Haywood Highsmith

Southeast Notes: Ball, Highsmith, Muscala, Magic

Hornets star guard LaMelo Ball signed a five-year, maximum-salary designated rookie extension, worth up to a projected $260MM, with Charlotte earlier this summer.

During a press conference with gathered reporters, Ball and team president and general manager Mitch Kupchak spoke about the new agreement, as Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer reports.

“The decision, it wasn’t really hard,” Ball, the third draft pick in 2020, said. “All my years here I’ve had a good time. Life wasn’t bad. The basketball aspect, that’s not really going well. You kind of want to live your life and just have fun and just be living well. So in Charlotte I was doing that, so it just all felt like a great choice.”

Ball was limited to just 36 contests with the Hornets in 2022/23 due to ankle injuries, but was prolific on offense when he did play. The 6’7″ guard averaged 23.3 PPG on .411/.376/.836 shooting splits, along with 8.4 APG and 6.4 RPG. Charlotte has yet to make the playoffs during Ball’s NBA career.

“To have a player of LaMelo’s caliber with his game, with his youth, we know he is going to get better as a player,” Kupchak said. “He’s here every day. He certainly had a setback last year, but in terms of healing, he’s been 100 percent healed and he’s been on the court working out every single day trying to get better.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Heat forward Haywood Highsmith recently saw his $1.9MM salary for the 2023/24 season become fully guaranteed, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “It’s a good step in the right direction for me,” Highsmith told Chiang. “Still developing, still trying to get better and big things coming for me, I hope. I’ve been working hard this offseason, so it’s definitely a good step in the right direction.” Former Miami teammate Udonis Haslem, now retired, unpacked how Highsmith approaches the game. “Undersized, not a guy who you’re going to run a lot of plays for, has to be efficient,” Haslem said. “His approach is a defensive-minded approach, so he takes the challenge every night. He’s just my guy.”
  • Despite a winless five-game 2023 Summer League run, the Magic were able to learn about their two rookie lottery selections, while in turn educating No. 6 pick Anthony Black and No. 11 pick Jett Howard about the team’s own approach to its internal dynamics, writes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. “From everybody in the front office to the coaching staff to the players, everybody’s locked in,” Howard said, “We just met each other but we still had the willingness to keep fighting and sticking together. “Even down the stretch when we’re losing, we’re still cognate for one another. We showed up and worked hard in training camp. All of those things just make a culture.”
  • On the cusp of his 11th NBA season, 32-year-old Wizards big man Mike Muscala isn’t taking his longevity for granted, writes Chip Scoggins of The Star Tribune. “As a young athlete, you’re always striving for something,” Muscala said. “It’s like, ‘I want to do this. I want to compete against this person.’ There’s still a lot of value in that. But once you kind of check those boxes, it’s like, now what? When you’re grateful for whatever situation you’re in and the opportunities you have, that’s been motivating me.”

Heat To Guarantee Haywood Highsmith’s Contract For 2023/24

The Heat have decided to guarantee Haywood Highsmith‘s $1.9MM contract for the upcoming season, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The team faced a July 15 deadline to determine whether to keep Highsmith’s salary on its books.

[RELATED: Early NBA Salary Guarantee Dates For 2023/24]

The 26-year-old forward earned a standard contract with Miami after signing three 10-day deals during the 2021/22 season. He appeared in 54 games last season, making 11 starts and averaging 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 17.9 minutes per night. Highsmith also saw action in 18 playoff games and posted a career-high 18 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Highsmith signed a two-way contract with the Sixers after going undrafted out of Wheeling University in 2018. He got into just five games with Philadelphia, spending most of his time in the G League, and then played two years in Germany before getting an opportunity with Miami.

Haywood will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension after he becomes eligible in March. Miami now has 12 guaranteed contracts, plus a partially guaranteed deal for Orlando Robinson, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).

Heat Notes: Offseason, Vincent, Strus, Herro, Lillard, Beal

After an improbable run to the NBA Finals, the Heat face an offseason filled with important financial decisions, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

Miami has just seven players with guaranteed salaries for next season, but Victor Oladipo is almost certain to pick up his $9.5MM option after suffering a knee injury in the playoffs and the team is expected to guarantee Haywood Highsmith‘s $1.9MM salary. With an estimated cap hit of about $3MM for the No. 18 pick, the Heat will have roughly $176MM committed, putting them well over the projected $162MM luxury tax line and in sight of the new $179.5MM second apron.

Kevin Love, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Cody Zeller are all headed to unrestricted free agency, while Omer Yurtseven will be restricted if Miami makes a $2.26MM qualifying offer. In addition, Miami has already been linked to potential trades involving Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal.

“The goal is to win a championship, and this organization will do anything possible for that to happen,” Bam Adebayo said at Wednesday’s exit interviews. “I feel like everybody in here knows it’s a business. And that’s why you cherish the moments you go through with your teammates, with your brothers because you never know what can happen next year.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • The Heat hold Bird rights on Vincent and Strus, so they can go over the cap to re-sign them, although that would increase their tax bill, Chiang adds. Both players indicated that they plan to explore all their options. “Money plays a role, place plays a role, situation plays a role,” Vincent said. There’s a lot of things that factor in and I think it will all take care of itself throughout the summer.”
  • Tyler Herro didn’t address reporters on Wednesday, but coach Erik Spoelstra expanded on his decision to not use him in Game 5, per Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Herro received medical clearance Monday afternoon after missing nearly two months following hand surgery. “It’s also my job, as the head coach, to protect him, and do what we think was best for the team,” Spoelstra said. “… And there’s no knowing for sure, but I do know that that was just a totally unusual circumstance that you can’t compare to anything else. But the good news is he’ll have a great offseason and he’ll be fully ready to go next year.”
  • With trade rumors flying around the Heat, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald proposes a scenario in which the team could acquire both Lillard and Beal while keeping Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.

Heat Notes: Vincent, Strus, Lowry, Yurtseven, Highsmith, Robinson

Running it back with the group that got the Heat to the NBA Finals this offseason might be impossible unless the team is willing to pay a massive tax bill, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald details. Guards Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, who earned minimum salaries in 2022/23, are each expected to command an eight-figure salary when they sign new contracts as unrestricted free agents this summer.

The Heat have always intended to become a taxpaying team in 2023/24, Jackson writes, but they project to be over the luxury tax threshold even before accounting for new deals for Vincent and/or Strus. Re-signing both players for starting salaries in the range of $10-12MM per year would push the projected team salary into the neighborhood of $200MM, which would result in a tax bill in excess of $120MM.

According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, rival executives are dubious that the Heat are willing to make that kind of tax payment. As such, it seems unlikely that both Vincent and Strus will be back unless the club can find a way to dump salary in a trade. Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson would be the best candidates to be involved in such a deal, and Pincus notes that Herro’s four-year contract probably makes him the best option if the club is seeking additional long-term flexibility.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Lowry restored his value to some extent with a strong playoff run, but his expiring deal (worth nearly $30MM) still has limited value, writes Sean Deveney of Heavy.com. A source tells Deveney that if the Heat don’t end up using Lowry’s expiring contract in a trade, they should be comfortable bringing him back for the final year of that deal. “It’s not a bad option to have, the way he played,” the source said. “It’s not a desperate kind of thing.”
  • Omer Yurtseven, who is eligible for restricted free agency, was asked on Wednesday what his priorities in free agency will be, tweets Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “I think my priority is to play,” said Yurtseven, who was limited to nine games in 2022/23 in large part due to ankle surgery in the fall. If the Heat opt not to issue a qualifying offer to Yurtseven, he’d be free to seek out the team willing to give him the biggest role.
  • Heat wing Haywood Highsmith told reporters on Wednesday that he expects the team to guarantee his $1.9MM salary for next season by hanging onto him beyond July 15, per Winderman (Twitter link). Highsmith added that his goal is to continue to work toward becoming a lock-down defender.
  • Orlando Robinson‘s two-way contract with the Heat will expire on June 30, but the big man has committed to playing for Miami’s Summer League team, he said today (Twitter link via Winderman). The Heat have the ability to make Robinson a restricted free agent by issuing him a qualifying offer equivalent to another one-year two-way deal.

Heat Notes: Highsmith, Herro, Injuries, Strus, Love

Haywood Highsmith may see consistent minutes throughout the NBA Finals after scoring 18 points in the series opener, writes Peter Baugh of The Athletic. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra played Highsmith more than 23 minutes off the bench in Game 1 and trusted him to share the responsibility of guarding Jamal Murray.

Earning playing time hasn’t been easy for the third-year swingman, who was barely used for most of the Eastern Conference Finals. He had a breakthrough performance when he scored 15 points in 36 minutes in Game 5 against Boston.

The 26-year-old has taken an unconventional road to the NBA Finals, playing at a Division II college and then being waived three times by the Sixers. Miami gave him an opportunity with a 10-day contract last season, and he earned two more before signing a three-year deal. He takes pride in being one of seven undrafted players on the team’s roster.

“(The Heat) see something in us that nobody else saw in us as undrafted guys, kind of like hidden gems,” Highsmith said. “They believe in us, and they do a great job with developing us and taking us up under their wing and just making us be the best players we can be.”

There’s more on the Heat:

  • Tyler Herro has been declared out for Game 2, but that doesn’t mean it’s certain that he won’t play, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Jackson states that NBA rules allow teams to change the status of injured players, so Herro could be activated before Sunday night if he continues to make progress in his recovery from hand surgery. Jackson adds that Caleb Martin is listed as questionable with an illness that the team describes as a head issue, and Cody Zeller is questionable with a sprained right foot.
  • Jimmy Butler hasn’t lost faith in Martin and Max Strus, who combined to shoot 1-of-17 in Game 1, Jackson adds. Butler said he’ll still set them up for the same shots, and Strus remarked that he’s eager to put his scoreless night behind him. “You can’t dwell on it,” he said. “Luckily, it was only Game 1 so we got more to play. But I’m ready. I wanted to play right after the game was over.”
  • In an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Kevin Love offers his perspective as a relative newcomer to Heat culture after signing with the team in February. “I think it’s definitely a level of focus and professionalism, attention to detail and winning at all costs, that is not always the case (with other teams),” Love said. “Or there’s moments throughout the season (where you have that focus with other teams), but this is all-in for all 82. And then after that, it’s taking it up even another notch. And I’ve felt that, and understood that, and I’ve only been here for three months.”

Heat Notes: Robinson, Vincent, Strus, Love, Haslem

The Heat‘s unexpectedly deep playoff run has improved the league-wide perception of several of the team’s key contributors, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

According to a scout who spoke to Jackson, Duncan Robinson‘s contract – which has three years and $57MM left after this season – now looks more tradable as opposed to being a “complete albatross.” Meanwhile, players like Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, who are headed for unrestricted free agency, are poised to cash in nicely this summer.

“I’ve gone from thinking (Vincent) is a good $3MM backup to a $10MM, $11MM player; he’s worth that in today’s NBA,” the scout said. “The guy has produced when it counts, and that’s what teams are looking for. He has risen to the occasion. … He’s never afraid of the moment. You get high effort defensively. Decent play-maker, has toughness. To me, his value correlates a lot to his scoring, but he does do other things that teams value.”

Ira Winderman explores the same subject in a story for The Sun Sentinel, noting that ESPN’s Bobby Marks believes both Vincent and Strus could get starting salaries around the full mid-level exception ($12.2MM) when they hit the market in a few weeks.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Five undrafted Heat players – Vincent, Strus, Robinson, Caleb Martin, and Haywood Highsmith – played at least 20 minutes in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. While those players appreciated Erik Spoelstra‘s recent assertion that the fixation on their undrafted status is “disrespectful,” they also don’t want to dismiss the obstacles they had to overcome to become rotation players on a Finals team, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “You want to be labeled as an NBA player, but you don’t forget the road you took to get here, you don’t forget where you started and where you came from,” Martin said. “That’s what makes it also very special. I think that’s why our connection is so great, because near half our team went through the same stuff. I think the fact that’s the case has also helped us get to this point. So just as much as it can get old, it’s also very special.”
  • Kevin Love‘s numbers since he joined the Heat have been modest and his minutes have fluctuated, but teammate Duncan Robinson believes the veteran forward has been a difference-maker off the court for the club. “I think he totally changed the whole dynamic of our locker room,” Robinson said of Love on The Old Man and the Three podcast (hat tip to Jackson at The Miami Herald). “Just his character, his levity, what he brought in terms of just connecting people, having a sense of humor. When you have a guy who’s played in four NBA Finals, won a championship, gets pulled from a rotation in the middle of a series and his immediate reaction is uplifting the guy that’s replacing him — that alone sets the tone down the line for everybody else.”
  • While Udonis Haslem admits it would be an “amazing” ending to his own career if the Heat win a championship this spring before he retires, he said this week that he wants a title more for his teammates than for himself. “I want it for the guys that haven’t won any,” Haslem said, according to Chiang. “I want it for Jimmy Butler. I want it for those guys more so than anything.”

Heat Notes: Butler, Salary Structure, Oladipo, Highsmith

Jimmy Butler was reluctant to accept the “Playoff Jimmy” moniker, even after one of the most remarkable postseason performances in Heat history, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. Butler set a franchise record with 56 points and led an incredible comeback on Monday night to give Miami a 3-1 lead in its series with the top-seeded Bucks.

Butler was 19-of-28 from the field and 15-of-18 from the foul line as he tied Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Charles Barkley for the fourth-highest point total ever recorded in the playoffs. He’s now the leading scorer in this year’s postseason at 36.5 PPG.

“I love the competitive aspect of (the playoffs),” Butler said. “This is where all the best players, they show up and they show out. I’m not saying I’m one of those best players; I just want to be looked at as such. I want to do everything for my team to win, along with everybody on this roster. I think (team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra) wanted me here for a reason. I feel like this is part of that reason.”

Holding a 12-point lead with 6:08 left to play, Milwaukee was on the verge of evening up the series before Butler took over. He scored or assisted on 22 of the Heat’s final 30 points and personally outscored the Bucks 13-8 over the final five minutes of the game.

Milwaukee used seven different defenders to try to control Butler, Collier adds, but he was able to make 16-of-21 shots that were classified as contested.

“When he gets in that zone, he’s just such a killer,” Kevin Love said. “Lions like to hunt, man. They make their kill, and they keep hunting. That’s what he does. He’s got a huge heart. He wants to see us win. He doesn’t want to make it about him; he just wants to go out there and get the job done.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • The Heat could use another scorer to help Butler, but their salary structure for next season makes that difficult, per Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Butler will earn $45.1MM in 2023/24, and the team has close to $90MM committed to Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry. Unless Miami can unload some of that salary, the need for Butler to carry the offense is unlikely to change.
  • Victor Oladipo has remained in good spirits despite his latest knee injury, Winderman adds in another Sun Sentinel story. Spoelstra addressed the media Monday for the first time since Oladipo was diagnosed with a torn left patellar tendon that will require surgery. “He said, ‘Don’t shed any tears for me, I’m going to get through all of this,’” Spoelstra said. “That human side, we keep on talking about, when you see how much he’s been able to go through and over time, you just naturally are kind of rooting for him these last three years. But he will. … He has all of convinced he’s going to get through this and he will find a way. He has that kind of a fortitude.”
  • Oladipo’s injury has resulted in a greater role for Haywood Highsmith, notes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The third-year small forward was the first player Spoelstra used off the bench Monday night.

Heat Notes: Oladipo, Roster, Highsmith, D. Robinson

Heat guard Victor Oladipo expects to have surgery later this week on his torn left patellar tendon, sources tell Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Although this will be Oladipo’s third major surgical procedure in roughly four years, doctors believe he’ll be able to make a full recovery and he plans to continue his basketball career, Chiang adds.

Oladipo will travel to New York to have the operation performed by Dr. Jonathan Glashow, who handled the second surgery on the quadriceps tendon in Oladipo’s right knee two years ago. Glashow anticipates a six-month recovery process, according to Chiang, although an official timeline won’t be established until the operation is complete. If all goes well with Oladipo’s rehab, he could return to action early in the 2023/24 season.

Chiang notes that Oladipo wasn’t in Miami’s rotation at the end of the season, but coach Erik Spoelstra turned to him after Tyler Herro broke his hand in Game 1 of the playoffs. Oladipo played 26 minutes in Game 2, scoring 15 points, and had eight points in 19 minutes before getting hurt Saturday.

“This year and last year, he worked his way back to be healthy and back in it,” Spoelstra said. “But all those times where he was just rehabbing and not available to play, those can be very frustrating times. But you’d never see that on his face, he was always with a positive attitude and a smile.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • The injuries to Oladipo and Herro, along with the back spasms that have sidelined Nikola Jovic, leave the Heat with just 12 available players, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. NBA rules prevent teams from adding replacements in the postseason as long as they have at least nine players who are capable of taking the court. “The next guy’s going to have to step up,” said Kyle Lowry, who has been listed as questionable for each game in the series due to an ongoing struggle with knee soreness. “And we understand that we’ll get more minutes from Gabe (Vincent) and more minutes from myself, Caleb (Martin).”
  • Haywood Highsmith could be part of the rotation if Spoelstra wants to use more than eight players, Winderman notes in a separate piece. With Udonis Haslem not a realistic option, Winderman states that Spoelstra’s only choices are Highsmith, Cody Zeller and Omer Yurtseven.
  • Duncan Robinson has excelled since Herro’s injury, leading the team with 10 made three-pointers while shooting a sizzling 76.9% from beyond the arc in the first three games of the series, Chiang adds in another Miami Herald story. It’s a gratifying conclusion to a season that saw Robinson move in and out of the rotation and miss 20 games due to finger surgery. “Some ups and downs just personally and as a group, as well,” he said. “And that’s the beautiful thing about this time of the year, you just got to commit everything you can to try to help us win.”

Heat Notes: Adebayo, Highsmith, Strus, Butler

Bam Adebayo is a long shot to start the All-Star Game, but the Heat center is confident that he belongs there, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Adebayo was outside the top 10 among Eastern Conference frontcourt players in the latest round of fan voting, which accounts for 50% of the final total. Coaches will choose the seven reserves in each conference, with the selections being announced February 2.

Adebayo has a strong case for All-Star consideration, averaging career highs with 21.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while anchoring Miami’s defense. He dismisses the results from the fans, but believes the coaches understand how good he is.

“I’m going to be (upset) about if they tell me somebody else has played better than me this year considering I’m leading the NBA in paint points and I’m one of the reasons why we’re winning,” Adebayo said. “So for me, it’s just that fan voting is fan voting. I’ll let that be. But when it comes to coaches voting, that’s when I feel like I deserve to be in it.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • Haywood Highsmith earned extended minutes with his performance in Tuesday’s win over the Celtics, Chiang states in a separate story. The third-year small forward has excelled with Jimmy Butler battling injuries, and he put up 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench against Boston. “H played so well, I just couldn’t take him out of the game,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Those are the kind of things that you want from a head coaching standpoint. Make us play you because you’re playing so hard and you’re making so many things happen.”
  • The Heat weren’t expecting to use Max Strus as a starter this season, but injuries have forced him into that role, Chiang adds. Strus has started 25 of the 47 games he has played, including Tuesday night when Butler was a late scratch. “You could look at it either positively or negatively,” Spoelstra said. “That’s why I tell him, ‘Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted? To come in there and play a big role whether you’re coming off the bench or starting. What else could you want?’ I think that’s great to be able to plug and play in a lot of different roles.”
  • The lower back tightness that prevented Butler from playing against the Celtics occurred during pre-game warmups, tweets Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel.

Heat Notes: Dedmon, Oladipo, Highsmith, Vincent

Heat reserve big man Dewayne Dedmon spoke to reporters on Saturday for the first time about his recent suspension, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Dedmon was suspended for one game by the team after getting into an argument with coaches on the sidelines and swatting a massage gun onto the court during play.

“I talked with [head coach Erik Spoelstra], talked with [team president Pat Riley], talked with my team, made sure we were all on the same page,” Dedmon said. “And we’re ready to move on from it… Sometimes it gets the best of you. But it’s basketball. We’re all competitors in this locker room, we all want to play and we all want to win. So that’s all that is.”

Chiang notes that Dedmon has lost his rotation spot as Bam Adebayo‘s primary backup as of late to undrafted rookie center Orlando Robinson.

There’s more out of Miami:

  • The role Heat guard Victor Oladipo is playing as a defensive spark plug off the bench is exactly what Spoelstra had wanted the former All-Star to achieve prior to the regular season, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (subscriber-only link). “It’s what we envisioned,” Spoelstra said. “At the start of training camp, that’s the role we slotted for him.”
  • Heat reserve big Haywood Highsmith has performed well with starting power forward Caleb Martin injured, but Winderman notes in a recent mailbag (subscriber exclusive) that he is unsure if Highsmith will earn rotation minutes once everyone is healthy.
  • Spoelstra believes Heat swingman Gabe Vincent has evolved into a solid 3-and-D guard capable of playing either backcourt position this season, Chiang writes in another article. “He has the emotional stability to handle different roles that not every player in this league can accept,” Spoelstra raved. “He can play off the ball, he can play on the ball, he can play as a little bit more a scorer, he can be more of a facilitator if we have our full health. Those kind of guys are so invaluable in this league.”