Erik Spoelstra

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Butler, Tucker, Hawks, Hornets

The Wizards will have plenty of options with the No. 10 pick in the 2022 draft, but it’s not realistic to expect the team to select its starting point guard at that spot, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post.

President of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard referred to the Wizards’ need for a point guard and their objectives in the draft as “two separate issues,” adding that the team will target the best talent available, rather than focusing on fit. He also left the door open for the possibility of moving up or down in the draft — or trading out of the first round entirely.

“For us, you’ve got to step back and say: ‘Do we have enough young guys? Do we need more talent?’ Whatever it is, we have this time to evaluate our roster, and the league tells you what it thinks about your players by the calls you get,” Sheppard said, according to Wallace. “We’re going to hear from a lot of people, already have heard from a lot of people. We can move up, we can move out, we can move — all these things are on the table.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The sideline altercation between Heat star Jimmy Butler and head coach Erik Spoelstra during a March game vs. Golden State was the culmination of “three seasons’ worth of give-and-take” between the two men, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. However, as Windhorst writes, they quickly moved past the confrontation and Butler has proven once again with his performance in the 2022 postseason that he’s worth some occasional drama.
  • Heat forward P.J. Tucker rarely puts up big numbers, but teammates and coaches appreciate his contributions that go beyond the box score, writes Wes Goldberg of The Miami Herald. “He’s one of the biggest reasons why we’re winning, because he does all the little things,” Butler said after Game 1. “It’s easy to follow suit whenever you’ve got somebody like that leading your team.” Tucker holds a $7.35MM player option for the 2022/23 season.
  • In a conversation with Chris Kirschner about the Hawks‘ upcoming offseason, John Hollinger of The Athletic explains why he thinks it’s unlikely that Atlanta and De’Andre Hunter reach an extension agreement this offseason and suggests that no one on the roster outside of Trae Young should be off-limits in trade talks.
  • The Hornets control the Nos. 13 and 15 picks in next month’s draft, and Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (subscriber-only link) believes the team should be willing to trade both of them for more immediate help, arguing that bringing in two more rookies wouldn’t do much for the team’s 2022/23 playoff aspirations.

NBA Announces 2021/22 Award Finalists

The NBA has announced the 2021/22 season award finalists for the league’s six major awards: Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2022 NBA Award Picks]

The awards were voted on by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The three top vote-getters for each award are the finalists. They are as follows:

Most Valuable Player:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Coach of the Year:

  • Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies)
  • Erik Spoelstra (Heat)
  • Monty Williams (Suns)

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Winners will be announced during TNT’s coverage of the NBA playoffs, according to the league.

Heat Notes: Spoelstra, First Round, Adebayo, Tucker

The Heat‘s first-round series against the Hawks could come down to the adjustments Erik Spoelstra makes on Trae Young, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in his latest “Ask Ira” mailbag.

Miami will host Atlanta in Game 1 of the series on Sunday. Young led his team out of the play-in tournament by defeating Cleveland on Friday, recording 38 points and nine assists in 40 minutes.

The Heat could throw an array of options at Young in man-to-man coverage, including Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo. How Miami defends him in the pick-and-roll and whether it adapts could still determine the team’s level of success.

Here are some other notes from out of Miami:

  • Joe Vardon and Chris Kirschner of The Athletic examine the Heat’s first-round series, including who might guard Young, Bam Adebayo‘s health and more. Atlanta made the Eastern Conference Finals last season and finished with a 43-39 record this season. As Vardon and Kirschner note, Game 1 will tip off less than 48 hours after the Hawks played the Cavaliers, which doesn’t give them much time to prepare for the Heat. Miami will have a full week of rest before the first game.
  • Adebayo didn’t have any symptoms while he had COVID-19, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. The former All-Star center recently exited health and safety protocols and is set to play on Sunday.
  • Veteran forward P.J. Tucker (strained calf) also plans to play on Sunday, Chiang notes in a separate tweet. Tucker is coming off a successful regular season, providing versatile defense and shooting 41.5% from deep. He won an NBA title with the Bucks a year ago.

Erik Spoelstra Enters Health And Safety Protocols

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced (Twitter link). Assistant Chris Quinn will lead the club in his place.

This is Spoelstra’s first time entering the league’s protocols, though Quinn and fellow assistant Malik Allen did so earlier this season. Spoelstra spoke against the protocols back in December in the hopes that the league would re-examine them — the required quarantine period has since been reduced.

“Has everybody gotten their shots and their boosters? Why would they be held out extensively longer than if they have the flu?” he asked, as relayed by Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

Spoelstra has guided Miami to the best record in the Eastern Conference this season (50-28), leading the No. 2 seed Bucks by 1.5 games. The Heat will also be without Jimmy Butler (toe), PJ Tucker (knee), Dewayne Dedmon (ankle) and Gabe Vincent (toe) for Sunday’s game against the Raptors.

Miami most recently took a 127-109 road victory over the Bulls on Saturday. The club only has four games left on its regular-season schedule, with the playoffs set to begin in 13 days.

Heat Notes: Rotation, Playoffs, Butler, Strus

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has changed his rotation since losing four straight games, replacing Duncan Robinson with Max Strus in the starting lineup, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. In addition, Victor Oladipo and Markieff Morris have both received DNPs for the past two games.

“These are tough decisions and there’s a lot of different things that could work,” Spoelstra said this week. “We just felt at this time, this particular time, that these moves may clean up some things with the rotation. But those aren’t easy things. I think we all just have to have empathy and grace for some of these changes for the guys that didn’t necessarily play tonight.”

Miami defeated Sacramento 123-100 on Monday and Boston 106-98 on Wednesday. The team is attributing its success to better offensive spacing, but the defense has also improved. Prior to that, the club allowed 110, 111, 118 and 113 points in its four consecutive losses.

Here are some other notes from Miami:

  • Speaking of the team’s rotation, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether Spoelstra will use a 10-man group in the playoffs. Spoelstra has played Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro, Robinson and Dewayne Dedmon off the bench these past two games, though Caleb Martin (calf) missed both contests.
  • Jimmy Butler briefly acknowledged his recent altercation with Spoelstra and Udonis Haslem, Winderman notes in a separate story. “Things happen… and we move on from it,” he explained. Butler, Spoelstra and Haslem all discussed the incident and quickly moved past it shortly after the March 23 game, sources said.
  • In addition to starting games, Strus is proving he can close games for the team, Winderman writes. Strus logged nearly 32 minutes against Boston on Wednesday, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. He also registered a team-best +17 net rating.

Heat Notes: Mulder, Butler, Haslem, Spoelstra

The Heat brought Mychal Mulder back because of the positive impression he made during his first stint with the organization, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Mulder signed a two-way contract on Thursday, taking the place of Kyle Guy. Because the deal covers two years, Mulder will be able to play for Miami during Summer League and take part in the team’s offseason program.

Mulder signed his first NBA contract with the Heat in 2019 after going undrafted out of Kentucky. He spent training camp with the team on an Exhibit 10 deal and played in two preseason games before being waived prior to the start of the season. He went on to play 67 games for the Warriors over two years and appeared 15 games with the Magic earlier this season.

“We were excited to have him back in our program. … We’re excited about having an opportunity to work with him this offseason and really continue to develop him,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “In a perfect world, we would’ve been able to do that for the last two seasons, but we also like that he was able to go develop in a couple other places.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • The recent return of Markieff Morris and Victor Oladipo has shaken up the rotation, but that’s normal in the NBA, P.J. Tucker tells Chiang in the same story. Several players who were seeing significant minutes earlier in the season are now stuck on the bench. “Every day is different, whether somebody is in or out,” Tucker said. “Look at Gabe [Vincent]. He’s going from starting and getting 20 [points] in a couple games in a row to Kyle [Lowry] coming back and literally not stepping in the game. Then the next game starting again. You don’t know. But you have to be ready. It’s a part of your job. It’s a part of being a professional basketball player.”
  • The Heat are downplaying a sideline scuffle (video link) between Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem that took place during Wednesday’s game, tweets Mark Haynes of ClutchPoints. Although the two players nearly came to blows during a time out, Bam Adebayo said it’s not out of character for the team. “This is us in practice,” he said. “… In practice, we get like that to that point where like it looks like we want to fight each other when we get that mad, but it’s just the competitive nature that we have on this team.”
  • Spoelstra is absent from tonight’s game because of a medical procedure involving his son, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Assistant coach Chris Quinn is running the team.

Southeast Notes: Kuzma, Oladipo, Spoelstra, Hampton

Versatile Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma is enjoying his new opportunity as Washington’s highest-usage player following a trade from the only NBA team he had ever known, the Lakers, during the 2021 offseason, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Kuzma won a title as a key rotation player for Los Angeles in 2020.

“I’ve referred to him on a number of occasions as our Swiss Army knife,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Whatever we need in that moment, he’s capable of doing.”

The 6’9″ Kuzma is averaging 17.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 3.4 APG in 60 games for Washington, with shooting splits of .456/.342/.725.

“It’s been a great change of pace for me, a change of scenery,” the 26-year-old said of his new club. “I did as much as I (could) to maximize (myself) when I was with my former team, with changing my role every single year for the betterment of the team and trying to fit in with great players.

“But here, it’s been a lot different, because I don’t necessarily have to do that. My role has changed here. If you think about the first 25 games, I was in a different type of role than I am now: more scoring and just doing more things with the ball. It’s just great to be in a situation where I can just be myself and do what I do, and not dummy myself down.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Heat reserve guard Victor Oladipo returned to the court with Miami for the first time this season on Monday. He logged 11 points while shooting 4-for-7 from the floor in a 123-106 win over Oladipo’s former team, the Rockets. Oladipo called his return from a right knee quadriceps tendon surgery “everything I wanted and more,” per Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald. A former two-time All-Star and 2o18 All-Defensive First Team honoree for the Pacers, Oladipo returned with a 15-minute cap. He has appeared in just 53 contests since the beginning of the 2019/20 NBA season due to a variety of injuries. When asked about when the guard would exceed his current strict on-court time limit, head coach Erik Spoelstra was quick to establish that the club is taking a longer-term approach. “I’m going to temper those expectations,” Spoelstra said. “He’s been out a year. Three years of injuries. Fifteen minutes, that feel amazing to him and to everybody in the locker room. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves on anything else.” 
  • Now that Oladipo is back as a contributor on the hardwood for the Heat, Spoelstra looks forward to having to make some roster adjustments with his perimeter players, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. Miami guards Max Strus and Gabe Vincent rode the bench, until the game was well out of reach in the fourth, to accommodate Oladipo’s return. “Big shout out to Max and Gabe, who have been playing really well,” Oladipo said after the contest. “For them to sacrifice their minutes tonight, I know that’s not easy.” Spoelstra acknowledged the roster crunch but appeared to dismiss it as being an issue for team chemistry. “That’s for amateurs,” Spoelstra said. “Guys understand the opportunity with this group. It’s not all going to be perfect. Everybody is not always going to be happy, but we have a really mature group in this locker room… We have a bunch of guys who can fit in and impact the game. Max and Gabe didn’t play much, but they can come in and do the same thing.”
  • With rookie Magic guard Jalen Suggs missing Orlando’s last two games due to a right ankle sprain, second-year guard R.J. Hampton has been tasked with bigger-ticket defensive assignments, writes Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. The 6’4″ guard may still be struggling on offense, as he is averaging 7.3 PPG on 38.4% field goal shooting this season, but he has exhibited plenty of promise on the other side of the floor.

Southeast Notes: Butler, Hachimura, Heat, Carter Jr.

Heat star Jimmy Butler is honored to represent his team in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, as Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. While co-star Bam Adebayo likely would’ve made the All-Star team if he stayed healthy, Butler is the lone representative this season for a Miami team tied for the Eastern Conference’s top spot.

“It’s an incredible blessing to be able to be on the court with all of these superstars and crazy talented players,” he said. “I think you’re just thankful that you get the opportunity to play basketball again because it’s not promised to anybody.

“[This weekend] is a lot, but I don’t complain about it. I think it’s an honor to be able to be an All-Star and go out there and compete with these guys.

This is Butler’s sixth All-Star season and second in Miami. He’s currently averaging 21.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, shooting 48% from the floor and 90% from the charity stripe.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Wizards forward Rui Hachimura scored 14 fourth-quarter points to defeat the Nets on Thursday, reminding the team of his upside, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. Hachimura finished with 20 points in 27 minutes off the bench, shooting 8-of-15 from the floor. “Rui, he’s just got the joy back… I can see that smile again, I can see that laugh, I can see that joy,” teammate Ish Smith said. “Rui’s a special player. He’s been a special player the first two years I was here with him and now you guys are seeing him just continue to grow and get better.”
  • The Heat‘s coaching staff are making the most of their All-Star opportunity, Anthony Chiang writes in a separate article for the Miami Herald. Head coach Erik Spoelstra and his assistants will coach Team Durant in the All-Star Game, something that’ll surely be a unique experience for all involved.
  • Stephen Noh of Sporting News examines the new and improved Wendell Carter Jr. Carter, who signed a four-year rookie scale extension prior to the season, is in the midst of a career year with the Magic, averaging 14.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in 29.4 minutes per contest. He’s in his second season with Orlando.

Heat Notes: Martin, Spoelstra, Adebayo, Trade Deadline

Heat swingman Caleb Martin and Hornets swingman Cody Martin are flourishing on their own this season, Mark Schindler of writes. The brothers, who are playing on separate teams for the first time, met on Saturday night when their clubs faced each other in Charlotte.

“The Heat gave [Caleb] an opportunity and I don’t think he’s looked back since… his mindset, what he brings to them and the dynamic he brings to them, and just how hard he works. That’s the culture there. So, I think he’s fitting right in.” Cody said.

Caleb (two-way contract) has averaged 9.3 points per game on 50% shooting. His brother, in turn, is playing a career-high 27.2 minutes per game this season in Charlotte, averaging eight points on 41% from deep.

Here are some other notes from out of Miami:

  • Head coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff will coach Team Durant in the All-Star Game this year, as relayed by the club’s social media team (Twitter link). The Bulls lost to the Sixers on Sunday, giving Miami the best record in the East. According to the All-Star rules, the team with the best conference record on February 6 gets the coaching nod for their respective side.
  • Bam Adebayo fought through his difficulties and continued to shoot on Saturday, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Adebayo often becomes passive when he struggles to make shots, but he changed his approach and stayed aggressive throughout the game. “That has been one of the biggest downfalls in my career, [where] I’ll stop shooting,” he explained. “It was one of those games where shots were short and looked like it going in and it doesn’t. I had a lot of in and outs. [But] teammates kept finding me.” Adebayo attempted 21 shots in the game, the most since March of 2021.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the team can afford to sit through the trade deadline. As we relayed, the playing status of veteran forward Markieff Morris (neck) is now uncertain, so the Heat could explore the trade market for another power forward.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Spoelstra, Oladipo, Bertans

The Hawks have won eight of their last 10 games, but they still face an uphill battle to avoid the play-in tournament because the first half of their season was such a disaster, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta looked ready to establish itself among the Eastern contenders after reaching the conference finals last season, but a rough start left the team with a huge hole to climb out of. Even after the recent hot streak, the Hawks are in 10th place, four games out of the sixth spot and a chance to skip the play-in competition.

“We did it to ourselves,” Kevin Huerter said. “We know it’s a grind. We knew two weeks ago when we were eight games under .500 that it was going to take a lot to get ourselves back in the mix. It feels like we’ve only done half the job so far. Half the job is winning seven straight. It’s a good feeling to have won seven straight. I think, for us, the feeling is better knowing that we’re playing better. We’re seeing results that we’ve wanted all year. We have to continue playing like this.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat’s victory tonight means the race to be the Eastern Conference coach in the All-Star Game will be determined by Sunday’s game in Chicago, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. If the Bulls defeat the Sixers, they will be a half game better at the cutoff point and Billy Donovan will coach the game. If Chicago loses, the Heat will have the East’s best record at 34-20 and Erik Spoelstra will be the Eastern representative for the second time.
  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo is working out several times a day as he tries to come back from last May’s surgery on his right quadriceps tendon, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Oladipo participated in a 2-on-2 session with teammates after this morning’s shootaround and then shot extensively before the start of tonight’s game.
  • Bijan Todd of NBC Sports Washington looks at potential destinations for Wizards forward Davis Bertans, who has been a disappointment since signing a five-year, $80MM deal. Todd notes that the Thunder and Pistons have the cap room to take on Bertans’ contract, while the Celtics and Trail Blazers may also be possibilities.