Erik Spoelstra

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.

Southeast Notes: Reed, Zeller, Magic

Heat big man Willie Reed has seen his role increase with Hassan Whiteside out nursing an eye injury and the sophomore’s yeoman-like play could very well earn him a spot in the team’s long term plans. This summer, with the salary cap slated to rise dramatically, Reed could opt out of his player option for $1.6M and look to cash in.

Such a decision, coupled with Josh McRoberts‘ player option for $6M and Dion Waiters‘ for $3M, could factor heavily into how the Heat approach the offseason. As Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes, clearing cap space is a top priority for the club given the Chris Bosh situation, and the time is fast approaching that Pat Riley and company “accept the reality that the long view might be the only remaining perspective for this season.”

In 11.9 minutes per game for the Heat, Reed has averaged 3.9 points and 4.0 rebounds, figures that translate to 12.2 and 12.5 per 36, respectively.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Injury woes continue for the Hornets who most recently saw Cody Zeller go down Monday versus the Bulls. As Rick Bonnell writes for the Charlotte Observer, the team has placed the center in the NBA’s concussion protocol, with no timetable for a possible return.
  • Head coach Erik Spoelstra signed a contract extension to remain with the Heat last week and Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders has written about just how important continuity can be in NBA clubhouses. Spoelstra is already the second-longest tenured coach in the league behind only Gregg Popovich.
  • The Magic were reminded of what they could have had with the No. 5 pick in the 2015 draft on Sunday. Pacers big man Myles Turner dropped 23 points and 12 rebound on his former coach Frank Vogel, while Mario Hezonja – the player Orlando did select – failed to crack double-digits in minutes for the 13th time in 14 games since November 9.

Heat Confirm Erik Spoelstra Signed Extension

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra signed a contract extension during the offseason to remain with the franchise, the club officially confirmed today, according to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. The deal wasn’t announced at the time of its completion, though summer reports indicated it was considered a formality.

“I would like to thank the Arisons and Pat [Riley] for their continued confidence in me and my staff and are humbled in their trust in me as head coach,” Spoelstra said in a statement. “It has been an incredible 22 years being part of the Miami Heat family and we will look to continue our goal of winning NBA championships.”

The announcement may be a belated one, but it doesn’t come as any real surprise. As Winderman notes, Spoelstra’s voice within the organization has grown in recent years, as he has become more involved with personnel decisions and filled out the team’s coaching staff with his own hires. The team didn’t reveal the terms of Spoelstra’s new extension, but it’s safe to say that the Heat view him as the long-term fit for the job, even as they go through a rebuilding phase.

Spoelstra – who was an assistant for more than a decade in Miami before his promotion – is currently the NBA’s second-longest-tenured head coach, trailing only Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Over the course of his career with the Heat, Spoelstra has led the team to a 673-409 (.608) mark during the regular season. He has also enjoyed significant success in the playoffs, with a career postseason record of 70-43 (.619), including four Finals appearances and two titles.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported in June that Spoelstra and the Heat were nearing an extension, while Riley confirmed in July that the two sides were working toward a new deal.

Southeast Notes: Deng, Muscala, Zeller

The Wizards and Luol Deng were working on a three-year deal worth roughly $52MM before the small forward received the four-year, $72MM deal from the Lakers, Zach Lowe of reports. Lowe adds that Washington was stunned to learn of Los Angeles’ offer, which Deng ultimately agreed to.

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat thought they had a chance to re-sign Deng this summer, but they couldn’t compete with the Lakers’ offer, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News writes. “We thought there was a chance we would get him at a way smaller number,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There was that discussion that he wanted to come back and we wanted him to come back. But we obviously weren’t in a position to make that kind of deal.”
  • Deng said he wanted to re-sign with the Heat if he didn’t receive the offer from Los Angeles, but he believes the team wasn’t going to make bringing him back a priority, Medina relays in the same piece. “It’s not like I would’ve gone there,” Deng said. “They probably would have had the money and gotten someone else better.”
  • Mike Muscala could be the next free agent sleeper, Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders contends. Muscala is in the final year of his deal with the Hawks and big man admits that free agency is something that he has thought about. “Yeah, you know I think [free agency is] always in the back of your mind, but you just got to take it game by game,” Muscala said. “I think I’ve been trying to do that my whole career.”
  • The Hornets moved Cody Zeller to the center spot and he’s found success in his new role, as USA Today details. “I mean, he’s a 5-man,” Clifford said. “The way the league is now he’s a 5, at both ends of the floor. And it definitely suits him better.”

Eastern Notes: Anthony, Williams, Spoelstra

Knicks team president Phil Jackson believes Carmelo Anthony could play better on the offensive end, Al lannazzone and Laura Albanese of Newsday write in a collaborative piece.

“Carmelo a lot of times wants to hold the ball longer than — we have a rule: If you hold a pass two seconds, you benefit the defense,” Jackson said. “So he has a little bit of a tendency to hold it for three, four, five seconds, and then everybody comes to a stop. That is one of the things we work with. But he’s adjusted to [the triangle], he knows what he can do and he’s willing to see its success.”

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Coach Jeff Hornacek admitted that there are times when Anthony is a ball-stopper, but he doesn’t see it as a major issue for the Knicks, lannazzone and Albanese relay in the same piece. “It’s a fine balance,” Hornacek said. “He’s a star player who can really create his own shot from that midrange area. Sometimes we talk about maybe moving the ball and holding it, maybe it’s a second or two too long for a normal guy, but for Carmelo it’s fine because he can make that play.”
  • Derrick Williams said he never heard from Jackson during free agency this past summer and Hornacek didn’t reach out to him either, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. Williams said he expected to at least get an offer from the Knicks, but he’s happy with his decision to sign with the Heat“I love my time in New York,” Williams said. “Being one of the fan favorites, leaving a place where I felt I could keep getting better, keep growing. But ultimately I feel it was the right decision. It might not seem that way right now. But I’m getting better each day. Even though I may not be on the court right now, this is for the second half of the season.”
  • Williams said that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is “by far” the best coach he’s ever had, Berman adds in the same piece. “Really having a coach to teach me the right ways to play defense,” Williams exclaimed. “He really gets you in a defensive mode, with offense second. That’s what I needed in my career.”

Heat Notes: Whiteside, Ellington, McGruder, Fizdale

Heat center Hassan Whiteside is ready to go from target to recruiter in the free agent market, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Whiteside was one of the top names in free agency over the summer, attracting interest from several organizations before re-signing with the Heat for $98MM over four years. Now he wants to be part of the effort to bring other big names to Miami. “When you start being around those guys a lot more, when you’re making the All-Star Game and when you’re making those different events where you get to meet the best players and hang around, that’s especially when you can build a bond with a lot of those guys,” Whiteside said. “I think that’s where a lot of recruitment comes from.”

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • Wayne Ellington should return soon from the quad injury that has sidelined him since the final preseason game, Winderman writes in a separate piece. The Heat signed Ellington in July to a two-year deal worth more than $12MM to bolster their outside shooting.
  • The Heat’s injury problems have created more playing time for Rodney McGruder, writes Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. The rookie guard played more than 30 minutes twice this week, including some late-game experience. “It just puts you in those situations earlier than you ever would have expected,” he said. “I’m in a great situation with great teammates, a great coaching staff that believes in all of us. It makes it that much easier to go out there and play. For me, I just try to stay the course, and the minutes I do have — whatever they are — I treat them like crunch-time minutes. Because whenever you get out there those are important minutes.”
  • Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale says work ethic was the most important thing he learned during his time as an assistant under Erik Spoelstra, Navarro adds in the same story. Fizdale spent eight seasons in Miami before taking the Memphis job over the offseason. “I would put him against anybody in the league from the standpoint of preparation, time spent on watching film, really time spent on deep thought on what motivates his team, what guys to play,” Fizdale said of Spoelstra. “He’s a forward-thinking guy, really open minded, forward-thinking guy.”
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