MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — There are a lot of reasons to believe that things will be different for the Miami Heat this year.
Even after not making the playoffs last season, the Heat aren't shy about entering this year talking about having championship aspirations.
Dwyane Wade sees no reason why that wouldn't be the case.
Entering his 13th year — and after an offseason that saw him seriously consider changing addresses for the first time in his NBA career — the Heat star doesn't object to talking about why this can be a big turnaround season for Miami. A projected starting lineup of himself, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside looks, on paper anyway, like it should be good enough for contention.
"You've got to have that mentality," Wade said Monday. "If you don't believe that you can get there, then you're already defeated, then you won't be there. Every team around the league right now is going to have championship aspirations.
"There's going to come a point where everybody's going to realize they don't have it. Right now, we have it. Let's just hope it stays that way."
He averaged 21.5 points and was an All-Star for the 11th time last season, Miami's first after a four-year run with LeBron James. But his shooting dipped by nearly 7 percent over the previous year, he missed 20 games largely because of hamstring issues and his assist-to-turnover ratio was the lowest it had been since his rookie year.
Wade knows some in the game no longer consider him elite. He doesn't sound bothered.
"I've been broken, broken, broken — but I'm still here, going into 13 years," Wade said.
This Heat roster has been built in a way so that no one person would have to shoulder too much of the workload. Bosh is healthy, Dragic is settled, Deng said he feels energized and Whiteside is in the best shape of his life. There's backcourt depth with Mario Chalmers and Gerald Green among those off the bench, frontcourt depth with Amare Stoudemire, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem, and promising rookies in Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson.
That all being said, the Heat — who finished 37-45 last season, dogged throughout by injury and illness — know they need Wade to get to where they want to reach.
"It's about putting together a team that we feel has an opportunity to compete for a championship," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We're not hiding from the expectations. Dwyane has to be our leader. He's grown in that role and with new veteran players everybody just naturally turns to Dwyane as the cornerstone of our franchise ... and he's fully accepted that responsibility."
Spoelstra is entering his 21st year with the Heat. He said every year under managing general partner Micky Arison and team president Pat Riley is about finding a way to contend for a title. This season isn't any different, and Wade likes it that way.
The roster got better this summer. Wade body feels stronger than it did when last season ended. The Heat are paying him $20 million this season, proof of how much he's still valued by the organization.
Now it's simply a matter of putting it all together.
"When you're a player in my position, you look for challenges," Wade said. "Coming off of last season, it's a great challenge. Every team loves their team right now, so I would not say anything that's not going on on another coast. Everyone thinks they have a chance. Everyone loves their team. But we like what the summer brought us.
Notes: The Heat filled their camp roster by signing guards John Lucas III (in his second stint with the Heat) and Tre Kelley. ... Miami will practice at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida eight times between Tuesday and Saturday. The preseason opener is Sunday in Miami, against Charlotte. ... Whiteside said his body fat percentage is down to 7 percent. "He's in tremendous shape," Spoelstra said.
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