MIAMI — Earlier this month, it just so happened that Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger and Luol Deng all had spots on the same side of the Miami Heat locker room.
Rival Row didn’t last long.
“I was like, ‘OK, we’ve got to mix that up,’ ” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
McRoberts, Granger and Deng — villains to the Heat in the past, especially in the playoffs — are rivals to Miami no more, after they became the biggest parts of the team’s roster revamping this summer. Getting shifted to new spots in the locker room was the easy part; getting acclimated to the ways of the Heat will be a tad more difficult, that process officially beginning Saturday in the first practice of training camp.
“When you have those intense battles, it definitely does something to you,” said Granger, a Grace King High graduate. “You respect the other team. You want to kill them, as much as you can in the game, but off the court you have the utmost respect for them — especially a team like Miami. What they’ve done the last four years has really been incredible.”
McRoberts, Granger and Deng have all had plenty of moments that raised Heat ire in the past.
Deng has scored 20 or more points 15 times against the Heat, and led the charge as he and Chicago ended Miami’s franchise-record 27-game winning streak — the second-longest run in NBA history — in 2013. Granger was a stalwart of some Indiana teams that always challenged but never supplanted Miami atop the Eastern Conference, and McRoberts added intrigue to the Charlotte-Miami series last spring by throwing an elbow into LeBron James’ throat.
Quite simply, they weren’t liked very much in Heat land.
Those days are now gone, and respect has been born from past rivalry.
“I’ve made it clear to guys that when they come here and they become a part of this organization, they’re part of this team,” said Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who has gone up against all three new teammates plenty of times. “The stuff that we went through in the past, whether we were competing against each other or whether I gave them a hard foul or said something they might not like, that’s in the past.”
McRoberts entered free agency this year not knowing who would call, but not expecting interest from Miami. But ultimately, he, Deng and Granger all found themselves being placed very highly on Miami’s free-agency wish list.
And it’s probably no coincidence that each had proven worthy adversaries to the Heat in the past.
“I’d like to think all three of us aren’t fun guys to play against,” McRoberts said. “I hated playing against Luol. I hated playing against Danny. But we’re all guys you want on your team, in terms of toughness and competitiveness and what we’re willing to do to win basketball games.”
Granger has spent nearly his entire career with Indiana, entertained talks about returning to the Pacers this summer and began re-thinking his commitment to Miami again after James revealed that he was going back to his original team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But even though he found it strange to pull a Heat jersey on, Granger believes he made the right call.
“The plus side is I get to play with a new group of guys,” Granger said. “It’s Miami, you know what I mean? I get the sunshine, we’ve got a dock behind our house, I go fishing with my son. There’s a lot of benefit to playing down here.”