LAS VEGAS – The Miami Heat move onto tournament play in the Las Vegas summer league Thursday, but it is unknown if their two best players will be on the court.
Forward Derrick Jones Jr. has not played since spraining his right ankle Sunday and coach Eric Glass said Jones remains day-to-day. But since Jones did not practice Wednesday it is highly unlikely he will play when the Heat face the Pelicans at 4 p.m. at the Cox Pavilion.
“He couldn’t do anything,” Glass said after Wednesday’s practice at The Clark High School in Las Vegas. “We will see how (Thursday) goes. It’s not as bad as we thought it was.”
Bam Adebayo, who had 24 points and nine rebounds in the Heat’s 98-90 victory over Utah on Tuesday, could also sit. Adebayo has played in all but one of the Heat’s six summer league games, missing their second game in Las Vegas.
The Heat’s coaches will decide if they want to shut down Adebayo.
Miami will face the Pelicans for a second time in four games, having lost 110-84 Saturday.
If the Heat defeat New Orleans they advance in tournament play on Saturday. If they lose, their final game of summer league is Friday.
The Heat are 3-3 in summer league games, 2-1 in Sacramento, 1-2 in Las Vegas.
“I looked at it like there’s 29 other teams, we got to play the same team again?” Glass said. “But on the positive side we have some film against these guys. There are things they really hurt us on, a shooter that really hurt us. Let’s correct what we can do. It’s a good challenge.”
Trevon Bluiett, an undrafted rookie out of Xavier, scored 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-10 on threes.
One player who needs more time on the court to get his shot back on track is Derrick Walton Jr., the point guard who spent last season on a Heat two-way contract. Walton has struggled mightily, making just 12-of-49 from the floor (24.5 percent) and 3-of-27 on threes (11.1 percent). He is averaging 7.2 points.
“It’s really hard in this game, especially when you’re a shooter when your shot’s not going to find a way to impact the game,” Glass said. “He’s done that. He’s never put his head down. He’s never turned down an open shot. He’s focused on giving to his teammates and competing on the defensive end of the floor and that’s all you can ask for.”
LAS VEGAS – Perhaps it wasn’t quite an intervention as Pat Riley suggested, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and his embattled player, center Hassan Whiteside, have been in communication all summer.
And Spoelstra says that relationship is not what it appears to be.
“I have absolutely been in touch with Hassan,” Spoelstra said following the Heat’s summer league practice Wednesday at The Clark High School in Las Vegas.
“We’ve gotten together for lunch, in constant contact on the phone and in texts. Like many things in this league, it’s not what it seems on the outside. It’s pretty normal NBA life. I’m looking forward to the start of the season with a healthy Hassan. I know he’s looking forward to that. And we still have a good part of the summer to get better.”
Following the season, after Whiteside spoke out several times about his frustration over lack of playing time, including one profanity-laced outburst that cost him an undisclosed fine from the organization, Riley said Spoelstra and Whiteside needed an “intervention.”
Said Riley: “The disconnect between he and Spo that’s going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of coach and also Hassan.”
Whiteside is the Heat’s highest paid player, signing a four-year, $98.4 million contract two summers ago. He still is owed $52.5 million the final two seasons of the contract.
Whiteside’s numbers declined during the regular season to 14.0 points and 11.4 rebounds while playing 25.3 minutes per game, a dip of more than seven minutes per game from the previous year when he led the league in rebounding.
Then he was a total non-factor in the postseason, averaging 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds while playing just 15.4 minutes per game as the Heat were eliminated by Philadelphia in five games.
Now, Spoelstra believes the difference will be a healthy Whiteside. The 7-foot center missed 28 games last season, including 18 because of separate left knee bruises. He sat for nine games in March after injuring his left hip.
“I think Hassan having an opportunity to start off the season healthy will be a really big boost for us,” Spoelstra said.
But it isn’t just a healthy Whiteside that has Spoelstra looking forward to this season despite the fact the Heat have yet to make a move with the exception of signing Derrick Jones Jr. to a standard contract. Riley continues to explore trade options but nothing has materialized.
Spoelstra cited the return of guard Dion Waiters, who played 30 games before having ankle surgery; swingman Rodney McGruder, who played 18 after undergoing surgery in October to repair a stress fracture in his leg; and James Johnson, who had surgery to repair a sports hernia surgery following the season, as optimism that the team will be better.
Miami finished last season 44-38 and sixth in the Eastern Conference.
“I look at all those guys that had some injuries that they were dealing with last year as opportunities,” Spoelstra said. “In my mind, you’re almost adding a new player, adding a Derrick Jones, adding a Rodney McGruder, adding a Dion Waiters, adding a healthy Hassan Whiteside. Having a fully healthy James Johnson. These are new players you’re adding into the mix of already a playoff team. That’s something that’s exciting to me.”
Spoelstra also pointed to the improvement made this summer by center Bam Adebayo and Jones.
“We feel really good about our roster,” he said. “We love the internal growth we’ve had. Guys have had tremendous summers already. You’ve seen the improvement that Bam has made in terms of his skill level and running an offense through him. Being a little bit more offensive minded.
“We have great opportunities for internal growth. We have a lot of the guys returning. … we think the continuity and the corporate knowledge we bring from one season to another can really help. What we’re seeing is a lot of turnover every single offseason with a lot of teams. That’s not the easiest thing to manage. We bring some familiarity which we think can be a help.”
LAS VEGAS – Derrick Jones Jr. will not play Tuesday when the Heat face Utah in their third game in the Las Vegas summer league, but the Heat have seen all they need from this jumping-jack forward.
Jones sprained his ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Hornets. Although the Heat list him as day-to-day, it’s doubtful Jones will play again in Las Vegas. Miami already has seen Jones’ game and confidence progress, something he says that has come because of demands that are non-negotiable with the Heat.
“I work harder than I did ever in my life when I’m with this team,” Jones said after the Heat’s practice Monday on the UNLV campus, where he spent one year of college. “They hold you to a higher standard. It’s like everybody in the organization is working hard so you don’t want to be that one guy that’s singled out – ‘He’s just in here BS-ing it and going half-ass.’
“I want to be that one that they say ‘Yeah, he’s in here every day, he’s working hard, he wants to be better.’ That’s the player I planned on being. That’s the player I am now.”
But Jones, 21, blames himself. He joined the Phoenix Suns at 19 after going undrafted out of UNLV. He played in just 36 games with the Suns over about 1 ½ years before being waived. He signed to a two-way contract with the Heat on Dec. 31.
During his time with Suns, Jones was assigned or recalled from their G League team 23 times.
“I should have held myself (with more) accountability when I was in Phoenix.” Jones said. “But I was a young kid, fresh out of college. I just had turned 19 years old. It’s something that I should have been doing. I’m doing it now.
“I realized I had to work harder. I feel like I’m one of the hardest working players on the team. I’m going to keep it going until whenever my day is done. I want to be able to feel like I worked my tail off every day, never took any days off.”
The Heat saw that commitment and rewarded Jones with a two-year standard contract he signed less than two weeks ago.
“This summer he really took it upon himself to get in the gym and work and grind,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said. “He became obsessed with the game. He just dominated every game he was in whether it was on the offensive boards, on the defensive end, his leadership, his attacking, he was on a different level than most of the other guys on the court and were really happy to see that.”
Jones averaged 21.3 points on 22-of-42 shooting in the three summer league games in Sacramento last week. He added 22 rebounds, six steals and four blocks.
Glass said Bam Adebayo will return for Tuesday’s 4:30 p..m. game after getting a break on Sunday. Adebayo said he played the “UD” role, referring to veteran Udonis Haslem who has been a leader and mentor in the Heat locker room for several years.
“They wanted me to be the UD of the team,” Adebayo said. “UD sits over there to be vocal and be loud, just help everybody out when they come off the court.”
SACRAMENTO – Erik Spoelstra isn’t used to being in a gym and not sitting in the front row, yelling out instructions and in command of everything from who’s in the game to what sets are being run.
But during summer league the Miami Heat coach, who is entering his 11th season as a head coach, fades into the background, sitting in the stands and soaking in the play of a group of young Heat players.
Spoelstra was in the stands for two of Miami’s three games in Sacramento, including Thursday’s 86-76 victory over the Kings, giving summer league coach Eric Glass his space. He will follow the team to Las Vegas where it begins play Saturday. And Spoelstra likes what he has seen so far. … especially from the team’s marquee player and future star, Bam Adebayo.
“He’s had a great six weeks of training,” Spoelstra said before the Heat’s game against the Kings on Thursday.
“(Glass) has challenged Bam to be the loudest defender in summer league. The staff has challenged him to be the top rebounder in summer league and that’s defensive and offensive. We want the pursuit, the constant effort, the activity to keep on going to the glass and I’m seeing that.
“The other parts of his game he’s been developing and I want him to explore handling the ball more, being more offensive minded, that’s what summer league is for. He’s put in a tremendous amount of time. His confidence has grown. I think he’ll be more efficient as summer league goes on.”
Spoelstra has seen a lot to be happy about in his three days in Sacramento. He cited the effort on the defensive end and the way the team has shared the ball. Miami had 27 assists on 33 field goals in a victory over the Lakers on Tuesday.
“Your natural instincts are to try to impress everybody who is watching by doing things on your own,” he said. “But that’s not how the game of basketball (is played) when you want to have team success. The guys that stand out historically for us bought into team basketball and finding a way to continuing to be noticed within team concept.”
Spoelstra also touched on other players and topics Thursday. Here are some of his thoughts:
On visiting the Atlanta Falcons minicamp June 12: “I like visiting coaches and business people and leaders during the off-season just to continue to try to get better and get different perspectives. (Falcons coach) Dan Quinn is somebody that I met years ago. I think he runs a great program up in Atlanta. The way he does things and connects with players, the modern-day athlete, the environment he creates and the culture that he cultivates are so noteworthy that I wanted to see it firsthand.”
On forward Derrick Jones Jr. who has shined in summer league after signing a contract on Saturday: “He’s been terrific. He’s been all in with all the work. He wants more. Those guys tend to do well in our program. I was really happy for him when he signed the contract. It’s not easy in this league when you’re not drafted and then somebody cuts you. You have to show a level of grit and determination to be able to re-start. He did that, he trusted us to help him with that. His next step as a pro, it’s been fun to watch him improve.”
On undrafted rookie Duncan Robinson who had 19 points on Tuesday: “We love our shooters. He’s unique. He’s a big shooter. He’s one of the best standstill shooters that we’ve seen coming out of the draft. He has to develop diversity and complexity and level of difficulty shooting the basketball often on the move, those things. But those are the things we like to develop and we’ll want to see if a player can take the next step. We thought he’d be a very good fit with how we play and how we value shooting.”
MIAMI — The Heat entered the offseason with a lot of questions surrounding their roster and very little financial flexibility to make significant changes.
Excluding cap holds, the Heat have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $120 million. That puts Miami way above the $101.9 million salary cap and very close to the $123.7 million luxury tax line.
Unable to sign players into space because the Heat are capped out, they will have to rely on exceptions, minimum contracts, the power of Bird rights or even trades to fill out their roster.
SACRAMENTO – Heat summer league coach Eric Glass spoke about how he wanted Derrick Jones Jr. to “see the ball go through the net.”
In other words, gain some confidence in his shot.
Jones is off to a nice start to the summer league.
Jones celebrated his first game after signing a standard two-year contract Saturday by scoring 24 points in the Heat’s 79-68 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday. Jones, who excels defensively and is known for his leaping and rebounding, showed he’s been working on his offensive game by making 7-of-14 shots including all but one of his five 3-pointers.
“We tweaked a few things,” said Jones, who also added 11 rebounds. “It’s just mostly getting shots up, putting the reps in and just time in the gym. We log in the time and I don’t plan on logging out until I reach my goal.”
But it was one of his signature shots that drew the loudest reaction from the Golden 1 Center crowd. Late in the game, Jones took a pass from point guard Derrick Walton Jr. around the three-point circle and headed straight to the basket. As the lane parted he went up for a two-handed junk in which his head was above the rim.
“I think it was my first one,” said Jones, who was the runner-up in the NBA’s Slam Dunk contest in 2017 when he played for the Suns.
“I told myself I was going to get at least one.”
The Heat rewarded Jones, 21, after he spent last season splitting time between Miami and Sioux Falls of the G League while on a two-way contract. The deal is for $3 million, with only the first year at $1.4 million guaranteed.
Jones has played 52 NBA games, 20 for the Heat last season and 32 for Phoenix in 2016-17. Last season he averaged 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds for Miami and played in 29 G League games with Sioux Falls and Northern Arizona, averaging 17.4 points and 7.4 rebounds.
Now Jones can play this summer with the knowledge that he’s part of the Heat’s 15-man roster and without the pressure of having to impress to get back in the league full time.
Still, that does not mean anything will change when it comes to his work habits.
“He’s put in a lot of hours,” Glass said. “He’s seeing the ball go through the net in the practice gym. It’s a little bit different in a game, too. This will help him but he’s got sweat equity and he’s getting confidence from that.”
Nobody on the summer league roster has been through Jones’ journey more than Walton and center Bam Adebayo.
“He seems a lot more confident,” Walton said. “He’s been working pretty hard on his shot and being strong enough to take bumps on his drives.”
Said Adebayo: “He’s been working on his game every day, just like everybody else but you could see his just happen in stride. He’s out there making shots and he’s having fun.”
Jones started along with Adebayo, Walton who played last season on a two-way contract, guard Ike Nwamu and forward Duncan Robinson.
Adebayo had 14 points and 14 rebounds. He was 3-of-13 from the floor and 8-of-11 from the line. Adebayo was very active, finishing with seven fouls (players get 10 in summer league) and showed off some of the ball handling skills the Heat have him work on during the summer by helping facilitate offense.
Walton and Nwamu struggled, shooting a combined 3 of 19, including 1 of 13 on threes. Walton missed all but one of his 13 shots from the floor and all nine 3-point attempts.
The Heat face the Lakers at 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Golden 1 Center.
First up, three games in the California Summer League, starting at 9 p.m. tonight against Golden State. After facing the Lakers and Kings in Sacramento, the Heat then move onto the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas where they begin play Saturday. Each team will play at least five games in Las Vegas.
Here are five things to look for with the Heat during summer league:
Bam Adebayo stretching his outside shot: The Heat’s first-round pick in 2017 had a solid rookie season, playing in 69 games and averaging 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds. Of Adebayo’s 174 field goals, 91 were dunks, which placed him 25th in the league. Of his 340 field goal attempts, 300 were from within 10 feet and just 21 shots were from beyond 15 feet. Heat summer league coach Eric Glass even mentioned Adebayo working on his 3-point shot.
Derrick Jones Jr. expanding his offensive game: Jones, who was signed to a standard two-year contract Saturday, is known as a defender and a leaper. This is where he can work on his offensive game. “You’ll see him on the wing, attacking,” Glass said. “You’ll see him handling. You’ll see him with an improved 3-point jumper so hopefully he can see the ball go through the net.”
Derrick Walton Jr.’s leadership: Walton, like Jones, split time last season between the Heat and Sioux Falls while on a two-way contract. He is 6-foot-1 and was able to show off his point-guard skills in the G League last season, averaging 7.0 assists in 27 games for the Skyforce. The next step is for Walton to become more of a leader on the court.
Rashad Vaughn’s attempt to rehabilitate his career: Other than Adebayo, the 6-6 Vaughn is the only player on the Heat roster who was drafted. He was taken 17th overall by the Bucks and after playing in 70 games as a rookie has played in just 69 games the last two seasons, including 28 last season for three different teams. He has averaged 3.0 points in his career. Another reason to watch Vaughn, he will be a hometown favorite when the Heat get to Las Vegas having played one season at UNLV.
Who could emerge as a training camp invitee: The Heat have some interesting players on the roster including 6-9 forward Jarrod Jones, who spent the last six seasons playing professionally in Europe; 6-9 forward Yante Maten of Georgia, the 2017-18 SEC Player of Year; 6-10 Landry Nnoko, the G League’s Defensive Player of the Year last season while playing for Grand Rapids and 6-2 Tai Webster, who played professionally in Europe before going to Nebraska and professionally in Germany last season after four years at Nebraska.
SACRAMENTO – The Heat did not add Bam Adebayo to their summer league roster to play sparingly. Adebayo will see regular minutes when the team kicks off two-weeks of summer league play Monday against Golden State at Golden 1 Center.
Heat summer league coach Eric Glass, the team’s video coordinator/player development coach, said it’s a front office decision but he expects Adebayo, Miami’s top pick (14th overall) in the 2017 draft, to play in the majority of the games. The Heat will play three games at the home of the Sacramento Kings before moving into the NBA Summer League, Friday through July 17 in Las Vegas.
“We want him to see him improve in every area,” said Glass, who added that Adebayo, and others, would play heavy minutes in some games and sit out others. The Heat have a 14-man roster.
“We want to see his leadership and how he’s affecting his other teammates, we want to see that grow. On the court you’ll see him handle, you’ll see him screening and rolling, you’ll see him in the post a little bit. Hopefully we’ll stretch him out to the three.”
Adebayo mentioned recently he’s hoping to expand his outside shooting. Last season Adebayo played in 19 games and averaged 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds as a rookie. The majority of his baskets were dunks and at the rim. He attempted just seven 3-pointers, missing them all.
“The system will be free flowing so we’ll give him some options to space to the corner or he’ll be down on the box,” Glass said. “So, he’ll have some freedom to get around. We’ll get him in spots that we want him and places where he can be most effective. But we’re going to try to develop his all-around game.”
The roster includes two others who saw time with the Heat last season, forward Derrick Jones Jr., who was signed to a two-year contract Saturday, and point guard Derrick Walton Jr. Jones and Walton spent time with the Heat and with Sioux Falls, the organization’s developmental league team, last season as two-way players.
“We love Derrick,” Glass said about Jones. “He’s a typical Miami Heat guy. We are trying to develop (him), teach him how to be a pro, teach him how to work. From the day he came here, he’s been all in he’s been wide-eyed. We’re going to put him in positions to grow and be successful. You’ll see him on the wing, attacking. You’ll see him handling. You’ll see him with an improved 3-point jumper so hopefully he can see the ball go through the net.”
Glass was asked what the Heat want to see from Walton:
“Leadership at the point guard position and then his defense has really improved,” he said. “He’s really committed to that end. He’s become more competitive at that end. He’s a guy who can really shoot it from outside.”
The Heat’s roster is a mix of undrafted free agents from the 2018 class and others who have bounced around several professional leagues. The team was announced last week and they have been practicing since Friday. Glass said the level in which each player is able to make the transition depends on their background.
“Duncan Robinson is a guy, he’s shown a high IQ but I think playing for (John) Beilein at Michigan has helped him. He’s picking up things quicker than some of the other guys that might not be running as much NBA stuff.
“Heat terminology is going to be different. But we try to fast-track the guys. I would say the college guys are the ones who have the hardest transition because it’s a little bit more terminology than they were used to.”