MEXICO CITY (AP) — Maybe this trip south of the border is the start of something for the Miami Heat.
They have lost four of their last five games and for the last few days the players and coaching staff have been exploring the city and tasting local cuisine.
A 117-105 loss at San Antonio on Wednesday left the team with an 11-13 record. Miami traveled to Mexico ahead of Saturday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets to spend time together.
Coach Erik Spoelstra thinks such trips bring his players closer. Last year, the Heat spent five day in the Bahamas before the season.
“I think it helps,” he said. “I have no statistics or analytics than can substantiate that. But I like it when you team gets to experience something different than a normal road trip because you get to come down here and spend a lot of time sightseeing on the bus together, we had a team meal yesterday and tonight and NBA event.”
In Mexico City, the team had a video session Thursday. The players and coaches then took the day off. Spoelstra, visiting Mexico for the first time, said he went to as many restaurants as possible while guard Goran Dragic said he went looking for some guacamole.
.@GoranDragic is making his 3rd career visit to Mexico City as a part of the #NBAMexicoGames, and this time he’s making the most of it.
Hear more from The Dragon with @LaVozDelHEAT pic.twitter.com/OPNFnfmXhF
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 8, 2017
“When you go on one of these trips, you don’t want to sit in your hotel room,” Spoelstra said. “You want to get out there and see as much as you can, I’m glad we had an extra day.”
The rest of the players also tried the local food and went shopping and sightseeing near the team’s hotel in Polanco, an upscale part of the city.
Kelly Olynyk, who’s visiting the city for the fourth time, says it’s good to be together and away from all the “sounds and the distractions” of home.
“Hopefully we can translate that to the game and we can get back on track and keep on rolling,” he said.
Olynyk, a Canadian center, was here before for the Basketball Without Borders program. He also played for his country in the qualifying tournament for the Rio Olympics and was with the Boston Celtics for a regular-season game against Sacramento.
To no surprise, his teammates are using him as their private tour guide.
“They are asking me all kind of questions”, Olynyk said. “For me it’s great to be back here, the culture, the food and the fans are great. We haven’t done anything crazy, just experience the city and walk around because the weather is nice, just like Miami.”
Welcome to the #NBAMexicoGames 2017!
Stay tuned throughout the week for full coverage from Mexico City leading up to Saturday’s game vs the Brooklyn Nets at Mexico City Arena. pic.twitter.com/sw7Lsyb3Xw
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 7, 2017
The Heat practiced for the first time in Mexico on Friday at a local school. After that they stopped by Bosque de Chapultepec, one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere, before returning to the hotel.
“Anytime you are away from home and in a situation like this with a different culture and a different language you tend to gravitate more to people. We are all walking together and building relationships,” Udonis Haslem said. “Yesterday I went shopping and tried good food. The people are nice, but today I’m going to take care of myself. It’s time to lock in. We had some time off but we have a job to do.”
Haslem has a point. Miami is second place in the Southeast Division, trailing the Washington Wizards (14-11). After playing the Nets on Saturday they will travel to Memphis to play there on Monday on the first of the four games in six days.
“If you’ve been in the NBA for several seasons you take trips for granted, and when you do something different and it’s fun, it can help you grow as a team,” Spoelstra said. “We could have stayed in San Antonio, but we’ve been to San Antonio before. We wanted to be here and do something different.”