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A fiery James takes the court with Heat
He pumped his fist after passing over a double-team and setting Joel Anthony up for a dunk. He got wide-eyed after breaking free in a defensive drill for a thunderous slam that left teammates more than impressed. He shouted instructions during drills, then got into an animated argument with Dwyane Wade over a scoring dispute as practice was ending.
“That’s just me,” James said.
That’s who the Miami Heat wanted.
The NBA’s reigning two-time MVP went through his first full practice with the Heat on Tuesday, a workout so intense even coach Erik Spoelstra was dripping sweat when the first session of training camp was over at a U.S. Air Force installation on Florida’s Panhandle. A snaking line of reporters and camera crews surrounded nearly half the court, and James gave them a memorable show.
“It’s not normal,” James said. “It’s not normal just yet. It’s a new beginning for me. I don’t feel like a rookie but I feel like it’s a new start. I’ve been around training camps before, but it’s not normal. You guys know it’s not normal. But as the year goes on, with the team getting to know each other, I continue to get to know you … you get more comfortable with one another.”
He’d put on the Heat practice uniform before, doing so over the summer after joining Miami and spurning an offer to remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers, essentially his hometown team and the place where he grew into a global icon over his first seven pro seasons.
And he wasn’t laid-back in his first formal Miami practice. Quite the contrary.
“That’s what we’re trying to get from everybody, no possessions off, to have that mentality,” Spoelstra said. “It was a good start.”
Miami arrived 12 hours before its first practice amid fanfare, a large crowd of military personnel packed into a hangar to greet the team that decided for many reasons to hold their weeklong camp about 650 miles from home. Col. Michael T. Plehn, commander of Hurlburt Field’s 1st Special Operations Wing, had a midcourt seat alongside Heat president Pat Riley for practice.
Players posed for pictures with some reporters after practice, a sight that rarely, if ever, happens in Miami.
“We can train here side by side with some of the best to do it,” Wade said, referring to the airmen stationed at Hurlburt and nearby Eglin Air Force Base. “So for us, it’s an honor and a privilege to be here.”
In Miami, interest has apparently never been higher. The Heat said more than 20,000 single-game tickets for home contests were sold Tuesday, the top one-day total in franchise history _ and noted that none of the 41 regular-season matchups has even sold out yet.
There will be many non-traditional events on the Heat itinerary this week, including guest speakers, meet-and-greets with military members, even a chance for players to go through real training _ doing things like loading (dummy) bombs and navigating through simulated battle situations _ alongside airmen.
That being said, the trip is about basketball.
By Tammy Bruce
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