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To understand how quiet this summer was for the Heat, all you had to do was check the team's website. As training camp approached, one of the top headlines linked to a story that included coach-- G.M. Pat Riley's opinion on the oeuvre of Eric Clapton. (For the record Riley says, "Whenever I hear My Father's Eyes, it tips the scales of reality back where [they] should be.")
After consecutive busy off-seasons in which Miami acquired Shaquille O'Neal, Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and Gary Payton--all of whom proved to be key cogs in the Heat's first title--Pat stood pat. "I didn't want to change anything," he says. "This is a pretty balanced team, and it's very talented and very versatile. We've got a lot going for us."
One thing Miami doesn't have going for it is time. The only proven youngsters are guard Dwyane Wade and forward Udonis Haslem; more than 65% of last season's minutes went to players who will be 30 or older when the playoffs roll around next spring. But the coach has faith that his veteran club will rally the way it did last season after a 10--10 start. "This is a rise-to-the-occasion type of team," says Riley. "It might not be an every-day-occasion type of team, but when it gets hot and it gets real competitive, [the players are] formidable."
Anyone who questions this assessment risks being blinded by the gleam of O'Neal's and Riley's combined 11 championship rings. Still, if the aging Heat fails to muster its energy at precisely the right moment--or if Wade's all-out style causes him to miss a significant period of time--there won't be another parade in South Beach.
Projected Starting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics