Kevin Love

Heat Notes: Playoff Race, Love, Vincent, O. Robinson

The Heat are preparing for the most important week of the season in their effort to avoid the play-in tournament, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Miami is seventh in the East at 39-34, three-and-a-half games behind the Knicks and one game behind the Nets. The Heat will host New York on Wednesday and then will welcome Brooklyn on Saturday.

“It’s like our March madness, our April madness. It really is,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I see the similarities right now. Every game is a must-win. And if you’re a competitor, you have to love this. Maybe not exactly where we are and how we got here. It doesn’t matter.”

The Heat didn’t expect to be fighting for a playoff spot after posting the best record in the East last season, but a combination of injuries and inconsistent play has resulted in a disappointing year. Although the players would prefer the security that comes with a top-six finish, they believe they can be a tough playoff matchup from any spot.

“As long as we win, I think we’re going to be all right, no matter what place we’re in,” Jimmy Butler said, “whether we’re in the play-in, whether we’re the eight seed against the one. As long as you win, I don’t think you have too much to worry about.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • The Heat’s defense has imploded since the All-Star break, but the blame shouldn’t fall on new addition Kevin Love, Chiang adds in another Miami Herald story. Chiang notes that Miami’s defensive rating has actually been better with Love in the game, although that’s partially because he usually shares the court with Butler and Bam Adebayo.
  • Gabe Vincent is trying to avoid being distracted by his upcoming free agency, but he admits it’s on his mind, per Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Vincent has taken over as Miami’s starting point guard while Kyle Lowry has been dealing with knee pain. “I feel like I have established myself in this league and showed everyone, all 30 teams, that I can play and I can help a team win,” Vincent said. “So in terms of being stressed out about it, I’m going to leave that to my agent and let him deal with it and just do what I can to help the Miami Heat the remainder of this year.”
  • The Heat may not be done with Orlando Robinson, Winderman suggests in a separate story. He notes that Robinson is still eligible for four more NBA games on his two-way contract, and Spoelstra seems to have more confidence in him than Omer Yurtseven as the backup center. Winderman adds that Cody Zeller is likely to take that role whenever he returns from a broken nose.

Southeast Notes: Lowry, Robinson, Clifford, Davis

The Heat are trying to manage Kyle Lowry‘s knee issues and he’s trying to adjust to a second-unit role. Erik Spoelstra is seeing some benefits from Lowry coming off the bench, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes.

“We’re trying to figure this out, and it’s really more of a health issue than it is a performance issue or even strategy concern,” the Heat coach said. “Want to make sure that he continues to feel good and then we can hopefully scale more minutes. But what we saw the other night was one of those great benefits and luxuries of having a Hall of Fame point guard be able to organize that group.”

Lowry has averaged 19.5 minutes the last two games. The Heat have listed him as questionable for their game against Chicago on Saturday.

We have more Southeast Division tidbits:

  • Restoring Duncan Robinson to the Heat rotation is unlikely at this point, as Winderman explains in his latest mailbag. Robinson’s best shot at minutes would be to have Kevin Love and Gabe Vincent removed from the rotation, since Max Strus and Victor Oladipo are also fighting for playing time.
  • The Hornets have won only 22 games and they’re currently on a four-game losing streak, but coach Steve Clifford is still riding his players hard and warning them to not mentally check out the rest of the way, Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer reports. “I want us to try to play to win,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of individual messaging with guys about what they can concentrate on. I don’t want to just play it out. I don’t want to do that. I don’t think that’s smart to do.” Clifford’s status beyond this season is questionable with Michael Jordan looking to sell his stake in the franchise.
  • Lottery pick Johnny Davis hasn’t impacted the Wizards’ season but he’s received some notable playing time in the last two games. He enjoyed his best game of the season against Detroit with 11 points and five rebounds in a 19-minute stint, Josh Robbins of The Athletic notes. “He’s just kind of found a rhythm on the court, off the court (and with) NBA life,” Corey Kispert said. “It’s all hard to adjust to. He kind of settled into his daily routine. When your headspace is right off the floor, then your game just kind of follows.”

Southeast Notes: Porzingis, Cooks, Love, Carter

Wizards big man Kristaps Porzingis had perhaps the best offensive game of his career on Wednesday vs. Atlanta, scoring 43 points on 17-of-22 shooting. However, it wasn’t enough to hold off the Hawks, who pulled out a two-point comeback win in D.C.

As Ava Wallace of The Washington Post writes, Porzingis is one of two starting Wizards forwards – along with Kyle Kuzma – who can become free agents this offseason, and the team’s up-and-down play is a reminder that the way the rest of the season plays out could have a major impact on Washington’s future.

The franchise needs to assess the upside of its current big three (Porzingis, Kuzma, and Bradley Beal), while Porzingis and Kuzma will have to decide whether they believe the Wizards can become a contender. Porzingis, who has said that Washington’s performance the rest of this season will be a factor he considers as he weighs his future, wants to make sure the team’s effort level doesn’t wane in the next few weeks.

“What frustrates me the most is when we have been down or we’re not playing our best basketball and I don’t feel like we want it. I hate that. We were supposed to be the most hungry team out there, we haven’t done anything, we’re not even in the top-six playoff picture,” Porzingis said after a tight win over Detroit on Tuesday. “So I don’t like when we’re not hungry, that’s what bothers me the most. But if I see that, like the games we lost against Toronto and Milwaukee (on Saturday and Sunday)? I felt the hunger in us. I felt like we wanted it, we were going after it, we were fighting hard, it was a physical game — I can live with that. It’s only when we’re not fighting that it bothers me.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Sam Vecenie and Josh Robbins of The Athletic take a closer look at Xavier Cooks, exploring what the 27-year-old forward will bring to the Wizards. Cooks, who has been starring for the Sydney Kings of the NBL, is expected to sign with Washington in the coming days. Vecenie praises Cooks for his passing ability and defensive versatility, but suggests that he’ll need to improve his outside shooting if he hopes to establish himself as an NBA rotation player.
  • After not playing at all during his last few weeks in Cleveland, Kevin Love has started his first seven games and averaged 22.2 minutes per night for the Heat. However, he’s not getting the results he hoped for so far, posting a shooting line of just .396/.242/.875, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Nonetheless, head coach Erik Spoelstra still believes Love is a “great fit” for Miami’s starting five. “It’s a short period of time, but he really complements that starting group,” Spoelstra said.
  • Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. has missed three consecutive games due to left hip pain, but is optimistic about his chances of returning to action on Saturday vs. Miami, he tells Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel (subscriber-only link).

Kevin Love: Leaving Cavaliers Was “Incredibly Hard”

Kevin Love ended his time with the Cavaliers after nearly nine seasons when he accepted a buyout last month, but leaving Cleveland wasn’t an easy choice, he tells Chris Fedor of Love, who signed with the Heat, talked about the decision to move on after facing his former team for the first time Wednesday night.

“Professionally, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do without question,” Love said. “I think you guys know how much I love Cleveland and Ohio. All the fans there have always supported me and the team. Naturally, winning there makes it bigger than guys like myself, Kyrie (Irving), Bron (LeBron James). Even here I look up and see the championship banners and I’m like, ‘That’s special.’ I go back to Brecksville and I’m like, ‘We did that. We really did that.’ That was incredibly hard to do after eight and a half seasons.”

Although Love still feels a strong attachment to Cleveland, he wanted to find a situation where he could still play. Love had been out of the Cavs’ lineup since January 24, missing several games due to lower back pain and then being pulled from the rotation when Dean Wade returned from injury.

Love wasn’t effective this season and it became harder for coach J.B. Bickerstaff to find minutes for him. The 34-year-old forward shot just 38.9% from the floor in 41 games and was a glaring liability on defense as rival teams targeted him in the pick-and-roll. A lingering thumb injury also limited his effectiveness.

“I think it was a really tough decision for him to take me out of the lineup,” Love said of Bickerstaff. “I think they wanted to go young and stick with those guys, especially Ricky (Rubio) and Dean getting back from injury. They wanted to get the guys more minutes. But the natural frustration is you want to be out there, you want to have those conversations in the locker room, you want to be in those timeouts, those type of situations.

“I think it like all came so fast for me and there wasn’t any prospect of me going back out there and playing — and I wanted that. I was hungry for that. I was foaming at the mouth for that. Those were really tough conversations, but those are ones that I’m grateful they had with me so I was able to find something else and find a place where I could be happy and play.”

According to Fedor, Love reached out to Wade after finalizing his buyout to let him know there was no animosity and to encourage him to take advantage of his opportunity. He also talked to Rubio, his teammate in Minnesota before they reunited in Clevland, about taking over as the team’s veteran leader.

Love remains close to his former teammates and is still on their group text chat, Fedor adds. He greeted several of them before Wednesday’s game and said it’s an odd feeling to see them on the opposing sideline.

Winding up in Miami was an unexpected development for Love, who was hoping to retire in Cleveland. Now he’s adjusting to a new team that could potentially meet the Cavs in a playoff series.

“That’s in my mind and my vision, I thought it would be Cleveland without a doubt, especially after last year and the start of this year,” Love said. “Now you’ve got to put that in the rearview. It is tough after eight and a half years, moving in the middle of the season and still living out of a hotel, but in terms of welcoming me with open arms and a class organization, the Miami Heat have been just unbelievable. I can see why they have that rich history and have had so much success because they have been so good to me.”

Injury Notes: Zion, Towns, Lowry, Love, Doncic

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson remains sidelined indefinitely due to a right hamstring strain, and it doesn’t appear his return is imminent, Brian Windhorst of ESPN stated on the latest episode of his Hoop Collective podcast.

“He’s not close, I don’t think,” Windhorst said. “… I think his setback was significant, and so now you’re worried about a worse setback, so you’re going to be doubly cautious.”

While fellow ESPN reporter Marc J. Spears openly wondered whether Williamson might just be done for the season, Windhorst declined to go that far.

Still, with just four-and-a-half weeks left until the Pelicans’ regular season finale, time is running out for the star forward to return to action and make a meaningful impact in the playoff race. He hasn’t suited up for New Orleans since January 2.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • After indicating on Tuesday that there’s no timetable for Karl-Anthony Towns‘ return, Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch provided another update on Wednesday, telling Paul Allen on KFAN in Minnesota that Towns is set to take another step forward in his rehab. Today he’s going to have some live activity on the floor, the first time in forever,” Finch said (Twitter link via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic). “Some controlled, live action on the floor. I know he’s looking forward to that.”
  • Heat guard Kyle Lowry will miss his 14th consecutive game due to left knee soreness when Miami hosts the Cavaliers on Wednesday, but there’s still optimism he’ll return before the end of the season, and perhaps even within the next week, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. In other Heat injury news, Kevin Love (right rib contusion) has been upgraded to probable, so there’s a good chance he’ll be available to face his old team on Wednesday.
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who has missed a few games due to minor injuries this season, hasn’t played in both ends of a back-to-back set since mid-November. However, after logging 34 minutes on Tuesday vs. Utah, he’s not on Dallas’ injury report for Wednesday’s contest in New Orleans, so he should be available, tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Eastern Notes: Pistons Draft, Love, Raptors, Brunson

The Pistons shouldn’t hesitate to take guard Scoot Henderson if they get the No. 2 pick in the draft, The Athletic’s NBA draft analyst Sam Vecenie told Pistons beat reporter James Edwards III. In Vecenie’s view, Henderson is too talented to pass on, even though the franchise has drafted guards in the last three lotteries.

While Vecenie believes Alabama’s Brandon Miller is solidly the third-best player in the draft class, he says the Pistons shouldn’t reach beyond Henderson or trade the pick since Henderson is the type of competitor who can lift his team’s level of play on a nightly basis.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Heat play Kevin Love‘s former team on Wednesday but it’s uncertain whether the veteran power forward will suit up. He’s listed as questionable against Cleveland due to a rib contusion, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Love missed the Heat’s two-point win over Atlanta on Monday.
  • The Raptors lost to the Western Conference-leading Nuggets on Monday but coach Nick Nurse was encouraged by what he saw, according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “We play like that and we can beat anybody, doesn’t matter if it’s home or away or where they are in the standings, etc,” Nurse said. “Probably outplayed ’em, to be honest and think we executed very, very well.” Toronto lost 118-113 in a game marred by a controversial late ejection of Scottie Barnes.
  • Jalen Brunson was sidelined for the second straight game on Tuesday with a sore left foot, Tim Bomtemps of ESPN tweets. However, it appears the Knicks point guard could be back soon. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Brunson is feeling better, and will be going on the four-game road trip that begins Thursday in Sacramento.

Heat Notes: Martin, Zeller, Love, Haslem

Caleb Martin provided 21 points in 28 minutes off the bench in the Heat‘s victory over Atlanta on Monday. Martin has been a solid contributor all season and his teammates appreciate his hard work, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.

“Caleb has been probably the bright spot on our team,” center Bam Adebayo said. “Through the ups and downs, he’s always been consistent. And he’s one of those guys that you can always rely on. He’s going to play hard. He’s going to try to make the right plays.”

Martin is in the first year of a three-year, $20.4MM contract that includes a player option in 2024/25.

We have more on the Heat:

  • Cody Zeller has played seven games since joining the Heat as the backup center last month. Zeller, who was out of the league until Miami picked him up, feels comfortable playing limited minutes, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. “I’m still feeling a little rusty with some of my reads and stuff. But overall, I’ve been pretty pleased with where I’m at. I’m still only playing 15 minutes per game. It’s shorter minutes, so I should be able to play even harder. So yeah, it’s been good so far.”
  • Kevin Love missed Monday’s game with a rib contusion but X-rays were negative, Chiang tweets. It’s not considered to be a long-term issue. Love is averaging 7.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in six starts since signing with the club.
  • The team has planned a variety of tributes for forward Udonis Haslem, who is retiring after the season. Haslem told Chiang he hopes the Heat can make another playoff run but he won’t have any regrets, regardless of how the season plays out. “I’m done,” Haslem said. “I’m done no matter what happens. I gave my contribution. I think at this stage, there needs to be another voice for these guys. It’s time for somebody to step up and be the voice.”

Heat’s Omer Yurtseven On Verge Of Season Debut

Heat center Omer Yurtseven will be available on Monday versus Atlanta in what would mark his 2022/23 season debut, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. The second-year big man underwent left ankle surgery in November to address an impingement, bone spur and stress reaction.

Yurtseven was assigned to the G League last week as he ramped up his activity and closed in on his debut. In two games with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Miami’s affiliate, the 24-year-old averaged an impressive 27.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists, Chiang notes.

It was really long and really grueling,” Yurtseven said of his rehab process. “It feels amazing playing those two games back-to-back. Playing 70 minutes total and afterwards feeling fine, feels amazing.”

Yurtseven, who can become a restricted free agent in the offseason, had a strong rookie showing, averaging 5.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in just 12.6 minutes per contest (56 games). That included one 10-game stretch filling in as a starter for Bam Adebayo when the Turkish center averaged 13.6 points, 13.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.0 steal.

However, Yurtseven might not be guaranteed any minutes on Monday. As Chiang writes, Cody Zeller has done a nice job as the primary backup center since signing a rest-of-season deal with the Heat.

It’s impressive, what Cody has done,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You just already can see it, optically, and you can feel it. He fits. He complements our guys. He’s a hard-playing dude. He really competes. He lets it all out there and even just the diving, going after loose balls, the rebounding, the extra effort. It becomes inspiring. Offensively, he’s just really smart, so he can run our offense very well.”

In other Heat-related news, Kevin Love will be out on Monday with a rib contusion, Chiang adds in the same story.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Ressler, Wagner, Martin, Heat

As we outlined on Friday, Hawks owner Tony Ressler conducted a series of media interviews this week to discuss the team’s recent front office and head coaching changes. We passed along a few highlights from his discussions with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but Ressler also spoke on Friday to Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, who pushed him a little harder on the role that his son Nick Ressler has within the Hawks’ front office.

Reporting from The Athletic earlier this year suggested that Nick Ressler – Atlanta’s director of business and basketball operations – had gained “increasing influence” in the Hawks’ front office and that not everyone was comfortable with that. Pressed on the issue by Schultz, Tony Ressler pushed back on the notion that his son has an outsized voice in decision-making and that other executives aren’t happy with Nick’s role.

“Who? Do they still work here?” the Hawks’ owner responded when Schultz said The Athletic had spoken to people who were uncomfortable with his son’s level of influence. “Look, the idea that you’re using former employees for a narrative that is untrue. The simple answer is we have a front office today that works beautifully, where Nick is one of many voices and frankly an unbelievably positive and supportive voice. And if you ask anyone who works here they would tell you yes.

“… We have a fairly large basketball ops that values a whole bunch of voices and Nick’s one of them. … What he is is a great kid who works his ass off and is one of the many voices that feed into (assistant GM) Kyle (Korver) and (GM) Landry (Fields).

“Am I partial? Maybe. But if I didn’t think he was a positive influence to this franchise, he wouldn’t be here. … It’s very important to me that perception is similar to reality. When you say I give a disproportionate amount of influence to my son, that’s just a f—ing lie, because I would be running a lesser business than I’m capable of.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The Magic lost their second-leading scorer on Friday, as Franz Wagner left the game in Charlotte early due to a left ankle sprain. According to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel, X-rays on the ankle were negative, which is good news, but Wagner still may have to miss some time as a result of the injury.
  • Kevin Love has started all five games since he arrived in Miami, but the Heat have lost four of those games and the new starting five of Love, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Gabe Vincent has a net rating of minus-9.4 so far. As Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes, that same group with former starter Caleb Martin in Love’s place has a plus-18.6 net rating this season. For his part, Martin is still getting used to his new bench role. “It’s a little different, man,” he said on Friday. “… It’s just adjusting to whatever is going on. It’s also more of a role of gassing yourself out, being that spark coming off the bench as opposed to maintaining.”
  • The much-vaunted Heat culture is being tested by the team’s inconsistent performances as of late, with Butler suggesting after Friday’s loss to New York that Miami needs to play with more urgency. “We really get bored with the process and I can’t tell you why. We play hard and sometimes we get back in the game like we did tonight and sometimes we don’t,” Butler said, according to Chiang. “But either way it goes, if we just play basketball the right way the entire game, I don’t think we’re in this situation more often than not. But for some odd reason, we think it’s going to be easy so we just go out there and go through the motions.”

Atlantic Notes: Harris, G. Williams, Sixers, Barton, VanVleet

Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris entered this season having started almost every game he had played since 2018/19 and having averaged 30 or more minutes per night in four consecutive seasons. However, he finds himself coming off the bench in Brooklyn and is logging just 23.0 minutes per night on the season — that number has dipped to 13.6 MPG since the trade deadline.

Harris, who missed most of last season due to ankle issues, isn’t pushing back against his role reduction, as Andrew Crane of The New York Post writes. In fact, the 31-year-old is exhibiting an admirable level of self-awareness about his own limitations, suggesting he’s evolving into more of a “second-unit sort of player” and admitting that he’s not recovering as quickly from minor injuries as he did when he was younger.

“I just am not the same player that I was two, three years ago. It’s not to say that I’m less of a player,” Harris said, adding that he believes he can still be a contributor on a good team. “But I just have to kind of evolve and figure it out.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics forward Grant Williams received his first DNP-CD of the season on Wednesday in a four-point win over Cleveland. Asked after the game why Williams didn’t play at all, head coach Joe Mazzulla simply replied, “Matchups” (Twitter link via Jared Weiss of The Athletic). Williams is in a contract year and will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer.
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers confirmed on Wednesday that Philadelphia had interest in Kevin Love before the veteran forward signed with the Heat. “We tried to get him too. I know it was us and Miami, probably one other team,” Rivers said (Twitter link via Rich Hofmann of The Athletic). “He’s just a solid player. More importantly, if it hadn’t worked here, if he hadn’t played well, you still want him in the locker room.”
  • Raptors assistant coach Earl Watson, who played with Will Barton in Portland in 2013/14, was a factor in Barton’s decision to sign with Toronto, per Josh Lewenberg of “Me and Earl have a very strong relationship,” Barton said on Wednesday. “So, I trust him a lot.”
  • Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet made just 1-of-11 shots in his return to the lineup on Tuesday. However, he didn’t turn the ball over and helped jump-start the team’s outside shooting with his knack for making the right pass, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who argues that VanVleet’s impact even on an off night shows why Toronto needs to prioritize re-signing him this offseason.