|Published:||Jul 13, 2012 12:49 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Jul 14, 2012 6:31 AM EDT|
MIAMI (AP) - Norris Cole gets recognized on the streets a little more now. People stop to say hello, others say congratulations, some just ask him to pose for a quick photograph.
Such is life for an NBA champion.
For the next few days, his offseason is on hold. Cole will be tasked with leading Miami's summer league team when it opens its five-games-in-seven-days grind in Las Vegas starting on Sunday, and after his rookie season ended with the Heat winning the NBA Finals, the former Cleveland State standout believes expectations for him will be high.
"Back to the grind. Trying to get better," Cole said. "Even though we won a championship, I'd still like to get better, I need to get better in order to help this team grow."
That's exactly what the Heat want him to say right now. Heat assistant coach David Fizdale - who's running the summer-league club - is making no secret that he wants Cole to be the coach on the floor, the guy calling plays, the person making sure everything runs the way it's supposed to run. It should be a stiff challenge for Cole, who spent his rookie year backing up Miami starting point guard Mario Chalmers.
Cole had plenty of impressive moments early on in the regular season, and again during Miami's march to the NBA title. So just like on the streets when he's out and about, Cole is going to be recognized - and presumably tested - by opponents in Las Vegas as well.
"See, we're breeding Norris a different way," Fizdale said. "Norris is a hunter. Norris doesn't care about people coming after him and all of that. We're developing him to be an attacker. He's going out to Vegas with the intent to destroy whoever he plays against. I don't even want him ever thinking that he's arrived to a point where he's now being hunted, OK? He has to stay hungry. He has to play this summer like a guy that did not win a title."
Cole is one of three players from Miami's title-winning roster set to play in summer league, joining center Dexter Pittman and guard Terrel Harris, who is not guaranteed a roster spot with the Heat next season.
It's an important week for all three.
The Heat want to see what Cole can do when he's in charge, what Pittman can do with a more marquee role, and will likely spend plenty of time evaluating Harris, who wants to be back in Miami next season.
Pittman said that even though he is under contract, he's treating summer league like a job interview.
"We know when we go to summer league, the target's going to be on our back," Pittman said. "It's just like an AAU tournament. If you're the best team in the country, everybody's going to go after you. We know that we've got to go in there, play hard and we can't go in there like we're the champions, be all cocky and bold. We've got to go in there, be humble and play hard."
Harris had a similar thought process, though insisted he doesn't feel extra pressure because of his lack of a contract.
"Something's going to happen. Something's always going to happen," Harris said. "But at the same time, I don't sit here and stress about if I'm going to be here or not. I just try to make sure I do what I can. That's what got me here last year, that's what got me on the team and that's my method for this year."
Also on Miami's summer roster is second-round pick Justin Hamilton, the 7-footer from LSU who was taken 45th overall in last month's NBA draft. When the Heat opened summer camp, it didn't take Hamilton long to make an impression on Fizdale.
"I like him," Fizdale said. "He's tough. He's fundamental. He's very skilled. He's physical. He has a great motor. Kid doesn't get tired and he pushes it every possession. You just can't find those guys everywhere. That's a Heat guy. We drafted him for a reason."
But there's little pressure on Hamilton, Pittman or even Harris.
Fizdale is putting plenty of it on Cole, to see how he responds.
"Pretty much, the offense is in his hands," Fizdale said.
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