Five simple keys for a Heat-peat

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is a digger, a thinker, a curious mind who stopped using conventional position names for his team last year — "Too limiting,'' he says — and talked with disparate coaching minds from Paul Westhead to Tony Dungy entering this year.

So it's no surprise he can list things that matter most. Five internal hurdles for the Heat's hopes to repeat as champions. Five issues beyond passing and shooting that are short, simple touchstones to roll around in the mind as the new season starts tonight.

Spoelstra holds up his thumb.

"Stay healthy," the Heat coach says.

Obvious, right? You almost saw the Heat derailed in the second round of the playoffs last year when Chris Bosh was hurt. You look around the league at the short list of contenders. Health is key. Health is uncertain.

Spoelstra holds up his index finger.

"Stay hungry,'' he says.

Success is a temptress. Success is a virus. That's the message here. Spoelstra looked around at his players shooting foul shots at the end of practice and says, "We see aspects of our game where our actions are speaking for us. We want to get better. You can see that."

His third finger goes up.

"Improve your team,'' he says.

The heavy lifting was done this offseason. Ray Allen was signed to provide a professional assassin from the three-point line. Rashard Lewis was signed to do the same with more size. The back end of the roster was remodeled.

"We had the idea to be aggressive in the offseason,'' he said. "You never want to just stay where you are. You have to keep moving, and I think you look at what was done you see that was the case."

His fourth finger goes up.

"Is the mentality of your team still that you can get to another level?" he says.

A year ago, LeBron James went to Hakeem Olajuwon's house to work on his post game. What did he add to his arsenal this summer? How serious is Dwyane Wade taking care of his body on the other side of 30?

How comfortable is Chris Bosh with playing opposing centers in most games or Shane Battier with giving away 30 pounds to power forwards?

"They might have more pounds,'' Battier says, "but I have more brain cells."

Spoelstra puts up a fifth finger.

"What's your motivation?" he says.

And? What is the Heat motivation? This is the great unknown. Heat president Pat Riley said this first title would free up LeBron to play better. But Riley also began warning players while the championship parties were still going about the, "Disease of More."

That's the sequel sickness to Riley's phrase, "Disease of Me," the ego-driven, team-waylaying term he coined that hit the best-seller list. The "Disease of More" deals with some players' twisted desires after tasting success.

Instead of just winning more, they want: More shots. More points. More playing time. More glory. More money. More headlines. More excess. More back-patting. More of everything that can get in the way of winning.

"We'll have a different motivation this year than last year,'' Spoelstra said. "Everybody, when we got over the hump of that mountain, and reflected and realized how difficult it was, it's natural to start thinking about collective legacy.

"It's very motivating for me. It's motivating for our team. You don't have an opportunity to be part of a special group like this very often in our league and we want to make the most of it. Nothing is guaranteed."

A dynasty in the making?

"We're not talking like that,'' Spoestra said. "We've won once. Just once. And look how hard that was. We were behind in the series to Indianapolis, to Boston and to Oklahoma City."

It all starts again tonight. LeBron remains the best show in sports. The Heat is the power in the Eastern Conference. Los Angeles or Oklahoma City will be waiting in June.

"The bottom line,'' Spoelstra says of repeating, "is it's not easy."

Follow Dave Hyde on Twitter @davehydesports

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