- Associated Press - Friday, September 17, 2010

MIAMI (AP) - Part of Erik Spoelstra’s offseason time away from coaching included another trip halfway around the world to his native Philippines for some youth clinics and other events.

The 2010 visit wasn’t like the one he made in 2009.

“The Miami Heat was a much different brand this summer,” Spoelstra said.

Go figure, following an offseason where all the Heat did was re-sign Dwyane Wade, then lure two-time NBA MVP LeBron James, Chris Bosh and four other significant free agents to join a team with immediate eyes on a championship.

Added visibility was a given for the Heat after their almost-neverending series of major moves this offseason. It all hasn’t been received as warmly as Spoelstra was when he visited his mother’s homeland earlier this summer, of course, not with plenty of people both inside and outside the NBA _ even some of Spoelstra’s closest friends in the coaching fraternity _ offering some sharp words for what Miami pulled off this summer.

“Every single franchise in this league, if they had the opportunity to sign three players the way we were able to, they would have without any hesitation,” Spoelstra said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press. “So everything else that everybody is saying, at first it was hard for us to understand. But that’s how this team is going to be viewed.”

Spoelstra doesn’t care much about all the fuss.

Wade, Heat president Pat Riley and several other people within the organization feel the same, so when training camp opens at Hurlburt Field on Sept. 28, one of the first objectives will be out of the way. Spoelstra would rather the Heat look at the season looming ahead, not the summer they’ll be leaving behind.

“We have enough issues that we’re focusing on,” Spoelstra said.

Part of why the Heat are moving training camp to a pair of Air Force installations _ Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida’s Panhandle, roughly 650 miles or so from Miami’s home arena _ is the hope of limiting distractions during the first few days of practice.

Avoiding them this summer has been largely impossible. The Heat have been the talk of the league.

Riley said last week that the way Miami can “answer all the critics” is by showing up and doing what the Heat were built to do, that being contend for a title. He took issue after the signings of James and Bosh with things said by, among others, NBA analyst Charles Barkley, Orlando general manager Otis Smith and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy _ a close friend of Spoelstra’s and, like the current Heat coach, a former Riley protege.

Smith questioned James‘ competitiveness in July, shortly after he joined the Heat. Riley called that “stupid” last week, setting the stage for Van Gundy to fire back a day later.

Van Gundy told OrlandoMagic.com that “what Otis said wasn’t a stupid remark. Unless of course you have a different opinion than Pat, then apparently it’s stupid.”

The war of words, for now, is ending with Spoelstra.

Story Continues →