Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says he, center Hassan Whiteside are in constant contact; adds relationship ‘isn’t what it seems on the outside’

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and center Hassan Whiteside. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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.

Spoelstra was much easier on Whiteside during his season-ending news conference, saying he thought the narrative and story lines about Whiteside were “unfair,” adding “I love working with Hassan.”

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.”

[What do you need to know about new Heat two-way contract player Duncan Robinson? He’s not just a shooter]

[Where has Heat second-year center Bam Adebayo shown the most improvement this summer?]

[Heat GM Andy Elisburg had advice for Cavaliers GM after losing LeBron: ‘It ends, and you have to start again’]

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What do you need to know about new Heat two-way contract player Duncan Robinson? He’s not just a shooter

Miami Heat forward Duncan Robinson, left, drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings guard Allerik Freeman during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

MIAMI — Duncan Robinson went undrafted last month, but it didn’t take long for him to find an NBA home.

The 6-foot-8 sweet-shooting forward out of Michigan signed a two-way contract with the Heat on Tuesday in the middle of an impressive summer-league audition. Robinson has started all six Heat summer-league games so far, averaging 12.3 points on 54.3 percent shooting (25-of-46), including 58.8 percent (20-of-34) on threes.

Playing under a two-way contract means that Robinson is expected to spend most of the season with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Two-way contracts were introduced in the collective-bargaining agreement that took effect last offseason. These players don’t count against the salary cap and can’t be poached by another team, as they can spend up to 45 days with their NBA teams and the rest of the time must be spent with the NBA team’s developmental affiliate.

Here are five things to know about Robinson … Continue reading “What do you need to know about new Heat two-way contract player Duncan Robinson? He’s not just a shooter”

Heat GM Andy Elisburg had advice for Cavaliers GM after losing LeBron: ‘It ends, and you have to start again’

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on while playing the Chicago Bulls during a pre season game at Quicken Loans Arena on October 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

MIAMI — It’s been exactly four years since LeBron James announced he was leaving the Heat to return to his hometown Cavaliers on July 11, 2014.

Heat general manager Andy Elisburg still remembers that day well, especially the feelings he felt immediately after learning of James’ decision to head to Cleveland. In a ESPN story written by Ramona Shelburne that chronicled James’ latest decision to sign with the Lakers, Elisburg revealed that he called Cleveland general manager Koby Altman the morning after news broke that James was leaving the Cavaliers to move to Los Angeles earlier this month. Continue reading “Heat GM Andy Elisburg had advice for Cavaliers GM after losing LeBron: ‘It ends, and you have to start again’”

Report: Carmelo Anthony meets with Heat as his time with Thunder set to come to an end

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Carmelo Anthony (7) celebrates a 3-point basket against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS)

MIAMI — It’s been a quiet offseason for the Heat … so far.

The only moves Miami has made since free agency began on July 1 have been signing Derrick Jones Jr. to a standard NBA contract and reaching an agreement with Duncan Robinson on a two-way deal. But things could get busy soon, especially with a 10-time All-Star on the Heat’s radar. Continue reading “Report: Carmelo Anthony meets with Heat as his time with Thunder set to come to an end”

UPDATED: Miami Heat sign former Michigan star Duncan Robinson to a two-way contract

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)

LAS VEGAS – Duncan Robinson still is trying to get a grasp on everything that has happened for him since leaving the University of Michigan.

“This whole process ever since I finished up at Michigan has been a little bit of a whirlwind,” Robinson said. “I’ve just tried to enjoy it as much as possible, make the most of everyday. I feel like in doing so I put myself in good position.”

Good enough for the Heat to offer Robinson a two-way contract, which he signed Tuesday, a reward for his impressive summer-league play.

Robinson, 6-foot-8 forward, agreed to play for the Heat’s summer league team after going undrafted last month. He has started all six Heat games, including Tuesday’s 98-90 victory over Utah in which he scored 12 points. Robinson is averaging 12.3 points on 54.3 percent shooting (25 of 46), including 58.3 percent (10 of 34) on threes.

“He’s really put in a lot of work,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said. “He’s earned that contract. Everyone in the organization is really happy and we’re excited about it.”

The Heat now have 12 players under contract for their preseason training camp, which starts in late September.

With each NBA team allowed to have up to two players under two-way contracts, teams can carry up to 17 players on its roster during the regular season and up to 20 players before and during training camp and the preseason. The two-way contract does not count against the 15-man regular season roster.

Robinson showed his outside shooting prowess at Michigan, finishing his career with the fourth-most 3-pointers in Wolverines history. He hopes to get to Miami soon after summer league end and said the next step is to improve his defense.

“Really improving my body, getting in really good shape, that way I can really defend at this level,” Robinson said. “I feel like I’m far from finished in that regard. I’m excited to put in the work.”

Heat center Bam Adebayo described playing with Robinson like playing with Wayne Ellington, the Heat free agent guard who established a franchise record last season with 227 made 3-pointers.

“He’s been developing this mentality where it’s like no pump fakes, just let it go,” Adebayo said about Robinson. “He’s benefiting from (that). So every time I go to duck inside, I expect him to shoot it every time. Every time I hand it off, ‘just shoot it, Duncan.’ Just playing with him, he reminds me of Wayne so much, just in a different body.”

The reached out to Robinson immediately after the June 21 draft ended.

“We liked him a lot,” said Chet Kammerer, the Heat’s vice president of player personnel. “His ability to shoot. We talked to (Erik) Spoelstra. He talked about the one quality he likes the most or wants the most is shooters. To me he’s an elite shooter and he’s proven that so far here.”

Kammerer has been impressed with more than just Robinson’s shot. Robinson has said he felt like he “was labeled” at Michigan and is hoping to show he is more than a jump shooter.

“I think he’s done a little bit more than we anticipated,” Kammerer said. “He’s had two dunks now off the dribble in the half court, which were kind of unexpected. And (Saturday) he had six rebounds in 20 minutes. Those are big factors.

“You look for other things. The more diverse his game is, is helpful for him. Still the key is for him to make shots. That’s why he is valued as a player is his ability to stroke the ball and the fact that he’s not 6-3. You like guys who are a little longer and you like that.”

Two-way contracts were added under the new collective-bargaining agreement that took effect last July, which allow for NBA teams to keep the rights to two players on their G League squads on top of the NBA’s standard 15-player roster limit. Players under two-way contracts can’t be poached by another team, as these players can spend up to 45 days with their NBA teams and the rest of the time must be spent with the NBA team’s G-League affiliate — Miami’s developmental affiliate is the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Derrick Jones Jr., who was on a two way contract with the Heat last year after signing in late December, was rewarded with a two-year standard contract this summer. Derrick Walton Jr., also on the Heat’s summer league roster, spent the entire 2017-18 season on a two-way contract.

[Why have the Heat been so quiet since start of free agency? An explanation of what’s handcuffing them]

[Without LeBron in East, Josh Richardson believes Heat can go much further in playoffs]

[Mailbag: Why is it taking so long for the Heat to re-sign Wayne Ellington?]

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

Why have the Heat been so quiet since start of free agency? An explanation of what’s handcuffing them

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Bam Adebayo react during the fourth quarter of the Heat’s Game 4 loss against Philadelphia Miami on Saturday. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

MIAMI — The looming threat of the luxury tax has seemed to handcuff the Heat so far this offseason.

Paying an expensive tax bill on top of player salaries for a roster that’s not considered a title contender is something NBA teams want to stay away from. And that’s the exact situation the Heat are trying to avoid. Continue reading “Why have the Heat been so quiet since start of free agency? An explanation of what’s handcuffing them”

Is ‘elite shooter’ Duncan Robinson a candidate for Heat two-way contract?

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

LAS VEGAS – The Miami Heat should make a decision on at least one of their two-way contracts soon after summer league ends.

“I think we’re probably leaning to maybe get a two-way done sometime after summer league and then we might keep one open just because we like the flexibility,” said Chet Kammerer, the organization’s vice president of player personnel.

“But we’ll have to wait and see how it goes. That’s some of our thinking now. We might hold one. Because it worked. As it turned out it proved pretty valuable.”

Last year the Heat signed Derrick Walton Jr. to a two-way contract and then Matt Williams. Williams was then released to make room for Derrick Jones Jr., who was signed to a standard contract a little more than a week ago. Jones has been a star for the Heat this summer before spraining his right ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Hornets.

The two-way contract, which under the current rules meant a player could not spend more than 45 days in the NBA while playing the rest of the season in the G League, does not have to come from the team’s summer league roster. Any player not under a standard contract playing in the summer league can be signed by any team.

The Heat, though, may have one player in mind and could move quick to sign him to a two-day.

Duncan Robinson, an undrafted rookie out of Michigan, has shown why he finished his career with the fourth-most 3-pointers in Wolverines history. Robinson, who has started all five Heat games, is averaging 12.4 points on 57.8 percent shooting (22 of 38), including 62.9 percent (17 of 27) on threes.

Coach Eric Glass said Robinson, a 6-foot-8 small forward, was high on Kammerer’s list when the draft ended and that Kammerer “doesn’t miss on too many guys.” Kammerer added Miami had several players it liked that it did not get, but were happy to receive a commitment from Robinson.

“He was high on our list,” Kammerer said. “We liked him a lot. His ability to shoot. We talked to (Erik) Spoelstra. He talked about the one quality he likes the most or wants the most is shooters. To me he’s an elite shooter and he’s proven that so far here.”

Kammerer has been impressed with more than just Robinson’s shot. Robinson has said he felt like he “was labeled” at Michigan and is hoping to show he is more than a jump shooter.

“I think he’s done a little bit more than we anticipated,” Kammerer said. “He’s had two dunks now off the dribble in the half court, which were kind of unexpected. And (Saturday) he had six rebounds in 20 minutes. Those are big factors.

“You look for other things. The more diverse his game is, is helpful for him. Still the key is for him to make shots. That’s why he is valued as a player is his ability to stroke the ball and the fact that he’s not 6-3. You like guys who are a little longer.”

The Heat are 2-3 in summer league (2-1 in Sacramento and 0-2 in Las Vegas). They are off today and resume at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday against Utah at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus.

The organization is not just evaluating the 14 players on its roster. Miami has divided the scouting duties between Kammerer, assistant general manager Adam Simon and Keith Askins, the director of college and pro scouting. By the end of the week the three will have seen all 30 teams at least once.

“I think at this point we’re looking at the rosters of other teams. Derrick Walton didn’t play for us (last summer) he played for another team,” Kammerer said. “We’re here evaluating other players we think could be a good fit for us. … We’ll definitely have a good feel for everybody by the end of the week.”

[Without LeBron in East, Josh Richardson believes Heat can go much further in playoffs]

[Mailbag: Why is it taking so long for the Heat to re-sign Wayne Ellington?]

[As the offseason continues, we update where Heat stand in free agency and the trade market]

[No one will ever see John Crotty’s debut as the Heat TV analyst]

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Mailbag: Why is it taking so long for the Heat to re-sign Wayne Ellington?

Miami Heat’s Wayne Ellington (2) attempts a three-point basket as New York Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina, of France, defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — It’s time for another Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44). You can also email me at achiang@pbpost.com. Continue reading “Mailbag: Why is it taking so long for the Heat to re-sign Wayne Ellington?”

Heat mailbag: Where does Carmelo Anthony fit it with the Heat (if he does at all). That & more on tanking

Carmelo Anthony cheers on his Oklahoma City teammates during the Thunder’s playoff series against the Utah Jazza in April. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Time for another Miami Heat mailbag

If you were not able to ask a question this time, send them along for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at tdangelo@pbpost.com.

From @ChrisHypeTrain: Where would Carmelo Anthony fit in with the Heat?

Oklahoma City is moving on from Anthony. The question is how do they part? Will it be a trade? Will OKC stretch the $27.9 million they owe him in the final year of his deal? Do the two sides agree to a buyout?

The later two scenarios would make Anthony a free agent and available to any team – presumably for the $3.4 million veteran minimum – including the Heat.

Does an Anthony deal make sense for the Heat?

Miami has two obstacles. First, with 11 players due about $120 million, the Heat are about $18 million over the cap and just $4 million shy of the luxury tax line, something Pat Riley is trying to avoid crossing. Without any other moves, Anthony would put you closer to that luxury tax line, and that’s without Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade or Udonis Haslem under contract. And if Anthony wants to come to the Heat, one of the biggest reasons would be to play alongside his friend, Wade.

Secondly, the Heat’s roster is lacking great players but has an excess of good players who could be in the rotation. The 6-foot-8 Anthony played most of his minutes at power forward last season which means coach Erik Spoelstra would have to find minutes for Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo and Anthony in the power rotation. And if the thought is to give Anthony more minutes at small forward then he’s competing with Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder and Derrick Jones Jr. for playing time.

As for his role in Miami, Anthony would step in as one of the top scoring options and the Heat would find a way to hide his defensive deficiencies.

Unless a third team is involved, and Atlanta really is the only one with enough cap space, the Thunder likely are not going to trade Anthony to the Heat because Miami would then have to match Anthony’s salary in the deal and that does nothing to help OKC reduce its mammoth luxury tax bill.

So, for the Heat to sign Anthony, they need to make a trade that not only would shed salary but also include a player or two, especially one of the power forwards. Ideally, enough cap space is created to fit in Anthony, Wade and Ellington.

The best fit among the three teams linked to Anthony is Houston. There, he also gets to play with one of his friends, Chris Paul, but more importantly, he’d replace Trevor Ariza, who signed with the Suns, although it is not ideal considering Ariza is a small forward. Anthony’s role in Houston would be similar to what is was in OKC as the third option.

As for the Lakers, yes, Anthony also is close to LeBron James, but the Lakers have an overabundance of players up front. The plan is to play James at power forward with Kyle Kuzma coming off the bench. We know James will play 36-38 minutes a game. Signing Anthony could cut into Kuzma’s minutes, something the Lakers do not want to do after he had such a strong rookie season.

From DjHitbwoy: Is this the perfect season for the Miami Heat to trade and tank? With us having a 2019 first round pick we can look forward to drafting Zion Williamson and try trading Whiteside contract to LA Clippers

Didn’t we hear enough of this in 2017 when fans wanted the Heat to go against everything the franchise stands for an tank after that 11-30 start? The Heat never will enter a season with the objective to lose as many games as possible and hope for a high pick. Trading Hassan Whiteside will be challenging and may not happen this summer. If not, the Heat will work tirelessly with Whiteside to improve his game with the hopes of moving up in the standings.

[Heat’s Dan Craig named assistant for USA National Team camp]

[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?]

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

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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