MIAMI – The table where the Miami Heat’s management team sits to watch practice was overflowing today, the first gathering since returning from the All-Star break.
The usual suspects, President Pat Riley, GM Andy Elisburg and VP Alonzo Mourning were present, along with other executives. And even owner Micky Arison, who checks in whenever possible, was stopped by.
But a new face emerged, at least new to the front office.
Shane Battier attended his first practice as the Heat’s director of basketball development and analytics. Battier, 38, has been at plenty of Erik Spoelstra’s practices as player during his three seasons (2011-2014) but this was his first since being hired Thursday.
“I think it’s great and I think it fits really the history of this franchise since Micky and Pat took over,” Spoelstra said as he team prepared for Friday’s game in Atlanta, which will start a playoff push. Miami (25-32) is two games out of the No. 8 seed.
“There is a lot of diversity on this staff. But what’s really important as you develop a culture is that you have a living, breathing living culture of guys who have been through it. Guys that believe in it. Guys have that proved it.”
Spoelstra cited the Heat’s history of bringing back players in various roles off the court, including Mourning, Tim Hardaway, who spent time as a Heat ambassador; current assistants Juwan Howard and Chris Quinn; and Keith Askins, the director of college and pro scouting and assistant GM for the D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce.
And now, Battier.
“With Shane it took us forever to acquire him as a player,” Spoelstra said. “We always wanted him as a player because we thought he was absolutely a Miami Heat, DNA-type, fabric player. … He can appreciate the way this team plays and how they compete.
“When we’re able to add somebody of Shane’s championship experience, that’s been through this culture it’s very important for teams. We had him three brief years, but incredible success. … And now we get to get to continue it.”