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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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]

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

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.

Here’s what the Heat have to work with this offseason, with a player-by-player breakdown … Continue reading “What’s in store for the Miami Heat this offseason? A roster breakdown with a look at what’s next for each player”

2018 Miami Heat Offseason Preview: With no cap space, can Heat turn to trades to improve roster?

Miami Heat NBA basketball team president Pat Riley talks to the media during a season ending press conference in Miami, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

The NBA starts a new fiscal year at 12 a.m. Sunday, which also signals the start of free agency and what once again will be a busy offseason. The Miami Heat may not be as big a player as usual this offseason because of roster and payroll limitations, but president Pat Riley still will be busy trying to find a way to upgrade his roster, however difficult that may be.

This week we take a look at the biggest offseason questions surrounding the Heat. Today’s question: Can the Heat improve through trades this offseason? We’ll shift to a different question each day leading up to the start of free agency. Continue reading “2018 Miami Heat Offseason Preview: With no cap space, can Heat turn to trades to improve roster?”

This may not be the summer Pat Riley is able to work his magic, which will leave Heat fans with an empty feeling again

Miami Heat President Pat Riley attends the NBA draft combine last month in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Barring a trade, the Miami Heat will be sitting out the NBA draft for just the third time in their history.

But don’t mistake that for Pat Riley sitting on a yacht off some tropical island and a “closed” sign being hung on the offices at 601 Biscayne Blvd.

The Heat certainly are open for business as the NBA’s offseason officially kicks off with Thursday’s draft and then hits a frenzied pace 10 days later with the start of free agency. Somehow, the Heat will manage to join the party – they seemingly always do – but will they become bystanders or can they find a way to become the life of the party?

Recent history has not been kind to the Heat. Miami has entered the last two summers full of hope and optimism just from getting sit-downs with the two most coveted free agents – Kevin Durant in 2016 and Gordon Hayward in 2017.

Admittedly a longshot both years – more so with Durant – Miami had to settle for Plan B, in both cases. In 2016 – and after losing Dwyane Wade – that meant basically starting over by offering one-year deals to lower-level free agents and develop its young core of Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson. Last summer that meant holding onto free agents from the previous summer that showed promise – James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington – and picking up a nice supplemental part, which the Heat did with the solid signing of Kelly Olynyk.

Which brings us to the summer of 2018.

After watching Durant being convinced to chase rings at Golden State and Brad Stevens convincing Hayward to turn back the clock to his college days in Boston, could the Heat be looking at having failed to meet their highest expectations for the third consecutive summer?

Miami has been as much a victim of its own success and Riley’s reputation as anything else. Few teams ever even make the final cut when it comes to the summer’s biggest catch, but the Heat seem to every year. They did in 2010 and capitalized, leading to two titles and four consecutive Finals appearances, which raised the bar even higher. They did again the last two summers, although the outcome was far less satisfying than 2010.

For every LeBron James and Chris Bosh there is a Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward. And while some may look at it as if Riley is losing his touch, just by getting in the door every year shows his reputation remains intact.

Throwing a bag of championship rings on the table still resonates.

So how will 2018 play out? The Heat enter this offseason in a much different place with no flexibility and few assets to offer as major trade bait. And this free agency class is top heavy with Durant, James, Chris Paul, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins leading the way, with James, George and Cousins the realistic choices to switch teams.

And even without anything to offer, Riley still likely will get a sit-down with James. But getting in the door and closing the deal are two very different things. The only way James returns to Miami is for Riley and Andy Elisburg to pull off a stunning sign-and-trade that would involve convincing James the Heat are on the cusp of contending and then convincing Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to once again deal with Riley.

There is a better chance of Cleveland becoming the No. 1 tourist destination in the country than that happening.

Otherwise, Riley will be left to work his magic via a trade. But even those odds of obtaining someone like Kawhi Leonard appear stacked against the Heat. Still, Riley will not sit idly by. Leonard is not the only “transformative” player the Heat can pursue to improve this roster. Plenty of names will be discussed and several could be targeted by the Heat.

Players like Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. McCollum, John Wall and Andrew Wiggins to name a few could be explored. Any one of them would immediately become the best player on the Heat if acquired.

Yes, the pressure is on Riley to improve this team. The optics of bringing back this roster, one that won 44 games and lasted just five games in playoffs, intact would not be good. But Riley may have no choice and he raised that possibility following the season,.

I expect Riley to pull off some kind of deal to shake up this team even if it means putting the franchise in a better position for the future. Making a significant move, though, will be very difficult. Heat fans may be left wanting for more – for the third consecutive year – but even Riley may not be able to work that magic this summer.

[Mailbag: Would Heat give up all young talent for Kawhi Leonard without guarantee? That & more on Grizzlies rumors, possible draft day deal]

[Udonis Haslem on LeBron James’ visit to Miami during playoffs: ‘We sat down to eat, is that a crime?’]

[Possible NBA draft rule change could prove costly for Heat]

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

 

 

Mailbag: Would Heat give up all young talent for Kawhi Leonard without guarantee? That & more on Grizzlies rumors, possible draft day deal

San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard reacts after a basket against the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2017 playoffs. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

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 @TheSpencerG: If Heat were to get Kawhi how do we stay competitive w/o giving up too much?

Several questions about the possibility of trading for San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, as you would expect. A couple centered on the price to acquire one of the top five players and arguably best two-way player in the league when healthy.

Everything has been speculation but the most widely reported deal when it comes to the Heat is Miami sending Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo to San Antonio for Leonard and Patty Mills. With Leonard set to make $20.1 million and Mills $11.6 million, this deal would work. But what becomes the real gamble, even if both sides agree, is Leonard can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent next season.

Without a guarantee from Leonard, it’s unlikely the Heat makes this move and gives up their three most valued young assets and the foundation of the future. Even if Miami believed it had a chance to retain Leonard and sign him to a long-term deal, that would have to be predicated on Leonard liking what he sees during the season and believing the Heat are on the cusp of contending. But with a nucleus of Leonard, Mills, Dion Waiters, Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Dwyane Wade (if he returns), and Wayne Ellington (if he re-signs) just how good is this team?

Without some kind of assurance from Leonard, the Heat would have a difficult time pulling the trigger on this deal. But if Miami could get Leonard to commit (and, yes, that still comes with a bit of a gamble), it’s a deal the Heat definitely will think seriously about making.

From @Shadow_Knight3: Should Heat try to take a chance at Parsons which includes the 4th pick of the Draft.

Before answering this question let me say that nothing has been reported of talks between the Heat and Grizzlies. But a variation of one trade has been speculated so we’ll address it.

Memphis reportedly is so desperate to dump Chandler Parsons that they are willing to attach the No. 4 overall pick to a deal. A high price and one that is hard to believe depending on the return. Chandler, a 6-foot-9 small forward, was one of the worst signings of the summer of 2016 (and there were plenty) when Memphis gave him a four-year maximum contract worth $94.8 million. If the numbers sound familiar they should because it’s very close to the deal the Heat gave Whiteside that same summer.

The Parsons signing has been more disastrous for Memphis than the Whiteside signing has been for the Heat. He has played in just 70 games the last two seasons and is averaging 7.1 points,  2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 40.1 percent.

But just how desperate are the Grizzlies to dump that salary and could the Heat jump in to try to steal that pick? The more likely deal would be Parsons for Whiteside straight up. Two bad contracts traded for each other. The other big issue is then what does Memphis do with Marc Gasol, another bad contract, who is due to make 49.7 the next two seasons? And how would that help the Heat? As difficult as it was to watch Whiteside during the playoffs, he has given the Heat much more in the last two seasons than Parson has given the Grizzlies and that would solve nothing when it comes to the Heat’s salary cap situation.

Which means anyone who believes the Grizzlies would take Whiteside’s contract for Parsons and the No. 4 pick is delusional. Memphis is looking to dump a bad contract and does not want one in return. But let’s play along and say Memphis is that desperate, do the Heat have what the Grizzlies want to make the deal? The deal certainly could have to include some combination of Richardson, Winslow and Adebayo. But it is enough for Memphis to give up the chance of drafting Luca Doncic or Jaren Jackson Jr., or Mohamed Bamba or Michael Porter? And do the Heat believe a transformative player will be around at No. 4?

From @GajjarRahi: Who’s your starting SF in the future? Justice or Jrich?

A lot depends on the makeup of the roster but if both players are a part of the future, the Heat would ideally like to see Richardson at shooting guard and Winslow at small forward. But that is a big if with both being valuable trade assets and the Heat looking to upgrade the roster.

From @jphillips19915 Jun 17: Will we make a move Thursday night?

Oh yeah, there is a draft Thursday. Anything is possible as we discussed above with the reports concerning the Grizzlies, but the most likely scenario is Miami possibly obtaining a second-round pick. The tricky part is unless it is for a player, the deal could not be announced until July 1, which is when the Heat would have the money to trade for a pick in the second round.

[Udonis Haslem on LeBron James’ visit to Miami during playoffs: ‘We sat down to eat, is that a crime?’]

[Possible NBA draft rule change could prove costly for Heat]

[The Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes is on. Should the Heat enter the mix?]

[Mailbag: Is there even a realistic way for the Heat to acquire LeBron James?]

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Here’s how Pat Riley defended the roster decisions the Heat made last summer

Miami Heat President Pat Riley talks with the media at a season-end press conference on Monday, April 30, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla. (Charles Trainor III/Miami Herald/TNS)

MIAMI — The Heat enter the offseason with very little financial flexibility to make significant changes.

Decisions over the past two years have helped put Miami in this position. Signing Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson to four-year deals that combine to cost them $200 million last summer, and investing $98 million in Hassan Whiteside and $50 million in Tyler Johnson the previous summer has left the Heat with very little wiggle room to make changes to their roster. Continue reading “Here’s how Pat Riley defended the roster decisions the Heat made last summer”

Udonis Haslem voted ‘heart and soul’ of Miami Heat by his teammates

Miami’s Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem during last season’s media day. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Udonis Haslem has been one of the most respected members of the Miami Heat for many years.

Haslem’s teammate proved that by voting the 15-year veteran the winner of the team’s Backbone Award, which “specifically goes to the player who represents that heart and soul of their team.” Each winner was voted on by their teammates

The award is part of the National Basketball Players Association’s Voice Awards and was announced today. The NBPA created the Players’ Voice Awards to provide a platform for the players to vote for each other in categories that express their interests and passions.

Haslem, who turns 38 on June 9, has played all 15 years with the Heat. He is the longest tenured captain in Heat history, a title that goes back to 2007-08. Last year was voted a tri-captain along with Goran Dragic and James Johnson.

Several players have described Haslem as a mentor and he has been tutoring young players for many years. With his playing time dwindling – he played just 72 minutes in 14 games last season – he has taken on an unofficial role of player/coach.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and president Pat Riley have praised Haslem’s professionalism, citing his value to the team despite a diminished role on the court.

“I tried to mentor all of our guys,” Haslem said this month at the opening of the new Brightline train station in downtown Miami, a venue that includes the latest Starbucks and Einstein Bros. Bagel locations he helps operate. “I’m going to try to mentor everybody. I’m going to give 100 percent to Hassan (Whiteside). I’m going to give 100 percent to (James Johnson). I’m going to give 100 percent to Justise (Winslow). Some guys are going to react a certain way and some guys not. You can’t focus on that.”

Haslem and Dwyane Wade are the only two players who have been a part of Miami’s five trips to the Finals and three titles. Haslem has not decided if he is returning for the 2017-18 season, although he has posted videos of his workouts making some wonder if that is a hint that he is preparing for the season.

“I’m always gonna train. That’s not going to stop,” he said. “When you get to this stage of your career and your life, you either do it or you don’t. You can’t really turn it on and off, it becomes a lifestyle. When you’re 30 and 30-plus, it becomes something that is part of your routine. It’s not like I can stop, start, stop, start. You can’t do it like that. So, I’m always going to train and stay in shape.”

[Miami Heat ties to Finals not limited to LeBron James]

[How Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union are caught up in Twitter account scandal linked to Sixers’ executive Bryan Colangelo]

[Shane Battier will remain with Heat front office after withdrawing name from Pistons search]

[Mailbag: Were injuries to blame for Heat’s first-round playoff exit?]

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Mailbag: Were injuries to blame for Heat’s first-round playoff exit?

Miami Heat’s Goran Dragic, left, Wayne Ellington, second from left, James Johnson, second from right, and Kelly Olynyk, right, reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, March 10, 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: Were injuries to blame for Heat’s first-round playoff exit?”

Heat’s James Johnson undergoes offseason surgery for sports hernia

Miami Heat’s James Johnson (16) and Josh Richardson (0) react during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

MIAMI — James Johnson doesn’t mind playing through pain, and he did it in several games this past season.

On Monday, the Heat confirmed Johnson underwent surgery for a sports hernia following the Heat’s first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Sixers. Yahoo Sports first reported the news.

The injury is “something that was bothering him through the season” and Johnson is expected to make a full recovery “over the next few weeks,” according to a source. This represents a detail to help explain an up-and-down season for the Heat forward. Continue reading “Heat’s James Johnson undergoes offseason surgery for sports hernia”