Heat Notes: Love, Defense, Trade Deadline, Zeller

When veteran power forward Kevin Love signed with the Heat off the buyout market, he was hoping to help the team avoid the East’s play-in tournament bracket by securing a top-six seed, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

A member of the eighth-seeded Cavaliers last season, Love’s team lost two consecutive play-in contests and missed out on the actual playoffs. After being squeezed out of Cleveland’s lineup this year, he negotiated a buyout to join Miami, optimistic his new team could skip the play-in process.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity, the opportunity to play,” Love told Winderman. “Because in Cleveland I don’t know if that would have been the case… So I wish I had more time… But, again, every game is huge for us at this point. So trying not too hard to put too much pressure on myself or press too hard. But we do need to win basketball games.”

Miami is currently in a dead heat with the Nets for the No. 6 seed — both teams are 40-35.

There’s more out of Miami:

  • Heat players are aware that the team, which had a top-five defensive rating through the All-Star break, has had one of the NBA’s worst defenses in the 16 games following said break, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “I say the lack of communication when we get fatigued [is to blame for the lapse],” opined Bam Adebayo. “I feel like that’s the big momentum shift — when guys get fatigued, we stop talking. It hurts us because we expect guys to be in certain places and we’re not.”
  • Beyond moving off the contract of center Dewayne Dedmon, the Heat had a fairly quiet trade deadline. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald explains that the team did have offers from other teams to take on some its costlier salaries, presumably for veterans Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson, but rival clubs wanted Miami to offload first-round picks in any such exchange. The Heat were unwilling to do so.
  • Heat reserve center Cody Zeller, another veteran buyout market addition, appears set to return to action on Tuesday against the Raptors, Chiang reports (Twitter link). A broken nose has held Zeller out of the club’s previous six contests.
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