ORLANDO – Okaro White wants to be like James. …
The 6-foot-8 power forward is working on his playmaking skills this summer as one of the leaders of the Heat’s summer league team. He played in 35 games for Miami last season, earning his stay after two 10-day contracts, and showed he has skills to at least shoot from the perimeter, making 35.3 percent of his threes.
“The way James Johnson gets us into offense and is able to handle the ball at the forward position, that’s what I’ve been working on and been working on a lot,” White said. “That’s really where I want to improve.”
White has gotten off to a rough start in the Heat’s first two summer league games. He had three turnovers and one assist in Miami’s 81-68 loss to Orlando Sunday, this coming after committing seven turnovers with no assists in Saturday’s loss to Charlotte. White did lead the Heat in scoring in both games with 20 points in the opener and 15 on Sunday, although he is shooting 9-of-28. He has 14 rebounds.
“I was down on myself a little bit,” White said Sunday. “I didn’t think I played up to my ability. I felt some good things as far as pushing it. I just want to stay lower while I’m pushing it against shorter guys. I still want to get into the offense also and try to be a playmaker.”
And there were signs. White did push the ball from end-to-end a couple of times and late in the game he made a nice bounce pass off the dribble from the top of the key to guard London Perrantes on the baseline.
“We’re asking Bam and him to do a lot,” coach Chris Quinn said about first-round pick Bam Adebayo and White. “We’re putting the ball in those guys’ hands and asking them to make plays and asking them to do a lot for us. Those guys’ development is one of our biggest priorities.”
Quinn returned to the bench Sunday after being a part of the Heat contingent that met with free agent forward Gordon Hayward Saturday in Miami. He was not happy with Sunday’s start in which Orlando jumped to a 21—0 lead.
“It’s not the welcome back I wanted, that’s for sure,” Quinn said. “Two games in a row now we’ve gotten off to slow first quarters.”
Adebayo, who has 28 points and 19 rebounds in the two games, said White has counseled him on the speed of the game.
“He just told me it’s very fast, everybody can shoot, everybody can play defense,” Adebayo said. “Everybody is athletic. You have to get your shots off at the right time and don’t double guess yourself. Just go strong.”
White, who averaged 2.8 points and 2.3 rebounds for the Heat last season, is the only player on the Heat summer league roster with NBA experience. He signed a partially-guaranteed contract last season that will pay him $1.3 million for 2017-18 if he’s around at the start of the season. He already has been guaranteed $226,000.
White and Adebayo are the only players guaranteed a spot on the training camp roster.
“I had a good amount of time to adjust to the game and adjust to the style of pace and adjust to the way we play as a team,” White said about the difference between this summer and last. “I think a more relaxed player.”
White also is adjusting to being a player looked upon to shoot. With the Heat he was asked to bring energy, defense and rebounding when he entered the game, although he showed at times he could hit a big shot.
The biggest was a game-tying three in the final minute of the Heat’s January victory at Brooklyn in which Miami overcame an 18-point deficit to start the fourth quarter.
“I don’t want to just get out here and jack up shots,” he said. “I know my role and the way I want to play when I get with the big guys. At the same time, I want to get my teammates involved. It’s a little weird. But I’m taking the challenge.”