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WINDERMAN: New training camp guidelines limit coaches' old-school approach

Published September 26, 2004

 

 

Just nine days away from Stan Van Gundy's first training camp as Heat coach, be assured it won't come close to the grueling sessions Pat Riley ran upon his arrival as Heat coach.

 

It can't.

 

Under guidelines established this season, teams will be limited to three hours of contact work per day, severely limiting the possibilities of old-school two-a-days.

 

Van Gundy's plans for the workouts at AmericanAirlines Arena include a single, extended session, with contact work in the morning, a break for lunch, conditioning and on-court strategy sessions in the afternoon.

 

The evolution of the process is part of the ongoing compromises between the league and players regarding the expansion of the first round of the playoffs to best-of-7.

 

Initially, players received a mandated three-day absence for veterans at the start of camp. With that approach having proven to be an abject failure last year (many vets wanted to arrive early and needed to arrive early), the lightened work schedule was agreed upon. Also, teams are now limited to no more than five days of two-a-day sessions.

 

Of course, coaches being coaches, even along the shores of Biscayne Bay these won't exactly be days at the beach.

 

"You're limited three hours a day of contact work," Van Gundy said, "but you can do so many other things. That three hours doesn't include any individual drilling and instruction. It doesn't include dummy offense. It doesn't even include dummy defense. So literally, even with the three-hour rule, you could have them out 12 to 15 hours a day, anyway. It doesn't limit weightlifting or any conditioning. It's just three hours a day of them knocking heads.

 

"We don't plan to go that long. I mean we plan to go a couple hours, which is really all we ever did. In recent years, we never went two contact practices, anyway."

 

Van Gundy did qualify that there were some marathon sessions during Riley's initial years with the team, when camp was at Florida Atlantic University. The transition to greater physical sanity arrived long before Riley moved solely into a front office role.

 

Van Gundy said he offered the option on camp sessions to his veterans, with the team leaders electing for a 10 a.m.-6 p.m. workday, instead of regrouping for later sessions at 7 p.m.

 

THE OLD DAYS

 

Amid last week's fantasies of 41-year-old Michael Jordan lending his name to the Heat's lineup, the reality hit home that with or without the icon, the Heat may be fielding a rather geriatric lineup.

 

At times, the Heat could feature 35-year-old Christian Laettner at power forward, 33-year-old Wesley Person at small forward, 33-year-old Eddie Jones at shooting guard, 32-year-old Shaquille O'Neal at center, along with one of the team's younger point guards.

 

"I think we've got a perfect balance right now," Riley said. "There will be times when five of those veterans will be out there. And you know what? Good. And I hope they jell."

 

This from the same team that three years ago fell to the bottom of the standings with the AARP collection of LaPhonso Ellis, Chris Gatling, Rod Strickland, Kendall Gill and Jim Jackson.

 

"Back then," Riley said, "we were in a patchwork deal. It was just a patchwork thing, trying to salvage something. So we filled the team up with one-year contracts on veteran players.

 

"I think now there's a perfect complement of veterans and young guys."

 

THE THREE-FOR-ALL

 

Because Michael won't (or can't or simply is waiting to return on his own terms), the Heat continues to operate with somewhat of a void at small forward.

 

While in no way suggesting the Heat has anything in the works for these players, two names that intrigue are Ruben Patterson and Ron Artest. While we're not about to speak to the character of either, both present the type of toughness the Heat lacks at the position and both face uncertain futures with their present teams.

 

In Portland, Patterson appears hopelessly buried in the Blazers rotation behind Darius Miles, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Travis Outlaw and Qyntel Woods.

 

Due $5.9 million this year and $19 million over the next three, Patterson can be had for expiring contracts. The problem for the Heat is it has little to offer, behind, say, a compilation of the contracts of Wang Zhi-Zhi, Malik Allen, Udonis Haslem and Bimbo Coles.

 

Then there's Artest, whose erratic behavior during last season's playoffs led to a series of stories in the Indianapolis Star about a potential shaky future with the Pacers. That was followed by the requisite statement last week from Pacers President Admin Bird that the team loves Artest.

 

As far as Artest, about the only plausible Heat offer would be Jones, which likely would require the Heat to also take either center Scot Pollard or forward Austin Croshere, a pair of nasty contracts Indiana would not mind unloading. With Stephen Jackson and Jonathan Bender as options at small forward, Indiana has the flexibility to consider moving Artest.

 

THIN IN MIDDLE

 

There's more evidence of how thankful the Heat should be regarding its (still unfathomable) acquisition of O'Neal.

 

For example, the shock in Atlanta was not that 42-year-old Kevin Willis was brought in for another go-round, but rather that he is the prime reserve to Jason Collier.

 

Then there is Milwaukee, which last week added Jelani McCoy to the center rotation of Dan Gadzuric, Daniel Santiago, Zendon Hamilton and Zaza Pachulia.

 

As for the Knicks, Mengke Bateer was brought in to fortify the pseudo-center rotation of Nazr Mohammed and Bruno Sundov.

 

SLOW GOING

 

Mitch Richmond last week joined Golden State executive Chris Mullin as an adviser and was asked about a front office grouping with Tim Hardaway, who helped the Warriors form one of the league's most entertaining trios in the early `90s.

 

"Tim and I stay in touch," Richmond told the Oakland Tribune of the former Heat guard. "But if he came back, it wouldn't be Run TMC -- it would be Walk TMC."

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