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Haslem says Heat ready to defend their title. Shocking.

Miami Heat Victory Parade And Rally

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 25: Udonis Haslem #40 of the Miami Heat looks on during a rally for the 2012 NBA Champion Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on June 25, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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Last June’s Miami Heat title was not the first trip down the parade route for Udonis Haslem. He was part of the Miami Heat’s 2006 title team.

That would be the one that came back in no condition mentally to defend its title. One that fell apart as quickly as any champion in recent memory.

Haslem, one of the veteran leaders of the Heat, says he is not going to let that happen again. Granted, the situation on the Heat is pretty different this time around, nonetheless Haslem told the Miami Herald this Heat squad is ready to take on 29 challengers (hat tip SLAM).

“I think it’s not necessarily about being a different group. It’s about the right mindset,” Haslem said. “I don’t think with the ’06 team we really understood what mindset we had to come in with as returning champions….

“I think now we understand what our mindset has to be,” he said, “because the level of expectation has been raised a notch, and we understand that.”

That 2006 Heat team was not built for the long run, unless you think Shaq was suddenly going to be motivated to focus on conditioning. This Heat team has its core players at their peak. But Haslem is right about the mindset.

I still contend what makes the Heat the most dangerous this coming season is they figured out who they are. They found an identity last season and into the playoffs, there is no more guesswork. That said, it’s a long, long way to the finals next June. It’s a marathon.

Haslem just thinks they are ready to run it.