The decision was made even before the Miami Heat departed Barclays Center on Friday night for their return to South Florida. The Heat would be given the rest of the weekend off.
For at least a weekend, it will be more about watching football than practicing basketball.
To LeBron James, the timing of this four-day break that ends with Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center arrives when needed.
“We’re banged up right now, as a team,” he said. “We’re not an excuse team, But right now, we have three starters that didn’t play. Even though we’ve got a lot of depth, it’s hard to make up for three starters being out. So we could all use this break.”
After losing to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night without point guard Mario Chalmers and power forward Shane Battier, the Heat were further depleted in Friday’s double-overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, with shooting guard Dwyane Wade also out.
That had James playing 49 minutes against the Nets before fouling out in the first overtime and fill-in point guard Norris Cole a staggering 52 minutes, all while coach Erik Spoelstra went only three deep into his bench over the three-hour marathon.
The Heat were dragging even before the two extra periods, and are now 3-3 in their last six games. Their 13 second-period points matched their fewest in any quarter this season.
After his scoreless second period, James said he recognized at halftime that something had to change.
“I thought I was a little frustrated in the first half,” he said. “I apologized to my teammates at halftime, and told them that my frustration and my body language was all wrong. So I changed that in the second half, tried to be aggressive, tried to put us in position to win, and we just came up short.”
But this was about more than the Nets or the Knicks or the start of what actually is a six-game trip, with the Heat afforded this brief return to South Florida because of the forgiving break in the schedule.
“It’s a long and grueling season for all of us, not just us because we’re the champs,” James said. “But we’ve played a lot of basketball in our four years together. It’s taken a lot of wear. It’s wear and tear on all our bodies. So mentally, it’s fatiguing.”
Because of that, Spoelstra elected to return to Miami, even with the Heat limited in the use of their own building with the Ringling Bros. circus in town. A Monday practice is expected on the private practice court at AmericanAirlines Arena before the team leaves for Tuesday’s 2013 championship commemoration with President Obama at the White House.
HAWKS ADD FORWARD — The Atlanta Hawks signed forward James Nunnally to a 10-day contract.
Nunnally, from UC Santa Barbara, averaged 18.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 19 starts with Bakersfield of the NBA Development League. The 6-foot-7 Nunnally averaged 15.8 points and 4.9 rebounds as a senior in 2011-12. He was not drafted.