Offseason proves there are no ‘fake gym rats’ on Miami Heat roster

Miami Heat players celebrate after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-121 in overtime during an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 10, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI — There’s a saying that caught on in the Heat locker room this season: “No fake gym rats.”

If the incredible turnaround during the season wasn’t enough proof that Miami’s roster didn’t include “fake gym rats,” this offseason can be used as further evidence.

Even though the Heat’s season ended more than a month ago on April 12 without a trip to the playoffs, there has been a consistent player presence at AmericanAirlines Arena over the past few weeks as they continue to hold workout sessions and get some basketball drills in on the team’s practice court. An off-site spinning class that included Hassan Whiteside, Rodney McGruder, Okaro White, James Johnson and others was documented on social media last week.

“It’s very early [for guys to be working out together],” Heat guard Wayne Ellington said Thursday during an appearance on The Joe Rose Show on WQAM. “I’ve never been a part or seen anything like it. Guys are hungry, guys are motivated. Guys feel like the way we ended that season, if we start the season the way we ended it and we stay consistent and continue to get better, the sky is the limit for our group.”

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After an 11-30 start, Miami bounced back to record a 30-11 record over the second half of the season to finish 41-41. The Heat became the first team in league history to go from 19 under to finish the season at .500, but they missed the playoffs by one game.

“Without a doubt,” Ellington said on WQAM when asked if the disappointment of missing the playoffs has stuck with the team. “I think it’s motivated guys already to get back in the gym early and continue to work and get better. It feels good when you get a little bit of that taste of success like we felt in the second half of the season. And when you come up short of one of your goals, that motivates you even more.”

But all of this offseason work comes with no guarantees that this Heat roster will be back next season.

In fact, even Ellington could be elsewhere next season, as Miami has a team option worth $6.3 million to bring him back. The Heat have until July 6 to decide on his option.

Luke Babbitt, James Johnson and Udonis Haslem are set to be unrestricted free agents this summer. And Dion Waiters and Willie Reed are expected to opt out of their contracts with more money likely available in free agency.

“It would be amazing to see everybody back,” Ellington said on WQAM. “It would feel really good. But obviously, we got some free agency stuff going on and the business side has to be taken care of.”

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