Omer Yurtseven

Injury Notes: LaVine, White, Harden, Garland, Hayward, More

Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine has been suffering through back spasms recently, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic relays. LaVine was noticeably wincing during Chicago’s 127-120 overtime defeat to Toronto on Thursday. Center Nikola Vučević says the team appreciates LaVine’s commitment to winning despite not being fully healthy.

It tells us a lot about Zach playing through back spasms,” Vučević said. “It’s not easy. It limits you a lot. You just don’t have that freedom of movement, especially in the back. It’s a big, important part of your body, especially when you play basketball. I’m sure it was bothering him a lot, especially on the offensive end trying to score and be aggressive.

But it speaks a lot about his commitment to winning and to this team trying to still be out there. Even him not being 100 percent helps us a lot, so we appreciate him being out there.”

Coach Billy Donovan told reporters, including K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link), that the Bulls are hopeful LaVine will return Sunday after sitting out Friday on the second game of a back-to-back. However, Donovan also said that LaVine is still battling the knee soreness that sidelined him for a handful of games last month.

Here are some more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • LaVine wasn’t the only Bulls player absent from Friday’s 122-115 win at Indiana, as Coby White also missed the game due to a groin strain, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. Donovan said White has had lingering discomfort in the groin, but it was aggravated against Toronto.
  • Nets coach Steve Nash said James Harden was held out of Brooklyn’s 125-102 blowout loss at Utah on Friday for precautionary reasons, per Nick Friedell of ESPN (via Twitter). The team is giving Harden a couple extra days rest to ensure his hamstring is feeling better. Nash doesn’t think Harden will need an MRI and is hopeful he’ll return to action Sunday at Denver. Rudy Gay exited the game early for the Jazz with right knee soreness and didn’t return to the court, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets.
  • Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, recently named an All-Star for the first time, missed his third consecutive game Friday at Charlotte with lower back soreness, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Gordon Hayward returned to action for the Hornets in the team’s 102-101 loss after missing the past two weeks due to COVID-19, Boone notes.
  • Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony will likely be out Saturday vs. New York, providing extra rest before the team re-evaluates his strained right hamstring next week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. LeBron James is also doubtful for the contest against the Knicks with knee swelling, per Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link).
  • Heat center Omer Yurtseven has cleared the health and safety protocols and is available for Saturday’s game at Charlotte, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports (via Twitter).
  • Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2021 draft, missed his second straight game for the Pistons Friday with a hip pointer, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com tweets. Coach Dwane Casey said the injury isn’t considered serious, but the team is being cautious with its rising star. The Pistons fell to the Celtics, 102-93.
  • Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon missed his second consecutive game Friday with hamstring tightness, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). The Nuggets lost to the Pelicans without Gordon, 113-105.

Heat Notes: Martin, Spoelstra, Yurtseven, Oladipo

Heat swingman Caleb Martin has played so well during the 2021/22 NBA season that it makes the fact he was snagged on merely a two-way deal this summer somewhat miraculous. Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald assesses how the Miami front office stole yet another gem during the offseason.

“Honestly, I wasn’t too surprised just based on my numbers from Charlotte,” Martin said of his joining the Heat after his Hornets tenure ended with the team waiving him. “I really don’t blame anybody for not picking me up off waivers. But it’s my job to continue to prove to people that I’m more than that.”

Martin is averaging career-highs of 9.3 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.0 SPG, in a career-23.1 MPG, on .505/.374/.734 shooting. Chiang hails Martin as a crucial 3-and-D wing reserve.

Because he has also emerged as a consistent outside shooting threat, Martin is being covered more along the three-point line, which in turn allows him to blow past defenders for more inside scoring. Chiang notes that the Heat will have to convert Martin’s two-way contract into a standard deal prior to the postseason so that he can keep contributing on both ends for Miami during the playoffs.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, the second-longest-tenured head coach in the NBA, has been his typically inventive self this season, working his magic to make the 32-18 Miami the top seed in the East, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Spoelstra has found ways to maximize new addition P.J. Tucker as well as bench players like Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Dewayne Dedmon and the aforementioned Martin.
  • Heat reserve center Omer Yurtseven has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, per Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Chiang adds that starting point guard Kyle Lowry (personal reasons), Markieff Morris (neck injury) and KZ Okpala (sprained right wrist) will also not be traveling with the club for the start of its upcoming road trip today.
  • Heat shooting guard Victor Oladipo, a former two-time All-Star with the Pacers, is traveling with Miami on the team’s road trip, Chiang tweets. Though Oladipo remains out for now, the fact that he is with his teammates would appear to indicate that he is closer to suiting up once again. Oladipo is recovering from a surgery he underwent in May to repair his right quadriceps tendon.

Southeast Notes: Yurtseven, Todd, Anthony, Butler, Vincent

With the return of Bam Adebayo (thumb) and Dewayne Dedmon (knee), Heat center Omer Yurtseven has effectively fallen out of the team’s rotation for now, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes.

Yurtseven started 10 games as Adebayo and Dedmon dealt with injuries, logging double-digit rebounds in every contest. Miami went 7-3 during that stretch. On the season, the 23-year-old has averaged 6.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game, shooting 52% from the floor.

“It’s hard, obviously, because you catch that rhythm and you have that raging fire to just keep going,” Yurtseven said. “But I trust in the coaches and the Heat culture, and I believe if they want me and need me in the game that they know that I’m ready.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • The Wizards suspended Isaiah Todd one game for conduct detrimental to the team, the club announced in a press release. Todd, who has been on a G League assignment for most of the month, served his suspension during the Capital City Go-Go’s game against the Ignite on Friday. The 20-year-old was selected No. 31 overall in last year’s draft.
  • Magic guard Cole Anthony is committing to the 2022 NBA Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Weekend, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Anthony has seen his role increase with Orlando this season, averaging 17.9 points on 39% shooting from the floor.
  • In a separate article for the Miami Herald, Anthony Chiang examines some takeaways from the Heat‘s Friday night victory over the Clippers. The Heat were led by Jimmy Butler, who finished with a game-high 26 points, as well as Gabe Vincent, who finished with 23 points in the absence of Kyle Lowry (personal). Lowry will also miss Saturday’s contest against Toronto, marking the seventh straight game he’s missed due to personal reasons.

Heat Notes: Yurtseven, Strus, Martin, Guy, Chalmers

The Heat not only won in Phoenix Saturday night against a Suns team with the league’s best record, they did it with a starting lineup that included Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Omer Yurtseven, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. That trio makes up part of Hollinger’s “Dog Days Heroes,” recognizing under-the-radar players who have excelled in December and January.

Yurtseven signed with Miami in the final week of last season after a strong showing in the G League. He was the third center on the depth chart when the season began, but the Heat’s injuries and COVID-19 absences have given him an unexpected workload. He has responded by ranking second in the league in with a 23.8 rebound rate, along with a 4.1% block rate.

Strus, who spent most of last season recovering from a torn ACL, is shooting 41.8% from three-point range. He has also doubled his rebound rate this year and has improved on defense. Martin, who signed a two-way contract after the Hornets waived him in the offseason, has become a defensive presence in Miami and is getting points in transition. Hollinger expects him to get a standard deal later in the season when the Heat have enough room under the luxury tax to fill their final roster spot.

There’s more from Miami:

  • Kyle Guy has been outstanding, but the Heat don’t appear to have a roster spot for him after his 10-day hardship contract expired Saturday night, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Guy averaged 9.8 PPG in five games and shot 45% from three-point range. However, the open roster spot is likely being saved for Martin, and the Heat like the potential of Marcus Garrett, who holds the other two-way slot. A second 10-day deal for Guy may be unlikely because Garrett is the last Miami player in the protocols and he’s expected to be cleared soon. “I’m grateful for the opportunity and making the most of it,” Guy said Friday. “So they’ll tell me when they think they need to tell me. Whether that’s at the end of the 10-day or today or tomorrow, I don’t know. So we’ll see. But I have no idea.”
  • Veteran guard Mario Chalmers will see his 10-day hardship contract expire today, Chiang adds. He’s not ready to give up on playing yet, but he’s considering a future in coaching. “My mom was a coach, my dad was a coach, so I’ve been around coaches all my life,” Chalmers said. “It’s just something that I love the game of basketball so much that I’ll always want to be around it.” 
  • The Heat are in a strong position as the February 10 trade deadline approaches and shouldn’t feel any desperation to make a deal, contends Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel.

Heat Notes: Martin, Knight, Okpala, Yurtseven

Heat two-way forward Caleb Martin, who had been in the health and safety protocols since December 11, was back with the team on Thursday night, seated behind the bench, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets.

A short-ramp up period may be necessary for Martin, who will have to pass cardiac tests before being cleared to return to the court. But it’s good news for both him and the Heat that he’s no longer quarantining and appears to be on the verge of reentering the rotation.

While Miami has had to deal with several injuries in recent weeks, Martin is the only player the team has had to place in the COVID-19 protocols so far this month.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • The new roster rules that eliminate the 50-game limit for players on two-way contracts is welcome news for the Heat, since Martin has been among the NBA’s most productive two-way players so far this season and has already appeared in 23 games. However, as Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald write, the Heat still may have to make a decision on Martin later in the season, since two-way players remain ineligible for the playoffs. The team has an open spot on its 15-man roster for now, but figures to explore the buyout market in February.
  • Head coach Erik Spoelstra confirmed to reporters on Thursday that the Heat couldn’t have signed Brandon Knight via a hardship exception when Martin was in the protocols, since a replacement for a two-way player can’t have more than three years of NBA service (Twitter link via Chiang). Knight had been playing for Miami’s G League affiliate, but was called up by Dallas while the Heat signed forward Zylan Cheatham to a 10-day deal.
  • Although the Heat would obviously prefer to have a fully healthy roster, the silver lining is that little-used players like KZ Okpala and Omer Yurtseven are gaining valuable experience by being thrust into rotation roles, Chiang writes for The Miami Herald. “I know it’s a tough time of the season right now,” Udonis Haslem said. “We got a lot of injuries, but we’re banking a lot of equity right now with our younger guys getting experience. I think when we get back healthy, it’s only going to help us.”

Southeast Notes: Anthony, Yurtseven, Dedmon, Hornets

Magic guard Cole Anthony is an early-season candidate for Most Improved Player, Josh Cohen of NBA.com writes. Anthony is averaging 20.2 points and 6.0 assists per game on 43% shooting from the floor, up from last season’s averages of 12.9 points, 4.1 assists and 40% shooting.

“I think it is a reflection of his work ethic,” head coach Jamahl Mosley said. “It’s a reflection of his confidence, and it’s also the confidence that his teammates have in him to be willing to take those shots.

“But again, you also have a group of guys on the floor that are willing to take shots, That’s what we’ve created and it’s the equalness of each guy willing to want to step in to be able to make the big play, so whoever it is they’re willing to have their number called and step in and make a play.”

Anthony is averaging 34.4 minutes per game (compared to 27.1 MPG in 2020/21), but his shooting marks have also improved across the board. The Magic drafted the 21-year-old with the No. 15 pick in 2020.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

Southeast Notes: Yurtseven, Harrell, Wizards, Herro, Lowry

Heat rookie center Omer Yurtseven has only played 11 minutes so far this season, but time and place are still the questions for the 23-year-old, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes.

Yurtseven, who is eligible to spend time with the team’s G League affiliate. is currently behind starter Bam Adebayo and veteran Dewayne Dedmon in the club’s rotation. As Winderman notes, regularly practicing against against those big men and staying available at the NBA level might benefit Yurtseven more than playing in the G League.

“I think this is where I want to be at ultimately,” Yurtseven told the Sun Sentinel. “And I think that I’m adjusting to it and doing whatever is necessary to conquer this beast.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Speaking of the Heat, Ira Winderman examines whether Pat Riley‘s best move this offseason was choosing to keep Tyler Herro. Herro has started the season on a strong note, scoring 26 off the bench against Charlotte on Friday night.
  • Wizards big man Montrezl Harrell has quickly connected with his new team’s fans, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. “I’m from North Carolina. It’s only like three hours from here, so I feel like I’m kind of in my backyard,” Harrell explained. “This is down south, homegrown people that love the hard work, the grittiness, the toughness, the coming in and putting on your hard hat every day just ready to work. You’re not really coming in and thinking you’re better than someone or just going off your name. You’re coming in ready to work and they’re gonna get behind that.”
  • Veteran guard Kyle Lowry is actively helping the Heat return to contention, Dan Devine of The Ringer writes. Lowry — along with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo — have formed Miami’s newest “big three,” and led the team to four wins in five games. The Heat’s only loss has come when Lowry didn’t play (sprained ankle).

Southeast Notes: Strus, Vincent, Wizards, Suggs, Yurtseven

Heat third-year players Max Strus and Gabe Vincent believe they’re ready to contribute to the team’s title chase this season, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes.

Strus and Vincent were on two-way contracts with the club last season, seeing sparse time off the bench. Miami decided to reward their hard work by signing them to standard deals this summer. Both have impressed during the first week of training camp.

“I’ve been working out with them all summer,” Heat star Bam Adebayo said of Strus and Vincent. “Just seeing the way they’ve grown. Vincent is becoming a better point guard. Putting dudes in the right spots, he’s getting to his spot and doing everything in between.

“Then Max is just shooting the piss out of the ball. That’s why we brought him here. He’s one of those sneaky athletic guys and he can defend. They’ve both just advanced their games to a whole other level than where it was last year.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Wizards used a players-only speech and meeting to improve their chemistry in training camp, Chase Hughes examines for NBC Sports Washington. The speech was led by star guard Bradley Beal, who averaged a career-high 31.3 points per game last season, while the meeting was called by Montrezl Harrell“(Beal) was talking about just being that one unit, doing everything together,” guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “Even today, we had a players-only meeting and that’s what we talked about; holding each other accountable and being there for each other.”
  • Magic rookie Jalen Suggs is excited for his first preseason action, Chris Hays of The Orlando Sentinel writes. Orlando opens its preseason against Boston on Monday, giving Suggs the chance to play on an NBA court for the first time. “Super-excited to be starting up my rookie year,” he said. “It’s something you dream of, so this is another one of those first-time moments that you got to look forward to and you just got to take in. It only happen one time, the first time, and I’m excited, ready to get out there and ready to get up and down with the guys and be in front of a crowd.”
  • In his latest “Ask Ira” mailbag for the Sun Sentinel, Ira Winderman explores whether the preseason is a chance for Omer Yurtseven to show that he can replicate the success he saw in Summer League. Yurtseven recently spoke to Hoops Rumors about his new contract, offseason and more, giving a detailed look at his situation as he gears up his first NBA season.

Omer Yurtseven Entering Season As Heat’s Latest Development Project

When longtime Heat president Pat Riley signed off on adding seven-foot center Omer Yurtseven to his roster last spring, it’s safe to say The Godfather did his homework first.

Yurtseven had been flying under the radar since going undrafted out of Georgetown in November. The Turkish center spent most of the 2020/21 season playing with Oklahoma City in the G League bubble, then signed with Miami in May. It didn’t take long for him to impress those within the organization.

“I’m pretty blessed to have had that opportunity,” Yurtseven told Hoops Rumors in a phone interview. “I was actually in Miami training after the Orlando bubble with the G League, and I just love the city and people. 

“It was such a right fit at the right time and everything just fit perfectly. I wouldn’t say it was a coincidence. It was definitely a blessing. It was an opportunity at first, then it was all about just doing what I had to do: turn it into a bigger blessing.”

The Heat signed Yurtseven eight days before they played Milwaukee in the first round of the playoffs. The timing allowed him to travel with the team and sit courtside for the series, giving him an up-close look at the intense postseason atmosphere.

His contract was a two-year, non-guaranteed deal that included a team option in the second season. When he signed, Yurtseven and his agent, Keith Glass, asked the Heat to decline his option after the season and give the big man a chance to bet on himself during Summer League.

The signing was made with a mutual understanding: join the team, play in the summer and work for a new contract. Yurtseven delivered in the California Classic in Sacramento, pouring in 27 points and 19 rebounds during his very first Summer League outing. He followed that game up with a 25-point performance on 9-of-17 shooting.

While his production dipped slightly after dealing with blisters, Yurtseven still managed to average 20.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in three Las Vegas Summer League games.

“My performance dropped a little bit, but I just pushed through it because I wanted to play as many minutes as I could to be more involved in the system, understand how everything works, how the rotations work and how the offense works,” Yurtseven said.

“Of course, it’s going to be different with players such as Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler — just being around those players changes everything — but I was just getting a feel for the system, how our coaches want the sets to be run and the defensive schemes. I just wanted to take that opportunity and that’s what I did. I played through the obstacles.”

After successful Summer League stints in Sacramento and Las Vegas, the Heat rewarded Yurtseven with a two-year, $3.24MM contract. This season’s salary is fully guaranteed, while next season becomes guaranteed if he remains under contract through June 29. Several other teams expressed interest in his services before he signed the deal.

When Yurtseven returned from Las Vegas, he took four days off to recover and reflect on his new contract. After that, it was back to work.

“We’re already working for that third contract,” said Miami-based trainer Ben Bellucci, who has worked with Yurtseven for several years.

Those around Yurtseven rave about his work ethic, professionalism and maturity at just 23 years old. Those are attributes the Heat look for in the players they sign, so it makes sense that the two sides came together.

“Look, Pat Riley’s not going to bring in someone that’s not going to work,” Bellucci explained. “They don’t bring in guys that are going to be problems on and off the court. I think it’s a perfect fit, both personality-wise and culture-wise. I don’t think he could’ve gone to a better place that’s really going to push him.”

The Heat have a strong reputation in player development. Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson are two notable examples from recent years, but the list of players who’ve had their best years in Miami is long. Yurtseven is looking to become the team’s latest under-the-radar gem.

“I think this organization has a way of raising players, of finding diamonds in the rough,’’ Butler said at the start of his first season with the Heat in 2019 (hat tip to Justin Benjamin of HeatNation.com). “They’re absolutely incredible at that. They’re turning (Tyler Herro) into a real player. Everyone knows he has the talent, that mental edge about him, but teaching him how to work every single day, that organization is perfect for him.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also praised Yurtseven during the team’s media day this week, which is noteworthy considering the big man has yet to appear in a regular-season NBA game.

“Omer is unique because of his skill set, shooting touch, around the basket and with range,” Spoelstra said, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). “He has a feel you can’t necessarily teach. Good instincts for rebounding.”

Despite enjoying some success in the G League and Summer League, Yurtseven still has a long road ahead. He’ll have to show he can learn Miami’s system, rotate without fouling and defend the perimeter in a show-and-recover and switch-heavy NBA. Facing those challenges is part of his learning process.

“I think it’s all about just following the guidance of the coaches and the veteran players,” Yurtseven said. “Just taking it all in and absorbing it. They do a great job of developing players and have a reputation for that because of their system. Believing in it and going 100% is going to be the most important part.

“I think they just do a great job because of the commitment the players give and their ability to match it with intense workouts and basketball knowledge — how they know a certain player can fit into their system.” 

Besides learning from his teammates and coaches, the big man also spent a significant amount of time watching film and working on his jump shot this summer. Yurtseven mentioned on Media Day that he and Bellucci studied film on superstar centers Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.

The pair also told Hoops Rumors that they watched clips of Carmelo Anthony and Hakeem Olajuwon, working on Yurtseven’s low-post, mid-post and three-point game. Bellucci estimates Yurtseven took 20,000 shots per month.

“He’s a kid who wants to get better. He’s never satisfied,” Bellucci said. “When you put him in a culture with the same mentality, it’s hard for me to say that this kid doesn’t have a chance to be an All-Star. He just has that work ethic and mentality. In order to be great, I think you always have to ask yourself, ‘What can I do next? How can I get better? What can I add to my game?’ And, on the Heat’s side, you have no choice! You’re coming in to work.”

Yurtseven said he’s been inspired by the stories of Robinson and Nunn, two undrafted players who found their footing in the league with the Heat. Robinson signed a new five-year, $90MM deal with Miami this past summer – the largest contract for an undrafted player in NBA history.

Former Pistons center Ben Wallace – another successful undrafted player – was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, Yurtseven noted. The success stories act as motivation to continue improving, something Yurtseven says he won’t stop doing anytime soon.

“I know the program and position that I’m in with being undrafted, but I think I have the talent to play at this level, the work ethic and the discipline,” he said. “When you put all of that together, it matches perfectly with the culture of the Miami Heat. And, as I said, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that these pieces came together. I now have the opportunity to be one of those inspirations.”

Heat Notes: Tucker, Morris, Yurtseven, Lowry, Battier

New Heat power forwards P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris believe they’re ideal fits on a team known for its work ethic and strong veteran culture, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Tucker called it a “match made in heaven,” while Morris said he had a strong sense that he’d eventually end up playing for the Heat.

“(We’re) going to bring toughness and will and dog (mentality), which they already have,” Morris said of the impact that he and Tucker can have in Miami. “We’re just adding to it. Me and Tuck played together a couple years in Phoenix; he’s one of my good friends. We’re both (NBA) champions.”

Here’s more on the Heat:
  • Young center Omer Yurtseven is receiving on-court mentoring from former Heat big man Alonzo Mourning, who is the team’s VP of player programs and development, Jackson writes for The Miami Herald. “He comes in and watches me play and gives me words of wisdom,” Yurtseven said. “It’s really helpful. He dominated his time. I hope to do the same.”
  • New Heat point guard Kyle Lowry joked during his Media Day presser that his good friend Jimmy Butler is “a little bit more crazy” than the stars he has played alongside in the past, as Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald relay. “He wears his emotions on his sleeves,” Lowry said. “(DeMar DeRozan) and Kawhi (Leonard) are very quiet. (Jimmy) makes sure everyone knows there’s no (messing) around. You appreciate players like that.”
  • Head coach Erik Spoelstra is eager to see how the Heat’s new pieces fit together after adding Lowry, Tucker, and Morris to the roster this offseason, per Jackson and Chiang. “I’m just as curious to see as anyone how this all works together,” Spoelstra said. “We checked some boxes of things we wanted to accomplish from a personnel standpoint. We acquired some like-minded people.”
  • Shane Battier stepped down from his front office position with the Heat (VP of basketball development and analytics) earlier this year, but he’s still with the team in a less formal capacity, according to Chiang. Battier is now a strategic consultant for the club and was among the executives in attendance at Miami’s first practice on Tuesday.