RIO DE JANEIRO — Taking on LeBron James isn't the biggest concern for the Miami Heat in Rio de Janeiro. The team is still trying to figure out how to incorporate all the new faces that have replaced him.
When the Heat play James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a preseason game in Rio on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time), the main focus is on speeding up the rebuilding process after losing their biggest star.
Dwyane Wade acknowledged Friday that there is "a lot of work to do" before the regular season starts.
"We've got to learn every day, there are a lot of teams that are so far ahead of us as teams," Wade said.
The game in Rio will be Miami's third in the preseason. It lost to the New Orleans Pelicans and the Orlando Magic earlier this month. No wonder the word "patience" was thrown around quite a bit on Friday.
"We are trying to understand that we are behind the eight ball because we've got 13 new guys," Wade said. "We've only been together for 10 days on the basketball floor. We've got to all understand that we've got to have patience, because the last two years just happened, we had the same team and it just happened. But now this is not that kind of team, so we all have to have patience and understand that it's a process."
Chris Bosh, the other remaining member of the Heat's former Big Three, said everyone knows this team will have to work harder than in previous years to make sure it's ready for the Oct. 29 opener against the Washington Wizards.
"With this team we have to be patient with each other," he said. "We have to get better at it and it's going to take time. We are going to make mistakes and we have to understand that."
"We are not even close right now, but I like where we are headed," Bosh added. "Guys are enthusiastic, it's a very hard-working group. We are starting to pay attention to details, we are starting to really grasp how things go. Saturday will be another opportunity for us to get better."
Coach Erik Spoelstra has been downplaying the encounter with James, trying to focus instead how to improve the revamped team.
Spoelstra said he is trying to install a defensive system "and that's taking some time." He said there is "some growth to go in that area."
"It's always different when you have new faces," Spoelstra said. "And that's the journey we are on right now with this group and we are trying to fast-track it. That's why this week is an important week for us."
Cavs coach David Blatt pointed out that the Heat aren't the only ones with new players.
"We have a lot of new faces too," Blatt said. "At this stage it really doesn't affect either team. Both teams are very much in the beginning of their respective processes and we are hopeful that this game, like any other game in the preseason, will help us grow."