By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
VETERAN forward Udonis Haslem said there was no better way for the Miami Heat to begin the National Basketball Association’s 2022/23 season than hosting their training camp in The Bahamas.
It’s the third time that the Heat came to the Bahamas and Haslem was a part of the team in 2013 and 2016 when they stayed at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. This time, they spent the past week at the Baha Mar resort.
For Halsem, this will be his 20th and final year, all in Miami, as he completes the longest tenure by any player in the league right now. “Great way. Great way to finish my last training camp in Paradise,” Haslem told the media on Saturday following an open house workout session for the residents and visitors to the Bahamas.
“It’s always much love whenever I come to the Bahamas. It’s just like being in Miami. The love is unmatched. I appreciate it a lot. It’s a dream come true to start off my last year the right way.”
As an undrafted player in Miami, the team’s captain said the Heat has a tremendous organisation to play for.
“It’s not easy putting together a playoff or championship calibre team every year,” he pointed out. “You go through your ups and downs and you will always have draft picks. “Some teams up the tank and do it the other way. “We did it to find those needles in the haystack and those diamonds in the rough.”
Last year, the Heat clinched the eastern conference title and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before they got eliminated by the Boston Celtics. The Heat, coached by Erik Spoelstra, returns with basically the same team with the exception of defensive specialist PJ Tucker, who has gone to the Philadelphia 76ers.
During the week, Spoelstra and his staff have been watching their rookies and a couple of players out of their D-League developmental programme to help fill in the void.
The core of their team will include Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Victor Oladipo, Dewayne Dedmon, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Haywood Highsmith, Nikola Jovic, Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Omer Yursev and Haslem.
They’re looking to add to their roster from a list that includes Marcus Garrett, Darius Days, Jamaree Bouya, Jamal Cain and Orlando Robinson.
Haslem, the team’s captain, represented the club during the press briefing. He said if the players all buy into the programme presented by the coaches, they too can have a long career in the league like he does.
The 42-year-old Haslem noted that they are preparing for the start of the pre-season on Tuesday at home at the FTX Arena in Miami against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have added Rudy Gobert to play with Anthony Towns.
The Heat’s 35th regular season will also open at home on October 19 when they will entertain the Chicago Bulls.
“Last year we didn’t lose much. Everybody is basically back,” he said. “Health issues is going to be our major thing. But right now, we’re here in the Bahamas in Paradise. We’re bonding, so it’s been a great trip here so far.”
As for the expectations for the team, Haslem said the goal as usual is to win another championship title.
“We always have championship expectations. We don’t come into the season thinking about anything else,” he pointed out. “But we know it’s a long road before we get there. There are steps that we have to get there. The championship is always our expectations.”
Haslem said the trip here was just like a home game, so they enjoyed playing in front of the Bahamian crowd. The Heat also hosted a children’s clinic on Thursday at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
“It’s been a great week. We got some work in,” he said.
“We had a little bit of rain, but we held on pretty good. Some of the younger guys got on the water slides and some of the older guys played some golf.
“So it was good to be here. We had everything here to be successful to get ready for this season.”
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