Heat’s Dan Craig named assistant for USA National Team camp; Erik Spoelstra believes he’s ready for even bigger things

Miami Heat assistant coach Dan Craig calls a play while filling in for Erik Spoelstra this season in Indiana.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

LAS VEGAS – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra received the first call that his assistant, Dan Craig, was selected as an assistant for the USA National Team basketball camp this month in Las Vegas.

“When I got the call from USA Basketball I almost dropped the phone,” Spoelstra said. “It was that cool of news to get and obviously it’s an incredible honor to represent our country and the whole USA program.”

Craig is one of nine coaches, including seven from the NBA, who will assist USA National Team head coach Gregg Popovich of the Spurs. The camp will be July 26 and 27 in Las Vegas and consist of 35 players from which 12 will be chosen to compete in the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics in China and Tokyo.

“DC is so deserving of it,” said Spoelstra, who is in Las Vegas for summer league where the Heat play at 2 p.m. Saturday against New Orleans.

“He’s going to do a terrific job. It says a lot about him that he was chosen for it. Not that he cares, but it will help his profile around the league as well.”

Craig has risen through the ranks since joining the Heat organization in 2004. He starting in the video room, has served as Miami’s summer league coach three times, moved onto Sioux Falls where he led the Skyforce to the 2016 G League title and was named coach of the year and now sits next to Spoelstra on the Heat bench.

In March, Craig took over for Spoelstra in Indiana after the Heat coach left the team when his wife, Nikki, who went into labor. The Pacers defeated the Heat, 113-107 in overtime.

Spoelstra has said many times he believes Craig is ready to be an NBA head coach.

“He doesn’t need more development,” Spoelstra said. “He’s not in a rush. He’s all about just helping the team the best that he can and the role that he has right now he has a great perspective about it. He’s going to enjoy it as long as it lasts especially having the opportunity to work with friends. But he’s ready for the next step and this is just a great opportunity to be a part of an amazing program, USA basketball.”

[Heat not worried about Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot. ‘What’s important to us is he’s playing defense’ – Eric Glass]

[Heat video room has produced long line of successful NBA coaches, executives – is Eric Glass next?]

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Heat not worried about Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot. ‘What’s important to us is he’s playing defense’ – Eric Glass

Miami Heat guard Derrick Walton Jr., right, shoots over Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason III during Thursday’s summer league game in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

LAS VEGAS – As shot after shot continued to do everything except fall through the basket in Sacramento, Heat guard Derrick Walton Jr. was determined not to allow it to throw him off his game.

Walton just reminded himself what Heat summer coach Eric Glass preached about the summer.

“What’s important to us is he’s playing defense,” Glass said after the Heat’s 86-76 victory over the Kings on Thursday, closing out the Sacramento portion of their summer league winning 2-of-3.

“I think you all have seen it the first three games. He’s really taken a commitment. He wasn’t doing that stuff consistently all year and he’s really taken it upon himself to take the challenge on that end. And he’s battling his butt off.”

Walton had a nightmarish week from the floor in Sacramento, shooting 18.5 percent (5 of 27) and 16.7 percent (3 of 18) on 3-pointers in the three games. But it was worse after two games. Walton missed all but two of his 18 attempts and made just 1-of-14 threes.

So when Walton saw his first two shots fall against the Kings, both threes, it still felt good, even thought his shooting woes were not what the coaches were focusing on.

“I wasn’t shooting to my normal standards but you go through spells like that,” he said. “I just had to make sure I was doing other things. … just being disruptive, getting us into the offense. Just making other plays. I always know my shot would come but it was satisfying to see one go through today.”

Walton added seven assists and no turnovers Thursday. He averaged 6.67 assists for the three games.

Walton, 23, starred at Michigan but was undrafted in 2017. He is seeking a second two-way contract after being extended a qualifying offer from the Heat. He was on a two-way deal the entire 2017-18 season and split time between Miami and Sioux Falls of the G League. At Sioux Falls, Walton averaged 16.1 points and shot 44.2 percent from the floor.

He also averaged 7.0 assists. The Heat are looking for him to become more of a natural leader at point guard.

“I’ve been doing the point guard thing my entire life so it’s kind of second nature,” Walton said. “The way we’re playing with some experimental stuff, I’m just trying to make sure I’m doing stuff in the flow of the offense, I’m just trying to put my head down and make a play.”

The Heat open play in the Las Vegas summer league at 2 p.m. Saturday against New Orleans. Walton has a laundry list of things he wants to continue to work on in Vegas, where the Heat will play a minimum of five games.

Areas like being more disruptive on defense, getting back into the play when he’s screened and continuing to lead by example and voice.

Also on that list: Shoot the ball like he’s accustomed to shooting.

“He’s a good enough shooter,” Glass said. “We tell him if he passes up open shots that we’re going to be pissed. So just keep shooting it. Those things are going to fall. I’m not worried about that. Just get into your defense the shot will come.”

[Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s observations on his team and more from summer league]

[Mailbag: Is trading for Jimmy Butler worth the risk for Heat?]

[What are Heat’s trade options now when it comes to Hassan Whiteside, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler? An update]

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Three takeaways: Heat end Sacramento summer league with another impressive performance

Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. dunks as Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III watches during Thursday’s summer league game in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO – The Mimi Heat apparently needed a warm up in the California Classic summer league before putting it all together.

The Heat concluded their three-games with an 86-76 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday for their second consecutive impressive win.

Miami (2-1) outscored the Lakers and Kings by a combined 25 points in its final two games after a 79-68 loss to Golden State in the opener.

Derrick Jones Jr. lead the Heat in scoring all three games, finishing with 19 points and seven rebounds against Sacramento.

“Everybody is just going out there with a selfless attitude,” Jones said. “I really don’t care about self-accolades in the summer league right now. I score, I score. If I don’t I’m going to play defense regardless and make sure my teammates are in the right spot on defense, make sure they’re in the right spot on offense.”

The Kings (1-2) were playing with four players taken within the first 34 picks of the draft the last two years including first rounders Harry Giles (No. 20 in 2017), Justin Jackson (No. 15 in 2017) and Marvin Bagley (No. 2 in 2018). A fourth first rounder, De’Aaron Fox, played in the Kings first game but sat out the last two.

Frank Mason (No. 34 in 2018) also was on the roster.

The Heat now move onto the summer league in Las Vegas, where they begin play at 5 p.m. Saturday against New Orleans.

Here are our three takeaways:

Defense the key: Heat coach Eric Glass was pleased with the defense, especially the last two games, holding the Lakers and Kings to 150 points. The Lakers needed a 24-point fourth quarter – after Miami opened a 31-point lead – to push their shooting percentage to 40.5 percent and the Heat forced the Kings into 21 turnovers.

“Anytime you can get stops and play off misses or play off turnovers, which they didn’t miss as much tonight, but we forced them into 21 turnovers, that always helps your offense,” Glass said. “You know us. We hang our hat on defense. We’re going to grind games out. It’s where we take our pride.”

M-V-P, M-V-P: Jones’ confidence is growing with every game. The newest member of the Heat’s 15-man roster (Jones signed a two-year contract Saturday) averaged 21.3 points on 22-of-42 shooting in the three games and added 22 rebounds, six  steals and four blocks. Jones’ athletic ability was a big hit with the enthusiastic crowds with several highlight reel dunks that brought the fans out of their seats.

“He’s playing off the charts right now,” Bam Adebayo said. “His head is high. We follow him. He’s in a zone.”

Bam on the boards: Adebayo, the Heat’s first-round pick in 2017, struggled again from the floor but the Heat were pleased with his all-around game in Sacramento. Adebayo scored 14 points and had nine rebounds on Thursday. He finished the three games with 37 points on 11-of-32 shooting (34.3 percent) and 34 rebounds.

“He’s pissed I took him out with 30 seconds because he wants another rebound,” Glass said. “I like that. He boxes out, rebounds in traffic, rebounds with two hands and he’s battling down there. He has some big guys who are playing against him every game and he’s taking ownership of that paint.”

[Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s observations on his team and more from summer league]

[Mailbag: Is trading for Jimmy Butler worth the risk for Heat?]

[What are Heat’s trade options now when it comes to Hassan Whiteside, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler? An update]

[As Wayne Ellington watch continues, an updated look on where Heat and Ellington stand]

[Former Michigan star Duncan Robinson impressing Heat with his basketball IQ, 3-point shooting]

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Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s observations on his team and more from summer league

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and agent Joe Branch during summer league in Sacramento.

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.”

[Mailbag: Is trading for Jimmy Butler worth the risk for Heat?]

[As Wayne Ellington watch continues, an updated look on where Heat and Ellington stand]

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Former Michigan star Duncan Robinson impressing Heat with his basketball IQ, 3-point shooting

Miami Heat forward Duncan Robinson drives against Los Angeles Lakers guard Jeffrey Carroll during Tuesday’s summer league game in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO – Coach Eric Glass saw it from the time Duncan Robinson stepped onto the court last week for the Miami Heat’s summer league training camp.

Glass knew there was something different about the 6-foot-8 forward. Robinson was beyond his 24 years. He was someone who took advantage of playing four years of college and above all, someone who soaked in all the knowledge he received while playing for three seasons at Michigan under coach John Beilein.

“Just his command on the floor,” Glass said about what he immediately noticed about Robinson.

“Nothing surprises him. When guys are loud and they vocalize things early it’s because they see things early. The guys that are quieter are maybe the ones that don’t see things as quickly.”

Glass gives credit to Beilein, who had Robinson for four years (one as a red-shirt) after he transferred to Michigan. But Robinson had more than basketball smarts as evidenced by his early years as a student at the prestigious Governor’s Academy, a prep school in Byfield Mass., and one postgraduate year at Phillips Academy in Exeter, N.H. So it was no wonder he was member of the 2018 Big Ten All-Academic team.

“He’s just a bright kid and he has an ability to focus on detail and he can transfer and absorb a lot of information,” Glass said. “That’s definitely a skill of his.”

Robinson was on the radar of Heat vice president of player personnel Chet Kammerer throughout the draft process and when he went undrafted last month the Heat pounced. And Tuesday’s second game of the California Classic showed why.

After a ho-hum summer league opener in which he scored three points, Robinson broke out with 19 points in the Heat’s 89-74 victory over the Lakers. He was 7-of-9 from the field and connected on all but one of his six 3-point shots.

“We were able to get him the ball, the ball was moving a little bit more,” Glass said. “He didn’t get too many touches (in the first game). The ball moves and he finds it and he doesn’t miss very often.”

The Heat concludes play in the California Classic Thursday with a 5 p.m. game against Sacramento. They then move onto the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas where they begin play Saturday.

Robinson’s stroke is smooth and easy and became his calling card at Michigan. But he is attempting to get the focus off his shooting and move it to his all-around game.

“I can make shots but I do a little bit more than that,” he said.

And Glass understands why those parts of Robinson’s game are overlooked.

“He’s more athletic than you would think he is, he’s more competitive than you think he is, he’s quicker than you think he is,” Glass said. “We like his skill set. That was somebody that Chet went after right away as soon as the draft was over. You can see why. Chet doesn’t miss on too many guys.”

That athletic ability was on display early Tuesday when, after making three 3-pointers in the first 2:48 of the game, he drove the baseline for a thunderous dunk early in the second quarter.

“I’m sure I have plenty of texts giving me a hard time saying ‘When was the last time I saw you dunk?’” Robinson said. “It’s nice to get one. Hopefully I can get a few more before the summer is over.”

Robinson’s road was not typical of the more noted one-and-done players who barely stay long enough in college to take an exam. In fact, Robinson took the exact opposite route spending five-years in school and starting out at tiny Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he was Division III’s top freshman, an All-American and led Williams to the Division III title game in his one year there.

Robinson then became the first player to transfer from a Division III to a Division I school with a full scholarship. He made an immediate impact at Michigan, mainly because of his outside shooting. He closed his three-year career fourth in the Wolverines history with 237 made 3-pointers and 1,072 points while playing in all 115 games.

Robinson, who averaged 9.3 points in his Michigan career and helped the Wolverines get the NCAA title game in April before losing to Villanova, credited Beilein and his staff for his growth.

“They really focus on the complete player, not just from the skills perspective, but the amount of time he puts into growing us as basketball minds and making sure we understand the why of what we’re doing,” he said.

But the credit goes to Robinson for becoming the shooter he has, a skill that could help get him get an NBA two-way contract, possibly with the Heat.

“A lot of reps,” he said. “I’m a big believer there’s no right way to shoot. It’s whatever’s comfortable and you just have to rep it out.

“That’s kind of how I’ve lived my whole life. I love being in the gym and that’s just how I’ve always been, getting them up. I have a very specific routine I stick to and kind of grown and kind of tweaked and changed throughout my career. But I stick to it.”

[What’s in store for the Miami Heat this offseason? A roster breakdown with a look at what’s next for each player]

[Here is what Heat center Bam Adebayo said about incorporating Euro step into his game]

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Three takeaways: Heat find 3-point range early, defeat Lakers for first summer league win

Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr., left, drives to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart during the first half Tuesday’s summer league game in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO – The Miami Heat had a tough time scoring in their summer league opener. That certainly wasn’t the case Tuesday in Game 2.

Miami came out firing and ran the Lakers off the Golden 1 Center court in an 89-74 victory, evening their record to 1-1 in the California Classic.

Miami struggled in their 79-68 loss to the Warriors in the opener, shooting just 29.3 percent. Against the Lakers, the Heat led by 19 at the half, opened a 31 points lead, and had 79 points after three quarters before cooling off in the fourth quarter. They finished shooting 45.2 percent from the floor, 46.4 percent on 3-pointers.

“I thought it was character building as a team, and as individuals,” Heat coach Eric Glass said. “You get up 20 in the first half you don’t let it go, you just keep grinding and you keep playing each possession like it’s your last. All the clichés that you hear but our guys really started to take it to another level in the second half and I was really happy with that.”

Derrick Jones Jr. led the Heat in scoring for the second straight night, scoring 21 points in 22 minutes. Bam Adebayo had nine points and 10 rebounds.

Here are our three takeaways:

Robinson raining threes: Heat coaches were impressed with undrafted rookie Duncan Robinson even before the former Michigan star showed off his perimeter game Tuesday. Robinson came out smoking, making three early threes and setting the tone for Miami’s night. Robinson, a player the Heat could consider for a two-way contract, finished with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including making all but one of his six 3-point attempts. The 6-foot-8 Robinson, who shot 41.9 percent on threes during his three-year college career, not only showed off his range but his first two-point field goal was a thundering baseline dunk.

“We made some early so we kind of got some confidence early on, which always helps,” Robinson said. “But I thought the ball just moved a little bit better. (Monday) was our first time playing with each other in a game. So it takes a second to kind of get that feel and I feel like we were a lot better.”

Jones continues to impress: Jones is looking more and more like a bargain after signing a minimum standard contract Saturday. Jones impressed for a second consecutive night. He was 8-of-14 from the floor and had five rebounds, three steals and four blocks. Jones, who had 24 points on Monday, is 15-of-28 from the floor, including 5-of-9 on threes. Jones’ confidence is growing and if he continues at this pace he could push for a spot in the Heat rotation this season. The only thing Jones hasn’t done well is shoot free throws. He is 10-of-19 from the line.

“Just seeing a guy like that, just pure athleticism he thinks is normal,” Adebayo said. “He makes inspiring plays. He goes out there plays his heart out. … I feel like Derrick is a Heat guy. He never got discouraged. He just kept working you you’re seeing the finished product of Derrick right now.”

Heat share the ball: The Heat finished with 27 assists on 33 field goals, quite an improvement from Monday when they had 12 assists on 22 baskets. Daryl Macon, an undrafted rookie out of Arkansas, started after not playing on Monday and lead all players with 11 assists. Macon finished sixth in the SEC last season with 3.9 assists per game.

“He really showed some nice things,” Glass said. “He can defend, he can shoot the ball and he can get in that gap and make plays. That’s not an easy thing to get in that sweet spot make plays.”

[What’s in store for the Miami Heat this offseason? A roster breakdown with a look at what’s next for each player]

[Here is what Heat center Bam Adebayo said about incorporating Euro step into his game]

[Mailbag: Why have the Miami Heat been so quiet to start free agency?]

[What does LeBron James joining the Lakers mean for the Heat and rest of the Eastern Conference?]

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Heat to face Lakers, whose players are excited to play with LeBron James

Workers remove the Nike LeBron James banner from the Sherwin-Williams building near Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO – The Miami Heat face the Los Angeles Lakers tonight in their second summer league game. No, LeBron James will not be wearing a Lakers uniform, but he will be on their players’ minds.

James is taking his talents to Hollywood after agreeing to a four-year, $154 million deal with the Lakers. The Lakers’ summer league team was in Sacramento when the news broke and it jolted two of LeBron’s future teammates out of bed.

Second year guard Josh Hart and first-round draft pick Mortiz Wagner both said they were chillin’ when they heard LeBron was coming to L.A.

“I was laying down in my hotel room,,” Hart said. “I really didn’t know it. …. ‘What they say?’ I was just kind of in shock. I was like, ‘Wow!’ This is the best player in the world coming to L.A. The opportunity to play with someone like that is amazing and it’s something you dream about. I’m anxious to get started.

Of course, Hart may never have that chance. If the Lakers pull off the deal for Kawhi Leonard, Hart could be one of the players headed to the Spurs. The 30th pick in the 2017 draft averaged 7.9 points in 63 games, 23 starts, as a rookie. He scored 23 points Monday in the Lakers’ 98-93 loss to the Kings in their summer league opener, sharing team-high scoring honors with Wagner.

Wagner, taken 25th overall last month, is anxious to watch LeBron as a teammate.

“I found out in my bed in my hotel room,” Wagner said. “Very excited. Anytime you get the chance to work with the greatest of all time in any job I think it’s very exciting and do and be a part of it and to see how he works and competes is exciting.”

Lakers summer league coach Miles Simon said he addressed the organization’s free agency frenzy. After agreeing with James, the Lakers also have brought on Rajon Rondo, Lance Stevenson, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and renounced the rights to Julius Randle, who is headed to New Orleans.

“Before the game I just let them know everybody’s reading the Internet, watching SportsCenter, and it’s an exciting time to be a Laker,” Miles said. “We are one of the greatest franchises in sports history.

“But I told them, ‘Block that all out.’ These next couple of weeks is all about these guys and their journey and how they’re going to start to make their mark and their footprint in the NBA. This is really truly about these guys we have in the locker room wearing this uniform so they can get better and establish themselves as NBA players.”

Meanwhile, Heat summer league coach Eric Glass has no such worries as Miami remains hamstrung this free agency season with a roster that is about $18 million over the salary cap. In fact, Heat president Pat Riley is in Sacramento to watch his young players. Riley, reportedly, is looking at some trades and likely trying to shed some salaries.

Miami’s biggest moves when it comes to free agency will center on their own free agents, Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem.

[Here is what Heat center Bam Adebayo said about incorporating Euro step into his game]

[JJ Redick returning to Philadelphia, where does that leave Wayne Ellington when it comes to Heat (and Sixers)]

[Mailbag: Why have the Miami Heat been so quiet to start free agency?]

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Here is what Heat center Bam Adebayo said about incorporating Euro step into his game

 

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo goes to the basket against Golden State Warriors center Jordan Bell during Monday’s summer league game in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO – Goran Dragic with the Euro step, that’s something Heat fans are accustomed to seeing.

Even Dion Waiters and at times, 7-footer Kelly Olynyk. But sight of 6-foot-10 Bam Adebayo, whose game basically is played in a box under the basket, with the ball in his hands and not only Euro stepping, but finishing and drawing the foul, was pretty common in the Heat’s summer league opener, a 79-68 loss to the Golden State Warriors at Golden 1 Center.

Adebayo went to the move several times Monday, once against big man Jordan Bell, the Warriors second round pick last year, that resulted in a successful soft floater as Bell was fouling Adebayo.

“That something I’m comfortable with,” he said. “I know it’s an easy move. I feel like I got it off today. I just got to finish plays off.”

Adebayo said he incorporated the move into his game as a senior in high school.

“Just running full speed at somebody they’re obviously going to move,” he said. “Some people are brave enough to take that hit but some people decide to just move. Incorporating that into my game helped me get easy layups.”

Adebayo, starting his second year after being the Heat’s first-round pick (14th overall) out Kentucky in 2017, had a rough night from the floor. He finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds but made just 3-of-13 shots. He got to the line 11 times, making eight.

“I know my shot is going to fall,” he said. “I just got to keep worrying about the defensive side and everything will take care of itself.”

Heat summer league coach Eric Glass agreed.

“If he’s attacking the rim we’re happy,” Glass said. “Those shots will fall eventually. He’s too good a player he works too hard. But if he’s putting pressure on the rim were happy.”

[JJ Redick returning to Philadelphia, where does that leave Wayne Ellington when it comes to Heat (and Sixers)]

[Mailbag: Why have the Miami Heat been so quiet to start free agency?]

[What does LeBron James joining the Lakers mean for the Heat and rest of the Eastern Conference?]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. sees early results after working on jumper

Miami Heat guard Derrick Jones Jr., center, goes to the basket between Golden State Warriors forward Jeff Roberson, left, and Jordan Bell, right during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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.

[JJ Redick returning to Philadelphia, where does that leave Wayne Ellington when it comes to Heat (and Sixers)]

[Mailbag: Why have the Miami Heat been so quiet to start free agency?]

[What does LeBron James joining the Lakers mean for the Heat and rest of the Eastern Conference?]

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Miami Heat Summer League: Five things to watch the next two weeks

Rashad Vaughn of the Milwaukee Bucks drives against Eric Stuteville of the Sacramento Kings during the 2017 Summer League in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO – The Heat will play in two summer leagues spanning more than two weeks.

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.

[Mailbag: Why have the Miami Heat been so quiet to start free agency?]

[What does LeBron James joining the Lakers mean for the Heat and rest of the Eastern Conference?]

[Miami Heat swingman Rodney McGruder’s contract guaranteed for 2018-19]

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