Dru Smith

Patty Mills Signs With Heat

MARCH 6: The Heat have officially signed Mills and waived Smith, the team announced today in a press release.

MARCH 5: Free agent point guard Patty Mills plans to sign with the Heat, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). It will be a rest-of-season deal, adds Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).

A 15-year NBA veteran, Mills was traded three times during the 2023 offseason, from the Nets to the Rockets to the Thunder to the Hawks. Atlanta envisioned him as a player who could provide reliable veteran depth behind Trae Young and Dejounte Murray in the backcourt, but Mills didn’t end up playing much for his new club, averaging 2.7 points and 1.1 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game across 19 appearances.

The Hawks opted to waive Mills last Thursday in order to open up a spot on the roster to promote two-way player Trent Forrest. The 35-year-old cleared waivers over the weekend and didn’t immediately catch on with a new team, but has reached an agreement a few days later with a veteran Heat club that appears playoff-bound.

Although Mills’ production has dropped off in the past couple years, his NBA résumé includes 95 postseason contests and a championship (in 2014 with San Antonio). He’s also not far removed from being a productive regular contributor — he averaged 11.4 PPG with a .400 3PT% across 81 games for the Nets in 2021/22.

Mills will join a Heat backcourt that has been impacted by injuries over the course of the season but features several intriguing options when everyone’s healthy, including Tyler Herro, Terry Rozier, Josh Richardson, and Delon Wright. The move will provide some insurance in the event that Richardson’s absence due to a shoulder injury extends into the spring, tweets Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link), guard Dru Smith, who is out for the season due to a torn ACL, will be waived to make room on the 15-man roster for Mills.

Mills will earn $18,370 per day on his prorated minimum-salary deal with the Heat. His exact salary will depend on when he officially signs, but if the deal were to be finalized before the end of the day on Tuesday, he’d make $753,186 and Miami would take on a cap hit of $475,908.

Heat Notes: Love, Williams, Wright, Jaquez

There were reasons to believe Kevin Love‘s career might be nearing the end when he agreed to a buyout with the Cavaliers during last year’s All-Star break, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Instead, the past 12 months have included a trip to the NBA Finals and a new contract with the Heat, as well as the birth of his first child, all of which have combined to make Love very content in Miami.

“I think the thing that’s most gratifying to me is that going to a new location or a new team or a new organization, new city, especially at this stage in your career, you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “And after that run last year, I got so much fun out of it, as well as guys I’ll have relationships for life, bigger than basketball. My daughter was born on June 10th, right after Game 4 (of the NBA Finals). We bought a new house in Miami. It’s almost like we got to start our life in a place where we have a lot of friends and a lot of great teammates and people in the organization who have become family in a pretty quick time, so it has been a very happy year.”

Love was stuck on the bench in Cleveland, but a big forward who could shoot and rebound and had previous Finals experience was just what the Heat needed. He started 17 of the 21 regular season games he played after signing with Miami and maintained a rotation role throughout the team’s playoff run.

In addition to his on-court contributions, Love has become a veteran leader in the locker room, especially after the retirement of Udonis Haslem, Winderman notes. Love believes he can play for at least another year or two and then may transition into a mentorship role.

There’s more from Miami:

  • Alondes Williams was impressive in Friday’s Rising Stars competition, and he might get a shot at more playing time after the break, Winderman states in a mailbag column. Winderman speculates that the two-way player may be in line for a standard contract if the Heat decide to waive Dru Smith, who’s out for the rest of the season after undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery.
  • Delon Wright was likely promised regular minutes to get him to commit to the Heat, Winderman adds in the same piece. However, the extent of Wright’s rotation role won’t be clear until Terry Rozier and Josh Richardson return from their current injuries.
  • Jaime Jaquez, who jumped over Shaquille O’Neal for his first entry in Saturday’s Dunk Contest, said clearing the Hall of Fame center was a difficult thing to prepare for, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “Listen, I ain’t gonna lie. I didn’t practice jumping over Shaq,” Jaquez said. “I used Bam [Adebayo] as practice. But there’s a big height difference. So I was really nervous when I saw Shaq out there. I’ve seen him a bunch of times. But when he’s standing there, I was definitely feeling nervous.”

Heat Notes: Road Trip, LeBron, Highsmith, Smith

The Heat were missing four rotation players in their 121-104 loss to the Clippers on Monday, including Jimmy Butler, who is dealing with right foot irritation. Miami now faces the Lakers on Wednesday and the Suns on Friday to close out the five-game road swing.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat can’t use injuries as a crutch as the club tries to avert a third consecutive loss, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes.

“We’ll do whatever we have to do. Everybody is ready,” Spoelstra said. “Nobody cares if we have guys out and we’re not making any excuses for it.”

We have more on the Heat:

  • Spoelstra believes that former Miami superstar LeBron James doesn’t get enough credit for the hard work he puts in to maintain his level of excellence, Chiang relays in the same story. “Most people don’t see it and they assume that he doesn’t. They just assume that he’s the best athlete in this game, which he was for so many years,” Spoelstra said of the current Lakers forward. “But he’s been able to maintain this level because of all that other stuff. “There will be a day where he can still dominate even without the physical tools, he can do it with his size and his brain. But he’s nowhere near that. He can still do it physically, as well.”
  • Haywood Highsmith is currently in the NBA’s concussion protocol. He left the team Monday to return to Miami and will likely miss the rest of the West Coast trip, according to Chiang. It’s been a rough season physically for Highsmith. He previously sat out four games with a sprained left knee, six games with a lower back contusion and one game because of a non-COVID illness. Highsmith has appeared in 21 games, including 15 starts.
  • Dru Smith underwent successful right ACL reconstruction surgery on Dec. 29, Chiang tweets. Per a Heat statement, Smith will miss the remainder of the season but can begin rehabilitation immediately. There is no timetable for his return. The Heat announced on Nov. 24 that Smith had suffered a season-ending injury against Cleveland two nights earlier.

Heat’s Jimmy Butler Ruled Out With Calf Strain

The Christmas Day showdown between the Heat and Sixers lost some more star power as Miami announced that Jimmy Butler will sit out due to a strained left calf, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. This will be the third straight game that Butler has missed because of the calf issue. Haywood Highsmith (illness) and Josh Richardson (low back discomfort) also won’t play.

Philadelphia revealed on Sunday that reigning MVP Joel Embiid will be unavailable because of an ankle injury he suffered in Friday’s game. Embiid didn’t make the trip to Miami, and his status for Wednesday’s contest at Orlando hasn’t been determined. The Sixers are also without Nicolas Batum because of a strained right hamstring.

Butler has played in 23 of 29 games for the injury-riddled Heat, who rank among the league leaders in games missed as a result of injuries and illness. He’s averaging 21.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per night while shooting 46.2% from the field and 37.7% from three-point range.

Miami is 3-3 without him in the lineup, notes Winderman, who points out that Butler has missed at least 18 games in each of his first four seasons with the Heat.

Winderman also reports that guard Dru Smith, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in a November 22 game at Cleveland, is scheduled to undergo surgery on Friday. Smith’s injury led to numerous safety complaints about a courtside drop-off at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Heat Contacted NBA To Express Concerns About Cavs’ Court

The Heat got in touch with the NBA’s league office to express their concerns about the drop-off on the sidelines of the Cavaliers‘ court at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, reports Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel confirms the Heat contacted the league, though he notes they didn’t file “a formal complaint, per se.”

The drop-off from the playing floor to the sidelines at the edge of the Cavs’ home court is about 10 inches, per Vardon, who says multiple sources confirmed there’s no other NBA arena with that sort of drop.

It came into play on Wednesday when Heat guard Dru Smith contested a Max Strus three-pointer along the sidelines and landed awkwardly near the edge of the floor (video link). Smith’s fall resulted in a season-ending ACL injury.

“I remember during walk-through, when I sat there to get ready for shootaround, just kind of thinking like, ‘Oh, this court’s kind of weird, the drop-off, just the separation between the bench and the court,'” Smith said on Saturday, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (subscription required). “But, you know, when you’re playing, you’re not thinking about where I was going to land or if I was going to miss the court.

“… When I flew by (on the shot contest), my left foot landed and my right foot went between the chair and the bench. As soon as it happened, I knew what happened. I knew I just fell into that little hole. … I would say I knew right away it wasn’t good. I didn’t know exactly obviously what was going on. But I just knew it wasn’t good.”

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra spoke after Wednesday’s game about the dangers of the court design. And, as Vardon details, when the Lakers visited Cleveland on Saturday, head coach Darvin Ham and multiple players echoed Spoelstra’s concerns. Guard Austin Reaves said the sideline drop-off is “a little scary, to be honest,” while former Cavs star LeBron James said “they should address it.”

“It’s something that definitely needs to be looked at,” Ham said. “Any time … you have a situation where someone’s getting hurt and the potential to get hurt, and in this particular case it’s the floor, I think they need to take a look at it and see if there are ways things could be better.”

Of course, as Vardon points out, the design has been in effect since the arena opened nearly 30 years ago. Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said his players are “comfortable” around the sideline area and that there have been no incidents involving Cleveland players.

That’s little solace for Smith. And while he acknowledged that it’s good news that his $1.8MM salary – previously partially guaranteed for $425K – will become fully guaranteed as a result of the season-ending injury, that’s not his primary concern at the moment.

“That’s not really what I’m here for. I’m here to play basketball and prove that I belong in this league and that I can have an impact in this league,” Smith said, according to Winderman. “… I feel like I was in a good spot. I was just looking forward to just continuing to be trusted with the minutes here and there, wherever that was going to be. And I think the more I was playing, the more comfortable I was getting. So I was just really comfortable with that.”

“But that’s not how this year is going to go for me.”

Heat Notes: Jovic, Adebayo, Smith, Bouyea

Heat forward Nikola Jovic was assigned to the G League for nearly a week, but will be back with the NBA club on Saturday, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. According to Chiang, Jovic saw plenty of time at the five during his stint with the Sioux Falls Skyforce and believes that he may have a clearer path to playing time if he can get accustomed to playing center.

“I think it’s going to be the fastest way to get on the court because we have a lot of fours,” Jovic said. “It’s something that everybody can see. At five right now, we have Bam (Adebayo) and Kevin Love is coming off the bench as like a stretch five. So I think and I think the coaches also think the fastest way for me to get back on the court will be just playing at the five.”

While Adebayo typically gets the brunt of the playing time in the middle, he has been ruled out for Saturday’s game in Brooklyn – the second in a back-to-back set – due to a left hip injury (Twitter link via the team). Adebayo’s absence could result in an immediate opportunity for Jovic to get some minutes. Still, head coach Erik Spoelstra indicated he won’t be viewing the 20-year-old Serbian only as a center.

“I want to get him minutes at both positions,” Spoelstra said, per Chiang. “… And when he plays five for us, it looks a little bit different than it does down there (in the G League). He’s got a lot more bigger wings and there’s a dimension that can really help Jimmy (Butler) that’s intriguing to us. So he has to gobble up all those different experiences and it will change game to game.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link), the Heat confirmed on Friday that Dru Smith will eventually require surgery on his ACL injury, which will sideline him for the rest of the season. Erik Spoelstra also reiterated his dissatisfaction with the sideline area of the court in Cleveland where Smith fell and suffered the injury. “Maybe this is something that can be addressed with the league moving forward,” he said (Twitter link via Winderman). “I doubt anything will change with the floor. It is a hazard in our mind and probably in a lot of other teams’ minds, too.”
  • After being cut by Portland and clearing waivers, guard Jamaree Bouyea is rejoining the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Miami’s G League affiliate, tweets Winderman. Bouyea opened the season with the Skyforce before spending 10 days on a two-way contract with the Trail Blazers.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype takes a closer look at the Heat’s roster, suggesting that if the team makes a trade before the deadline, the priority should be to try to bring some long-term stability to the point guard position.

Heat’s Dru Smith Out For Season With ACL Injury

Heat guard Dru Smith will miss the rest of the 2023/24 season due to a right knee injury, the team announced today (Twitter link via Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald).

The Heat referred to the injury as a third degree ACL sprain, according to Chiang. That’s essentially just an ACL tear, per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

It’s awful news for Smith, who underwent an MRI on his knee after injuring it in Wednesday’s game in Cleveland. As we previously relayed, the 25-year-old fell awkwardly along the sidelines in an area that has a drop-off for fans at courtside — head coach Erik Spoelstra blamed the court design after the game.

“It is a dangerous floor,” Spoelstra said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen. You close out and all of a sudden you’re going off a cliff. If the court was normal, there wouldn’t have been any kind of incident.”

Smith was on a two-way contract with the Heat in training camp but was promoted to the standard 15-man roster ahead of opening night, receiving a two-year, minimum-salary deal that included a $425K partial guarantee. He appeared in nine games in the first month of the season, averaging 4.3 points, 1.6 assists, and 1.6 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per night, with a .455/.412/1.000 shooting line.

While Smith won’t play again this season, the Heat likely won’t be in any rush to remove him from their roster, since there’s little incentive to do so for now. When a player on a non-guaranteed contract sustains an injury, his team must continue paying him until he’s healthy or for the rest of the season (if he’s out for the year). That means Miami will owe Smith his full $1.8MM salary and won’t save any money by cutting him before the league-wide January 7 salary guarantee deadline.

The Heat also already have an opening on their 15-man roster, so they don’t need to use Smith’s roster spot in the short term. That may change later in the season if the club makes a roster addition or two via free agency or trade.

Miami could apply for a disabled player exception in response to Smith’s injury, but the exception would be worth less than $1MM, so it likely wouldn’t be useful. A DPE would not afford the team an extra roster spot.

In other Heat injury news, the results of an MRI on Duncan Robinson‘s injured right thumb were far more encouraging, Chiang notes. Robinson has been diagnosed with a sprain and is considered day-to-day.

Heat Notes: Jaquez, Smith, Two-Way Players, Tournament

The Heat look like one of the East’s best teams despite a string of early-season injuries, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Miami has won nine of its last 10 games, including a 33-point victory Wednesday in Cleveland without three rotation players. Tyler Herro continues to recover from his sprained right ankle, while Bam Adebayo sat out the contest with a left hip contusion and Kevin Love didn’t make the trip for personal reasons.

The Heat responded with eight players reaching double figures in points, led by veteran guard Kyle Lowry with 28 and rookie forward Jaime Jaquez with 22. It’s the latest in a series of impressive performances by Jaquez, who has quickly embraced the “Heat Culture” philosophy.

“It’s like a next-man-up mentality,” Jaquez said. “We have a soldier go down, we got one to fill their place and do what we can to win. I thought we shared the ball really well tonight, had a lot of great shots and it showed. Our defense was incredible. Really pressured the ball, got a lot of steals and got out in transition.”

There’s more on the Heat:

  • Coach Erik Spoelstra believes an unusual feature of Cleveland’s court caused backup point guard Dru Smith to suffer a right knee injury that forced him out of Wednesday’s game, per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Smith had an awkward fall along the sidelines in an area that has a dropoff for fans at courtside. “It is a dangerous floor,” Spoelstra said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen. You close out and all of a sudden you’re going off a cliff. If the court was normal, there wouldn’t have been any kind of incident.” Smith will have a scan conducted on the knee while the team is in New York.
  • A prolonged absence for Smith could lead to a roster move, Jackson adds. The Heat are low on guards, and Jackson believes they may consider either temporarily filling the open 15th roster spot or adding someone on a two-way deal. He sees two-way players Jamal Cain and Cole Swider as safe, but suggests the team might consider replacing R.J. Hampton.
  • Point differential could come into play as Miami tries to advance in the in-season tournament, and Spoelstra said the Heat will “treat that appropriately” if it becomes necessary, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Miami is off to a 2-0 start in Group B, and a win Friday over the Knicks could set up a showdown with Milwaukee next week with both teams undefeated. Spoelstra is a fan of the tournament and says the financial incentive, with each player getting $50K for reaching the quarterfinals, has been a strong motivator. “I think it’s good for the league,” he said. “I think it’s good for the teams, the players. It keeps things interesting. Anything that sparks competition, I think is a great thing. And it sure would be a lot of fun to be able to get two more wins and get to the quarterfinals. Ultimately, every competitor in this league, whatever they think or say, you would want to be in Vegas to play for this.”

Southeast Notes: D. Smith, Heat, Poole, I. Thomas, Hornets

Even after Dru Smith was promoted from a two-way contract to the Heat‘s standard roster at the end of the preseason, he wasn’t considered a great bet to have a consistent role — the modest guarantee ($425K) he received on his new deal suggested his roster spot wouldn’t even necessarily be secure for the entire season.

However, injuries to some rotation players, including guard Tyler Herro, have created a path to regular minutes for Smith as of late. In Miami’s past three games – all victories – he has averaged 7.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.3 steals in 23.1 minutes per night, impressing head coach Erik Spoelstra in the process, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (subscription required).

“Dru was good throughout all the stuff that he does,” Spoelstra said after Sunday’s win. “Ninety percent of it doesn’t show up in the box score, but coaches and teammates understand what he does.”

For his part, the 25-year-old guard indicated that he’s happy to do the dirty work necessary to help the Heat win games. For instance, he’s averaging 6.7 deflections per 36 minutes, which ranks second in the NBA among players who have logged at least 50 total minutes.

“Just trying to continue to impact winning more than anything else,” Smith said. “Really, whenever I get out there that is all I’m trying to do, is trying to make plays that are helping inch us close to wins.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald shares 10 observations from the Heat‘s first 10 games of the season, including the fact that the team is 5-0 since Haywood Highsmith replaced Kevin Love in the starting lineup. As Chiang notes, one offseason goal for the team was to add a backup center who could help the team hold its own in the non-Bam Adebayo minutes, but Thomas Bryant hasn’t been the answer so far — Miami has a -10.6 net rating with Bryant on the court, prompting Spoelstra to start using Love as the backup five.
  • Many of the “league observers” that Marc Stein (Substack link) has spoken to about the subject believe the Wizards‘ acquisition of Jordan Poole this offseason was more about trying to rebuild his value for a future trade than making him a long-term franchise cornerstone. If that’s the goal, it will take some more time to come to fruition — Poole is off to a slow start in D.C., with his shooting percentages dipping to 41.2% from the floor and 30.3% threes in the early going this season.
  • Veteran guard Isaiah Thomas continues to seek an NBA roster spot and suggested on social media that he has contacted at least one of his former teams to gauge their interest. Replying to a fan who advised him to call up Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak about a possible deal, Thomas tweeted, “I did lol.”

Southeast Notes: Herro, Rozier, Miller, Mexico City

Heat guard Tyler Herro expects to miss “probably a couple weeks” after spraining his right ankle in Wednesday’s game at Memphis, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Herro landed on Jaren Jackson Jr.‘s foot after shooting a floater in the first quarter. He fell to the court in pain, then hobbled to the locker room without putting any weight on the ankle.

“It was something I felt right when it happened,” Herro said. “I felt it and I kind of knew mentally. I heard some crunches and cracks in my ankle. I’m like, ‘Yeah, that will be it.’ I actually told the bench, ‘I’m done. I can’t keep going.’ It’s unfortunate, but I’m just going to continue to work hard. I’ve been through this injury stuff before and I’m just going to keep working.”

X-rays were negative, but Herro returned to Miami this morning for an MRI with the team’s medical staff, Chiang adds. He was averaging 25.3 PPG coming into Wednesday, and an extended absence would create a major challenge for a team that already has the fifth-worst offensive rating in the league.

Duncan Robinson started the second half with Herro unavailable, and Dru Smith played nearly 15 minutes off the bench. Chiang notes that Kyle Lowry took on a larger role, posting season highs with 17 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

“It’s a process at this point,” Bam Adebayo said. “We’ll get him back when we get him back. The biggest thing for him is getting healthy and being able to stay at that high level he’s been at it.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets guard Terry Rozier doesn’t have a timetable to return from the left adductor strain he suffered Saturday night, per Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Addressing the media for the first time since the injury, Rozier said it happened on a routine play. “It was just going downhill,” said Rozier, who has already been ruled out for Friday’s game. “I think just trying to do an in-and-out. I’ve watched the play a lot of times and I think I just dragged my foot, and it kind of tweaked in the groin area. So, it kind of strained it and that’s what happened. But I’ve never had an injury like that before, so that’s why I kind of reacted like that. But I’ll be fine.”
  • With Rozier sidelined, the Hornets have inserted Brandon Miller into their starting lineup, Boone adds. The No. 2 overall pick has gotten off to a strong start and is among the rookie leaders in points, rebounds, assists and minutes per game. “He’s doing good,” Rozier said. “He’s just getting his feet wet. He’s one of those guys that just gets better day-by-day, like really huge too. So, I’m happy to see his growth … I think we all are. I’m happy he’s in that position to start.” 
  • Mexico City will host tonight’s game between the Magic and the Hawks, shining a spotlight on a location that could be considered for the NBA’s next round of expansion, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.