Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 12/20/11
MIAMI -- Welcome back after six months, NBA fans. You've seen five months of it spent in a lockout and the last several weeks in a controversy-filled stampede of rumors and player movement. Oh, and the Miami Heat are still in the league. While the news has been focused on other places since the lockout was lifted earlier this month, it only seems as if Heat players are off hanging out at a spa. Hardly. They've been quietly working hard and getting ready for the regular season in much more anonymity than was the case last fall. "There's a lot going on with the Chris Paul situation, the Dwight Howard situation and the Lakers situation, and a lot of big stories out there," Miami forward Udonis Haslem said after practice Tuesday. "And a lot of people kind of forgot about the Heat. But we're fine with that. The only thing that matters is what's going on in this gym. Whether people are talking about us, we already have our motivation and our goals set." The goal, obviously, is to win a championship. Guard Dwyane Wade, whose gang lost 4-2 to Dallas in the Finals last spring, has said, "If we don't win a championship, yes, it's a bust year." But that quote didn't get oodles of attention. NBA fans were too busy wondering what might happen with Paul, who had a deal seemingly done to go to the Lakers but ended up with the Clippers, and Howard, who asked to be traded but is still with Orlando. "It's been cool," Wade said about the Heat not being a major focus in the NBA for the first time since he joined forces with LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. "We've enjoyed just coming here to work and not having to worry about nothing else. We understand that the spotlight will beam in South Beach once again When it beams back in South Beach, hopefully we just continue to play basketball. And win, lose or draw, we still focus on our goal every day, and that's to get better every day and eventually compete for a championship." The Heat last season dealt with plenty of controversy, ranging from how the team was assembled to speculation about coach Erik Spoelstra's job to whether players cried in the locker room after a tough loss to Chicago and to James' fourth-quarter struggles. This season, it's pretty simple where Heat players want the attention to be. "Just talk about winning games," said Haslem, who said the Heat have "the talent to win it all." While many NBA teams were in a frenzy the first part of December to add players, one reason the Heat dropped off the radar is their roster was all but set. The team returns 11 players, with the only significant addition being free-agent signee Shane Battier. "We had to deal with a lot of extra things," Bosh said of last season, when a media circus greeted the Heat to start the season. "It affects you. Just to be able to come in and concentrate on camp and just concentrate on getting better without having to think about how you're going to handle different adversities so early, it's nice." The only hiccups since training camp began Dec. 9 have been have been Battier (quad strain) and center Eddy Curry (hip), invited to camp on a non-guaranteed deal, being sidelined. They join guards Mike Miller (hernia surgery) and Eddie House (knee), ruled out before camp started, as players who will miss both preseason games. After clobbering Orlando 97-63 at home Sunday, the Heat closes the preseason Wednesday at Orlando. But Miami's terrific trio of James, Wade and Bosh are all very much healthy. And that's what really counts. "We just come to work every day," James said. "We don't worry about what's going on throughout the league. We see it. We see the trades. We see guys signing with other teams. But we got to focus on what we need to do and get better as a team, and that's it. "We're on course. That's what I can say about us (during the first 1 weeks of camp). We haven't taken a step backwards yet. Our practices and the preseason game, we continue to get better." Haslem said the Heat, who looked to be in regular-season form with their Sunday rout of the Magic, are "ahead of schedule" considering the condensed camp. That's certainly not good news for the rest of the NBA, which has seen several contenders deal with turbulence and player movement. The Mavericks, who play host to Miami in Sunday's regular-season opener, lost Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and Caron Butler and picked up Lamar Odom and Vince Carter. Odom came courtesy of the Lakers, who had their training camp rocked by the NBA blocking a Paul trade to them and then Odom being shipped out because he was upset at having been in that potential deal. Boston suffered a setback when Jeff Green was signed to a one-year, 9 million deal and the contract was voided after a heart problem surfaced, sidelining him for the season. San Antonio lost Antonio McDyess to retirement and flirted with making Richard Jefferson an amnesity victim before the Spurs realized they couldn't find anyone better as a replacement. Orlando still has the daily distraction of what might happen with Howard. Among teams that count, there is seemingly tranquility only in Miami, Chicago and Oklahoma City. And if the Thunder ever have had any controversy, nobody noticed. After being asked Tuesday what his impression of the Heat had been last season from afar, Battier said, "Chaos." So has Battier seen any of that in this training camp? "Relatively speaking, no," he said. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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