By Ira Winderman
South Florida Sun Sentinel
The lessons of 2006 are resonating in 2012. It is among the reasons Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is currently back at work promoting the NBA in Asia and why he is glad to see Heat forward LeBron James working toward Olympic gold in London.
At a media session in Singapore, a stopover on the way to a series of clinics in his ancestral homeland of the Philippines, Spoelstra stressed to the media present at that session that the theme of the Heat's offseason is to keep moving forward in the wake of the franchise's second NBA championship.
The first time the Heat defended a championship, in 2006, that defense began with players reporting to training camp out of shape and ended with the Heat being swept out of the first round of the 2007 playoffs, to go three consecutive seasons without winning a playoff series.
"This year has been different than it was in 2006, when we won that title," Spoelstra told media there of what has been a six-week whirlwind since finishing off the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals. "It seemed as if that celebration lasted all the way up 'til training camp."
Spoelstra recounted how the Heat this offseason have gone from their championship celebration to the NBA Draft to the free-agency period that so far has netted the team Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to summer league in Las Vegas and now to this tour alongside video coordinator Dan Craig.
"So we've been going pretty much right after the season," he said. "At some point later on this summer, I'll get away for a short break. But the competition level is so fierce in the NBA, it's really turning into a 12-month job for everybody, not only players, but staff. And there's nothing else we'd rather be doing, anyway."
While Heat guard Dwyane Wade and forward Chris Bosh have slowed their offseason schedules to recover from nagging ailments they carried through the postseason, James is in the midst of his fourth week of work with the U.S. national team.
Unlike other franchises, most notably the Dallas Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban, Spoelstra said the Heat embrace their players participating in offseason international competitions such as the Olympics.
"We support it," he said. "I know there's a lot of conjecture out there about whether NBA teams want their players playing in the Olympics or the World Championships. I think it's great. Competition is always great. The opportunity to play for your country is great.
"The risk of injury will always be there in any sport, no matter what you do. It can happen in training or in the official games, in competition. But all the other benefits of the Olympics and being part of something so special, I think outweigh and transcend any risk."
Even with Spoelstra half a world away, the Heat continue to work with younger prospects, with second-round pick Justin Hamilton, the center out of Louisiana State, now back in South Florida.
Spoelstra, an assistant coach to Pat Riley on the 2006 championship team, said the ultimate lesson from the franchise's first title is to continue to evolve and grow.
"If we learned one thing from the 2006 title, it was that you need to continue to reinvent yourself and improve as a basketball team," Spoelstra said. "That year we brought the exact the same team back, we thought it would be the same path and same journey. It never is.
"It's always going to be different. And we ended up losing the first round and we were swept in four games. Another year later, we only won 15 games and we were the worst team in basketball and that's how fragile this game can be."
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