Southeast Notes: Spoelstra, Prince, Gordon/Isaac, Johnson

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is excited about the prospect of getting the team’s two-way players, Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton, back with the team this weekend, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

With the G League regular season concluding tomorrow, the 45-day restriction upon two-way players is lifted, freeing them to return to the NBA for the remainder of the regular season. Jones Jr. is back with the Heat for tonight’s game against Oklahoma City, with Walton joining the team before Sunday’s game in Indiana. As for the two-way system itself, Spoelstra is a fan, even though he thinks a few issues need ironing out.

“The system is a little bit clumsy, but I’m sure we’ll iron that all out in years to come. I’m a big fan of the two-way contract. I think it’s good for teams, it’s good for the player. We’ve seen the benefits of developing our guys with us (the Heat), but also getting those guys a lot of game reps in our culture, in Sioux Falls.”

Jones Jr., 21, is averaging 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in 29.1 minutes per game this season for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Heat’s G League affiliate, while also starting eight games for the Heat during the team’s struggle through injuries. Asked whether his development is of importance to the team, Spoelstra said of course:

“Absolutely. We always envision where a player can go. We do that with an open mind and a commitment to our player development. He’s improved this year with us and that’s worth noting, because he’s committed to our (the Heat’s) process. I think he has to break into this program as a defensive-minded player. That’s really where his potential is. It’s been very intentional that we try to get him on the best wing opponent every night and really embrace that challenge regardless of how many minutes he plays and what his offensive responsibility is. He has to guard, he has to be able to impact on that side of the floor. And that got better. It still has a long ways to go, but he’s starting to understand where he can break through.”

As we’ve noted generally before, neither Jones Jr. nor Walton are playoff-eligible for the Heat unless signed to a standard contract before the final game of the regular season. This is unlikely as Miami already has 15 players on its roster.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks‘ forward Taurean Prince has improved his three-point prowess throughout his career, but no more so than this season, writes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype, where he is shooting 40.4% from behind the stripe.
  • The Magic are excited to be able to play versatile forwards Aaron Gordon and rookie Jonathan Isaac together for the remainder of this season, writes John Denton of NBA.com.
  • Just in time for the playoffs, James Johnson is finally realizing the level of play the Heat expected when they signed him to a lucrative contract this summer, Winderman adds in another piece.

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