ANY DOUBTS Erik Spoelstra had about Dwyane Wade's recovery from the lingering left knee problems that forced him to miss the final 21 games last season were allayed in May, when the Heat's new coach traveled to the Chicago gym where Wade was rehabbing under the supervision of renowned athletic trainer Tim Grover. It was barely 10 a.m., and Wade was already drenched. "He had to have been there for about an hour and a half," recalls Spoelstra. "Without even talking to him, I could tell by the sweat and the look in his eye that he was going to have a great summer."
Spoelstra was right. Wade emerged from Grover's withering, five-times-weekly regimen with a renewed explosiveness that was on full display at the Olympics in Beijing, where he led Team USA in scoring (16.0 points per game) and won the gold medal that had eluded him four years earlier.
And while his first gold does not quite compare with his first NBA championship, in 2006 ("I'm just happy I'm one of the players who has both," he says), both required a singular focus that Wade believes Miami will have to adopt to rebound from a franchise-worst 15--67 record. He'll try to spur that turnaround with two rookies in the lineup and no center to speak of after the team dealt Shaquille O'Neal. Says Spoelstra, "Attacking off the dribble early in the clock and playing a real high-energy pick-and-roll and drive-and-kick game will take a lot more work than it did just throwing the ball into the post." For Wade, hard work is no obstacle. But the Heat's shortcomings are sure to keep Spoelstra in a lather.
A rival scout on the HEAT: Erik Spoelstra is going to bring a lot of energy. How much change he can effect is uncertain, because Pat Riley is an Al Davis type—he's going to have his hand in the mix a lot.... Without a real center, they have to spread the floor and push the ball. If one of their main guys goes down, they become a pretty bad team.... Because of the way this club is set up for him, Michael Beasley is going to get numbers. He'll be an 18-point, 10-rebound guy at least.... Shawn Marion can fit in with good players, but if you feature him, then you're not going to win a conference championship. I've been watching him since high school, and he needs touches to stay involved in the game mentally. He's not a great defender; he plays passing lanes more so than he plays straight-up defense. Marion's contract is up this year, so if they're struggling, they'll get rid of him.... They may have upgraded at point guard by signing Shaun Livingston. He's a talented kid, a passer with size. Whether he can stay healthy, we'll find out.
For the third time in his career Shawn Marion averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. In the past 20 years only two other players have reached those marks in one season: Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2007--08 statistics
MARIO CHALMERS (R)
MICHAEL BEASLEY (R)
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G Marcus Banks, C Mark Blount, F James Jones*, G Chris Quinn, F Yakhouba Diawara*
(R) Rookie (college stats)
Record: 15--67 (15th in East)
Points scored: 91.4 (30th in NBA)
Points allowed: 100.0 (14th)
Coach: Erik Spoelstra (first season with Heat)
ISSAC BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
LIKE OLD TIMES After a down year Wade has rediscovered the explosiveness that had been his calling card in the NBA.
VICTOR BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES