Dwyane Wade, NBA coaches, players weigh in on what Heat is doing. And Oladipo update

David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A six-pack of Miami Heat notes on a Tuesday:

▪ Count TNT analyst and Utah Jazz minority owner Dwyane Wade among those who view the Heat as a legitimate championship contender. When I asked Wade on a TNT conference call on Tuesday if he would be at all surprised if the Heat makes the Finals, he said:

“No way [I would be surprised]. This is a team who was just in the Finals in one of the hardest seasons we ever watched. I couldn’t imagine the mental strain that put on the individual players and this team made it to the Finals against a seasoned Lakers team.

“They retooled in the right way. They added the right pieces. This looks like a team every one in the league has their eyes on and should watch out for. With health and the coach of the year over there, they definitely have the opportunity.

“The Bucks are who they are. They are defending champions. You put nobody over the defending champions until they’re dethroned. Milwaukee is the team you have to continue to keep an eye on. But the Heat have shown - with Jimmy [Butler], without Jimmy, with Bam [Adebayo], without Bam, with Kyle [Lowry], without Kyle - they’re for real.

“I feel this team is the perfect team for this word culture that we always talk about with the Heat. It’s a great mix of young players -- obviously [Tyler] Herro and what Caleb Martin is doing. And then you’ve got the right mix of players who are young but been around enough, like Bam and Duncan [Robinson]. And then you’ve got the leadership like Jimmy and Kyle. They have it all.”

Miami entered the week first in the conference despite their projected starting lineup (Butler, Adebayo, Lowry, Robinson and P.J. Tucker) playing just 17 minutes together.

▪ What’s most stunning about this season is that every developmental prospect on the roster (except KZ Okpala) has exceeded anyone’s reasonable expectations.

“I don’t know where they keep finding these guys,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers cracked when asked about Omer Yurtseven. “It pisses me off.”

“The way that they play, it just wears on you,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “They are physical and tough and they just keep touching and grabbing you the entire game, which is a compliment to them.”

Atlanta coach Nate McMillan recently marveled how the Heat can plug in virtually any player in and get results: “They do a great job of drafting players, finding players and plugging them into their system. With all the injuries they have had, they have been able to continue to get to their style of play, both offensively and defensively.”

Beating the Heat no longer is merely defeating an opponent, but overcoming a proven “system, a championship culture,” McMillan said. “You have to beat their system.”

A system that can make average defenders into charge-drawing dynamos. Among all the Heat’s stats, this one stands out: The Heat, defensively, has drawn 75 charges, while Miami’s opponents have drawn only 22. For perspective, Houston is second in the league with 37 drawn charges.

Lowry leads the league with 22 drawn charges and is tops in the league in that category over the past five seasons.

And McMillan likes how Erik Spoelstra is “putting the ball in [Tyler Herro’s] hands. He’s doing a great job creating offense for them” beyond “his ability to score, shoot the three.”

LeBron James, who has praised the Heat often since his departure - including Spoelstra’s coaching - said after Sunday’s Lakers loss in Miami that “there’s a lot of teams in this league that, at times, won’t make you pay for mistakes. But they are not one of them.”

And Blazers guard Anfernee Simons said one reason for this roster’s success is “they are very athletic and long. So that helps a lot, especially in a press like that. They are moving around, flying around, got long arms and stuff.”

▪ Victor Oladipo, working his way back from a major offseason knee surgery, moved around very well on the Heat’s practice court following Tuesday’s session, lofting jumpers in a vigorous workout, running without any visible limp and working with Heat assistant coaches.

His jump shot was generally on target and he was the last player to leave the court.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if he returns at some point in February, which was the original expectation of the Heat.

“He’s itching to get back,” Adebayo said. “He’s one of those guys that’s really determined. ...

“He’s going to be a great addition to this team when he gets back. We’ll see what happens. He’s starting to be at practice more and more. We’re starting to hear his voice and he’s starting to get opportunities to run in transition. When he’s able to suit up, it’s going to be a big day for all of us.”

Oladipo signed a one-year, $2.6 million contract this past offseason; the Heat holds his Bird Rights and can surpass the salary cap line to re-sign him this offseason.

▪ Another sign of the Heat’s depth: Among the top 25 players in the league in rebounds per 36 minutes, Omer Yurtseven is the only one not in a team’s regular rotation. He’s fifth in that category, averaging 15.3 rebounds per 36 minutes.

▪ Max Strus - who entered the week tied for 21st in the league in three-point percentage at 40.9 - recently thanked Suns coach Monty Williams after Williams told reporters that Strus is one of the best shooters in the league.

“I went to thank him after the game for the comment and he gave me a couple more nice comments,” he said. “It’s nice to hear from him. I respect him, admire what he’s done in his career. To get a compliment from a guy like that means the world to me. He said he respected the way I came up and the way grinded to get to where I am and keep doing what I’m doing because I’m doing a great job.”

Strus has improved defensively but said that’s the area where he must make more progress to fully gain Spoelstra’s trust.

“Being locked in consistently and defensively being reliable,” he said. “Being in the right spots all the time and knowing what’s going on. I think I’ve gained a lot of trust defensively and earned a lot of minutes through that.”

Though it’s not a full measure of a player’s defensive acumen, players guarded by Strus are shooting 48 percent, compared with the 44.6 percent they shoot overall.

Players also are shooting better against Robinson (47.9) than they do overall (45.2). Same with Herro (45.4 to 45.2). All have worked to improve defensively, and there has been progress.

Herro, incidentally, is out of COVID protocols and available to play Wednesday against the Knicks (ESPN, Bally Sports Sun).

▪ Spoelstra has played Herro and Strus and Robinson only 15 minutes together and Miami has been outscored 37-26 during those minutes.

But Spoelstra played Strus and Robinson in tandem on Sunday against the Lakers and has played them a lot this season. And it’s notable that with those two on the court together, Miami has been outscored by 24 points in 189 minutes - the second-worst two-man plus-minus on the team, ahead of only Caleb Martin and 10-day contract player Chris Silva (minus 29).

So while it’s tempting to play these lineups filled with multiple ignitable scorers who wouldn’t rank among the Heat’s defenders, the team results haven’t been great with those specific groupings, even in light of the team’s overall success.

Incidentally, Caleb Martin leads the Heat in defensive field-goal percentage against at 39.6. Those same players shoot 45 percent overall.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting