The Heat are one win away from the conference finals, and a bold move at the trade deadline helped them reach this position, writes Shandel Richardson of Sports Illustrated. Miami shook up its roster in February by acquiring Jae Crowder from the Grizzlies in a three-team deal and sending away Justise Winslow, who was once thought to be part of the team’s foundation. Crowder has been extremely valuable in the playoffs, averaging 11.6 PPG, shooting 62% on 3-pointers and providing versatility on defense.
“He’s a competitor so he’s going to do whatever is necessary,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He does it on both ends. It’s not an easy series for him. He has to sacrifice his body and play against the MVP, sometimes play against a 7-footer, sometimes put him on guards. He’s basically guarding one through five in this series.”
Crowder, 30, is boosting his value for the offseason, when he will be among the most intriguing free agents on the market. The Heat would love to bring him back, but the organization is prioritizing cap room to add another star in the summer of 2021. Crowder has more he wants to accomplish before considering his next contract.
“I just feel like I’m going to keep staying at it,” he said. “I’m going to stay in the gym, stay watching film, stay focused, stay being an all around professional. That just shows me my hard work is paying off. I’m really pleased with the work that I’m putting in and it’s not going to stop.”
There’s more on the Heat:
- Veteran leader Udonis Haslem believes Miami has the perfect mix of talent and toughness to win a title in this unique environment, according to Manny Navarro of The Athletic. Haslem, 39, only played four games this season, but he’s a sideline leader as a quasi-assistant coach. “I feel like we can win it and I feel like we have just as good an opportunity (as anyone),” he said. “When you look at everything that’s going on right now, this team is built for the bubble, man. You talk about tough, hard-nosed, work ethic, mentally tough — there’s no mentally tougher team in this bubble, tougher leader in this bubble. The Miami Heat team was built for anything.”
- Teammates are expressing confidence in Jimmy Butler to carry them through the playoffs, with Meyers Leonard telling Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, “We have the best player in this series.” (Twitter link)
- Assistant Octavio De La Grana has joined the team in Orlando, giving Spoelstra a full coaching staff, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Teams were permitted to add one person to their bubble limit on Saturday.