MIAMI — The first step for the Miami Heat this offseason will be a few weeks of decompression.
Next comes some planning.
After that, some waiting.
The longest offseason in seven years awaits the Heat, who gathered Friday for some team meetings and a few goodbyes. The NBA playoffs start Saturday, and Miami will be in the most uncomfortable and most unusual position of all — spectators.
"I would rather be working right now," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And I know it'll be very painful this weekend when everything starts up. We've built this standard. The one thing I've learned in 20 years is you can't take it for granted. We have a great history here within this organization but nothing is guaranteed."
It's the fourth time in Spoelstra's two decades with the team — starting in the video room to now having just wrapped his seventh season as head coach — that Miami failed to make the postseason. The Heat were 37-45 this year, when 38-44 was good enough to get into the Eastern Conference playoffs.
And it was a bizarre year, as has been well-chronicled.
A roster revamping was engineered in July after LeBron James left, Chris Bosh's season ended in February with blood clots on a lung, the Heat lost six games in which they held leads of at least 15 points and eight times they were beaten by three points or less — including one strange night in Minnesota a game was lost when Miami forgot how to inbound the ball in the final minute.
Miami had 31 different starting lineups and 20 different players start a game, both team records.
"How we feel right now," Spoelstra said Friday just before he stepped into the end-of-season team meeting, "is going to motivate our staff the entire offseason."
The only luxury of being done so early is the Heat will get more time than they've had in years to rest, to study and tinker with ideas for next season. Most of the core of the team will be back; Bosh is expected to make a full recovery, Wade could opt out of his deal but almost certainly isn't going anywhere else, and breakout center Hassan Whiteside is under contract for next season already.
Wade — who averaged 21.5 points on 47 percent shooting, one of only three guards in the league to do so this season — will meet with doctors in the next few days for body scans and his usual end-of-season evaluations. He dealt with a hip issue for the last several weeks of the season, but came out of the year feeling relatively good.
"I know one thing about the Miami Heat organization," Wade said. "We don't just sit around and hope. We get to work."
Bosh said he's still on blood-thinners, but expects to be able to touch a basketball in June or July. He hasn't taken a single shot since All-Star weekend.
"As I got ill, the afterthought was maybe I need to miss basketball," Bosh said. "I miss it. And I've still got five more months, 5-1/2 more months. Maybe this is what I need. I need to recharge my passion because I was getting beat down a little bit over the last four years. That's what success does. Now I can go back in the lab and work on my game."
The Heat also got to see young players like James Ennis and Tyler Johnson flourish at times, and both of them will likely be back in the mix again next season. Both plan to take a few weeks off, then return to Miami and start gearing up for summer league schedules.
"We're not going to sit on our hands," Spoelstra said. "We'll be very determined to make sure this doesn't happen again."
The big question marks are Luol Deng and Goran Dragic, both of whom could become free agents. Dragic reiterated Friday that he will exercise his option and hit the open market, though it's been assumed for weeks that he will likely remain with the Heat.
"We love them," Spoelstra said. "Hopefully they love us."
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