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Monday, Oct. 4, 2010

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Back to normalcy: Dwyane Wade and the revamped Miami Heat are preparing to head back home after holding training camp at a U.S. Air Force installation. AP PHOTO

Heat set to head home after busy training camp on air force base

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AP) Before the Miami Heat could declare training camp was over, the team needed to make a set of 25 off-the-dribble jumpers.

For the record, LeBron James hit the last shot.

And with that the Heat finished their week of training at Hurlburt Field in Florida's Panhandle on Saturday afternoon, eight practices crammed into a five-day window. Two more events with members of the U.S. Air Force awaited before the team flies home to Miami on Sunday, but the on-court camp assignments — and there were many — are done.

"We had a great week and for the most part came in with an open mind, just trying to learn the system," said James, the two-time NBA MVP. "I knew it was going to be a different system, but it's been great. Overall, it's probably one of the best training camps I've had, if not the best, because guys just came in and worked. Guys were in shape from the beginning and we didn't waste any time."

That they didn't.

In all, the Heat spent more than 16 hours pounding each other on the court, and other than some minor issues — Eddie House returned to practice Saturday despite a sore left shoulder and Kenny Hasbrouck will remain sidelined until Monday with a bruised right thigh — Miami will head home relatively unscathed.

"I'm pleased with the basketball segment of this week," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We were able to focus on setting the tone, No. 1. Defensively, that was the mindset that we'd have to build these habits, and the only way to do that would be on the practice court. The effort, intensity and focus from that standpoint was very good."

Spoelstra also lauded the Heat's pace, noting it was quicker than what he implemented last season. He also gave Friday night's scrimmage high marks, especially one team in the game — the one that had to go against James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the final 20 minutes and gave the star-filled side plenty of problems.

This week, however, won't be remembered for who-took-what-charge or who-hit-what-shot.

It was about bonding, both for a team that added plenty of new faces this offseason, and with airmen, many of whom said they were in need of a morale boost. When practice ended Saturday, there was no rush to the exits and the buses idling outside for the Heat — they were heading to a barbecue with some air force personnel, and a breakfast with other officials was set for Sunday before the quick flight back home.

Wade said he would classify the camp as "very successful."

"We were able to come together as a team," Wade said. "A lot of guys in here knew each other, but didn't know each other. So we had an opportunity to come together and understand that this is going to be our family. Really worked hard together. Really came in here with a plan our coach put out there and tried to execute it to the best of our ability for our first time being together."

U.S. women in final

KARLOVY VARY , Czech Republic (AP) For four years, Tamika Catchings, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have carried the disappointment of losing in the semifinals of the 2006 world championship in Brazil.

Now they are a step away from redeeming one of the only blemishes on their spectacular careers.

Catchings scored 14 points and Taurasi added 11 to lead the United States to a 106-70 victory over Spain and into the gold medal game of the women's basketball world championship.

"There's only three of us from that team in Brazil and it was one of the worst nights of my career," Bird said. "I don't think I've ever fallen short that way before. It stuck with everyone who was there. This was our chance to get rid of that terrible taste."

To completely remove it, the Americans will have to beat the Czech Republic on Sunday.

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