There was a circus Monday morning at EnergySolutions Arena … a media circus.
Hours before they met on the floor, the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat went through a morning shootaround inside an relatively quiet ESA. A horde of media showed up to cover the event before the event, which is pretty much a regular occurrence for the reigning NBA champs.
When the league’s most notorious team shows up with — some of the world’s most famous players — it draws a crowd. And the Heat say they’re used to all that attention because they basically see it every day, whether it’s from the media, the fans or opposing teams.
“The target is the same, we’re a team that people want to beat,” All-Star guard Dwyane Wade said. “And rightfully so, especially coming off a championship.”
The Jazz routinely hold a morning shootaround on game days. It often draws a handful of local media members looking for a story to tell but rarely is the turnout as large as it was Monday.
TV, radio, print and on-line reporters were working overtime.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s used to it and his team is used to getting the opponent’s best effort every night.
“If you handle it the right way it’ll prepare you better for (the playoffs),” he said. “And welcome to the Miami Heat, this is the world we’ve lived in for two-plus years. Last year, by winning the championship, now we’ve really earned the right to have a giant-sized target on our back.”
Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward admitted there’s added excitement when the Heat come for a visit.
“They’re the defending world champions,” he said. “I think we get up for every game but this is a game we’ve got to make sure we come out focused (and with) a lot of energy.”
That shouldn’t be a problem, not with a bigger-than-normal crowd on hand to witness LeBron and Co.
“It’s a great environment, atmosphere,” James said. “These fans are amazing. They bring a lot of energy to the game and I thrive off that. I thrive in other people’s buildings. I love the adversity you’re able to go through throughout a nightly basis It’s pretty fun.”
As Spoelstra noted, the Heat as almost guaranteed to get an opponent’s best shot, simply because of who they are. In turn, that helps them prepare for the high intensity of the playoffs.
Big man Chris Bosh, agreed.
“I (refer) to all of our games as the playoffs, that’s how it is because everybody plays well,” he said. “Because of that, our margin for error is minimal.”
The Heat (24-11) bring the Eastern Conference’s best record into tonight’s game. They’re 8-8 on the road this season, which seems to reflect the challenge of playing the best night in and night out.
“It’s difficult (to maintain an intense focus),” Bosh said. “But it’s just how it is. It takes that focus and concentration. It’s a work in progress all the time. It’s not easy but everything that we wanted to do wasn’t easy last year. We know that we have to play well at all times.”