MIAMI — They look at it as opportunity to tune things before the playoffs.
The Miami Heat rested players at various times last year, but still recognize the importance of the the regular season. Questions were raised about the schedule after the San Antonio Spurs sat four players during their early-season matchup Thursday with the Heat to preserve them for the playoffs.
“It all depends on the team and philosophies and all that stuff,” Heat center Chris Bosh said. “Me, personally, I kind of like to treat everything the same. I have the same approach. That way there won’t be a difference in anything. You don’t get up for games, you don’t get down for games…. It helps me play better.”
Last year the Heat utilized a “maintenance program” that rested their top-tier players throughout the season. With the team mostly healthy this year, they say the focus is more about building positive habits.
“You want to continue to work your habits both offensively and defensively and not waste an opportunity to get better,” James said. “There are going to be games where you feel like you didn’t improve so the next one you have to try to take two steps forward.”
In 2010, the Heat harped on how they had no concerns about losing the top seed to the Chicago Bulls. They still defeated the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals, but feel a strong regular season could lead to a smoother road in the playoffs.
Guard Dwyane Wade called the schedule a chance for the team to return to “championship-caliber.”
“The biggest thing in the playoffs is you want to be healthy,” Wade said. “I think when you get down close to the playoffs they would like to rest some of the main guys. Besides that, the rest of the season is trying to position yourself, especially when you’re a good team. You’re trying to put yourself in a good position, good seeding. You don’t want to get the wrong matchup in the first round.”
Battier out again
Injured forward Shane Battier is expected to miss his second consecutive game when the Heat face the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena. He did not practice Friday as he continues to recover from a sprained knee.
“Shane is making progress,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s not yet quite ready to practice. At least some of the pain is subsiding.”
Rashard Lewis is expected to start in place of Battier.
Allen still hurting
Heat guard Ray Allen said he is still experiencing pain from a sore back that made him a game-time decision against the Spurs.
Allen is hoping a couple days of treatment will have him ready for Saturday.
“It’s still a little injured,” Allen said. “I’m just going to do what I can (Friday) to get treatment and (Saturday).”
Despite the pain, Allen scored 20 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds remaining in the game.
Spoelstra said backup center Dexter Pittman continues to recover from a leg strain that has hampered him all season.
The positive is Pittman, who has yet to play, was activated Thursday.
“Dexter is actually getting better,” Spoelstra said. “That’s why we’ve activated him. He’s moving around probably as well has he as this season.”
NBA NOTEBOOK: The Phoenix Suns will guarantee fans who attend next Thursday night’s game against Dallas that they’ll get their money back if they don’t have fun.
That’s the first time an NBA team has made such an offer.
The Suns’ plan for a “Satisfaction Guarantee Night” came out of an overtime loss to Chicago on Nov. 14.
“After that game, I think we were all struck by the fact that so many people were leaving our building with a smile on their face,” first-year Suns president Jason Rowley said. “Normally, when a team loses, fans are down. But not with us. And that was an eye-opening moment.”
The Suns aren’t planning any special promotions or incentives for the game. If fans don’t like the game, they can fill out an online form to send in with their ticket for a refund.
“We know there’s a risk to this,” Rowley said. “But all we’re doing is standing behind my product.”
Average attendance through eight games is 15,063, which is on pace to end up as the team’s lowest since its move to a new arena 20 years ago.
“We haven’t set any specific goals other than trying to use this to build long-term brand affinity,” Rowley said. “If we can sell 50 people on buying single-game tickets to a couple games this season or sell those people on buying some game plans, we’ll be happy.”
—The Golden State Warriors sent reserve guard-forward Kent Bazemore to Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League on Friday.
Bazemore had played 10 total minutes in six games for Golden State since the Warriors signed the 23-year-old free agent this summer from their summer-league team.
The Warriors’ D-League team opens the regular season Friday night.
—The Toronto Raptors signed free-agent Mickael Pietrus and waived forward Dominic McGuire on Friday.
Pietrus, a 6-foot-6 swingman who has a career scoring average of 8.4 points per game, bounced between Orlando, Phoenix and Boston the past four years. He was the 11th pick of the 2003 draft by Golden State, where he played for five seasons.
McGuire played in 15 games this season and averaged 2.1 points and 3.4 rebounds.