Erik Spoelstra

Southeast Notes: Spoelstra, Heat, Millsap

Whenever the time comes that Heat president Pat Riley decides to step down, head coach Erik Spoelstra will be eager to fill the position. Spoelstra recently spoke with Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on his podcast.

The short answer would be, I’m a Pat Riley disciple. He’s always pushed me and nurtured me for the next step,” he said, adding that through both good and bad, the Heat feel like a family. The coach tempered expectations that anything imminent could happen, however.

But, yeah, Pat’s going to go on hopefully for a while though. I think he’s younger now than when he was coaching. […] I want this to be the set up that it is. I feel involved, I’m in every meeting that deals with the [Heat] organization and personnel.

Spoelstra has served as the head coach of the Heat since 2008 and was an assistant coach for ten years before that.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Though they may have ultimately lost, Dennis Schroder‘s performance in the first round of the postseason shows just what the Hawks see in him, writes Michael Lee of The Vertical. “Dennis’ competitive spirit and his competitive nature, I think we’re always going to bet on that first,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said.
  • With their cap space set to shrink in 2018/19, this is the last chance for the Heat to land a major free agent, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post writes. Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap could be possible options.
  • Although it appears they’ll offer Cavaliers general manager David Griffin their president of basketball operations position, John Hammond and David Morway are also on the Magic‘s short-list, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets.
  • It’s reasonable to expect Paul Millsap to opt out of his contract this summer but the Hawks forward hasn’t made any decisions about where he’ll go just yet, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes.
  • The Wizards won’t need a seventh game to close out the Hawks but even if they did, center Ian Mahinmi wouldn’t have played in it, J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic writes. The big man had said that he hoped he would be able to recover from a strained calf in time to play in the first round.

Heat Notes: Spoelstra, Johnson, Winslow

Heat players recently cleaned out their lockers, having failed to make the playoffs, and many of them will have an opportunity to go elsewhere this summer. James Johnson, Udonis Haslem, and Luke Babbitt will be free agents. Willie Reed, Josh McRoberts, and Dion Waiters all hold player options and Wayne Ellington could join the free agent market if the franchise declines his $6.27MM team option.

Coach Erik Spoelstra wants his players to feel comfortable returning to Miami, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. “This is clean-up day, not clean-out day,” the coach said.

Spoelstra added that his goal is to move forward with the team’s current group and compete for a championship. “Our organization is not going to change. We’re hard-wired to play and compete for championships,” he said. “Hopefully this is dot-dot-dot continued and we can build on this.”

Here’s more from Miami:

  • The Heat are thrilled with Hassan Whiteside‘s growth this season, as Winderman relays in the same piece. “I think his growth has been staggering,” Spoelstra said of the big man. “You can define it how you want. He can become one of the greats.” Whiteside signed a four-year, $98.4MM contract with Miami last offseason.
  • Johnson may consider taking a discount to stay with the Heat if it means keeping this year’s group together, Winderman passes along (Twitter links). “I’m home. That’s what it feels like. I love it here,” Johnson said of Miami.
  • Justise Winslow is recovering from shoulder surgery and is “way ahead of schedule,” according to Spoelstra, as Winderman relays via Twitter.
  • Prior to the injury, the Heat strongly believed Winslow would become a quality starter due to the work he put in last summer to improve his shooting, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Winslow admits that being sidelined hindered his ability to get comfortable with his new shooting mechanics, but added that he’ll continue to work on that part of his game.
  • Spoelstra feels Winslow would have helped Miami this season because of his efficient play, as Jackson passes along in the same piece. “He can generate threes for you offensively because he puts a lot of pressure in the paint, off the dribble, in transition. He’s an aggressive, bruising, physical type of player and he sees the floor. That helps create your three-point game,” the coach said.
  • In his latest mailbag, Winderman explains why it’ll be hard for the Heat to add a major free agent, such as Paul Millsap, and bring back the core of this year’s squad. The team can feasibly carve out approximately $37MM in cap space this summer and that may not be enough for Miami to add a max player in addition to own free agents.

Dion Waiters “Making Progress,” Still Without Timetable

According to a report from the Sun Sentinel today, Dion Waiters is making progress in his recovery from an ankle injury. Coach Erik Spoelstra indicated to reporters that Waiters no longer requires a walking boot.

“Nothing new, but he is making progress,” Spoelstra said. “He’s starting to do some conditioning. He’s out of his boot, so that’s good.”

Following Sunday’s match-up with the Nuggets, Waiters will have missed eight consecutive games due to injury. Waiters’ career renaissance has been a driving factor of Miami’s success, as the former Syracuse star averaged 21.5 points over a 10-game stretch in January.

The Heat are currently tied for the eighth seed with Indiana, as the Pacers have dropped seven of their last 10. In a recent report from Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post, Spoelstra noted “The swelling has come down considerably. He’s still going through the process of more mobility and movement.”

Knicks Notes: Rose, Anthony, Hornacek, Porzingis

Following brash remarks from Derrick Rose, the Knicks announced Carmelo Anthony (sore lower back), Lance Thomas (hip), and Rose would sit out tonight’s game against the Heat. Leading into Friday’s road match-up, D-Rose described the Knicks as a superior team to Miami.

“We’re more talented,” Rose told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “It shows basketball is a team sport. Any year in the league is about whoever catches a rhythm. No matter how your season is going… you can always catch a rhythm, they caught theirs at the right time, winning [13 in a row]. They have been playing great basketball ever since then. So we never caught that luck this year.”

More from The Mecca…

  • Jeff Hornacek sung a different tune than Rose, saying the Knicks have much to learn from Erik Spoelstra‘s Heat. “Use Miami as an example,’’ Hornacek told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “It’s old-school basketball. Bump and grab, and the referees are not going to call all of those. As long as they stay that aggressiveness all game long, they get away with those things. They have good stretches – get five, six, seven stops in a row and take the lead on you.’’
  • Kristaps Porzingis discussed the Knicks’ shortcomings in 2016/17, citing “consistency” as a major issue for the team. “We didn’t do it from the beginning the right way,” Porzingis told Fred Kerber of the New York Post“We didn’t have real fundamentals as a team and I think from the beginning it worked for us because we played based off our talent and based off good energy. Once things got a little tougher, we just didn’t have the fundamentals as a team.” Porzingis went on to say he had the team tabbed for a “six, seven, eight seed” finish.
  • Scottie Pippen aimed pointed criticism at Phil Jackson, saying his former coach should be pushed out of his job. “I just think he [Jackson] hasn’t put the right pieces on the floor,” Pippen said on ESPN program The Jump. “I give a lot of credit to Carmelo, who has been very professional in getting through this 82-game season, and now he’s being benched to some degree, they’ve taken a lot of his minutes away. This team really just hasn’t had it. They haven’t had it since Phil Jackson landed there. I’m sure the fans will love to see Carmelo in New York and Phil out.”
  • Stefan Bondy of the Daily News outlined ‘Melo’s dilemma: being too young for a mentor role, yet too old to be on a tanking team. “Anthony is only 32 years old, too young to serve as a mentor player/coach to the likes of Ron Baker, Maurice Ndour and Chasson Randle,” Bondy writes. “He knows that. There’s too much basketball left in his legs to take on a reduced role for the sake of a rebuild — for more losing and better lottery odds. To use Anthony’s words from Wednesday, “I see the writing on the wall.”

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Oubre, Calderon, Delaney

Justise Winslow turned 21 on Sunday, spending his birthday away from the team as he continues to recover from a torn right labrum. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra used the occasion to point out Winslow’s potential, while mentioning the character he’s built at this stage of his career.

“He still has had a productive year of improvement,” Spoelstra told Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “A summer of improvement, where he and J-Rich [Josh Richardson] were two of the top five players in the Orlando summer league; his summer improvement in August and September; the kind of preseason he had was terrific. Then he got hurt with his wrist. Going through all of that, I think, is important for a young player, and even going through adversity, can find a silver lining out of this. Even though it’s not ideal, it does develop character.”

More from the Southeast…

  • Scott Brooks has given Kelly Oubre chances to earn a spot in his rotation, unlike former Wizards coach Randy Wittman. According to J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic, Brooks has limited Oubre’s usage during “undisciplined” stretches, but Kelly’s role as a wing defender has emerged in 2016/17. “The game for Kelly, to me, is simple. Just compete,” Brooks said. “Deflections. Getting into the passing lanes. Contesting at the rim. Switching on our pick-and-roll coverage because he can guard one through four depending on the matchup and then rebound. The game rewards him when he does that.”
  • The Hawks are still evaluating backup point guards after acquiring Jose Calderon, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes. Calderon received minutes in each of his first five games following the trade, only for Malcolm Delaney to recently supplant him for the role of primary back-up. “We are excited about both of them,” Mike Budenholzer said. “I think they both can help us. I think it was great to give Jose a five-game stretch. Now, we are probably at a four- or five-game stretch for Malcolm. We’ll continue to look at that. We are considering both and think both will be helpful.”

Will The Heat Add To Their Roster?

In the latest edition of his mailbag, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel broached the subject of Miami adding depth to their shaky roster. As one of Winderman’s readers pointed out, the Heat are within striking distance of a playoff spot, but are missing several players due to injury. What’s more, they’ve committed a roster spot to Udonis Haslem– a great clubhouse presence who isn’t an in-game contributor at this point in his career. In response, Winderman wrote:

“The Heat, for at least another week, not only won’t be able to dress the allowable 13 players, but like Sunday, will only be able to dress 11. Yes, I appreciate the ‘we have enough’ mentality that coaches such as Erik Spoelstra stress. But having enough does not mean having the maximum possible resources in a playoff race that will make every game count. Whether it is signing Carlos Boozer back from China or adding a defensive wing, you raise a legitimate point. This team is hemorrhaging roster spots, and if the mantra is to be all-hands-on-deck, then playing with a full deck would be the best place to start.”

Now tied with Detroit for the eighth seed of the Eastern Conference, the Heat enter a vital stretch of their season without Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, or Josh McRoberts. While the team could pursue Lance Stephenson, whose second 10-day contract in Minnesota recently expired, he won’t be playoff eligible. Aside from reaching out to Boozer, Winderman lists Okaro White– who is “hardly getting off the bench lately”- as a potential source of production.

Southeast Notes: Plumlee, Waiters, Brooks

Though the size of his contract may skew fans’ perceptions of their newly acquired center, Miles Plumlee performed admirably in his Hornets debut Saturday, writes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. So long as realistic expectations are applied, it’s hard to knock what the big man brings to the table.

Plumlee arrived in Charlotte earlier this week after a trade between the Hornets and Bucks and will step into the rotation immediately as a reliable low-post presence capable of defending the pick-and-roll. As well, Bonnell notes, he’ll provide a badly needed source of physicality for head coach Steve Clifford.

The caveat with Plumlee arriving mid-season after playing sparsely in Milwaukee is that he’ll have to play himself back into game shape. According to Bonnell, Plumlee mentioned this to Clifford upon his arrival with his new team. Between November 25 and January 20, a healthy Plumlee played double-digits just one time in 27 games.

There’s more out of the Southeast:

  • It took a while but Erik Spoelstra and Dion Waiters finally connected in such a way that the two-guard’s game could flourish,” writes Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. “It’s good bumping heads. It’s not anything bad,” Waiters said. “It’s like, ‘I’m challenging you. You can do more. Don’t settle for that‘”.
  • Credit a strong relationship between John Wall and head coach Scott Brooks as one of the main reasons why the Wizards have improved so much this season, writes Michael Lee of the Vertical. In the summer, Brooks visited Wall in the hospital following his knee surgery. “I told John, ‘You’re a three-time All-Star, you can take it one or two ways: You could say, ‘I’ve arrived in this league and I’m comfortable in this league.’ Or you can take the approach that ‘I want to get better.’ And I think he’s done a great job of taking that approach of getting better. I think he can be a top-five player in this league every year.” Currently Washington sits third in the East, 10 games above .500 at 30-20. Last year they missed out on the postseason with a 41-41 record.
  • Despite their bold transactions over the summer, the Magic have struggled to position themselves as contenders in the Eastern Conference. One of those offseason acquisitions, Serge Ibaka, has a particular approach to blocking out the noise inherent with the pending trade deadline in order to focus on turning things around. “I just delete my social media and focus on basketball. That’s it. I don’t read nothing,” Ibaka tells John Denton of the team’s official website. “[Trade talks] are nothing I can control“. The last time we checked in with the Magic, it was said that the club may be overvaluing its trade assets.

Heat Facing Roster Crunch

Now finishing up his second 10-day contract, 24-year-old Okaro White has impressed in his time with Miami. The former Seminole has played in nine games this season, including a stellar performance (10 points, seven rebounds, four blocks) against the Nets.

White’s contract expires today, and according to a report from Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, the team is undecided about his future on the roster. The Heat are facing a roster crunch, as Josh Richardson is set to return from injury after missing 13 games with a foot injury. NBA teams are permitted to sign players to a maximum of two 10-day contracts before signing them for the rest of the season, or releasing them. The Heat can offer White a two-year contract at most, due to their salary cap position.

Veteran forward Derrick Williams appears to be a candidate to be cut to clear room for White. Williams, who was inked to a one-year, $4,598,000 contract over the offseason, has played sparingly under head coach Erik Spoelstra– accumulating eight DNPs over Miami’s last 10 games. Amid roster speculation, Williams traveled with the team for their upcoming road trip.

If Spoelstra’s quote is any indication, White appears to have made a lasting impression on Miami’s front office.

“You can see why we like him,” Spoelstra said of White. “He’s a Miami Heat guy, a lot of intangibles, those winning plays that we keep on talking about.”

Heat Notes: Weber, Spoelstra, Waiters, Ellington

Briante Weber said he chose to sign with the Warriors instead of the Heat because he wanted a new challenge, relays Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. Weber played one game for Miami after signing in April. He was waived in October and has spent this season with the Heat’s D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls. The 24-year-old point guard turned down offers of 10-day contracts from Miami and Charlotte to choose Golden State. “So I just felt like I’ve been with Miami and they haven’t picked me up by now,” Weber said, “then why continue to go down the same road? I figured I should pick something new and actually a team with a spot. They actually let somebody go to fill me in. That says a lot about the organization and about how they feel about me being potentially being here for longer than just 10 days. So I kind of picked a spot that was going to give me the best opportunity to expose myself and put myself on the radar where everybody else can see.”

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • Weber received good luck wishes from Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, according to the Associated Press. Spoelstra said he appreciates how Weber, who averaged 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 3.3 steals at Sioux Falls, proved he deserves a shot at the NBA. “He’s put in the time,” Spoelstra said. “He hasn’t skipped a step. He approached every part of this as an opportunity to get better and everybody’s journey is different to get into this league. He’s a bona fide NBA player.”
  • Dion Waiters, who has enjoyed a career renaissance in Miami, attributed his success to Spoelstra’s ‘tough love.’ “It’s good bumping heads. It’s not anything bad. It’s like, `I’m challenging you. You can do more. Don’t settle for that,’” Waiters told Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post“I had coach [Jim] Boeheim. It was tough love at the end of the day. They see so much in me that he’s challenging me. I look at it as a challenge. He’s been doing a tremendous job keeping me motivated.” Now in his fifth NBA season, Waiters has been sublime of late; averaging 23.3 points on 52.2% shooting over his last eight games.
  • Now riding a 10-game winning streak, the Heat have adopted a “don’t believe the hype” mantra. As Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post points out, Miami’s improbable streak includes wins over quality opposition- particularly the Warriors, Rockets, and Hawks. “We know where we’ve been at and where we want to be at, so we’re not satisfied,” Heat guard Wayne Ellington said. “Coach keeps telling us. But at the same time, he doesn’t really need to. We’re hungry, man. We know where we were at. Obviously it feels good to get some wins. But at the same time, we understand that we’ve got a ways to go to be where we want to be at.”

Heat Notes: Whiteside, Durant, Spoelstra

Hassan Whiteside said he doesn’t pay attention to the rumors and trade speculation surrounding his name, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel relays. “If I pay attention to it, I wouldn’t be back in the league. There’s all kind of rumors. A lot of people said a lot of things to keep me from being back in the league,” Whiteside said.

It was previously reported that no member of the Heat was off-limits in trade talks, but on Tuesday, a team spokesman shot down that report.

Here’s more from Miami:

  • Dealing Whiteside just six months after signing him to a four-year, $98MM contract would be troublesome for the franchise, Winderman argues in his weekly mailbag. Part of the value in retaining Whiteside was not letting an asset leave without getting anything back in return, Winderman adds before stressing that the team should be patient when evaluating possible trades.
  • If Whiteside is going to be the team’s franchise player, he needs to be more consistent, Winderman writes in the same piece. The scribe calls for more performances like the one against the Warriors on Tuesday, where the center pulled down 20 rebounds and scored 28 points.
  • The Heat always thought they had a chance to sign Kevin Durant in free agency up until the 2013/14 MVP signed with the Warriors, Winderman writes in a separate piece. “We’re all wired to think that we always have a chance,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Heat. Spoelstra added that he was impressed with how Durant handled himself when the small-forward met with the team over the summer. “Big fan before I met him. That was the only time I had ever met him. Bigger fan after that, even after he chose Golden State,” he said of Durant.
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