It has been more than four months since uniforms were on for the Miami Heat. So that, alone, makes Wednesday's scrimmage against the Sacramento Kings more than your typical exhibition.
"This," forward Derrick Jones Jr. said Tuesday, "is the moment we've all been waiting for. We all wanted to get back to basketball."
Not that the 8 p.m. game on Fox Sports Sun will be anything like standard NBA fare, to be played in the absence of fans, on the neutral court of Disney World's Wide World of Sports complex, amid COVID-19 testing.
"It's something we got to get used to," Jones said, "just like wearing a mask is something we've got to get used to."
Amid a pandemic, it still is NBA basketball, albeit with the first of the Heat's three exhibitions to be played with 10-minute quarters, before reverting to standard 12-minute periods for the final two, on Saturday at 4 p.m. against the Utah Jazz and then next Tuesday at 2 p.m. against the Memphis Grizzlies.
"We are all so grateful that we are able to partake in this and do what we do," coach Erik Spoelstra said during a video media session after Tuesday's practice in. "We're all extremely grateful for this opportunity."
And curious about the setting.
"I think part of this is just going through the exercise of a dry run, of what it's going to look like and feel like," Spoelstra said. "This is just going to have a different feel to it."
The Heat remain without center Bam Adebayo and guard Kendrick Nunn, with both yet to report to the league's bubble-type setting, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. The two then will have to quarantine for at least two days upon arrival.
For the Heat, that means going Wednesday without two starters.
"There will be an adjustment period, that's natural," guard Duncan Robinson said of the acclimation of Adebayo and Nunn to the NBA's new normal. "But I know those guys have been doing their due diligence and they've been staying in shape, as well. So we're itching and excited to get 'em back, as I know they are to get here.
"Like anything, it will take a little bit of an adjustment period, but that's what practices are for, that's what walkthroughs are for, and scrimmages, us against each other, and going live, and just get reacclimated with that."
The Heat begin playing for real on Aug. 1, against the Denver Nuggets, when their eight-game regular-season schedule of "seeding" games begins. The playoffs open Aug. 17, with the Heat having already qualified, by virtue of their 41-24 record. The NBA has been idle since its March 11 shutdown.
Spoelstra has already discussed Wednesday's approach for both teams with Kings coach Luke Walton.
"We know, for example, we'll get a lot of zone playing against Miami," Walton said Tuesday, following his team's practice at Disney. "It's going to be an interesting game."
The Kings have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, with Jabari Parker, Buddy Hield and Alex Len having returned to the team after dealing with the virus, with Harrison Barnes still away from the team after contracting the illness, and with Richaun Holmes only Tuesday rejoining the team at practice after returning to isolation following a quarantine violation.
Spoelstra said players returning from COVID-19 is an accepted part of the process.
"You have to constantly embrace the fact that this is a different world," Spoelstra said. "Again, we feel really confident about how this whole campus and bubble was put together."
Barnes, Holmes and ailing De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III have been ruled out Wednesday for the Kings.
Of his plans, Spoelstra said, "Anybody that'll be there, I actually anticipate playing every single guy."
So, finally, basketball.
“I’m excited to see what it’s going be like,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “I’m a little nervous. It’s going to be different.”
With appreciation for all it took for the NBA to reach this moment.
“Aint’ nobody complaining, man,” Haslem said. “We’ve got a no-complain rule. We understand this is different circumstances. We understand that we’re probably going to be a little more sore than usual, not as much down time to rest and release. But I’m happy with my guys that nobody’s complaining.”
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