KZ Okpala

Eight Heat Players Unavailable Due To COVID-19 Protocols

3:58pm: In addition to Bradley, the Heat will be without the following players for Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Reynolds (Twitter link): Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Maurice Harkless, Udonis Haslem, and KZ Okpala.

That would leave the team with nine available players, assuming everyone else is healthy. Meyers Leonard (shoulder) is currently listed as questionable, while Kelly Olynyk (groin) and Gabe Vincent (knee) are probable, Reynolds notes (via Twitter).


2:14pm: The Heat are preparing to be without “at least five” players for the next several days due to possible exposure to the coronavirus, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Miami didn’t have the required minimum of eight players available on Sunday due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. As a result, the team’s scheduled game in Boston was postponed. Subsequently, the Heat spent Sunday and Monday awaiting the results of the NBA’s contact tracing investigation to find out which players may be required to self-isolate for the next week, says Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Heat are arranging for the players who need to self-isolate due to contact tracing to fly back to Miami on a private plane. The player who tested positive for COVID-19 will be sequestered in a hotel, while the rest of the team flies to Philadelphia in anticipation of playing vs. the Sixers.

Based on Winderman’s report, it sounds like the Heat expect to have enough players to resume their schedule on Tuesday vs. Philadelphia, though we don’t know yet who will and won’t be available. Avery Bradley‘s absence due to the league’s health and safety protocols was the only one reported on Sunday — all signs point to Bradley being the player who tested positive for the coronavirus, Winderman notes, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Harden, Bradley, Richards, Anthony

When they were exploring a possible James Harden trade before the start of the season, the Heat were open to including “a couple” of their young players and their 2025 first-round pick in a package for the star guard, says Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. However, the Rockets‘ asking price was significantly higher.

According to Jackson, even if the Heat had offered Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala, and first-round picks in 2025 and 2027 (along with Andre Iguodala and Kelly Olynyk for salary-matching purposes), it’s not clear that would have been enough to satisfy the Rockets.

The Heat reportedly pulled out of Harden discussions on December 21. Jackson writes that team president Pat Riley thinks highly of Harden, but would only be willing to make a deal for the Rockets star at “a price that’s palatable to him and the organization.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Avery Bradley‘s defense has been as strong as advertised, and he’s also making an impact on offense in his first season with the Heat, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Bradley’s play in the early going has impressed his teammates, as well as head coach Erik Spoelstra. “Avery is a guy that can play in any system,” Spoelstra said. “As long as it’s a contending team, he fits. He’s a really good basketball player. He’s a winner. And he’s a two-way player, a legit two-way player.”
  • Rookie Hornets center Nick Richards has been ruled inactive for today’s game against the Hawks due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, the team announced (via Twitter). It’s not clear how long those protocols will keep Richards out of action, but it shouldn’t have an impact on Charlotte’s rotation, as he has logged just 11 total minutes so far this season.
  • The Magic have a spotty player development over the last decade, having set the franchise back years by failing to get the most out of the likes of Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, and others, according Josh Robbins of The Athletic, who examines how the team is looking to avoid repeating those failures with 2020 first-rounder Cole Anthony.

Southeast Notes: Okpala, Strus, Hornets, Monk

Heat forward KZ Okpala is making a strong case to be in the team’s rotation this season, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. Okpala, the No. 32 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, played in just five games last season, but the 21-year-old has impressed teammates and staffers alike during training camp.

“His physical tools are what impressed us, in particular the scouting department with Chet [Kammerer] and Adam [Simon] and Eric Amsler and Keith [Askins],” coach Erik Spoelstra said of why the team drafted Okpala. “They all just really thought it was unique how he can move his feet for someone his size. Then his length and he can seem bigger even than what he is. But he had to learn our system, learn the NBA and get in great shape and then be available day after day. 

“This has really been a process since the quarantine in May and June when he was really working just to get his body right doing a lot of player development. That’s a credit to his work and consistency. … I would say he’s probably, considering everything, he probably was arguably top-three best conditioned going into camp, which was important and much different than his previous camp last year.”

Okpala, a 6’8″ forward, could help fill the holes left by Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr., both of whom left in free agency. The Heat lack clarity on a starting five; they could choose to start Meyers Leonard alongside Bam Adebayo, as they did at the beginning of last season, or they could play small and start one of Okpala, Maurice Harkless or Andre Iguodala. The team could also give rookie Precious Achiuwa a shot in the lineup depending on his play.

Okpala had his best game in a Heat uniform on Friday, scoring 24 points, grabbing five rebounds and shooting 9-of-15 from the floor in 34 minutes of work.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • In a separate story for the Miami Herald, Anthony Chiang examines how Max Strus earned a two-way contract with the Heat. Strus, a 24-year-old sharpshooter, finished with 22 points off the bench on Friday, shooting 6-of-8 from 3-point range. He split time between Chicago and Windy City during the 2019/20 season.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic previews the Hornets‘ upcoming season, examining what steps the team could take with the additions of Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball. Charlotte finished just 23-42 last season and ranked 29th in the NBA in offensive efficiency (106.3).
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines Malik Monk‘s future with the Hornets. Charlotte drafted Monk, 22, with the No. 11 pick in 2017, but he’s struggled to gain a rhythm early in his career. He shot under 40% from the field in both of his first two seasons, managing to raise the mark to 43% last season — though his 28% shooting from deep was a career-low.

Heat Notes: Okpala, Two-Way Players, Nunn, Adebayo

The precarious nature of a bubble environment could force the Heat to rely on young players who haven’t seen much court time so far, notes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The team is intrigued by the development of second-round pick KZ Okpala, who missed the early part of the season with a strained Achilles tendon but showed promise in 20 G League games and five games with Miami.

“Once mid-January came around, we saw the strides,” said Adam Simon, vice president/basketball operations and assistant general manager. “He was feeling more comfortable with the ball in his hands. The game was slowing down for him. The greatest things he was doing were on the defensive end, making an impact guarding multiple positions. At times, he was switched onto (centers), guarding both forward positions, being versatile, doing a great job on the glass. All those things were positives.”

There’s more Heat news to pass along:

  • Jackson also looks at two-way players Gabe Vincent and Kyle Alexander, who were both dealing with knee injuries when the G League season was cut short. The NBA has discussed making two-way players eligible for the postseason this year. Simon proclaims Vincent “good to go,” while Alexander is expected to be ready if the season resumes at the end of July. “(Vincent) was determined to not use (the injury) as an excuse,” Simon said of the rookie point guard. “He has the qualities we looked for — being a real gym rat, a real hard working kid with great character, well liked wherever he’s been, good teammate, unselfish.”
  • Kendrick Nunn admits he hit the “rookie wall” as the season dragged on, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. Rest from the hiatus should benefit Nunn, who has never had to deal with the rigors of an NBA schedule. “One thing that I want to improve on going into my second season is how I maintain my body, to be able to be prepared for that full season,” he said. “There was a time in this season where I felt my body had hit a wall, and that’s just because I wasn’t used to playing that many games.”
  • Bam Adebayo has concerns about the possible spread of COVID-19 no matter when the season resumes, according to The Associated Press, saying the conditions surrounding the game are naturally unsanitary. “Some players like Steve Nash used to lick his hands,” Adebayo said. “Some people still have that in their routine. Some people wipe the sweat off their face and put it on the ball. It’s going to be weird how they try to control it, because we have to touch each other. And then you have to worry about the family members that we may be touching.”

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/18/20

Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Clippers have assigned Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann to the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, the team announced. Kabengele was the team’s first-round draft pick back in June.
  • The Rockets have assigned Chris Clemons and Isaiah Hartenstein to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Fox 26’s Mark Berman tweets. Hartenstein, who is one of two seven-footers on the team, has started two games for the NBA club this season.
  • The Lakers have assigned Talen Horton-Tucker to the G League, according to the league’s transaction log. Horton-Tucker was the team’s only draft pick back in June.
  • The Nets have assigned Dzanan Musa to the Long Island Nets. Musa has appeared in 35 NBA games this season.
  • KZ Okpala has been sent to the G League by the Heat, per the league’s transaction log. Okpala was selected in the second round of the 2019 draft.
  • The Suns have sent Jalen Lecque to the Northern Arizona Suns. The rookie has appeared in just four games for the NBA club this season.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/10/20

Here are Monday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • The Magic have recalled second-year shooting guard Melvin Frazier Jr. from their Lakeland G League affiliate, per the team’s social media. Frazier has logged time in 14 games with the Magic this season.
  • The Pacers have recalled rookie center Goga Bitadze from their G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team announced. Bitadze has appeared in 42 games for Indiana.
  • The Thunder have assigned rookie small forward Isaiah Roby to the Oklahoma City Blue, according to a team press release. Roby is averaging 9.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.18 SPG and 1.09 BPG in 20.4 minutes over 11 G League contests.
  • The Heat have sent rookie small forward KZ Okpala to their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the team noted on social media. Okpala has appeared in five games for Miami.
  • The Wizards have recalled guards Gary Payton II and John Wall from the Capital City Go-Go, per the G League. Payton has appeared in 21 games for Washington this season. The Wizards are also sending rookie forward Admiral Schofield to the Go-Go.
  • The Nets have assigned second-year wing Dzanan Musa to their Long Island G League club, according to the G League.
  • The Jazz have sent 25-year-old rookie point guard Nigel Williams-Goss to the Salt Lake City Stars, per the G League.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/4/20

Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 12/12/19

Here are Thursday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Celtics have assigned Romeo Langford to the Maine Red Claws, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Carsen Edwards was also sent to the G League.
  • The Heat have assigned KZ Okpala to their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Sky Force, per the team’s Twitter feed. Okpala was Miami’s second-round pick this past offseason.
  • The Wolves have assigned Naz Reid to the Iowa Wolves, the team announced via Twitter. The big man has appeared in 2 games for Minnesota this season, seeing a total of four minutes.

Heat Notes: Free Agency, Leonard, Okpala, Mooney

The Heat won’t be in the market for any of the remaining free agents unless they trade someone from their current roster, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The hard cap that the team has been operating under since the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade has put a severe limit on its flexibility. Miami is already uncomfortably close to its $138.9MM limit.

That means potential additions such as Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony are off the table unless the Heat make another move to open space. They could release Kendrick Nunn, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed, but Winderman considers that unlikely. If they decide to trade someone in exchange for a lesser salary, Winderman identifies Meyers Leonard, who will earn $11.3MM this season, as a possibility. He adds that they may try to move Goran Dragic by the deadline or save their next significant moves for next summer.

There’s more this morning from Miami:

  • Second-round pick KZ Okpala wouldn’t object to spending time in the G League if it’s necessary to get consistent playing time, relays Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Jackson notes that a similar path worked for Josh Richardson, who played four games for Sioux Falls as a second-round pick in 2015. “I trust the staff and whatever they say is best,” Okpala said. “I believe in that and will go into it with a good foot forward.”
  • Free agent guard Matt Mooney, who agreed to sign an Exhibit 10 deal with the Grizzlies last week, received the same offer from the Heat, Jackson notes in the same story. It’s a similar situation to Rayjon Tucker, who recently joined the Bucks, as both players worked out for Miami and were interested in two-way contracts. However, the Heat have decided to let players in training camp compete for two-way deals.
  • Jackson rates the Heat’s potential interest in six players recently identified by former Hawks GM Wes Wilcox as among the most likely to be traded: Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Bradley Beal, Andrew Wiggins, Andre Iguodala and Devin Booker. Miami’s interest in Beal is well known, and he would be at the top of the list if he becomes available. The Heat had discussions about Paul, but won’t make a deal unless they get their two first-round picks back from Oklahoma City. Jackson doesn’t believe Miami would want Love because of his age, contract and injury history, while Iguodala fits better on an immediate contender. However, Jackson sees Booker and Wiggins as possible targets in the future if the Heat can’t land another star in free agency.

Heat Sign KZ Okpala To Three-Year Deal

The Heat have signed second-round pick KZ Okpala to a three-year deal, per Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). The contract will be a minimum salary arrangement.

The contract will count against Miami’s mid-level exception since the franchise went beyond two seasons. All three years of the contract will be guaranteed, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel tweets. As a result of making his deal a three-year pact, the Heat will own Okpala’s full Bird Rights once it expires.

Miami currently projects to be over the tax line, so the team will likely have the taxpayer’s mid-level ($5.7MM) at its disposal. Outside of Okpala, the team has not yet used any of this exception.

Okpala was selected with the No. 32 overall pick by the Suns (Phoenix had sent it to the Pacers in the T.J. Warren trade). Indiana agreed to pass Okpala’s draft rights on to the Heat in exchange for three second-round picks (2022, 2025, and 2026).