By Ira Winderman Sun Sentinel
Well this is odd, being a just a week away from the start of the pre-season … and a mere month from the start of the playoffs.
The NBA resumption is nothing if not a time warp.
Against the backdrop of completing his team’s third practice session at Disney World in the league’s “bubble” setting amid the Covid-19 pandemic, coach Erik Spoelstra said on Sunday that post-season preparations have already begun and actually had been ongoing even before Wednesday’s arrival.
“Yeah, and we already have been doing a lot of that, you know, the last several weeks,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve a lot of time on our hands. Our staff was able to watch film at home. And here we have a lot of extra time, as well. So we’ll be able to continue to dive into those scenarios.”
The NBA’s timetable has the Heat opening their three-game pre-season on July 22, then the eight-game resumption of their regular season on August 1, with the playoffs to open August 17. The Heat have already qualified for the post-season, with their 41-24 record.
Based on the standings, it appears highly likely that the Heat will open the postseason against the Indiana Pacers or Philadelphia 76ers in the best-of-seven first round, with an outside chance of opening with the Boston Celtics.
“It’s not like that situation where there’s a possibility of having six different possibilities,” Spoelstra said, scenarios the Heat have faced during the final week of previous seasons. “It looks pretty clear, two or three.”
Having already lost the season series to the Boston Celtics, the Heat stand three games behind in the loss column in that race for the No 3 seed, with one game left against Boston. But even then, should the Heat push to No 3, it still would leave the Pacers or 76ers as the likely first-round matchup, at No 6.
Up two games on both Indiana and Philadelphia for No 4, the only way the Heat would not play either of those two in a No 4-vs.-No 5 first-round series would be for Spoelstra’s team to fall to No 6, and therefore likely start the playoffs against Boston.
It has created the oddity of talking about playoffs — yes, playoffs — during training camp.
“It’s definitely a unique situation,” guard Duncan Robinson said after Sunday’s practice at a Disney ballroom. “I think, if anything, it just heightens the sense of urgency.
“Practices have been really competitive. Guys have been going hard. We definitely understand what’s at stake. I feel like the coaches have done a really good job of making sure everything is competitive and we’re getting up and down, but also kind of easing our way into it, because we have taken all this time off.”
And that’s the rub, that the three opening practices also have represented the Heat’s first team workouts since the March 11 league shutdown due to the spread of Covid-19.
“You’ve got to be able to walk the line between the two,” Robinson said of preseason patience and playoff preparation. “I think, so far, we’ve done a really good job of that. But it’s such a unique time. But we’re not the only team going through it, obviously. Everybody is doing it, so we just have to figure out the best way for us to handle it.”
Forward Jae Crowder said, as with any camp, it has to be first things first, leaving the playoff planning to the coaching and video staffs.
“I just think you take it, first of all, day by day,” he said. “I think Coach has done a good job of bringing us along. I think a lot mentally is forgotten just from the time away from each other. So just us communicating with each other and getting back on the same page is a big task for us right now.
“I just think you take it day by day, week by week, and then you build up from there.”
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