PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – If Miami guard Dwyane Wade does anything other than basketball-related work during this Heat training camp trip to the Bahamas, it'll likely be a little bit of card-playing.
After all, that doesn't take any physical exertion.
Insisting that this is no vacation — even though a steel band met them at the airport and shimmering blue ocean water is beckoning a stone's throw from their hotel rooms — the two-time defending NBA champions got to work Tuesday. Miami held its first practice of camp for about two hours inside a cavernous ballroom that had temporary lights strung from the ceiling and two newly installed courts side-by-side.
"It was good," Wade said. "This is our element, right here. This is where all our guys are really comfortable and we can get into gear, be around each other. First practice of the first day is good."
The Heat held a team meeting Monday night, where coach Erik Spoelstra laid out the short-term plans for the week and the long-term plans for the season. He didn't reveal much in the way of details about that meeting, and didn't have to, either.
The short-term plan, work hard this week.
The long-term plan, win another NBA title. And Spoelstra is sure that being in the Bahamas for a few days won't distract his group.
"We've been planning this for a while," Spoelstra said. "And so we think it's a good environment for us to get to work, get away and get back to building some habits that we'll need. It was a good first practice."
When the practice was over, LeBron James was loudly announcing that he wanted to do more work and pleaded for someone to throw him a basketball so he could shoot free throws while tired. Ray Allen, as always, stayed late to get up tons of additional jumpers. Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem took seats as a couple icebags awaited them, and Greg Oden — who practiced for about 30 minutes as the Heat work him in slowly — iced both his knees as well.
"They had to pull me off today. I wanted to go out there and do it, but you know, I've got to take steps," said Oden, the former No. 1 overall pick who has appeared in only 82 regular-season games because of continual knee problems.
Despite the vista that surrounds the resort they'll call home until Friday, there was no talk of beach time. Forward Chris Andersen, pumping the pedals on an exercise bike 15 minutes after Spoelstra declared practice complete, asked no one in particular what time the team's second workout of the day would be taking place.
"We're a veteran ballclub," James said. "We don't need to be told what to do. We show up to work. When we're not working, we enjoy ourselves. We don't need to police ourselves. We don't need to look after each other. Guys know what to do, no matter where we are."
Predictably, the first Heat practice of the year was lacking one thing — offense.
Everything in the Heat system, from the day Pat Riley arrived nearly two decades ago, has been built around defense, and this camp will be no exception. Spoelstra said he wouldn't even think about installing a single offensive set until the afternoon practice, with the first one entirely about defensive drills and schemes.
Players knew it was coming, too.
"I could run the practice," Wade said. "I kind of know what to expect."
Added Heat forward Chris Bosh: "We know it's always going to be the same. Defensive-first philosophy around here. ... If you can't stop anybody, you can't win a championship."
Wade got his vacationing fill of the tropics this summer, taking a little time in Turks and Caicos. He swam and relaxed and lounged around on that trip, something that regular people are spending upward of $500 a night to do this week in the Bahamas.
Wade knows there's probably some people who think the Heat are making a mistake by coming to paradise. He simply disagrees.
"We're coming from Miami, not too far," Wade said. "We're just getting away from everything a little bit, being around each other as a group and just kind of having 'us time' because we don't have that as much as we would like. So this is great, from the standpoint of just coming down here for a few days and getting back to the basics a little bit before we go back to the real world."