Two weeks until the season tips off, and teams are not looking the same in camp.
The Miami Heat are still learning the offense, the defense and how to play with each other. All without Dwyane Wade, who is still out with a sore hamstring for at least another week. Eddie House and Carlos Arroyo also are out with minor inuries.
The talent is there, but cohesion takes time and time together, something the Heat are not getting enough of.
The other three top contenders — the Lakers, Celtics and Magic — all have it. They all bring back the cores of teams that have been the teams in the finals the last two years. Kobe begging off of training camp is less of an issue, he can step right back in. Wade will find that more challenging.
“Boston, Orlando and the Lakers are going to be ahead of us,” LeBron James said Monday, something he’s said as a bit of deflection of expectation since the first day of camp — but now it comes with more sincerity. “We’re a little behind those teams.”
“We need to learn each other, learn our system and to build some continuity,” [coach Erik] Spoelstra said. “The most important thing for us right now is that we play 5-on-5.”
What does that mean long term? Nothing probably. While the foundation of cohesion and team unity can be laid in training camp, the building itself goes up during the long grind of the season. Effort and time spent together in pressure situations build it.
Miami will have that by the time the playoffs start. But they have Boston and Orlando in the first week. The league took notice — and the Heat did as well — when Orlando blew New Orleans out of the water by 54 points over the weekend. They have their focus turned on early, we will see if Miami can match that — in just two weeks.