MIAMI – The scent of champagne is gone from the Miami Heat locker room. The streets of downtown have been cleaned up from the championship parade. The final team meeting has been held.
Not even a week after winning the NBA Finals, next year is already here for the Heat.
They hold the No. 27 pick in the draft on Thursday night, have a list of free agents they would like to start speaking with on Sunday and are busy planning for what they want to accomplish in next month's summer league in Las Vegas. So while players like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade can continue reveling in a title, Miami's brain trust like team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra are in back-to-work mode.
"Certainly, we were able to enjoy the weekend, like we haven't been able to for the whole season," Spoelstra said. "That's been tremendous. But we're in a different situation than the players, and our staff understands that right now. This is an important week and then everything leading up to this summer league and then all the way through this summer league will be important. ... We're not in a rush to celebrate right now."
Spoelstra said that when he arrived at work Monday, he saw a list of free agents who might be available, as well as the latest details on Miami's draft plans and salary cap situation going into the summer.
Right then, Spoelstra said, he "realized how far behind I am."
"I have a lot to catch up on in the coming days," Spoelstra said.
Such is the case when your team is the last one standing at the end of any season — particularly so after the hectic sprint that was the 2011-12 NBA campaign, shortened to 66 games because of the lockout and compressed into a calendar that allowed almost no breathing room.
Draft first, then free agency, then summer league.
James will play in the London Olympics, Bosh said he's still expecting to play, but Wade's plans for the games may be on hold depending on what doctors tell him about his problematic left knee. Mike Miller — one of the heroes of Game 5 of the finals against Oklahoma City — was planning to see a neurosurgeon on Tuesday to address his balky back. James Jones is considering retirement. Ronny Turiaf has an option to return. No one knows what the roster will really look like, which makes the workload facing the Heat right now even more of a guessing game.
When Miami won its first title in 2006, the Heat returned the next season hardly ready for a title defense, losing by 42 points to Chicago on the night they got their championship rings.
Wade isn't worried about something like that happening again.
"Once you win a championship, you always feel like, 'We can do it again,'" Wade said. "I think guys came in (after the 2006 title) kind of going through the motions a little bit. ... This team will be fine. The core of our guys will be guys in the prime of their game, and I don't think we'll have a problem coming back motivated to try to compete for another title and defend the one that we have."
For Miami's Olympic-bound players, there will be precious little time off.
Training camp starts in Las Vegas early next month, and there will be hardly any down time through the end of the games in London in mid-August. If the Heat are selected to go overseas for part of the preseason — a strong possibility — that means they'll likely start training camp in late September. So the last team standing in one season might be one of the first to resume camp the following season.
"You have to be a strong person to get through that," Bosh said. "It's going to be tough, just like anything else. But we just have to keep going. As long as we don't look at everything as a whole and just kind of stay in what's happening now and not get too caught up in the future I think we'll be OK."
Some teams will have offseasons lasting about five months. Miami's will be about three, and with an Olympics thrown in for possibly all three of their best players.
"I'm going to try to get as much rest as I can," said James, the regular-season and finals MVP. "But I understand it's been a long season — a short, compacted season — plus the Olympics. So I'm going to train with the team, get as much work in. I'm already kind of in shape so I don't have to worry about getting in too much shape and then trying to recraft my skills. And after the Olympics I'm going to take some time off, just kind of try to get my legs back."
He's already aware how daunting the next 12 months could be for Miami, if the Heat make good on their plans for another title push.
"Hopefully it's another long season for us next year," James said. "I will be ready."
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