise, so it’s been a great trip.”
Haslem said he made an effort to leave the resort to sample local fare, and appreciated that teammates were able to take their minds off the game.
“Great week,” he said. “A little bit of rain, but it held on pretty good. So the young guys were able to go on the water slides, some of the older guys able to get some golf. It was a good balance of hard work and a mental break and getting away.”
But that doesn’t mean there also wasn’t a physical toll.
“This week was a crash course for the body,” he said. “Next week, I’ll be better.”