Heat coach Erik Spoelstra trusts Okaro White in crunch time

 

Heat forward Okaro White will be playing in his hometown when teh Miami faces Brooklyn tonight. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/TNS)

Heat forward Okaro White will be playing in his hometown when Miami faces Brooklyn tonight. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/TNS)

 

NEW YORK – Okaro White is coming home.

Okay, not like that, but the Heat’s 6-foot-8 forward from Florida State will be playing in an arena located about 15 minutes from where he was raised when the Heat face the Brooklyn Nets tonight.

White, who is on a 10-day contract, was born in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. But when he grew up the Nets were in New Jersey and he was a … Spurs fan?

“My mom tried to make me a Knicks fan,” he said. “Me and my dad had a little beef going on, he was a Pistons fan and I was a Spurs fan. She tried to make me a Knicks fan but it didn’t work.”

White, 24, will have about 15 friends and family members in the stands tonight, including three sisters (his mom and dad both live out of state). They got the chance to see him play at the Barclays Center once this season when the Heat’s D-League team, Sioux Falls, played the Long Island Nets.

“To be a month and a half later and now on one of the biggest stages it’s going to be great,” White said.

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So much has changed for White in those six weeks. The Heat were granted a roster exception following Josh Richardson’s injury and White was called up. He made his NBA debut Thursday against the Mavericks, scored his first NBA points Saturday against the Bucks and then on Tuesday scored five points and played more than half of the fourth quarter against the Warriors. He was on the floor for Dion Waiters’ game-winning, three-pointer with less than a second to play.

White had five points, including a big three-point play the old fashioned way in the fourth quarter.

“It was a great experience to beat arguably the best team in the NBA with the stars they have on that team,” Waiters said.

Heat coach Spoelstra praised White following the game.

“He’s a tough, tough kid,” he said. “We like his DNA, the fabric that he brings. He’s not afraid of the moment. But he’s also trained with us. If he didn’t have that background – summer league, being here all summer, training camp and developing with us – I wouldn’t feel any kind of comfort level throwing him out there like that. But he played great.”

Now White waits to see where he will be the rest of the season. White’s first 10-day gig is up Friday and the Heat likely will sign him to a second 10-day contract. Following that they have to sign him for the remainder of the season or risk losing him to another team. White could stay with the Heat only if they release another player. Otherwise they would send him back down to Sioux Falls and then he would be available to any other team.

White said it’s hard not to think about the situation.

“But the best thing to do is look at what you got in front of you and tonight that’s against Brooklyn and play the best I can,” he said.

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