Heat Rumors

Heat Notes: Butler, Martin, Jovic, Lowry, Highsmith

Friday marks Jimmy Butler‘s fifth consecutive absence due to right knee soreness, and he’s likely out Sunday at Atlanta as well. However, the expectation is that the 33-year-old forward will return for Wednesday’s game at Boston, according to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (free account required).

In addition to Butler, Duncan Robinson (left ankle sprain) and Max Strus (right shoulder impingement) continue to deal with their own injuries, Winderman notes. Robinson has now missed three straight, while Friday is Strus’ second straight missed game.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • After signing a three-year, $20.4MM to remain with Miami in the offseason, forward Caleb Martin continues to make progress as a player, Winderman writes for The Sun Sentinel. “Caleb has grown and changed from what he was previously, before,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I still think he’s going to have a game where he’ll be flirting with some triple-doubles, just the way he’s getting into dribble handoffs, the way he can get shooters open shots. There’s going to be one of those nights where he’s just going to fall into all of those being makes, and you’ll look up and he’s going to have eight assists with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. I told him the big thing is can he get 10 rebounds. I know he can get the points and assists. He has a knack for the ball, so he’s going to be able to get that as well.” The 27-year-old has hit his stride over the last six games (39.5 minutes), averaging 15.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks on .515/.452/.800 shooting.
  • Rookie Nikola Jovic has flashed intriguing potential as an injury-replacement starter, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (subscriber link). The 19-year-old forward has a lot of work to do defensively, but the Heat are pleased with how he’s developing early on in 2022/23. “He has really good offensive instincts not only as a passer but as a screener, how to get into open spaces, how to execute different things and then his passing and his vision,” Spoelstra said. “As soon as he got here, that was probably his No. 1 strength — his ability to make other guys better. And he’s not afraid of the moment. So he’s comfortable out there, he’s earning the respect of everybody in the locker room and he’s earning his stripes right now.”
  • Miami continues to be ravaged by injuries, which is the primary reason the team has lost four of its last five games, but Kyle Lowry has been playing some of his best basketball in a Heat uniform, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Haywood Highsmith‘s defense and Martin’s all-around game have also been positives with Miami severely shorthanded, Jackson observes. The Heat are currently 8-11, the No. 12 seed in the East.

Heat Waive Orlando Robinson, Sign Dru Smith To Two-Way Deal

The Heat have waived two-way center Orlando Robinson and signed guard Dru Smith to fill his two-way spot, the team announced (via Twitter).

Just a couple of weeks ago, those roles were reversed, as Smith had made the opening night roster on a two-way deal but then was waived in favor of Robinson when the team’s frontcourt was hit hard by injuries.

According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link), head coach Erik Spoelstra said the team still likes Robinson, but the Heat currently need wing depth, so that’s why Smith was promoted from their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

In three games (34.0 MPG) with the Skyforce during the G League’s ongoing Showcase Cup tournament, the 6’3″ Smith has filled up the stat sheet, averaging 17.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 3.0 SPG and 1.3 BPG on .488/.421/.800 shooting. He made one cameo appearance for the Heat on October 26 for his NBA debut, recording two points and one rebound in less than six minutes of action.

Robinson, an undrafted rookie out of Fresno State, averaged 7.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 1.0 SPG in two games (20.0 MPG) with the Heat. If he goes unclaimed on waivers, he could be headed back to Sioux Falls.

Heat Notes: Lowry, Spoelstra, Cain, O. Robinson

The Heat never planned to have Kyle Lowry rank second in the league in minutes played, but early-season injuries have forced them into that situation, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Through 18 games, Lowry has logged 656 minutes, just four behind league leader Kevin Durant. The veteran guard had to play at least 44 minutes twice on the team’s recent four-game road trip, including a 51-minute outing last Friday at Washington.

“I can’t say enough about Kyle Lowry and that’s why he has that reputation that he does as a winner,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s dealing with his stuff, too, and he’s just, ‘I’m available, coach. Whatever you need from me. If you need me to play 48, I’ll play 48.’ And he’s basically been doing that every single game on this road trip. It’s not something I like to do sitting in this head coaching chair. That’s where we are right now.”

With Max Strus sidelined tonight, Lowry is the only Heat player to have appeared in every game. He has been able to stay healthy after dealing with a strained hamstring last postseason and is answering critics who’ve raised questions about his conditioning.

“For me, it’s about playing basketball and doing my job at the highest level I can possibly do it at,” Lowry said. “At the end of the day, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to play basketball the rest of my life. I want to play, I still enjoy it and I have fun doing it.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • The Heat have been short-handed for much of the season, and Spoelstra is hoping some of his players will be able to return soon even if they’re not 100 percent, Chiang adds in a separate story. “Maybe they can give us a little bit of reinforcement even if it’s just short minutes,” Spoelstra said. “That’s where we are right now. Just give us whatever you have, whatever you have just give us. If you’re used to playing 30 minutes, give us 15. If you’re used to playing 20 minutes, give us eight. So we can kind of manage things right now.”
  • Jamal Cain, who earned a two-way contract after going undrafted, saw late-game minutes Monday instead of first-round pick Nikola Jovic, notes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. “He has a great, positive spirit every single day,” Spoelstra said of Cain. “It doesn’t change whether he’s having a good day, a bad day, an in-between day. You have no idea. He always has the same approach, a great enthusiasm for the work. And that’s why he’s going to continue to get better.”
  • Orlando Robinson found there wasn’t much demand for an “old school” big man in the draft, but he’s getting a chance to prove himself after signing a two-way deal earlier this month, Winderman states in another piece.

Injury Updates: Tatum, Herro, Barnes, Langford, More

The Celtics will have star forward Jayson Tatum on the court for tonight’s showdown with the Mavericks, according to Souichi Terada of MassLive.

Tatum was listed as questionable after hurting his left ankle in Monday’s game at Chicago, but coach Joe Mazzulla told reporters that he’ll be able to play without any limitations. Tatum appeared to be moving normally during shootaround, Terada observes.

Tatum is among the early favorites in the MVP race, averaging 30.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists while playing 37.2 minutes per game, the most in his career. He has led Boston to the best start in the league at 13-4.

There’s more injury-related news to pass along:

  • Tyler Herro will return for the Heat tonight after missing eight games with a sprained left ankle, the team announced (via Twitter). Max Strus was downgraded to out due to a shoulder injury, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link).
  • Raptors forward Scottie Barnes will miss tonight’s game with a sprained left knee, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Fred VanVleet is sidelined with an illness, so Toronto is down to 10 available players.
  • Spurs guard Romeo Langford has been cleared to return tonight after missing five games while in the health and safety protocols. Josh Richardson will miss the game after suffering a sprained ankle in Tuesday’s practice (Twitter link), and Zach Collins has been downgraded from probable to out as he recovers from a non-displaced fracture of his fibula (Twitter link). Coach Gregg Popovich sounded optimistic when asked if Collins is close to returning. “Yes, I guess is the answer,” he replied. “He’s just not ready yet. We thought he might be, but he’s not.” Popovich also refused to provide any details about the illness that forced him to miss Sunday’s game, telling reporters, “I’m fine,” Orsborn tweets.
  • Dean Wade, who missed the past six games with knee soreness, will come off the Cavaliers‘ bench tonight and will be on a minutes restriction, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).
  • Nets forward Yuta Watanabe will be sidelined through at least Friday with a hamstring issue, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. An MRI taken Tuesday night confirmed the injury (Twitter link), but Watanabe doesn’t seem concerned. “It’s not that serious,” he said. “… It’s day to day. We’ll see how long it takes.” (Twitter link)
  • Mavericks coach Jason Kidd is optimistic that Maxi Kleber, who’s dealing with a lower back contusion, will be available Saturday or Sunday, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

Motion Filed To Terminate Arena Naming Agreement

  • Jamal Cain, one of the Heat‘s two-way players, says that being a 23-year-old rookie makes him better prepared for the ups and downs of his pro career than a younger newcomer, he told Spencer Davies of Basketball News in a lengthy feature. “When you’re young, you want everything to come so fast, you want everything to be perfect,” Cain said. “But after going through college and going through those ups and downs and realizing that my journey is going to be tough… it’s not going to be all perfect.” Cain has appeared in five games with Miami this season.
  • Miami-Dade County has filed a motion in federal court to immediately terminate the FTX Arena naming rights agreement, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. The Heat and Miami-Dade County chose to sever ties with cryptocurrency giant FTX after the company filed for bankruptcy.

11 Players Affected By Poison Pill Provision In 2022/23

The term “poison pill” doesn’t actually show up in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it’s used colloquially to refer to a provision in the CBA that affects players who recently signed rookie scale contract extensions.

As we explain in our glossary entry, the so-called poison pill provision applies when a player who signed a rookie scale extension is traded before the extension takes effect.

In that scenario, the player’s incoming value for the receiving team for matching purposes is determined by averaging his current-year salary and the salaries in each year of his new extension. His current team, on the other hand, simply treats his current-year salary as the outgoing figure for matching purposes.

For instance, Heat guard Tyler Herro is earning a $5,722,116 salary in 2022/23, but signed a four-year, $120MM extension that will begin in ’23/24. Therefore, if Miami wanted to trade Herro this season, his outgoing value for salary-matching purposes would be $5,722,116 (this year’s salary), while his incoming value for the team acquiring him would be $25,144,423 (this year’s salary, plus the $120MM extension, divided by five years).

[RELATED: 2022 NBA Rookie Scale Extension Recap]

Most of the players who signed rookie scale extensions aren’t candidates to be traded anytime soon. But even in the event that a team does want to look into trading one of these recently extended players, the gap between the player’s incoming trade value and outgoing trade value could make it a real challenge to find a deal that works for both sides.

The “poison pill” provision applies to 11 players who signed rookie scale extensions in 2022. Here are those players, along with their outgoing salaries and incoming salaries for trade purposes:

Player Team Outgoing trade value Incoming trade value
Zion Williamson NOP $13,534,817 $34,639,136
Ja Morant MEM $12,119,440 $34,403,240
RJ Barrett NYK $10,900,635 $23,580,127
De’Andre Hunter ATL $9,835,881 $19,967,176
Darius Garland CLE $8,920,795 $33,870,133
Tyler Herro MIA $5,722,116 $25,144,423
Brandon Clarke MEM $4,343,920 $10,868,784
Nassir Little POR $4,171,548 $6,434,310
Jordan Poole GSW $3,901,399 $26,380,280
Keldon Johnson SAS $3,873,025 $15,574,605
Kevin Porter Jr. HOU $3,217,631 $15,234,726

Once the 2023/24 league year begins, the poison pill provision will no longer apply to these players. At that time, the player’s ’23/24 salary would represent both his outgoing and incoming value.

Until then though, the gap between those outgoing and incoming figures will make it tricky for these players to be moved, with one or two exceptions.

The small difference between Little’s incoming and outgoing trade figures, for instance, wouldn’t be very problematic if the Blazers wanted to trade him. But the much larger divide between Poole’s incoming and outgoing numbers means there’s virtually no chance he could be moved to an over-the-cap team in 2022/23, even if the Warriors wanted to.

Trade Rumors: Collins, Jazz, Clarkson, Fournier, Robinson, More

Many around the NBA thought it was a foregone conclusion that John Collins would be moved ahead of the draft this past summer, and Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack article that the Hawks power forward was “very nearly” dealt to the Kings in June.

Sources tell Stein that there’s “momentum building on all sides” for Collins to be traded during the 2022/23 season, so his name should be “right at the top of the list” of players most likely to be dealt before the February 9 deadline.

Stein confirms that the Jazz have shown interest in Collins, and that’s a noteworthy pivot for a team that many believed would be tanking and a frontrunner for a top lottery pick after dealing away Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and other veterans.

Speaking of Utah, a rival executive tells Stein that he thinks the Jazz are more likely to extend Jordan Clarkson‘s contract than trade him. Michael Scotto of HoopsHype hears similarly, saying there’s “palpable buzz” about a potential Clarkson extension.

Here are a few more trade rumors from Scotto, who takes a look at the top trade candidates for each NBA team:

  • The Knicks are reluctant to part with a first-round pick to move off Evan Fournier‘s contract, sources tell Scotto. Fournier has fallen out of New York’s rotation after a prolonged shooting slump and is owed $18MM this season and $18.9MM in 2023/24. In addition to Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley, rival executives also believe that second-year guard Miles McBride is available due to the team’s backcourt logjam, per Scotto.
  • The Heat have made Duncan Robinson available in trade talks, sources tell Scotto. That’s hardly surprising since Robinson, like Fournier, has struggled and fallen out of the rotation at times in ’22/23. The problem is Miami would almost certainly have to attach assets to deal Robinson, who is owed $57.5MM over the next three seasons, and it remains to be seen whether the Heat are willing to do so.
  • Echoing a previous report, Scotto writes that the Lakers were trying to offload Russell Westbrook to the Spurs for Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson before the season started. While LJ Ellis of SpursTalk.com stated that the Lakers were only willing to attach two second-round picks to Westbrook’s enormous expiring contract, Scotto hears the Lakers offered a lottery-protected first-rounder and the Spurs wanted that pick to be unprotected, which caused the talks to stall.
  • Center Nerlens Noel is not expected to finish the ’22/23 season with the Pistons, according to Scotto. It’s unclear if Scotto means he’ll be bought out at some point or moved in a trade, since Noel’s $9.2MM contract doesn’t have positive value given how many injuries he’s dealt with the past couple seasons.

Heat Notes: Adebayo, Jovic, Robinson, Butler, Herro, Tax Concerns

The current road trip is turning into a disaster for the short-handed Heat, but Sunday’s loss at Cleveland gave coach Erik Spoelstra a chance to experiment with a new lineup combination, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. First-round pick Nikola Jovic played 17 minutes alongside Bam Adebayo, giving the team two big men who are known for their passing skills.

Although the pairing didn’t get off to a great start — Miami was outscored by four points in their time on the court together — it may be a combination that Spoelstra turns to more often in the future. Adebayo attributed the early struggles to “growing pains” and said he enjoys being partnered with Jovic.

“I feel like with two passing bigs, we can feed off each other,” Adebayo said. “As you can see, (Jovic is) showing he can get in the gaps, he can see stuff. Just working with two guys that can pass, who are versatile, I feel like it makes our offense better.”

There’s more on the Heat:

  • The last thing Miami needed was another injury, but Duncan Robinson limped off the court in the fourth quarter after spraining his left ankle, Chiang states in a separate story. Robinson played 21 minutes after missing Friday’s game with a sprained right hand, but he had to leave Sunday’s contest after stepping on another player’s foot. Spoelstra said Robinson’s status for tonight’s game in Minnesota is uncertain.
  • The Heat got some good news about Jimmy Butler, who had to return to Miami over the weekend due to right knee soreness, Chiang adds. Tests on Butler’s knee showed no damage, and there’s a chance he could return Wednesday or Friday. Tyler Herro has missed the past seven games with a sprained left ankle, and Spoelstra said, “He’s not quite ready.” 
  • Miami had just seven healthy players on Friday and 10 on Sunday, but luxury tax concerns have prevented the team from filling its open roster spot, Chiang explains in another piece. The Heat are about $200K below the threshold and can’t add another player right now without becoming a taxpaying team. Even a small tax payment this season would have repeater tax ramifications going forward — the team projects to be a taxpayer in upcoming years after signing Herro to a large extension last month.

Heat Notes: Lowry, Zone Defense, Injury Report

With the Heat facing an extensive injury list for Friday’s game at Washington, Kyle Lowry told the coaching staff he was good for 48 minutes if needed, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Lowry wound up playing even more than that, logging 51 minutes and posting a triple-double in a one-point overtime loss.

Lowry’s only rest during the 53 minutes of action came with about a minute left in the third quarter. He returned a minute into the fourth quarter, but Miami was outscored by five points during that time, which proved to be critical.

“It was kind of one of those situations that you got to do what it takes to win the basketball game,” said Lowry, who posted the third-highest minutes total of his long career. “Coach trusted me a lot. He trusted me tonight. He’s always trusted me, but tonight before I walked into the building, I said: ‘48 [minutes].’ I got to 50.”

There’s more on the Heat:

  • Injuries have been a problem all season, and coach Erik Spoelstra is relying on a zone defense more than usual to compensate, Chiang adds. Miami used a 2-3 zone on 63 possessions Friday night and has played a zone 21.4% of the time this season, which would easily set a modern NBA record. “You got to do what you got to do,” Lowry said. “We were the Syracuse Heat tonight.”
  • After having just seven available players Friday, the Heat may get some reinforcements for Sunday’s game at Cleveland, Chiang notes in a separate story. Bam Adebayo, who has missed the past two games with a left knee contusion, is listed as questionable, as are Dewayne Dedmon, who’s suffering from a non-COVID illness, and Gabe Vincent, who has a left knee effusion. Jimmy Butler has been ruled out for the final two games of the road trip, and Duncan Robinson is doubtful due to a sprained right hand he suffered during Friday’s shootaround. Udonis Haslem, Tyler Herro, Victor Oladipo and Omer Yurtseven all remain unavailable.
  • Following a 7-9 start, the Heat have limited options for improvement other than an unwise trade involving draft picks, states Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Some suggestions Winderman offers include more minutes for first-round pick Nikola Jovic and restoring Herro to his sixth-man role.

Jimmy Butler Out At Least Three Games With Knee Soreness

After being ruled out of Friday’s game at Washington with knee soreness, Heat star Jimmy Butler is expected to return to Miami on Saturday and miss upcoming road games at Cleveland on Sunday and at Minnesota on Monday as well, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports (via Twitter).

The Heat are absolutely decimated by injuries at the moment. Victor Oladipo (knee tendinosis) and Omer Yurtseven (ankle surgery) have yet to play this season; Udonis Haslem is away from the team for personal reasons; Tyler Herro (ankle) and Dewayne Dedmon (non-COVID illness) are both out Friday; Gabe Vincent was initially not on the injury report but experienced swelling in his knee after today’s shootaround and has subsequently been ruled out; Duncan Robinson caught his hand in a jersey during shootaround and will miss his first career game due to injury; and finally, Bam Adebayo is out Friday after previously being listed as questionable (All Twitter links via Winderman).

That leaves just Kyle Lowry, Max Strus, Caleb Martin, Haywood Highsmith and Nikola Jovic available out of the 14-man standard roster, plus two-way rookies Jamal Cain and Orlando Robinson for a total of seven healthy players. According to Winderman (Twitter link), the Heat plan to list Vincent as active despite being ruled out to meet the minimum requirement of eight players in uniform.

On a positive note, there’s a chance Herro could return Sunday against the Cavs, Winderman tweets. Friday will market his sixth straight absence due to a left ankle sprain.

The Heat are currently 7-8, the No. 10 seed in the East.