So as the countdown to the Sept. 27 start of camp continues, now might be as good a time as ever to reveal our top 10 questions facing the Heat. We'll examine these questions in descending order - tackling Nos. 10 through 6 today, and, barring any major developments, Nos. 5 through 1 on Thursday.
10. Where will Miami hold training camp? The team was as tight-lipped about this subject as it's ever been about any trade or surprising personnel move in the works. That was until it announced Wednesday night that camp will be held from Sept. 28-Oct. 3 at Eglin Air Force Base in Ft. Walton Beach. What we know is that the Heat has sent a few staffers out to stake out sites that would serve the purpose of limiting distractions, getting the players out of any comfort zone and accommodating mounting media demands. Mission accomplished. It's a noble move by the Heat. If the Lakers and Warriors can train in Hawaii, the Heat could easily have made reservations in the Bahamas. Guess we all better get ready for basketball's version of boot camp.
9. Is one more veteran on the way? With a handful of once-prominent veterans still looking for NBA work - and some angling for a spot with the Heat - Pat Riley is deciding whether to enter camp with the 18 players, including 11 newcomers, he has under partial or fully-guaranteed contracts or determining whether to add another player to the mix. What we know is that center Erik Dampier is available and intrigued by the Heat. But he also knows it's a business and, after losing $13 million overnight upon his release from Charlotte, Dampier might first seek a bigger payday than the $1.3 million Miami can offer at the vet's min. Allen Iverson, Flip Murray, Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes and Earl Watson are still out there, too.
8. What tempo best fits this team? It would be hard to find three better athletes at their positions in the league than Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The best way to keep them all involved is to play an up-tempo style, one far more similar to Pat Riley's 1980s Lakers than his 1990s half-court, slug-it-out Knicks. What we know is that opposing teams want to neutralize the Heat with a zone and force Miami's stars to settle for jumpers. The worst thing for this team would be for Dwyane to sit on the wing waiting to see what LeBron is going to do in a halfcourt set - or vice versa. Let these guys loose.
7.Will legal issues facing Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade impact camp? Unless Haslem pleads to a reduced charge, his felony drug possession case will hang over this team entering camp in a major way. A plea could also land Haslem a league suspension of some sort. What we know is that Miami is accustomed to dealing with distractions. But a player facing a felony is above and beyond anything else it has been hit with in recent years. Wade's custody battle for his two young sons in Chicago could play out for another week - or another month. What we know is that Riley is confident both players will be on the court when camp practices start on Sept. 28.
6. Will Pat Riley get the itch to return to the bench? Barring an unforeseen health problem - or a surprising marriage, the birth of some children and a desire to spend more time with that new family - Erik Spoelstra will coach the Heat. And that means Pat Riley will remain in his role solely as team president and patriarch of the franchise. What we know is that Riley wants no part of coaching a Tuesday night game at Milwaukee in February. Or the 3 a.m. return from road trips. He's put in 30-plus years of that stuff. The man still has one of the best minds in the game. And the strategy sessions, motivational methods and actual game-night coaching would be a breeze for him at age 65. But he's assembled a group of players who should be able to coach themselves to at least the conference Finals. Besides, Pat seems quite comfortable from his perch, doing his Rick Ross thing - absorbing the envy of the league and selectively bashing back at those who took shots at Miami.