The Miami Heat plane had plenty of radar tracking it as it landed at 10 p.m. last night at Eglin Air Force Base. As the team came down the stairs, they were greeted by a crowd that had been there three hours to see them.
Such is the life of the Miami Heat now — even in their place of escape people are lined up hours to see them. To see them get off a plane. The Heat players did take the time to mingle with the crowd, but it made ring true what Coach Erik Spoelstra told NBA.com:
“…this team wasn’t built to go under the radar.”
The Miami Heat are THE traveling road show of the NBA — there were a ridiculous 350 credentialed media at their media day, and 150 of them will travel to a military base on the Florida panhandle for training camp. Where media will take shuttle buses from the hotel to the base, where they are granted 30-minutes-a-day group access. That was after each member of the media passed a military criminal background check to get on the air force base. Still ESPN will be doing live television remotes with a desk and a team of reporters. The demand is still there.
Thousands of miles away, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told NBATV how nice and quiet it was for the two-time defending champions with so much of the national media in Florida.
The Heat know the zoo that is ahead, which is why they have chosen the most remote of training camp locations, with strict access. Real team bonding moments will be hard for this squad to come by. There will be a constant pull of obligations, there will be fans and reporters lurking around every turn.
Pat Riley found the most isolated spot he could so that for one week the team would be together without many distractions. That meant sleeping in sparser, almost dorm-like facilities (almost more what you see with a football training camp, not the four-star accommodations basketball teams are used to). A week where team officials will preach sacrifice with a backdrop of military people making huge sacrifices for their country. The message is not subtle.
Who knows if it will work, but once they leave the base the lights will get brighter. When the Heat play their first exhibition game, NBATV will cover it live (Oct. 5). And it will be like that the rest of the way. A storm of media attention, of fan interest.
But this week, for one week, they will try to get away. And bond. With only 150 media members watching.