MIAMI — Erik Spoelstra kicked off Exit Interview Day with his own press conference.
It was an encouraging Heat season, but the ending was disappointing. Miami missed the postseason by one game, as the Bulls took the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot despite having the same 41-41 record because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Here’s some of what Spoelstra had to say in his exit interview press conference …
* With a few days to reflect back on the season, how are you feeling? “I think you have to be able to enjoy and even celebrate mini victories along the way, and enjoy seasons even if they don’t necessarily end with a win. … Only one team finishes the season with a win. … This will be a season that a bunch of strangers came together in October, and they will see each other years from now in NBA circles and they will be able to have that bond.”
* How hopeful are you that the core of this Heat team will be back?: “There’s a long way until this summer. It’s OK to still reflect and embrace how unique this season was. I think so often all of us fall prey to what’s next and what is the future, and you’re not able to enjoy and be present. I’ve learned a lot from this season and one of those things is to really be present. … All of those [offseason] discussions are literally months away.”
* On players returning to work at the Heat facility this summer: “This is clean-up day, not clean-out day. Lockers are still going to be there. We want our guys to still feel at home. Free agency is going to happen. … But that’s July. Once our staff is able to get away and unplug, we’re going to be back here and we’ll encourage our guys to come back.”
* On outsiders pointing to bad losses against the Knicks and Magic as the difference between the Heat making the playoffs: “I really don’t want the narrative to be… the classic, ‘If you just won the New York game.’ That’s so uneducated. That’s lazy.”
* On what a healthy Justise Winslow could have brought to this Heat team: “If he was able to play a full season, he would have had a major impact on this team. I thought he had a terrific summer. … I haven’t forgotten about the potential and about what he can build on this summer.”
* On Hassan Whiteside’s growth this season: “He has an opportunity to be one of the greats in this league. That’s what our franchise needs from him. I think the growth that he’s made over the past three years has been staggering. … Why would we put a ceiling on him?”
* Spoelstra said Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle) would have been ready to play for the start of the playoffs. Not 100 percent, but ready to play.
* Was Spoelstra surprised by James Johnson’s play this season? “We really try to refrain from judgement early on with a player. We really liked his potential and versatility. … We thought his skill-set could be interesting with the way we play. … The timing was right. It was a great fit for us and it was a great fit for him. … But it was great to go through that process together.”
* Among the thing Spoelstra wants to see Whiteside work on this summer is “his ability to post up efficiently within the context of an offense.”
* Spoelstra called Goran Dragic the Heat’s “most consistent driving force each month” this season.