Heat already were on alert for Rose return

Miami Heat forward is focused on the future

MIAMI

    The Miami Heat weren't spying, but that doesn't mean they weren't collecting intelligence.

    Ultimately, there was no need to unfasten Erik Spoelstra's open-in-case-of-emergency dossier.

    But that doesn't mean plans weren't in place last May when the Heat met the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the playoffs, as Derrick Rose routinely went through aggressive pregame workouts before ultimately deciding not to return from his devastating 2012 playoff knee injury.

    Instead, the return comes for real in Tuesday's season opener at AmericanAirlines Arena.

    "He had been practicing for some time, at least that's what our intelligence told us," center Chris Bosh said this past week of where the Heat's antennae stood during last season's series. "We were getting ready for him.

    "Obviously, with him being an MVP of this league, one of the most talented guys in this league and one of the leaders of that team, we expected him to be back, because we knew he was healthy enough to play."

    That, of course was an ongoing matter of conjecture during the playoffs, with Rose offering mixed-signal game-night teases with his rigorous pregame sessions.

     "He was in my scouting report, and I prepared like he was going to play," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "You always want to be more prepared than under-prepared.

     "You didn't know. It was a strange situation. There was so much hearsay surrounding the whole situation. So, to be honest, we didn't know what to believe. So we said we better prepare just in case."

    Caught in the middle was Spoelstra, with the Bulls playing a decidedly different style in the playoffs that the penetration-based game utilized with Rose.

     "As a staff," Spoelstra said, "we certainly talked about it and had film prepared. But in terms of specifically talking to the team? No, we didn't get into specific game-planning on the court. We felt that that would probably take away from what we were dealing with, which was a little bit different.

    Still, there was that nightly tease about 90 minutes before tipoff, Rose drenched with sweat shooting over ball boys, putting significant stress on his surgical knee.

    "I mean our coaches were out there, but we didn't obsess about it," Spoelstra said of spying those sessions by Rose. "We prepared things behind the scenes in case we would have to. We didn't want to overload our guys' minds with an unpredictable scenario that would take away the focus of what we were dealing with. That was enough, what we were dealing with. They were playing us very well."

   While the Heat took the Eastern Conference semifinal series 4-1, the games were competitive, with Rose potentially a difference-maker had he dressed.

    "I was very surprised. I was very surprised," Bosh said of Rose never dressing out. "You know, it's a tough position to be in, but we're warriors and sometimes you do crazy things, you come in and you start playing."

    The test finally arrives Tuesday.

    "He was on the scouting report, just like he should have been," Heat point guard Mario Chalmers said. "But it didn't make any difference. If he came back, he came back. If he didn't, he didn't."

    Now, he's back.

    Chalmers, of course, also has a history with Rose, not only part of the Heat roster that ousted the Bulls in five games in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, but his Kansas Jayhawks also beating Rose's Memphis Tigers in the 2008 NCAA Tournament championship game.

    "It's going to be fun to actually get to play against him again," Chalmers said. "I'm glad he's back. It means a lot for the Bulls and the NBA and I'm ready for it."

IN THE LANE

    EASY STREET: On one hand, Heat 2013 second-round NBA Draft acquisition James Ennis has been so brilliant in Australia that he has emerged as the early favorite for Most Valuable Player in the NBL. On the other hand, that also speaks to the quality of opposition the swingman out of Long Beach State has been facing. Ennis' Perth Wildcats improved to 3-0 this week, with Ennis scoring 29 points against the New Zealand Breakers. Another bit of perspective: That performance came in front of a crowd estimated at 3,500. Ennis' contract allows him to return to the Heat at any point if summoned this season, although that appears highly unlikely considering the Heat's roster and luxury-tax situations. While Ennis would have received more intense seasoning in the NBA Development League, as the Heat preferred, he has made himself somewhat of a cult hero in Australia with his dunks and athleticism. "He is a freak," teammate Damian Martin told reporters after Ennis' most recent performance. "He can shoot the three-ball, he's obviously athletic, and now he's adding a mid-range game and getting some moves off the dribble. He's very special." Ennis has taken the opportunity as a set of auditions for the Heat. "Knowing that they are watching me, that they check on my stats every game it pushes me to go harder every game," he told Melbourne's Herald Sun.

    NEXT STEP: The next step in the Heat's purchase of basketball operations of the Sioux Falls Skyforce comes Friday, with the D-League draft. With Heat executive Adam Simon leading the Heat in the process, the Skyforce hold the No. 7 overall selection in the first round, after missing last season's playoffs. It is a somewhat complicated process that allows teams to first claim rights to players cut from their parent teams' NBA camps, as well as players who spent last season with D-League teams.

    DREW'S DEMISE: The up-and-down for Larry Drew II again is on a down cycle after he was cut by the Heat. From championship Tar Heel to being shoved out of North Carolina's rotation by Kendall Marshall to reemerging as UCLA all-time single-season assist leader to an injury that kept him out of the Heat's summer league, the question becomes what's next for the undrafted point guard. "My collegiate career I would say didn't pan out in terms of what I thought it was going to be," the son of Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "But with that being said, this is a learning experience, you just learn from it. With that being said also, I am confident in my skills." The sum total of Drew's preseason with the Heat was one appearance for six minutes, one missed shot, three turnovers, two fouls, as much a failed experience as what the Heat didn't get out of undrafted Texas point guard Myck Kabongo during summer league.

   NEW VIEW: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, on the move to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the NBA Finals, "I think it makes sense. It makes it probably more compelling for fans." That means no more eight-day road trip for the home team in the series for the middle three games. "Those three consecutive games felt like a long time," Spoelstra said.

    LESS IS MORE: Spoelstra continues to see the NBA full of position-less possibilities, an approach he has adopted with the Heat's roster. "I think what teams and organizations are doing, is they're trying to play to their strengths, whatever their strengths are," he said. "And it's compelling right now in this league, because there aren't just small-ball teams. There are just as many big teams that are trying to play a power game. And there's teams that can do a little bit of both."

    STILL WORKING: Even with the Heat again going with veterans instead of prospects, Spoelstra bristles at the notion his team no longer is in developmental mode. "We are a developmental team," he said. "We're always a developmental team. That's one of the things we've taken pride in as a staff and an organization. Even with veteran players, one of our main core values is embrace a growth mindset. And so we've constantly pushed our players to stay uncomfortable, to reinvent. And you look at it across the line how our players, because of who they are, and because of our culture working together, they're not the same player as when they joined us. And it might not be as much time as you work with young players that are just coming into the league, but what you see is if you make steady, consistent progress, veteran players, even older players, can improve. We do not subscribe to the theory old dogs cannot learn new tricks."

NUMBER

  13-12. Heat record in season-opening games. Dwyane Wade holds the franchise record for opening-night starts, with nine.

   iwinderman@tribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat


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