New Year Resolutions Came Early for the Miami Heat

As 2020 approaches, replete with all of the resolutions and commitments to diet and exercise that come with a fresh New Year, the Miami Heat are exempt from such firm declarations at this time.

In the life cycle of every Miami Heat player, the in-house expectation is always the same regardless of calendar position: to become your absolute best, getting and staying in world class shape is a demand, not a request.

Pat Riley acknowledged as much in his end of season press conference last April.

“I set the template for it back in 1995 when I got here,” Riley said. “It’s academic. It’s a culture that I think every professional team should start with…. They want their players to be world class athletes first and knowing that if they become that, their basketball skills can become more efficient when they’re in great condition.”

“But every now and then, I used to call it, you got to tighten the screw if there is some slippage” Riley added. “And there will be changes next year. Not a new culture but tightening the screws on a culture that sometimes erodes just a little bit.”

Last year’s Heat team appeared to have rested on their laurels. “One Last Dance” with Dwyane Wade was the focus, and for all the warm and fuzzies that dance provided, it couldn’t offset the slippage.

Fast forward to the 2019-20 Miami Heat, and the screws have been tightened.

Riley made good on his promise of changes. Roster changes, lineup changes and absolutely no tolerance for approaching the process with anything less than total commitment.

Expectations were set on the first day of training camp, a message Coach Erik Spoelstra delivered to the team promptly.

“Look, we have a level of expectation and professionalism that you’re going to have to uphold. Period.” Meyers Leonard recalled as Coach Spo’s message to the team back in October.

What does the process of getting in “world class shape” look like?

Nutrition is a natural starting point.

Heat starter Duncan Robinson has made this a primary focus and has seen the results pay off in big ways. Robinson literally looks different this season.

“For me, what I tried to emphasize was my diet. I worked with a dietician and started cooking my own meals that way I knew exactly what was going into my body. Being locked in and consistent with that helped me put on the weight.” Robinson told Five Reasons Sports.

“I think the biggest difference is the emphasis and consistency they put on it here (in Miami).”

When we think of athletes training to be in world class shape, sometimes the assumption is athletes are asked to turn down food to maintain their chiseled physique.  Robinson paints a different picture.

“It was a hard adjustment to add more calories. The big adjustment was in the morning, eating such a big breakfast. I was having like 1,300-1,400 calories for breakfast. I wasn’t used to it.”

The team tracks their macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Players do not need to guess when it comes to meal prep. “I was given a meal plan and a shopping list” Robinson added.

Robinson had to go as far as cutting out one food item that is near and dear to all Floridian hearts: Publix subs.

“I had to cut out Pub(lix) subs. The chicken tender sub is really good. They’re not the healthiest thing in the world, but they are good for sure. There’s a saying that “cut” is in the kitchen. You’ve got to be eating the right stuff, especially if you’re working out as much as we are. That was the biggest adjustment from college to here.”

Leonard has a similar regiment.

“I eat between 4,800-5,000 calories a day. Most of it clean. It’s honestly kind of like a second job. I eat two pounds of protein per day,” Leonard told Five Reasons Sports.

“The focus off the floor is so important when it comes to how you’re going to perform on it. I want to look good, feel good, and perform well.”

The Heat training staff makes it easy for players to become educated and connected to the proper resources.

“The Heat have done a great job putting together a staff that allows for players to ask questions and get better. When you’re putting yourself through the ringer like that, you also have to have a staff and a support system that understands what you need and will work with you,” Leonard said.

Kelly Olynyk has transformed his body since his arrival in Miami, but it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s tough. It’s dedication and a lot of it is sacrifice. You’re not going to be eating the things you want to eat. You can’t take days off. You have to make sure that you’re giving a conscious effort day in and day out. I have to do something every single day. If I take days off, it hits me harder than it hits others. My body will lose body fat if I’m disciplined,” Olynyk explained.

Discipline, to the extent that Heat Culture demands, is not for everyone. The starting front court in Miami has embraced the process.

“I love it. I think that we are, first of all, blessed to do what we do, and also we’re paid pretty damn nicely. So, to stay in shape and be ready and do the little things that matter should be an expectation anyways,” explained Leonard.

Heat star Bam Adebayo takes the responsibility of carrying Heat Culture into the next decade seriously.

“There’s no limit in being in even greater shape. We just go out there and try to keep our body fat as low as possible, maintain our weight at a good playing weight, and eat right,” Adebayo told Five Reasons Sports.  “They hold us responsible for it, so whatever you put in your body is going to show on the court. We play fast, so if you can’t keep up, then it’s obviously in your diet, and that’s pretty much the Heat Culture, for real.”

Heat rookie sensation Tyler Herro now knows the reality of Heat Culture after spending a year in the college ranks at Kentucky.

“It was definitely an adjustment. Coming from Kentucky, they prepare you to be a pro. I think that’s the reason why you go to Kentucky. But it’s definitely been an adjustment in all aspects. I’m still adjusting. Taking it one day at a time,” Herro told Five Reasons back in October.

This year’s Heat team is a working embodiment of everything Heat Culture stands for, and it shows with what and who we are seeing on the court.

“It’s not really an option, so if you don’t want to do it, then you probably won’t be playing for the Heat much longer,” said Herro.

That sentiment has proven to be much more a promise than a threat – and it is paying off for the Heat this season.

Tightening the screws has led to a happy new year indeed.

Brian Goins contributed to this story.

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