Dru Smith arrived in South Florida hoping the Miami Heat would be talking turkey, but also uncertain whether there would be a seat at the team’s table.
So while he was in Miami on Thanksgiving, it was not necessarily a one-way ticket onto the roster. The following day, there was a light workout by the 6-foot-3 combo guard at the Heat’s arena and a discussion with coach Erik Spoelstra.
And then a waiting game.
“I just got in the gym for a second and they kind of figured it out, I think, later on Friday,” he said. “They didn’t know if they were going to need me or not. Basically, I was just in case they lost another guard, I think, honestly.”
Shortly before Friday’s home game against the Washington Wizards, the Heat determined that knee swelling would keep Gabe Vincent out. So Smith not only was back on the roster on a two-way contract, but played 15:55 off the bench in the victory, on a night he just as likely could have been with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
“It’s been interesting,” Smith said ahead of the Heat’s Wednesday and Friday night games against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. “It’s been fun. I didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like when Spo was talking to me about them bringing me back. He just said, ‘We’re going to need you. We’ve got guards that are down.’ So I knew I was going to get to play.
“Obviously, I didn’t know how much or what that would look like. So just trying to make sure that I was ready to go and just doing the best to help us win.”
In Sunday’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks at the start of this four-game trip, Smith again did just that, converting a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to help the Heat hold on.
“I think in this situation you just kind of have to take every day as it comes,” said Smith, who went undrafted out of Missouri in 2021. “You can’t plan days out. You just don’t know what’s going to come next. So I think just trying to stay open minded to whatever it is and just go into everything with the right attitude really is what’s more important to me than anything else.”
This is the All-SEC selection’s second stint with the team this season. He was waived on Nov. 13 when the Heat opted for the size of center Orlando Robinson, who had been playing alongside Smith with the Skyforce.
When he was waived, Smith said he was told he could return. That return came a week later.
“I believed ‘em,” he said. “I don’t think they’re just telling you that just because. I think they’re trying to keep you in the right mental state, just knowing that you’re not that far out of reach while you’re up there.”
To a degree, it’s almost as if the Heat have had Smith on speed dial. When the roster was limited during summer league, he was summoned to join the team in July in Las Vegas. A camp invitation followed, as did his initial two-way contract, and now this second go-round on such a deal.
“Whatever the case may be,” he said, “just try to make sure I’m ready and able to help the team win when they need me to.”
All while having the maturity to deal with traveling commercially during Thanksgiving week and accepting there yet again could be the big chill of South Dakota.
“My wife does a great job of just keeping me even keeled and just supporting me on the days that I need it,” Smith, 24, said. “I think that’s how I’ve been since I really started playing.”