MIAMI – Back on their home court in front of fans Sunday for the first time since they celebrated a second straight NBA title last June, LeBron James and the Miami Heat offered a sneak peek into where they stand after a week of training camp.
The 11,289 fans who sat through Sunday's Red and White scrimmage saw mostly promising but some puzzling moments as Miami prepared for Monday's preseason opener against Atlanta.
Here are three key takeaways from Sunday's action, with the Heat still in fine-tuning mode in advance of the highly anticipated Oct. 29 regular-season opener against the Chicago Bulls.
1. Bosh's assertive play
After three seasons in Miami, there remains a strong sense that forward-center Chris Bosh continues to search for a comfort level and prominent place in the pecking order alongside James and Dwyane Wade. But if Sunday's performance offered any hint on where Bosh is headed, expect his fourth season with the Heat to be his best.
Bosh finished with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds during a scrimmage, with the teams playing four 10-minute quarters. Some players switched teams throughout the game, but Bosh was aggressive and assertive throughout. While James and Wade spent parts of the scrimmage playing to the crowd and attempting highlight plays, Bosh kept it steady and simple, attacking the paint on offense while rebounding and playing aggressive defense.
“The fans get the opportunity to see what we've been working on, and just to see us again, it's a great way to get things started,” Bosh said before Sunday's scrimmage.
With Spoelstra suggesting that the Heat need to continue reinventing themselves to stay atop of what's expected to be a much more competitive Eastern Conference, it could mean a more featured role and a chance to finally become the double-double type threat he was in his Toronto days.
2. Competition for rotation roles
Spoelstra said Sunday that through eight days of training camp he has yet to play his starting unit together during any of the workouts. While it might seem a bit strange for a team that returns nearly its entire rotation intact from last season's title run, Spoelstra doesn't want continuity to lead to complacency. That's one reason why James and Wade spent the duration of Sunday's scrimmage on opposite teams.
“We haven't talked about roles or anything of that nature because we're fighting as if they're fighting for their opportunities,” Spoelstra said. “Guys aren't conceding or giving up anything now, and that's the way we want it. We've yet to play with the perceived first unit. We'll try to mix it up as much as possible with them. We want to keep it competitive, and guys are going after each other.”
James agreed with Spoelstra's assessment of how competitive the first full week of training camp has been. While James, Wade, Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers were a combined 6-of-31 shooting during the scrimmage, back-end rotation and roster hopefuls Norris Cole, Rashard Lewis and Eric Griffin had impressive moments.
James, Wade, Chalmers, Bosh, Allen, Cole, Shane Battier, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem appear to currently holding the top nine rotation spots. But there's not a set order to how all the parts will fit, with Michael Beasley, Roger Mason Jr. and Greg Oden hoping to battle for roles.
“We do want to get better and work our habits over,” James said. “We want to try to not take a step back at all.”
3. Where's Beasley and Oden?
While Oden's absence from Sunday's scrimmage was not a surprise, considering the team's methodical, long-range approach to his rehab and conditioning, Beasley sitting out came as one. The team did not announce in advance that Beasley would miss the scrimmage, and many fans in the arena questioned why he didn't play.
Coaches and players were available to the media after Sunday morning's practice session but not after the evening scrimmage. Beasley, drafted second overall by the Heat in the 2008 draft, is now in his second stint with Miami trying to make the roster after signing a one-year, non-guaranteed deal last month following his release from Phoenix. Andersen, Haslem and Mason also sat out Sunday night.
Earlier Sunday, Spoelstra said Oden, the former No. 1 overall pick from the 2007 draft, continues to make steady progress in his comeback attempt following a four-year absence from the game because of multiple knee surgeries.
“In terms of doing stuff on the court, yes, he's doing stuff each day,” Spoelstra said. “There's no new developments with that, but I'm very encouraged by his last week. He's made great progress in the six weeks he's been with us.”