Already having been praised by several of his peers, and just this week receiving an endorsement from his boss Pat Riley for his Coach of the Year candidacy, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had more plaudits thrown his way Friday from a friend/foe.
Dwyane Wade, whose struggling Chicago Bulls now are tied with the Heat for ninth in the Eastern Conference, one half game out of the final playoff spot, told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that Spoelstra and his staff are being recognized more this year for the job they have done turning a downtrodden team into a playoff contender.
“I think this year probably opened a lot of eyes to his and his staff’s coaching ability,” Wade said before the Bulls were routed by the Houston Rockets, who had a 33-2 run during the game.
Wade then expressed his surprise over how the Heat have turned an 11-30 start into a 20-4 run.
“What that team has been able to accomplish is incredible, the way they continue to keep winning,” he said.
Spoelstra was named the Eastern Conference’s Coach the Month for February.
Wade left last summer after 13 seasons with the Heat, signing a two year contract with his hometown team, the second year a player option. The decision has not worked out with the team trading two rotation players at the deadline and falling from a tie for the No. 6 seed to ninth in two weeks. The Bulls have lost four in a row.
Wade was asked Friday if he signed up for development team.
“I’m not really going to go there,” he said. “I’m not getting in trouble no more.”
But he added: “It’s no secret. We’re a team who is preparing for the future and also trying to make the playoffs.”
Which is not ideal for a man who is 35 years old.
Meanwhile, his former team, which was expected to be in a rebuilding year, is surging and ironically could be in a battle with Wade and the Bulls the final month of the season for a playoff spot.