Wade, Haslem declare 'no-go-out policy'
MIAMI -- In preparing for a 4½-day trip to Atlanta, the Miami Heat charter flight was loaded Saturday with luggage, uniforms, sneakers, tape and all the things players will want and need heading into the first two games of their Eastern Conference playoff series.
Party attire was optional, and highly discouraged.
Ask any player which NBA cities are the most fun to visit, and Atlanta quickly comes up. The scene, the nightlife, it's a tantalizing combination.
And this week, it's forbidden to Heat players.
"I think it's the best leadership and the strongest leadership that these guys have shown here in a Heat uniform," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's the most powerful. We've talked about it all the time as a staff. Sometimes that can fall on, you know, not deaf ears, but when your veteran guys and your captains say that, I think that's a beautiful thing."
Wade and Haslem are the only rotation players left from Miami's 2006 NBA championship team. They endured a playoff sweep in 2007 and the free fall to the NBA basement last season, so this year's postseason opportunity is particularly meaningful to them both.
So they decided long before the playoff matchup with Atlanta was known that wherever they were heading, a "no-go-out policy" would be in effect.
"The veteran guys before us, when we came in to the league like Brian Grant, Eddie Jones, that's what they believed in," said Wade, referring to two former Heat captains. "So this is the core of what we know. This is focus time. This isn't play time. Play time is the summer. You can do what you want in the regular season, too. Not now. We're the leaders, so we're just going from what we know."
Teammates didn't mind.
Wade is the NBA's scoring champion, and Haslem is considered by most as the hardest-playing guy in the Heat locker room.
What they say goes.
"They're our leaders," rookie point guard Mario Chalmers said. "They've been setting an example for us young guys all year long and that's what got us to where we are now."
The decision wasn't borne from some unsavory incident, nor has this Heat team given off a vibe that they're taking the playoffs less than seriously. Haslem said it's a move just to reaffirm how much the postseason means.
Players won't be locked in their hotels, either. Going to dinner, relaxing a bit, that's all acceptable.
Late nights and carousing -- even though there are two full off days between Sunday's Game 1 and Wednesday's Game 2 -- won't be tolerated, Haslem said.
"Some guys will even have their family around," Haslem said. "Basically, we're going on a business trip."
Violators, Haslem warned, may face fines.
"It's not really a curfew," Haslem said. "But we've got eyes everywhere."
The Heat have seen many times before what late nights in a party scene can do to a team.
Miami has what's known around the league as the "South Beach Factor." The lure of Miami Beach is tough for some players visiting South Florida to ignore, and a late night in a club -- whether imbibing or not -- is sometimes tough to overcome when playing basketball the next day.
Atlanta's the same way, Haslem said. He spent time there hanging out last summer, enjoying the scene.
But not this week, he insists.
"The No. 1 focus right now is to take care of business," Haslem said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press