At the time, it sounded like coachspeak.
But it turns out that it was far from that. When Heat coach Erik Spoelstra kept emphasizing the team’s progress during the 1-5 West Coast trip, he was being genuine.
Since falling to 11-30 on the season, the Heat have won 11 straight games to double their win total and improve to 22-30. Miami is just two games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, as of Tuesday morning
Nobody, not even Heat players or Spoelstra, saw this coming. But they did allude to the team’s improvement numerous times during the losing road trip that immediately preceded this incredible winning streak.
Here are some quotes that prove the Heat never lost hope, even at 11-30 …
Spoelstra on Jan. 8 during his pregame interview before the Heat’s game against the Clippers …
Is it different to coach this season’s Heat team that’s in the developmental phase?: “I love the craft of coaching. I feel very grateful that I have an opportunity to coach different kinds of teams and have an opportunity to build culture, build a foundation. We like the group that we have. It’s been unfortunate that we haven’t been able to get the group on the court for the majority of the year. But our development has been ongoing. This is a tremendous group in terms of work ethic, developing standards that we want going forward. What’s really bizarre about this year is we have career years from about seven guys. Seven guys are having career high years in scoring, field goal percentage, efficiency, those types of things. We have, I think, eight guys averaging in double figures. In terms of development and guys growing into bigger roles and shouldering more responsibility, I think that has been a big plus this year.”
Spoelstra on Jan. 10 after the Heat’s 107-95 loss to the Warriors …
What did you see in the loss?: “We’re going to keep on grinding. We’re going to get there. We’re getting better, you can see it. Guys are really competing. That was probably the biggest issue at the end of the first quarter and then in the second quarter and then there at the end. But we had some great possessions on both ends right before that. So you can see the progress.”
Do you look at it as a positive that you were able to keep it close against Golden State for most of the game?: “We’re not looking for moral victories. We’re looking to get better and improve every single day. The tough thing on this road trip is you have to step back and really evaluate, which I’m not able to do right now. I’m still emotional about the game. But you can see our basketball team is getting better. We’re not using any of that as an excuse because we have guys, the approach at practice yesterday is what I’m asking from this team, the approach at shootaround today to get better, and then there were things that we were doing that were definite building blocks from the last couple days and from the road trip. So we’ll continue to build.”
Tyler Johnson on Jan. 10 after the Heat’s 107-95 loss to the Warriors …
Can you appreciate the team’s improvement even in losses?: “It’s definitely getting better. I think the tough part is we actually enjoy each other’s camaraderie. We actually enjoy working with each other. It’s not like guys are coming in and not wanting to work. Guys are genuinely trying to get better. In this league it’s hard to get wins and on top of that, all the turnover we’ve had and had to go through. We’ve gone through enough halfway through the season where most teams go through it the whole year. That’s not an excuse. But we’re definitely having to figure things out on the fly and plug different pieces in here and there. But I think our core values are definitely starting to be implemented into the way we’re playing.”
Spoelstra on Jan. 15, 2017 after practice just two days before the Heat’s winning streak began …
What went right during the 1-5 West Coast trip?: “Overall the road trip, there was a lot of good work. It didn’t translate into wins but it translated into tangible progress the team is seeing. We have to keep on grinding until we get to where we want to go, until we can change the result.”
How challenging is it to compete with so many moving parts and injuries?: “We’re moving forward. None of us are feeling sorry for ourselves, that’s the way this season has been. I’m learning a lot. The guys are getting better, guys are coming in with an approach to not having excuses, just to work to get better every single day. I really commend the group for that.”
Johnson on Jan. 15, 2017 after practice just two days before the Heat winning streak began:
What’s your reaction to the “tanking” movement?: “I know the guys here aren’t trying to do that. You’ve got guys on one-year deals who can’t afford to do that. People are going to say whatever they want about tanking. You can’t really listen to all that outside noise. I think if you did, you would go a little crazy. We’re trying to get as many wins as we can. I mean, you put together eight wins in 10 games and all of sudden you look up, with the way the East has been shaping out this year, you can be right back in the hunt.”