Bahamas training inspired Heat

As the Heat prepare for a fourth straight NBA Finals, Miami is giving credit to a Caribbean nation.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra says the focus to win a third straight title began in the Bahamas, with the start of training camp last September. It was not a vacation for his squad but a chance, Spoelstra says, to prepare for the grind of the season.

“What I was really encouraged about was our attendance and commitment in training camp in the Bahamas,” Spoelstra said. “Right from there, and we communicated during the summer that, if we’re real about this, about how difficult that journey is, that you cannot shortcut, that we would show it immediately in training camp.”

Spoelstra said for the first and only time this season he addressed his team about furthering its championship legacy and how rare it is for a team to find its way to the NBA Finals in four consecutive seasons. Their quest for a repeat will start on June 5.

Miami’s dominant showing during the Eastern Conference playoffs – with only three losses against the Charlotte Bobcats, Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers – is in stark contrast to the stretches of lackluster player late in the season. Star forward LeBron James says the struggles before the playoffs were a positive to build on.

“Obviously, going through the weeks and grinding months of a regular season, it was a toll on all of us,” James said. “But I felt like down the stretch, if we could get healthy, we could get everyone in uniform and have our full strength, it didn’t matter what seed we were. I felt like we can represent the Eastern Conference again in the Finals if we had the health, and we were able to accomplish that.”

The Miami team of 2014 has many similarities with those of the past three seasons. James remains a focal point of the squad, along with fellow Big 3 members Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Six current players appeared in the 2011 postseason, Miami’s first of the Big 3 era.

Bosh, whose squad is a perfect 8-0 at home this postseason, says the pieces are there to win again.

“Having a chance to win is always a special thing,” Bosh said. “We always talk about not taking it for granted from Day One. We know it’s a very long season. It has its rewards in the end if we stick together and do what we’re supposed to do. But it hasn’t really hit us yet. I would rather it hit me in two weeks.”