Willie Reed is taking advantage of his opportunity.
Starting for the second time in place of the injured Hassan Whiteside, Reed posted career highs of 22 points and 18 rebounds in Miami’s 99-90 loss in Phoenix Tuesday, the first of a six-game road trip.
The 6-foot-11, 245-pound Reed shot 11 of-16, was active and also did his typical dirty work of setting screens and playing defense. He had two blocks and eight of his rebounds were on the offensive end.
“I love seeing a guy like Willie have that type of effort against a former All-Star center in Tyson Chandler that’s a great role model for him in this league, somebody that’s done it over the course of his career with just effort, tenacity, with diligence,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And Willie is very diligent.”
Reed has 26 points and 20 rebounds while shooting 13 of 19 in two starts for Whiteside, who has a retinal contusion in his right eye. He was averaging 3.9 points and 4.0 rebounds in his first 26 games.
Reed, 26, said nothing changed offensively at Phoenix other than the numbers just happened to come.
“I thought I played just as hard as I played last game or any other game this year,” he said. “If I keep continuously working, working as hard as I can, things are going to work out for the best.”
Reed was signed to a two-year $2.2 million deal (with a player option next year) during the summer because he’s a lunch-pail guy who enjoys doing the work that often gets overlooked like set screens, block shots, rebound and play defense. He also brings energy to the Heat’s second unit.
“I’m a shot blocker, I’m a rebounder, defender,” he said. “But I can also play offense and continuously working on it to make sure my offensive game gets better and better every single day.”
The Heat are waiting for Whiteside to be cleared to fly. If it comes in the next week, he will catch up with the team on this trip. In the meantime, Reed will continue to man the middle.
“Every single day all he does is work with Juwan to try to get better,” Spoelstra said about Reed’s time spent with assistant coach Juwan Howard. “Work at his craft to earn his minutes, earn his opportunities and what he always has had is the effort and the motor. But working at other things now makes him be more skilled on both ends of the court. When somebody puts in that much time you’re very happy for him when he’s able to produce like that.”
The Heat (10-26) continue their trip tonight in Sacramento.