MIAMI – Erik Spoelstra found himself in a different position Thursday, one he has not been in for a couple of seasons.
The Heat coach looked down his bench and had … too many options?
Yes, the Heat were as healthy as they’ have been in two seasons for the entirety of their 108-99 victory over Philadelphia. Miami had 14 of the 15 players on the roster available, the lone exception being Dion Waiters. So, after deciding Jordan Mickey would join Waiters on the inactive list, Spoelstra had to whittle down his rotation.
“I got lost in all the sauce, a couple of times,” Spoelstra said, borrowing a phrase Chris Bosh favored.
“I forgot about a couple of guys. You’re used to having a different rotation and all of a sudden we have everybody available so our guys were able to compete and play hard, empty the tank. Now I’m having to make good decisions.”
The return of Wayne Ellington finally flushed out the roster. Miami started the Sixers game on Feb. 27 the same way but lost Ellington and Tyler Johnson to quad injuries before it had ended.
“We have a lot of versatility,” Ellington said. “But we feel like there’s strength in numbers. Take away one thing, we’ve got something else for you. Everybody’s got to be ready to contribute.”
Spoelstra had to make some tough decisions and on this night it was Luke Babbitt, who started the previous three games, and Rodney McGruder, who had averaged 19.8 minutes in his five games since returning from leg surgery, who never got off the bench. Udonis Haslem also was in uniform and did not play.
Of the 10 that did play, nine logged more than 20 minutes, led by Goran Dragic’s 33 minutes, 32 seconds.
Of course, that does not mean Spoelstra will stick with the same 10 Saturday when the Heat host Washington (7:30 p.m.)
“This is a blessing for us that we have our health at the most important time of the year. It beats the alternative for sure,” Spoelstra said.
“Depth is one of the biggest strengths of this team and we were able to utilize it (Thursday) and wear on a team. And everybody played as hard as they could at a high level and it took contributions from everybody. We haven’t had that kind of game in a long time where everybody that played in the game really contributed in a positive way.”
Adding Dwyane Wade and Babbitt at the trade deadline gave the Heat 12 players who could legitimately claim a spot in the rotation. And Spoelstra continues to experiment. He went back to the Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside starting five for the seventh time this season Thursday. When he inserted Babbitt as a starter a week ago against Detroit it was his 20th different starting lineup this season.
“There’re a lot guys who are still working through the rotation and it could be different guys different nights,” Spoelstra said. “We’re treating these as playoff games. The rotation will be whatever is necessary. Depth is a strength of ours and we intend on using it.”
Babbitt had missed his first three shots, all 3-point attempts, and now the ball was in his hands, 24-feet from the basket on a pass from Rodney McGruder.
“Everyone on the bench is starting to lean forward, when he gets the next open one is he going to shot fake or is he going to let it rip,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
“And we want him to keep on going.”
So, Babbitt let it rip. As did the next one and the next one and the next one, all in the first quarter. The result was four consecutive 3-pointers as the Heat started to pull away from Phoenix and a snapshot of exactly what Miami wanted when they reacquired Babbitt from the Hawks on Feb. 8.
“We encourage him to shoot it,” Goran Dragic said. “He’s really a deadly shooter. When he’s making those shots, it makes it so much easier on us. We don’t want him to pass the ball. When he’s open he needs to shoot it.”
It didn’t take long for Babbitt – who scored 12 points Monday by making four of his 11 shots, all threes – to know his role, not after spending the entire 2016-17 season with the Heat and starting 55 of his 68 games. Among players with more than 35 attempts, Babbitt led the team by making 41.4 percent of his threes (87 of 210). Babbitt launched a three every 5.1 minutes he was on the court, which was second on the Heat to Wayne Ellington, who got off a 3-pointer every 3.8 minutes.
“It definitely feels similar, just because the group is the same,” Babbitt said. “It’s a very similar starting lineup to last year. … so it’s familiar. That’s what’s helped me step in and the guys are making it easy on me.”
Babbitt, who signed a one-year deal for just less than $2 million with the Hawks last summer, was not thrust into the lineup immediately like that other guy reacquired hours before the trade deadline – Dwyane Wade.
Babbitt did not play his first two games back, then came off the bench in the four of the next five (not playing the other) and scoring a total of six points.
Spoelstra then decided to shake up his starting lineup Saturday against Detroit for two reasons: injuries and the Pistons’ size. He inserted the interchangeable 6-foot-9 Babbitt and 6-8 James Johnson at the two forward spots. Since, Babbitt is averaging 10.5 points and is 7 of 19 on threes.
“There aren’t many guys in the league that are stable enough mentally that they can handle that type of responsibility, where you are essentially a spot starter to allow other guys to be able to play and be who they are,” Spoelstra said. “And then be able to adapt and have the flexibility to play a different role, which sometimes you don’t play for a week or two weeks and not to get down about it, but just to stay prepared.”
Babbitt may have had the green light a year ago, but Spoelstra has turned those green lights neon, and they are flashing, in case his players do not get the message.
Spoelstra has said many times this season he would love to see his shooters jacking up as many threes as possible, including Ellington and Kelly Olynyk. Spoelstra once said he hoped they could get to 20. Ellington’s season high in attempts is 16. He is averaging a career-high 7.5 per game.
Babbitt, who has been in the league for eight seasons, was asked if he believes Spoelstra is over the top about promoting his players to jack up threes.
“Yeah, at first I thought so, but he’s serious about it,” he said. “And it’s his point since day one. I hope (Monday) made him happy.”
What would have really made him happy was if Babbitt took about nine more.
“We want him to keep on going,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a matter of percentages with him. He is an exceptional shooter. Exceptional. We want to maximize that as much as possible and then eventually teams start to adjust and spacing becomes a big positive for us just because it will open up driving lanes.
“You have to let it fly to be able to do that. If he gets enough of them up there it’s like Wayne. You play the odds, you play the percentages, it’s going to be above 40 percent.”
The loss of Johnson means Kelly Olynyk rejoins the starting lineup at power forward with Justise Winslow moving to small forward and Josh Richardson to shooting guard. Earlier, Erik Spoelstra ruled out Dwyane Wade starting.
“I want to him to get as comfortable with that second unit as possible,” Spoelstra said. “That to me is a dynamic game changing lineup that I want them to continue to gain confidence in, get more comfortable with.”
“I’m not young where I got all this fire and this testosterone where I need to be out there,” he said. “I’m cool.”
And Wade still is getting used to his new role and new teammates.
“I’m trying to get comfortable in my role now, I’ve been trying to get comfortable in it all year,” he said. “It’s the first time I ever came off the bench like this since I was, like, fourth grade.
“We’ll see, but whatever coach asks me to do. I want to help this team win, I want to help this team get in the playoffs and I want to be my best self, help these young individuals be their best self. So, whatever side of the court I can do that on; if I’m on the bench to start the games, if I’m on the bench to end the games, as long as we’re winning this is all I care about.”
Spoelstra’s options were returning Olynyk to the starting lineup or perhaps even starting Luke Babbitt or Rodney McGruder, although when asked if McGruder could start, Spoelstra said: “I would rather not do that right now, but we’ll see.”
Olynyk returned Tuesday after missing six games with a strained left shoulder and played 25 minutes. McGruder made his Heat season debut Tuesday after undergoing surgery on his left leg in October and played nine minutes.
Spoelstra did not give a timetable for the return of Ellington or Johnson. Both took a knee to the thigh on a pick play, Ellington in the second quarter and Johnson in the third.
Neither injury appears to be serious.
Johnson started the last six games at shooting guard, with Wade coming off the bench. He had his best game in nearly two months Saturday against Memphis, scoring 23 points. Johnson said he was more aggressive and felt more like himself after dealing with an ankle issue since mid-January.
Wade played 25 minutes Tuesday and is averaging 22.6 minutes since returning to Miami six games ago. He’s prepared to step up those minutes if necessary
“If I got to play five more minutes it’s cool, I’ll play five more minutes,” Wade said. “We just got to figure out a way who’s on the floor, play your game and find a way to get this win.
MIAMI – Coach Erik Spoelstra could be challenged when it come to the Heat rotation the final six weeks of the season.
A challenge he will gladly welcome.
With the Heat acquiring Dwyane Wade and Luke Babbitt at the trading deadline, and Rodney McGruder and Kelly Olynyk expected back soon from injury, Spoelstra will be forced to whittle down a rotation that soon could have 12 candidates.
“I love that possibility,” he said. “That would be different than what we’ve been dealing with. But I would certainly love to have that challenge as a head coach.”
Those decisions, though, will not have to be made Friday when the Heat (30-28) return from the All-Star break against the Pelicans in New Orleans. McGruder will play two games with Sioux Falls, the Heat’s developmental league team, before returning to the Heat next week. He has missed the entire season after having surgery in October to repair a stress fracture in his left leg. Olynyk (shoulder) is not ready to return.
Spoelstra has been starting Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic since Olynyk went down four games ago.
Wade has been coming off the bench since he arrived two weeks ago along with James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Bam Adebayo.
Add Babbitt, McGruder and Olynyk that’s 12 players who Spoelstra must fit into a nine or 10-man rotation, even shorter as the games gain importance.
“It’s good,” Wade said. “To be able to go down the stretch and have so many bodies, the hardest thing is for coach to figure out who’s going to be in the rotation and who’s going to play the minutes that they are happy with.”
Spoelstra’s decision will come down to the final few spots in the rotation. Whiteside, Richardson and Dragic will continue to start and Olynyk was the starting power forward before straining his shoulder Feb. 5.
If Spoelstra continues to bring Wade off the bench then Tyler Johnson will start, but those roles could be flipped.
James Johnson has played better of late and certainly will factor into the rotation as will Adebayo. And Wayne Ellington will play a role as the Heat’s 3-point specialist.
Where does that leave McGruder, Justise Winslow and Babbitt?
“It makes it tough,” Richardson said. “That’s the kind of problems coach wants. He has a lot of guys that can contribute and we’re all competitors so we all want to play. Every night somebody’s probably not to be getting the minutes they want but that’s the problem you want to have on your team.”
Ellington, who has been a spark off the bench, has 168 threes, fifth most in the league. His minutes fluctuated early in the season but he has been getting around 30 minutes a game the last two months.
“I think it’s going to be great for us,” he said. “I think it will elevate some of our games. When you’ve got a little pressure on you to perform that’s going to make our team better and it will get stronger. Obviously, the more bodies we have will make us more lethal. More weapons, that’s what we need down the stretch of these last 24 games.”
For Spoelstra, the answer may take a little time but be assured, he will not be concerned about hurting anybody’s feelings.
“We’ll have to find out what fits best for this group and I’m going to remain open-minded to whatever it takes,” he said. “We have a 24-game sprint. It’s going to get very competitive and we just have to do whatever’s necessary. Versatility is a big strength in what we do, as long as everybody’s all in for that.”
“I’m the trade acquisition that all this hype for, right?” Babbitt joked. “No, it’s great having Dwyane Wade. It’s a long time coming and we missed him last year, so I’m happy for him, happy for the city.”
The Heat added the 6-foot-9 Babbitt and that Dwyane Wade guy just before the trading deadline. As for Babbitt, the Heat bring him back after he spent one season with the organization before leaving in August to sign a one-year, minimum contract for $1.9 million with the Hawks.
“It’s great to be back,” said Babbitt, who was acquired for forward Okaro White. “It almost feels like I never left. It really hasn’t been that long in terms of months. It felt a little weird coming in, but as soon as we got to shootaround, it was just like old times and great to see all the guys, all the coaches. It was a fun morning.”
And if Babbitt thought he had the green light to shoot threes at any time last season, wait until he finds out what’s in store when he gets back on the court this year.
Coach Erik Spoelstra saw Babbitt working on a shot fake following shootaround in preparation for Friday’s game against the Bucks.
“Hey, leave that shot fake outside this building,” Spoelstra told Babbitt. “Let it fly.”
Spoelstra has said many times he’d love to see players like Wayne Ellington and Kelly Olynyk take 10 to 15 threes. Now add Babbitt to that list.
“See how much Wayne has changed in the period Luke was gone,” Spoelstra said. “Wayne went from how many ever threes a game or per 20 minutes, double that. I’d love to see that from Luke as well.”
Ellington is third in the league with 408 3-point attempts (54 games) and he has shot himself into the Dec. 17 3-point shootout during All-Star Weekend.
“Fifteen? That sounds good to me,” Babbitt said. “We’ll see what happens. I’m going to play the way I always play, try to space the floor for these guys, give them driving lanes, play hard on defense and the shots will come.”
Babbitt averaged 3.0 threes in 15.4 minutes per game this season with the Hawks. A year ago he averaged 3.1 threes in 15.7 minutes per game with the Heat. He’s been having a slightly better season this year in Atlanta averaging 6.1 points while shooting 47.6 percent, 44.1 on threes. Last season in Miami he averaged 4.8 points and shot 40.2 percent, 41.4 on threes.
Even with the Heat on a five-game losing streak, Babbitt gained 12 games in the trade, going from the 17-38 Hawks to the 29-26 Heat.
“We’re right in the middle of a playoff race, so having that motivation for every day, every game, going from Atlanta, a rebuilding team, to a team like we are brings excitement every night,” Babbitt said.
If you were not able to ask a question this time, send them in for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at tdangelo@pbpostcom.
From @Tragik_johns0n: Wade’s final year? Or too early to tell? Will he be starting how does he feel about coming off the bench in Miami?
Let’s take the last question first. Both Pat Riley, during his conference call with local media members, and Wade, during an interview with Tim Reynolds of the Associate Press, addressed that question. Riley said Wade “probably” be coming off the bench but that he is leaving that up to coach Erik Spoelstra. Wade told Reynolds, “don’t matter. I can’t wait to embrace whatever role I have.”
Spoelstra and Wade certainly will talk this over before the coach makes his decision when Wade returns for tonight’s game against the Bucks. If Wade joins Goran Dragic in the starting backcourt, Josh Richardson would move back to the starting small forward. If Wade comes off the bench then Richardson would continue to start at two guard and Justise Winslow likely is the small forward. Either way, Wade probably will play around 25 minutes a game and he will be on the floor during crunch time.
As for the first question. No. I do not believe this is Wade’s final season. He and Udonis Haslem spoke about hoping to play one more year together and figured that would be 2018-19. I see Wade returning and next season likely being the last in his Hall of Fame career.
From @SJZIP1: Will the Heat be checking out the buyout market? If so would they have to release another player?
Yes and yes. Even though the trade deadline has passed, the Heat still will be looking to improve. The March 1 buyout deadline is the next big day on the calendar and several players are expected to become available. Miami has a $5.5 million disabled player exception granted to them because of the Dion Waiters injury that can be used to sign a player. The exception signing would be limited to the rest of the season and would have to be used by March 12.
The Heat’s roster is maxed out after acquiring Luke Babbitt and Wade and trading Okaro White and releasing A.J. Hammons. So Miami would have to release another player if it uses the exception.
The Heat have re-acquired the 6-foot-9 forward from the Atlanta for forward Okaro White, who was later released by the Hawks. Babbitt, 28, played one season with the Heat, averaging 4.8 points and 1.9 rebounds last season before signing a one-year, minimum contract for $1,974,159 with the Hawks in August. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The deal was made hours before the 3 p.m. trade deadline and first reported by Marc Spears of ESPN.
Just as he did a year ago, Babbitt gives the Heat another 3-point option and spreads the floor. He played in 68 games, starting 55 games, last season and although he averaged just 15.7 minutes, he was a 3-point threat helped open the lane for guards Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters.
“Luke is a player that gives you that outside shooting,” Dragic said. “They cannot shrink for him so much. If they do you have a really good 3-point shooter who is knocking down those shots. He kind of gives us the spacing on offense, for us attackers we can get inside the paint and make plays.”
The acquisition of Babbitt also gives the Heat insurance if Kelly Olynyk misses significant time because of his shoulder injury. Olynyk strained his left shoulder Monday against Orlando and sat out Wednesday’s 109-101 loss to the Rockets.
Miami originally acquired Babbitt in July 2019 from New Orleans, sending cash and a 2018 2nd round draft pick to the Pelicans.
Babbitt is averaging 6.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 37 games (15.4 minutes per) with Atlanta. He has improved his shooting from last season making 47.6 percent from the field and 44.1 percent on 3-pointers. He is 49-of-111 on threes compared to 87-of-210 (41.4 percent) with Miami in 2016-17.
White, 25, played in just six games this season before undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot. He averaged 2.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 35 games last season.
White, from Florida State, signed a two-year deal last February and is guaranteed $1.3 million this season.
Season stats: Played one season at Kentucky, averaging 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a freshman last season.
Contract status: Set to make $2.5 million this season, with his deal guaranteed for the first two seasons. The Heat then have a team option in years three and four of Adebayo’s contract.
What to know?: Adebayo was the Heat’s first-round pick this year and he’s now a part of the team’s young core. But it will be tough for Adebayo to find playing time right away with Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson expected to get most of the minutes in the Heat’s power rotation. Foul trouble and injuries could create playing time for the rookie, but don’t expect him to have a big role early on.
Season stats: Averaged 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 75 games (6 starts) for the Celtics last season.
Contract status: Signed with the Heat on a four-year contract worth $50 million in free agency this offseason.
What to know?: With Olynyk’s ability to stretch the floor and pass the ball as a 7-footer, he can used as a power forward and center. And the Heat are expected to use him at both spots this season. Olynyk saw playing time as a power forward next to center Hassan Whiteside and also got some minutes at center when Whiteside exited the game during the preseason. Expect Olynyk to have a big role this season.
F JUSTISE WINSLOW
Season stats: Averaged 10.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 18 games (15 starts) last season. Season was cut short due to season-ending surgery on his right shoulder.
Contract status: Set to make $2.7 million this season. In addition, the Heat already decided to exercise the fourth-year team option on Winslow’s rookie-scale contract, which guarantees him $3.5 million for the 2018-19 season.
What to know?: After a shoulder injury forced him to miss the second half of last season, it will be interesting to see how the Heat integrate him back in. Shooting has been a constant struggle for Winslow. But there’s definitely a place for him on this team with his defense, passing ability, versatility and potential. Winslow was always expected to have a spot in the Heat’s rotation, but Rodney McGruder’s injury should open up even more playing time for him than expected this season.
PG GORAN DRAGIC
Season stats: Averaged 20.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 73 games (73 starts) last season.
Contract status: Set to make $17 million this season. Heat have Dragic under contract for next three seasons, but the final season of his deal is a player option for 2019-20.
What to know?: After turning in one of the best seasons of his NBA career, Dragic has solidified his role as one of the Heat’s leaders moving forward. With Miami’s core returning, Dragic should be able to build on last season’s success as the Heat’s starting point guard. Dragic had a quiet preseason as he rested his body and mind after a crazy offseason. He played in just two of the Heat’s six preseason games after leading Slovenia to EuroBasket gold in September. But Dragic will be expected to perform as one of the Heat’s top players when the regular season begins.
G/F JOSH RICHARDSON
Season stats: Averaged 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals in 53 games (34 starts) last season.
Contract status: Set to make $1.5 million this season. In September, Richardson agreed to a four-year, $42 million extension with the Heat that will start in 2018-19.
What to know?: The Heat expect big things from a healthy Richardson this season. He impressed in the preseason with averages of 13.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 blocks in five games. Richardson’s versatility at 6-foot-6 should help Miami, as he’s an option at both guard positions and at small forward. Whether he starts or not, Richardson is going to be a big part of Miami’s formula.
G TYLER JOHNSON
Season stats: Averaged 13.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 73 games (0 starts) last season.
Contract status: Set to make $5.9 million this season, but his contract becomes a lot more expensive after next season when he will be paid $18.9 million in 2018-19 and $19.6 million in 2019-20.
What to know?: Johnson carved out a nice role for himself as the Heat’s sixth man last season. And he will play that scorer role off the bench again this season. Johnson had a solid preseason, averaging 12.5 points on 56.3 percent shooting from the field and 47.1 percent shooting from 3-point range. But if the Heat want to avoid the expensive half of Johnson’s contract, this season is the time to trade him with this year’s salary still a bargain. On the other end of the spectrum, Johnson is a reliable player who is still improving and has been developed within the Heat organization. That’s always an asset.
C HASSAN WHITESIDE
Season stats: Averaged 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 77 games (77 starts) last season.
Contract status: Set to make $23.8 million this season. Heat have Whiteside under contract for the next three seasons, but the final season of his deal is a player option for 2019-20.
What to know?: Whiteside’s growth last season proved the Heat’s investment in him was a wise one. With max contract salaries going up again this summer, the Heat locked up Whiteside for a fair price. Entering this season, Whiteside has a chance to make his first All-Star team and solidify his spot among the NBA’s top centers. He led the league in blocks in 2015-16 and rebounding in 2016-17. What will Whiteside lead the NBA in this season?
G WAYNE ELLINGTON
Season stats: Averaged 10.5 points and shot 37.8 percent from 3-point range in 62 games (13 starts) last season.
Contract status: Set to make $6.3 million with the Heat this season. Will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
What to know?: $6.3 million is a good number for a player like Ellington, who proved to be a good fit for the Heat on the court and in the locker room. He’s a shooting specialist and he’ll be a very effective weapon off Miami’s bench this season. With drive-and-kick guards Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters on the roster, Ellington’s 3-point shooting is important to the Heat’s spacing.
F JAMES JOHNSON
Season stats: Averaged 12.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 76 games (5 starts) last season.
Contract status: Re-signed with the Heat on a four-year contract worth $60 million in free agency this offseason. The deal includes a player option in the fourth year.
What to know?: Johnson became a fan favorite and a favorite of those within the organization in his first season with the Heat. He got in better shape, became a leader and bought in to the Heat’s culture. Now with a new four-year contract in hand, Johnson’s growth with Miami can continue. He was used in a bench role last season and he prefers to have that role again this season. Whether Johnson starts or not, his play will be important to the Heat’s success.
G/F RODNEY MCGRUDER
Season stats: Averaged 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 78 games (65 starts) last season.
Contract status: Set to make $1.3 million this season. McGruder also has one additional non-guaranteed year on his contract for the 2018-19 season.
What to know?: The Heat will start the season without McGruder, who underwent surgery the day before the opener to repair a left tibia stress fracture. There’s no timetable for his return, but he’s expected to miss an extended amount of time. McGruder, who will still count as part of the Heat’s 15-man roster despite the injury, was one of the top candidates to begin the season as the Heat’s starting small forward.
G DION WAITERS
Season stats: Averaged 15.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 46 games (43 starts) last season.
Contract status: Re-signed with the Heat on a four-year contract worth $52 million in free agency this offseason.
What to know?: Waiters impressed last season, turning into a key part of Miami’s second half resurgence. The backcourt of Dragic and Waiters, better known as 7-Eleven, should be even better this season with one year of experience playing together under their belt. Under a four-year contract with the Heat, Waiters has the security he’s been looking for. Now, Waiters wants to become a more efficient player after shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 64.6 percent from the free-throw line last season.
F OKARO WHITE
Season stats: Averaged 2.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 35 games (0 starts) last season.
Contract status: Set to make $1.3 million this season.
What to know?: White is an NBA role player and every team needs a few of those. White can provide defense and some 3-point shooting off the Heat’s bench. He probably won’t have a consistent role at the start of the season, but White is a good option to have if there’s foul trouble or injuries. The 2017-18 season marks White’s first full season in the NBA.
F UDONIS HASLEM
Season stats: Averaged 1.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16 games (0 starts) last season.
Contract status:Re-signed with the Heat on a one-year, veteran minimum contract worth about $2.3 million this offseason.
What to know?: Haslem is preparing for his 15th NBA season, with the first 14 seasons all coming with Miami. Haslem did not play much last season and was out of the rotation for most of the year, but he did bring invaluable leadership as the team captain. Now with Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk joining the roster and James Johnson returning, Haslem’s playing time is expected to be limited this season, too.
C AJ HAMMONS
Season stats: Averaged 2.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 22 games as a rookie for the Mavericks last season.
Contract status: Set to make a guaranteed salary of $1.3 million this season. Has his contract guaranteed for $1.5 million in 2018-19.
What to know?: The Heat acquired Hammons from the Mavericks this summer in the trade that sent Josh McRoberts to Dallas. But don’t expect Hammons to play much this season. He didn’t play in the preseason as he battled an illness and his role will be limited in the regular season, too, with plenty of players ahead of him in the Heat’s frontcourt rotation.
Season stats: Split last season between the Celtics and their developmental league team, the Maine Red Claws. In 25 games with the Celtics, he averaged 1.5 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.6 minutes per game. He appeared in 12 regular-season games for the Red Claws, averaging 20.8 points on 51.5 percent shooting from the field and 43.8 percent shooting from 3-point range to go with 8.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.
Contract status: Signed a two-year contract with the Heat in free agency this summer, with the first year guaranteed at the $1.5 million veteran’s minimum and a team option for the 2018-19 season.
What to know?: At 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, the power forward has two skills that really intrigue the Heat. He can stretch the floor with his outside shot and has an incredible knack for blocking shots. This skill set along with his guaranteed salary was enough to earn him a spot on the Heat’s 15-man roster. Miami will continue to try to develop Mickey’s game, and don’t be surprised to see some flashes from him throughout the season.
“Everything,” he said Wednesday. “Jerseys. Shorts. Clothes.”
The day, though, was a bust as rain dampened the turnout and Olynyk was left with a huge inventory still to sell.
“It poured, man,” he said. “It was pouring rain. I had some stuff to sell. Nothing happened.”
The failed garage sale was just part of Olynyk’s “whirlwind” summer that started when the Celtics, his team for the first four seasons of his career, renounced his rights and the Heat swooped in to offer the 7-foot center/forward a four-year, $50 million contract.
Since, Olynyk has worked camps – his own and on Wednesday the Heat’s at Miami Dade College’s Kendall Campus – while planning to move to a warm climate for the first time in his life. Olynyk was born in Toronto, went to college in Spokane, Wash. (Gonzaga) and played four years in Boston.
He soon will be returning to Toronto to work out with the Canadian National team.
“It’s a crazy summer,” he said. “You never really know about free agency until you actually go through it and realize how crazy it really is. But I’m blessed with an opportunity to be down here and really excited to get started. I think we got a great opportunity to make some noise.”
Olynyk, 26, slowly is getting to know his teammates. He has spent time at the home of center Hassan Whiteside and he has been working out at the team’s facility the last two days with several of his new teammates including Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington.
“Just to get familiarized with everybody and the way they do things so it’s not overload when training camp comes,” he said.
Olynyk’s versatility allows him to help fill the void left by the loss of two free agents: backup center Willie Reed and starting forward Luke Babbitt.
Although Olynyk spent 91 percent of his minutes last season at center, which allows him to replace Reed, he also is a stretch big man like Babbitt. He is a 36.8 percent 3-point shooter in his career and shot better than 40 percent on threes (85 of 210) two years ago. That versatility and range allows coach Erik Spoelstra to play Olynyk alongside Whiteside
“It’s huge to be able to space the floor, especially if you have guards who can make things happen,” Olynyk said. “We have to space the floor where guys have to respect you and can’t just clog the lane. It’s huge. It opens up the floor for everybody, whether it’s shooting, passing, dribbling. Everything just opens up when you can shoot the ball, especially as a team.
“If you have five people out there who can shoot the ball, it’s really, really tough to guard.”
But the Heat liked more about Olynyk. He grew up playing point guard before growing seven inches to 6-10 in the 11th grade, so he has above average ball handling skills for a big man. Though not an elite defender he has the ability to guard on the perimeter because of his versatility.
“His skill set is something that we think fits really well with the guys that we have,” Spoelstra said last week. “He’s a very skilled big that can do a lot of different things. He fits well into our positionless style of basketball because he can play with basically any combination of players.
“I think what he does highlights a lot of the strengths of guys that we currently have.”