The drive between Portland, Maine, and Boston can get pretty boring if you have to do it over and over and over again.
Sure, the route takes you near the Maine coastline, through Portsmouth, N.H. and over the Merrimack River near Newburyport, Mass. Not the most boring in the world.
But when you make that round trip 21 times over 18 months like the Heat’s Jordan Mickey did, you get to know more about the route than you would ever need. … like the rest stop with the best Burger King or the pizza joint outside of Portland that gave Mickey a discount.
“I got pretty familiar with it,” he said about the 1-hour, 45-minute drive.
Mickey signed with the Heat this summer after spending two seasons with the Celtics. During that time he was assigned to the Maine Red Claws and recalled 42 times. That’s 21 round trips on the 110-mile stretch between Portland and Boston, or 2,310 miles, roughly the distance between Miami and Phoenix.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward learned to accept the roller coaster ride between the NBA and the developmental league.
“At first it was a little discouraging but it’s just part of the process,” he said. “A lot of guys in (the Heat) locker room did the same thing when it came to the D League. At the time I was enjoying being able to go down there and play and work on my game.
“When I got called back up if I got called to play or if I was just called back up to fill a spot I was happy to be back with my team.”
Mickey is right. Players like Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder and Okaro White have spent time in what is now the G League. Not everybody works their way to the NBA, but this group has become part of the Heat’s core.
“I had to think about it like I’m going to there to play, not just for the Celtics, I’m playing for every team in the league,” Mickey said. “This summer when I got waived a lot of teams called and the first thing a lot of them said is they did see me play in the D League and they liked my game.
“I just tried to keep it professional as possible and go down there and play and enjoy and show energy and enthusiasm.”
The Heat signed Mickey to a $1.5 million guaranteed contract after he was released by the Celtics. Coach Erik Spoelstra pointed out his style fits in well with the Heat’s.
“The things that he does are historically things we like,” Spoelstra said. “He’s an active big. He’s a shot-blocking big. He’s a presence in the paint. He’s improved his game now where he has the ability to stretch the floor and shoot the basketball, as well. But he’s one of those effort, energy defensive guys that we tend to like.”
Mickey has played about 10 ½ minutes in two preseason games, making both of his shots and contributing a rebound and two blocked shots.
This does not mean he may not be asked to spend more time in the G League to further develop his game.
But one thing is certain, with the Heat’s affiliate, Sioux Falls, more than 1,800 miles away, he will not be become familiar with those roads as he has with the pavement between Portland and Boston.